Category Archives: Non-Jersey Hikes

In Search of the Golden Gate Bridge – Lands End Hike

In honor of the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th anniversary, I sought out a hike that would include glimpses of the Bay Area’s greatest icon. If you head west on Geary Boulevard until you see ocean, you’ll stumble upon a gem of a hiking area right in San Francisco! Lands End, no relation to the Yacht clothing company, is an easy hiking area with views of the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate strait. It’s also a place of San Francisco history containing the ruins of the Sutro Baths, once the largest swimming pool complex in the world, and the Cliff House, a restaurant overlooking the ocean. You really have to visit Lands End to understand its name. Prepare for awe inspiring views and contemplation on tectonic plates, urbanization and your own mortality. I mean it!

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Majestic Yosemite: A Hike in Tuolumne Meadows

Five hours outside of San Francisco in Friday afternoon traffic, Brett and I ended up in Groveland, CA for the night. We were out by 8 a.m. Saturday for the 30-minute drive to the west entrance of Yosemite National Park.  Before we left, the cook at the inn told us, “God had His way with that place, Yosemite. He had something to say.” As we neared the park, I realized what she meant. He had something to say indeed.

We drove east from the west entrance along Route 120 to the Tuolumne Meadows Campsite. The road squiggles through the woods and mountains cutting the park down the middle. Brett had a rough time keeping his eyes on the road because the sights were so incredible to see. We had to pull over on several occasions to gawk at various vista points.

Tenaya Lake in Yosemite.

Brett taking it in.

Brett gazing at Half-Dome.

At around 10 a.m., we were parked in the Lembert Dome Parking & Picnic Area lot and geared up to hike. The trail I mapped was ambitious, and in the end, we weren’t able to complete it. It would have been a nearly 16 mile loop from Tuolumne Meadows to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and then over to the Pacific Crest Trail/John Muir Trail all the way back to Tuolmne Meadows Campground. I thought ending with the PCT would make the trek especially worth it and even before we decided to turn back, the thought of reaching those special trails motivated me to keep hiking through the 1,400 ft incline, the snow, mud and over river crossings like I’ve never seen them before. Here, the National Park Service recommends a similar 13.8 mile day hike from Tuolumne to Vogelsang and back without crossing over to catch the PCT back. Had I seen this particular write-up, we might have known this trail is labeled strenuous. We ended up turning back just shy of Vogelsang.

The first section of our hike included 2 miles of the Pacific Crest and John Muir Trails!

Brett and I had this unnamed, but marked trail to ourselves. The trail to Vogelsang was marked by diamond shaped cuttings in nearby trees. We only saw one other hiker during the 12 miles we hiked. Yep, I just said TWELVE MILES! A NEW RECORD! The hike started at 8,600 FT with a steep rise which we later read was about 1,400 ft. At that point in the hike, I could feel the altitude change affecting my breathing. Eventually, we got used to it, but I was wary to climb too quickly and over-exert since I don’t have much experience at high altitudes. Even in Tibet, I don’t think I experienced such fast and extreme changes in altitude.

The threat of Black Bears in Yosemite was real and present as we saw their poop along the trail many times. Luckily every time we saw a large load, Brett hollered out “Woooooooo!” and terrified all wildlife within 3 miles. In fact, we did not see any wildlife along the nameless trail.

Throughout the hike, we were surrounded by snow capped mountains and blue sky. You can tell by the pictures, that the snow on this trail is still melting. This meant that there were more water crossings and several sections where we had to judge the strength of the snow piles. Here’s a typical crossing. You can see the trail continue on the other side.

You may have noticed something else in the photos…

Trekking Poles! Like I said in an earlier post, I bought all this backpacking equipment for my first trip in 2011 meaning I had a large credit with REI for future purchases. Last weekend, they had their big annual sale and so the time was right to snatch up a pair of poles. They ended up costing $10 with my credit. I later learned the investment was more than worth it for the sake of my legs.

That’s all for the first leg of our Yosemite adventure. Even though we didn’t complete what we set out to do, the Garden State Hiker has now hiked higher and farther than ever before! Stay tuned for camping and a hike in Yosemite Valley.

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My Secret Obsession with Pacific Crest Trail Travel Memoirs Part I

It became clear my passing interest might be an obsession when my friend Nicole saw me reading and asked, “What book are you reading?”

I shrugged saying, “Oh, it’s just this travelogue about a young woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.”

“Oh Yeah,” Nicole said “I remember you were reading that last week. I read about that book online somewhere.”

“Well, actually this is a different book about another girl hiking thru-hiking the PCT.”

“So this is the second book you’re reading about the same trail??”

“Hm, no. The third—”

The cat’s out of the bag. I’ve gone from being someone who would have said “The pee see what?” to someone who can name several of the re-stock towns, trail-heads, the length, history and issues surrounding thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. And I’ve never seen it.

The Pacific Crest Trail goes from Mexico to Canada all along the west coast. Some people call it the Appalachian Trail of the west coast, but really it’s just another long-distance trail that people take on for the extreme challenge of it. It’s a commitment hiking the PCT. It takes around 3-5 months to complete. You need to prepare all your meals in advance and divide them into increments that you will collect along the way at post offices. Think about it; it’d be nearly impossible to hike with 5 months of food on your back.

