We have reached the official start to winter, but where is it? I am sure the rain and wet weather is coming, but until the clouds and rain arrive we are going to take advantage of the sunshine. With so little rain the soil is actually drying out, allowing the clear sunny days to heat up the open ridges, so that is where we wanted to go hiking.
Over the holidays we also look for places where family members of various ages and fitness levels will have fun. The wide fireroad to Pine Mountain allows us to walk abreast and chat, while the kids run and play on the wonderful rock formations that line the route. The scrubby chaparral allows for long views along the road to keep an eye on the kids, as well as great views off the mountaintop in all directions.
The hike out to Pine Mountain is steep and rocky in spots, but not too difficult. This is one of the times when an out-and-back hike works well. If someone can't make the whole climb they can just turn around and go back. Or if the weather is nice, some may want to picnic along the path, while others run out to the peak and meet up with the picnic crew on the way back. For those who need a 13 mile outing to get in shape for the New Year, the Pine Mountain Loop continues past the peak and stretches deep into remote Kent Lake territory before climbing back to San Geronimo Ridge and then back to the Bolinas Road parking lot. We recommend a mountain bicycle for that adventure if you are an intermediate or above-average rider.
The hike out to Pine Mountain Peak is well worth it. Be sure to take the small trail to the pile of rocks that marks the highest point. Here, an old wall of stone heads northwest, marking a former cattle barrier from many years past. The view is 360 degrees. The entire western view from south to north takes in Bolinas Ridge with Kent Lake below. The area of forest between the ridge top and Kent Lake is some of the most inaccessible and wild land left in Marin. Kent Lake has no trail around it. Looking northwest you can see Tomales Bay.
Pine Mountain and the hillsides nearby have a unique feel because of the soil, plants and remoteness. The area contains the mineral, green serpentine. There is little actual dirt. The plants that can survive in this unique geology tend to be stunted, small, and scrubby. Between the rocky peaks and ridges are patches of grass that are still slightly brown due to the lack of rain. When you combine these features with the remoteness of the peak, there is a strong sense of isolation and alien-ness.
Hummingbirds, hawks, ground squirrels and bunnies help keep it real, and entertaining. Numerous butterfly were flittering about. What they were eating and doing out there this time of year I can not imagine.
As always, bring binoculars, snacks and water. The sun is only at 28 degrees at its peak height here in northern California and the UV rays are weak, but a hat is nice all the same. Dogs on leash welcome.
Have a good holiday!
Directions to Pine Mountain: Take Sir Francis Drake to Fairfax. Go left at Bank Street (traffic light), Left on Broadway Blvd and then Right on Bolinas Ave. Take Bolinas ave for 3.8 miles up into the hills. You will pass the Meadow Club golf course. The parking area is at the crest of the road.