Mt Tam – The Cramp that Nearly Won

Peak Summited2019 Mount Tamalpais
Type of HikeDay hike
TrailheadDipsea Trail - Stinson Beach
Hiking CompanionsHiked with a group
Road ConditionsRoad suitable for all vehicles
Bug StatusNo bugs
Snow ConditionsSnow free
Trail ConditionsTrail in good condition

The Mt. Tam hike has got to be my favorite hike so far in the NorCal Six-Pack. We started the hike at Stinson Beach and, having heard nightmares regarding the switchbacks when going up the Matt Davis Trail, decided to head for the top via the Dipsea Trail, to eventually descend via the switchbacks. Stayed on the Dipsea Trail until the Old Mine trail and headed towards the Pantoll Ranger Station. At this point, we met up with the Matt Davis Trail, took that up to the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail, popped up to Old Railroad Grade Fire Road, and took the Upper Fern Creek Trail to the summit. The last portion of this trail is a butt-kicker since you descend a few hundred feet on the Matt Davis Trail, just to return to an even higher elevation on the Old Railroad Grade Fire Road. THEN, you get to fight your way up Upper Fern Creek Trail.

The hike up starts with a beautiful walk through rainforest-esque scenery, out onto coastal plains, and then back into the redwoods. The thing that quickly takes a toll on your legs is the fact that there are physicals stairs instead of just an uphill trek. At first, I thought this was awesome…. until the 150th stair and no end in sight. These bad boys were on the trail in sporadic bursts all the way to the summit, one area in particular being nothing but stairs for a quarter mile. After 7.5 miles of battling our way up to the summit parking lot, my buddy Antonio and I start the final 0.3 mile trek to the summit and the Lookout Post that marks the top.

As we approached the summit, I heard a muffled groan of  pain from behind me as Antonio's foot cramped mercilessly, stopping us just shy of our goal for the moment. After allowing him to work that hellion out of his foot, we continued to the top to enjoy the view alongside our trail mix and copious amounts of water. The view from the top is spectacular and on a clear day, you can see all the way to the South Bay, where Mt Umunhum stands, the Air Force base barely visible on the ridge. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case for us; we could see maybe halfway across the Bay, although we could see Mt. St. Helena to the North East and the view out to sea was breathtaking in it's own right.

We then descended on the other side of the mountain, taking the Western portion of the Old Railroad Grade Fire Road to West Point Inn, re-joining with the Matt Davis Trail and taking that all the way to Stinson Beach.

The switchbacks lived up to their reputation, sucking the soul out of us as we descended painfully slowly. The last 3 miles of this trek felt double that, but the colorful people hiking up the switchbacks we were coming down helped breath new life into our weary husks. This hike is definitely a test of endurance and will-power.

I'm already planning on going back, maybe to run a section of the trail to test my cardio.

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