Tag Archives: hiking

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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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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Is this how they do hiking on the West Coast?

Funny video I thought you’d all enjoy. I have yet to be this prepared to hike. Happy Earth Day!

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Pyramid Mountain – Boonton, NJ

Located in Morris County Pyramid Mountain provides a moderately challenging hike with many well-defined trails, three overlooks including one of New York City and a geological marvel which could be New Jersey’s very own Stonehenge.

I’ve been pumped to try Pyramid Mountain Natural Historic Area for a while now and had previously marked out a 7 mile figure eight shaped trail that would encompass Pyramid Mt. as well as neighboring Turkey Mountain. Saturday’s rain forced us to move the hike to Sunday, which also meant there was only half a day to complete the trail because my hiking partner Brett had to catch a flight afterward.

With the help of a really handy trail map provided by Morris County Parks at the Visitor’s Center, Brett and I mapped out a 3 mile hike of Pyramid that looked like this: BlueRed-White-Yellow/White-Blue/White-Blue. Hiking the trail took roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes with some stops for photographs and water.

Yea, I futzed with the camera settings on this one.

Power Lines Through Turkey

The hike started out easy and became increasingly rocky with views of … large power lines. Things got interesting as we began to hike the white trail seeing signs of springtime and running water. Though the brooks seemed easy to cross, there were foot bridges at every crossing.

Nervous Nellie found her courage on this foot bridge. She is queen of the outdoors! Next came the most exciting part of this trail: giant rocks!

Bear Rock is considered to be one of the largest glacial erratics in North Jersey. According to 50 Hikes in NJ, approximately 12,000 years ago during the last Ice Age, it rode the Wisconsin glacier to its final resting spot in Boonton, NJ. It’s quite a site– testament to the strength of nature.

After Bear Rock and the Wetland area of Bear Swamp, we came to the great natural spectacle that is Tripod Rock.

Did glaciers thousands of years ago carry this boulder and by sheer chance leave it resting on these three smaller rocks? Or did ancient people erect this tripod as a spiritual site? You tell me because Wikipedia couldn’t. Apparently, geologists are also undecided, however, I found an interesting discussion about it here.

For the rest of the trail we stayed on high ground until a quick rocky descent near the end. We visited Lucy’s Overlook and two overlooks of NYC, but the rocky terrain kept more of my attention. I wouldn’t suggest hiking Pyramid Mt. without proper footwear. Even with proper footwear, those with knee issues take it slow. Your legs will get toned on this trail. I say this because my left knee was a little swollen after the hike. Even Brett, who was visiting from the hiking haven of San Francisco, said he broke a sweat!

A few last items of note: Dogs were allowed on a leash. I also noticed a kids’ trail about 20 paces in from the start of the Blue trail. It was marked with a friendly green acorn. Though the parking lot was filled, the trails didn’t seem too crowded. There were enough trail options to keep hikers dispersed. The parking lot also had a port-o-john that was both clean and stocked with TP!

I’d say the Pyramid Mountain hike met my expectations in terms of difficulty and attraction. I can’t wait to get back to the area to hike Turkey Mountain!

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Spring Forward at Schooley’s Mountain

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Today I found myself short an hour, so I decided to start with a short hike in Morris County.  Sometimes you find yourself with limited hours in the day, and for that, Schooley’s Mountain County Park was the perfect choice. The hike runs 3 miles on mostly rocky terrain. I was able to complete it in about 2 hours occasionally pausing to take pictures and breaking for water.

50 Hikes in New Jersey rates the hike easy and I agree, although you really have to stay alert with the rocky footing in some areas. It’s not easy enough to rush through while playing Words with Friends, and with the first half of the trail hugging close to the lively Electric Brook, I doubt you’d want to. The Park is deemed pet friendly, and most people I saw brought their four-legged friend. And their special someone. Speaking of people, there were quite a lot on the first half of the trail. Around every corner you’d bump into another happy hiking couple and their pooch. However, no one seemed to venture past the blue trail onto the white, yellow or red trails.

I followed the suggested route in my book: beginning with the Blue trail just left of Lake George and continuing to the Yellow trail until the end. I won’t go into many details on navigation because the trails were all easily marked and at every junction, there was a clear wooden sign pointing in the direction of the parking lot. Outside of the wooded area, the park contains many picnic areas, open green spaces and even a small beach next to Lake George.

The 3 mile hike left me wanting more, though, in only 2 hours you get a lot of bang for your buck. As an added bonus, I got to see some horse-back riders as I was leaving!

Hike #1 = Complete! Happy spring everyone!

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Catching the Hiking Bug

You know the feeling. That itch to get outdoors and soak up the sunshine. Whether it was during family camping trips, joining an outdoors club in college or dating a nature aficionado, all hikers can remember when they first discovered the love of being out on the trail. Believe it or not, my inspiration to begin hiking did not start in the great state New Jersey.  I caught the bug far away in the mountains of Tibet.

Check out the jeans and socks on that hiking newbie.

A year ago, in the spring of 2011, I found myself thrust into my first backpacking journey. My professor in China led us on mid-semester trip through the Tibetan Autonomous Region. He warned us that it would not be a tourist trip and gave us a long list of necessary items. So, I bought all the gear and I was that person: the novice who buys all the gear before actually trying out the activity. I didn’t know why I would need a pocket knife, but I had one just in case.

Got a deal on that knock-off North Face.

After realizing I could survive without proper toilets (truly a shock) and could hike mountains without spraining my ankle, I came to enjoy nature and the lands untouched by humans. There was something too about the camaraderie that formed on that trip, that you couldn’t find in another setting.

Through the gate, toward adventure!

After I returned to the states, I took a good hard look at the hiking boots I was required to buy for this one trip. The outdoor adventures must continue–even in New Jersey, the unlikeliest of all places.

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50 Hikes in New Jersey

When ever I start reading someone’s blog, I always scroll back to the first blog post ever. I like to read about the initial drive for writing in the first place. Why do they want to put it all out there? Where did it all begin?

For me it begins with my 24th birthday. Yesterday, I officially hit my mid-twenties and with any milestone, I made a new goal: to hike New Jersey. I’ve been meaning to get the book “50 Hikes in New Jersey” as a guide to the best trails in the state. Today I have it! 50 adventures waiting to be had!

Later on, I’ll give you some background on my experience hiking (slim to none,) why I’m in New Jersey in the first place (Jersey chose me,) and which hikes are on the agenda.

Welcome to the blog and happy hiking!

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