Monday, March 12, 2012


We had a hike planned, Ms. Julie, Ms. Linda and Mr. Me, but the weather report for Sunday, March 11 predicted rain. Rain would be good, I thought in the days leading up to our rendezvous. California needs some rain.

We were gonna crank out The Loop, aka Hill 88, in the Headlands, and when we arrived at Rodeo Beach it was indeed raining. Sprinkling, more like it, but still nasty-ass cold and windy and wet. Which would have been fine because I enjoy hiking in the rain as it tends to keep the masses at bay. Fine, except for the following realization: Why the hell didn't you bring a slicker, Palmer?

We set off anon. I swear I was actually kind of shivering as we walked off the beach and up into the hills, and was Zen when one of the ladies suggested a shorter route, one that takes just under an hour as opposed to the 2-hour Loop-dee-Loop. Good, I thought, we'll get this done and be home all warm and toasty before you know it.

Five and a half hours later I unlocked the door to my apartment and kicked of my trusty boots. Well I'll be a sun-of-a-gun, I thought to myself, what a lovely, unexpected day!

*  *  *

The rain fizzled out, just like it has for most of The Strange Case of the Missing Winter 2012. And I warmed up as soon as we began climbing, so when we arrived at the junction for the shorter hike vs. the longer hike I barely missed a beat. "Let's do it, ladies!" They didn't either. We continued uphill.

Here they are: my two longtime hiking buddies. As you can tell Ms. Julie was the smart one in the group, prepared with her slicker (and was in no chance of getting lost, with that color).

You've all seen the gorgeous vistas and such from previous posts in The Headlands Report (ahem...haven't you?), so here's an artsy-shvartsy shot of some old military installments behind moss-covered manzanita.

More dilapidated military cast-offs on The Loop, this time shrouded in mist. So happy the GGNRA bought the land when it became available in the 70's.

The gray and dismal day was not without a few wildflower fireworks. Yellow footsteps-of-spring are blooming along the trail, as are white milkmaids, fuchsia rock cress, man-root vines, purple bush lupine and these two beauties: stands of fragrant wild lilac and spindly, bright pink shooting stars.

Julie (you can barely see her, right?) and Linda on the Wolf Ridge Trail. The sunny views north to Mount Tamalpais and Tennessee Valley were obscured by the low clouds, but it was delightful nonetheless.

Another artsy-shvartsy picture of the elements that day. It's the same old trail, but it never disappoints.

*  *  *

One hour and fifty-five minutes after we began, Rodeo Lagoon greeted our approach to the parking lot. I've hiked The Loop in an hour and forty before, but we were in no hurry and dallied along the way, so content to be with friends exploring dreary, beautiful Marin County.

Then two things happened. In the lagoon a bright black, shiny head poked up from the water: a river otter! These critters are rare in our neck of the woods; I've seen them only once in 24 years of hiking the Bay Area, so we paused for a sec to watch his/her antics. A few strides further, by the sleek wooden bridge that spans the lagoon to the beach, Julie noticed a Marine Mammal Center truck pull in and park. Pull in and park and hoist out a large, boxy cage! We couldn't see what was inside, but it was obvious by the origin of the truck. A few questions later, we knew we had stumbled upon another rare sight and another first for us all: a honest to goodness sea lion release!

The 400 lb. beast was first seen on Pier 39 in San Francisco with some sort of plastic packaging material wrapped around its neck. Being a somewhat hefty, aggressive fellow in an awkward location they couldn't walk up and net the thing, so they decided to artfully tranquilize it, take it to the center, remove the stranglehold, tend to the infliction and release it on the day we walked past. So without further ado here's an unscheduled detour: a video of something one doesn't see everyday (excuse the wind shear), a video of a sea lion named Dartman returning home.

*  *  *

Pleased as punch and back at the car, Julie asked us if we had any deadlines for the rest of the day (we didn't), quickly phoned her brother Dennis, and after a brief stop at Molly Stone's I found myself on the deck of a classic, 1960's era Chris✭Craft berthed in Sausalito.

I had a cool pilsner in hand, to boot.

Behind the protective coastal hills it was warm, calm and partly sunny, but the clouds continued a moody march across the sky. From land the view would have been (and was) gorgeous, but we were about to take an unscheduled bay cruise.

Pudgy harbor seals and sleek black cormorants watched as Dennis eased his beautifully-appointed motor yacht into Richardson Bay, and for the next hour we slowly puttered about, took turns manning the helm, and munched on veggie sandwiches, beet salad and Tim's Cascade Style potato chips.

It's fabu enough to have a boat and someplace to put it, but Dennis has a killer berth on the Sausalito docks: there's nothing on one side but a line of wildlife and open water.

Mayday! Mayday! It's Julie at the helm!

Another unexpected visual treat: A pair of tall ships was on the bay, staging a life-like combat complete with actual cannon blasts. No large iron cannonballs arced through the air, but there were puffs of white smoke and a big BOOM when they did the business.

Artsy-shvartsy photo alert!

Dennis Ring, with his first mate Linda (for now) and sister Julie: The master of his Chris✭Craft domaine. I can't wait to return (if I'm invited).

*  *  *

So there you have it, cyberhood. Just when I thought I'd spent enough time in Marin, in the tired old Headlands, had seen it all, hiking that same old tired Loop trail, yada yada yada. Hmmm...Guess not.

Peter J. Palmer

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