You’ve been in San Francisco several days now. You’ve walked the hills, fueled up on food, and taken tourist pics of both Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge. Maybe you’re getting a bit bored of “The City” (yeah… like that could ever happen!). What to do next?
You convene with Mother Nature, that’s what you do. Muir Woods National Monument to be exact.
Muir Woods is a redwood forest that’s been protected as a national park. It’s located roughly an hour outside the center of San Francisco. It also happens to be the filming location for Star Wars Return of the Jedi. Recognize the Forest Moon of Endor anyone? Can you almost see the furry little Ewoks scampering around here?
There we are. My mom and I, looking all like professional hikers. Maybe not… in all honesty we hadn’t planned on doing that much real “hiking” at all. We thought we’d just walk around, stick to the boarded paths and snaps a bunch of photos. Well, as everyone knows, nothing ever goes according to plan.
It started with the parking. Or lack there of… word to the wise – if you want to go to Muir Woods in July with the other 10,000 people who had that same bright idea, get up early. The early bird gets the parking space. Otherwise, it’s about a 20 minute walk before you will find a patch of grass on the side of the road to park your Toyota Prius. Good thing it was a hybrid or we may have run out of gas just looking for a spot.
But no matter. We were there to walk, right?
Enter, and prepare to be amazed. At how incredibly tiny humans look next to these trees! Sort of puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it? Kind of blows your mind to think how long they have had to have been in place to grow that large. Puts to shame all our landscaping efforts in our perfectly manicured backyards.
We walked along that boarded path, along with the throngs of other naturalists-for-a-day. And then, we spied those steps. Leading up, up, up and away from the masses. How could you not opt for that route? The signage said it led to the Ocean View Trail. Tempting much? We thought so too. So, in our expert hiking gear pictured above, we took the road less traveled.
This place… it hardly need words. Which is good because as we were climbing up and up and up to the Ocean View Trail, we didn’t have that much breath to spare for words. That’s what happens when sea-level dwellers decide to strike off on hilly hikes.
At this point we realized that we had overlooked a key factor in any couple hour hike: water. Sure, we had some. It was just sitting in bottles in the center console of the car… over a mile hike away from the park entrance. Whoops. In our defense, I would like to remind you dear reader that although we are fully aware of our rookie mistake, it was not our original intention to strike out up the mountain landscape. So we didn’t anticipate huffing and puffing up inclines that would deplete us of our oxygen and cause a little dampness under those long-sleeved shirts. Again, thank goodness for the cooler climate of northern California.
Along the way we passed several other groups of hikers. Some were all smiles and laughs, some were looking at us like we were the saviors of information. That information being just how far up they had to go. Poor souls. We could relate. Albeit completely unintentional on our part, we chose the “better” way to hike the trail. We had a gentle incline (mostly) and stairs for almost the entire way back down. If we had done the loop the other way… well, let’s just agree that stairs are infinitely more fun (and helpful) on the way down than the way up.
Overall the hike was meant to take almost 3 hours. Or at least that’s what a kindly couple who passed us in the beginning said it took them. We finished in 2 – go us!! This terrain is certainly not the norm for those of us from the wetlands. The closest landscape we have to hike around is basically scrub brush and swampland.
We made it back to the entrance of the park feeling quite pleased with ourselves. We were sweaty, and dusty (they are having a rather massive drought out that way), and more than a little thirsty, but we made it. We purchased additional water rations at the on-site cafe and attempted to wipe some of the dirt from our shoes (a fruitless effort). Our legs were decidedly tired – good thing we only had to make it back to the car. Our little Prius was waiting for us, 20 minutes away.