Best hike this year: Mt. Tamalpais State Park

I recently hiked this trail at Mt. Tam when the Bay Area was still basking in summer temperatures in September. I learned about the Dipsea Trail from Brazen Racing. I had actually registered to race this event, but after deciding to stop running/training, I transferred the registration to my brother-in-law. I definitely still wanted to check it out for myself, especially knowing the ‘legend’ associated with the Dipsea Trail!

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I had planned to follow Jane’s suggestion from Bay Area hiker, starting at Stinson Beach and hiked the loop, leaving the Dipsea portion towards the end. Driving from San Jose, it took almost 90 minutes to get to Stinson Beach. Thankfully, the drive through Mill Valley was very scenic and enjoyable. Once I got to the town of Stinson Beach (my first time there), I had a bit of trouble finding the start of Matt Davis trail. But, after I embarked on the journey, I was immediately taken away by the beauty of the dense woods with a running (small) creek. It was very different from the usually bare landscape of the San Jose scenery. The first 1-1.5 miles was gradual ascend, somewhat requiring physical effort. While near the ‘top’, I heard waves. I thought I was hearing the sound from Stinson Beach, but after stopping few times, I realized it was the wind ruffled through the leaves on the trees! It was one the most magical moment of this hike. I stopped few times and really listened to the sound of the woods.

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The “magic” did not stop here. Because of my usual lack of sense of direction and being alone that day, I didn’t trek fast. I had to check and re-check the direction and carefully making turns at junctions. I definitely had moments of “should i keep going”? I was glad that I trusted myself and continued. The second most magical moment of the hike came when I entered Steep Ravine. It was THE BEST hike I’ve done in the Bay Area. I felt like I was on the set of Lord of the Rings with a mystical feeling with giant redwoods standing tall, majestic in front of me while the cool and moist atmosphere kissed my skin. It was such a mesmerizing trail that I would definitely come back again and again!

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Coming out of Steep Ravine, shortly, I came to the sign towards Dipsea Trail. By this point, I was at least 5-6 miles into the hike, definitely feeling tired. I was excited to finally get to Dipsea Trail, and in all honesty to return to Stinson Beach soon. For some reason, Jane’s loop/website said the entire loop was about 7.3 miles, but with my Strava GPS, the recording was suggesting more. It was very possible that I may have taken a slight different turn? Any way, the sign towards Dipsea was a welcome sign!

Pretty soon after being on the Dipsea Trail, I gasped at the sight and the beauty of Stinson Beach. I was also talking to myself “holy mack, this COULD BE RAN?” This thought kept coming to me, especially, the closer I moved towards the town of Stinson Beach with the stairs/steps! Not only was the “stairs” a challenge, the narrowness of the trail helped me realize why Brazen banned headphone use. All runners need to be super present to be safe! A wrong step, a runner could take few down with him/her!

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At the end, my GPS registered 9.1 miles with 2187 feet of elevation gain. It took me 3 hours and 49 minutes. I was really proud of myself, not just about actually trekking through a moderate difficulty trail, but more about taking on the task on my own. My sense of direction always gave me slight hesitation in going “into the woods”, especially, I had gotten lost few times before. With this hike, I just ended up with two extra miles, but made it back without much incident. While on this hike because of the narrowness of the trail as well as the change of elevation, I did not use headphone with music. I really spent 9 miles with some quiet “self-talk”. Some points, I was questioning myself of hiking so out-of-the-way. Some points, I was day dreaming about the hot cocoa I could be drinking (instead of hiking). Some points, I was just blank, puffing through dirt. It was interesting to observe myself like that. I can see why some people enjoy “getting lost in the woods”. With all the technology and the fast pace, it is rare that we get quiet moments to ourselves. Hiking is one way to slow down and listen.

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