So what, you say, is this Jersey raised young woman who has never hiked more than 8 miles and who has never even slept in a tent doing fantasizing about a 2,650 mile long trail on the other side of the country?

I’m sharing all this as a clue for the next hiking adventure I’m going to share with you… Stick around for Part II of the Garden State Hiker’s obsession with the PCT. I’ve got to get to sleep because tomorrow we will be hiking the PCT!!! Coming up I’ll also go into detail about the books I’ve been reading for those of you who want to read about intense hiking journeys. (A Blistered Kind of Love: One Couple’s Trial by Trail; Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail; The Trail Life: How I Loved it, Hated it, and Learned from it) Until then, I’ll be out on the trail.

Go, get your hike on.

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Toto, We’re Not Hiking in New Jersey Anymore

It was like every New Jerseyites’ dream. I woke up after days of clouds and rain and felt the warm California sunshine. Quite literally, I was squinting desperately after leaving SFO. That’s right–the Garden State Hiker has temporarily assumed the role of Golden Gate Hiker.

I’m not sure it’s fair to compare the hiking I’ve done in New Jersey to the mountains surrounding the San Francisco Bay Area. In California, you expect beauty, awe and a camaraderie of like-minded outdoorsy hikers on any given trail. But fairness and State Park jealousy aside, after 7 miles of Mt. Tam, I’m in love with the Bay Area’s natural playground.

Nestled in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is a state park called Mount Tamalpais, or Mt. Tam to locals, featuring giant redwoods, waterfalls, Stinson Beach and several panoramic views. It’s best known for being the home of Muir Woods, drawing thousands of tourists daily. After “hiking” through the tourist section of Redwood National Park last fall with SJ and Brett, I was adamant about hiking a section of Mt. Tam that was less like Disney World and more like the plain ole wilderness. Real hiking can’t be done in 3 inch stilettos or in a 3 piece suit.

With the advice of one of Brett’s co-workers and a certified SF local, we parked in the Bootjack Lot a few hundred yards down the road from the Pantoll Ranger Station and Parking Lot (which was full.) Bootjack Lot, located near the top of Mt. Tam, was half full. We only saw hiking families and Zip Car driving young professional types. At the rangers’ station, we picked up a free trail map and asked the ranger for recommendations. She suggested we hike 4 miles of the Matt Davis Trail to Stinson Beach, then find the Dipsea Trail and hike that to the Steep Ravine Trail for a total of 7 miles. We started hiking at noon and finished at around 5 p.m. The ranger’s advice was perfect, but we did notice that most other hikers seemed to do the same route in reverse. Steep Ravine-Dipsea-Stinson Beach-Matt Davis.

Either way, hiking onto the foggy Matt Davis trail felt like stepping into another world. Looking above and below, we saw all sorts of creatures.


If you’re going to hike the Matt Davis trail, bring layers! The current weather in San Francisco does not apply to the shaded, damp forest of Mt. Tam. We dug out our fleeces right at the start of the hike. I wished I had brought a light rain jacket as well. Later on, after passing through Stinson Beach, the trail became much warmer and we had to shed our layers again.

After a mile or so in the forest, we emerged to these meadows that may or may not have contained a view of the Pacific Ocean. The fog was so strong that as we walked, we soon lost sight of where we came from.

Back in the forest, we were motivated to complete the next 2 miles by the promise of ocean and snack stands. According to our free trail map, just beyond the foggy meadows are two Hang Gliding Sites. Wouldn’t that be cool?

There’s Stinson Beach and the Pacific Ocean!

After completing our 4 mile leg on the Matt Davis Trail, we entered Stinson Beach, population 486, a coastal town thriving on tourism–not much different from the quirky shore towns of New Jersey. I realize, I’ve probably offended at least 400 of Stinson Beachers by comparing it to the Jersey Shore.

After the beach, it all became vertical: the trees, the upward climb and even most of our photos. We took the Dipsea Trail to the Steep Ravine Trail which then brought us back to the Pantoll Ranger Station. Fortunately, the trail was so beautiful that we hardly noticed all the hiking we were doing until the 7th mile. The redwood trees in the Redwood National Park were by far larger than the ones we saw on the Steep Ravine Trail, however, seeing them out in nature flourishing as abundantly as maples or oak trees was incredible.


I love the ferns!

Huge Redwoods

The Steep Ravine Trail braided itself along the Webb Creek. Since we hiked up the mountain during the return trip, we were in the constant presence of waterfalls. Just imagine being desensitized to the soft trickle of water running down a mountain.

Brett was particularly excited for a 10 foot ladder that requires climbing next to a waterfall. Once we got to the ladder, I needed to touch the water we had been following since crossing onto the Steep Ravine Trail. Here’s my second Baptism:

Mt. Tam: if the Garden State Hiker can do it, so can you. This location is perfect for the beginning hiker from San Francisco, New Jersey or anywhere. The landscapes and variety of terrain warrant a visit and the trail is easy enough that a newbie can complete a longer distanced hike. We hiked 7 miles! I now feel confident we can conquer even more in the future. I admit, squatting down hurt a little today, but editing all of my photos for this blog entry was even harder.

Know of any other hikes I should check out while I’m in the Bay Area? Let me know!

Happy Hiking!

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