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49. Dipsea Trail (01/24/98)

Hikers (6): Beth, Eugene, Peter, Russ, Steve, Taylor
Distance: 14 miles
Rating: 3 difficulty, 10 beauty
Park info: Mt. Tamalpais State Park from Stinson Beach to Mill Valley

Write-up by Peter

This was Esteban's first hike with us since he moved back to California, and our first return to Muir Woods since last summer (see Hike #33).

There was on-and-off drizzle as we got to Marin, but nothing that would prevent us from hiking. We loaded up at the Safeway and hit the trail, starting with the legendary 671 steps of Mill Valley. Definitely a good way to start a hike!

Esteban went off by himself, followed by Rusty, then me. As we reached Muir Woods, I stayed behind to wait for the slower hikers to catch up. They were not too far behind. As we made our way up from Muir Woods, the trail seemed to be pretty muddy. This part was going to be tough on the way back down!

There was not much else of note on the outbound trail. After a while, there were no more forks in the trail, so I wasn't worried about the slower hikers taking a wrong turn and I began to gradually pick up the pace.

When I made it to the end of the trail, I found Rusty sitting under a tree eating his lunch. No sign of Esteban. We figured he had to be at the Stinson Beach Park, so we headed over there, and sure enough there he was. He had arrived about 20 minutes earlier, and so while we ate lunch, he entertained us with stories about Italian women and seagulls on the beach.

The stragglers showed up a few minutes later, looking none the worse for wear, but still insisting on taking the bus back. What is this hike coming to? Black Leafs all around!!!

Meanwhile, the remaining 3 real hikers began the slog back up the trail. The first two miles coming up from Stinson Beach are not that easy, especially right after lunch. You start climbing some switchbacks almost right off the bat, followed by a long uphill stretch over the bluffs with no shelter from the sun and wind, followed by the butt-kicker steps that take you up towards Pantoll. The best part is that when you reach the top, you know the rest of the trip back is relatively easy.

Once again, Esteban, Rusty, and myself had gotten spread apart. The woods were pretty much deserted that day, and I enjoyed walking along by myself, appreciating the tranquility of the woods. On a winter's day, you can actually hear a woodpecker pecking away at a mighty redwood. No chance of catching that in the summer, when the hills are filled with the sound of peoples' chatter.

As I had figured, I caught up with The Man near the final downhill leading into Muir Woods (Canteen Boy does not like downhills). We began the slow walk down through the glop. Boy, this was super-muddy and super-slippery! It did not help that people had been trudging through here all day. At one point, I started to go down, but prevented myself from falling by wisely grabbing onto a clump of thorns. Ouch! (A couple of tourists also were a great help by standing there and advising me, "Don't fall!").

Having survived the ordeal, we headed back up from Muir Woods, over the hill to Mill Valley, and down the steps -- those things are not too gentle on the knees. At the bottom, we found Esteban lying on a bench and staring up at the sky like some sort of space cadet. We saw that Muffy and Taylor's cars were not there, so we figured they were long gone. As it turned out, there was a small measure of justice, because the bus dropped them off in the wrong place and they ended up having to walk a decent distance, but just as a matter of principle, they (and Eugene) still each get a Black Leaf of Shame.

Time for the Buena Vista Cafe! Ram also joined us there, and we had a great time listening to stories about Esteban's hiking adventures in the Ozarks (or wherever the heck it was that he went).

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