Where Big Trees Trail meets the Deer Camp Trail, take Deer Camp Trail
downhill. Watch for a large big leaf maple on your left, its golden leaves
giving homesick Easterners some bright fall color. The winged seeds, called
samaras, are able to spin far enough away from the shade of the mother tree
so seedlings will be able to grow in a sunny spot. The trail passes through
a lovely redwood grove, a perfect place to stop for a snack or lunch. Since
we’ve had rain, there is a muddy spot that is difficult to skirt — boots are
recommended. This is great California newt habitat so watch your step to
avoid injuring one. Two species of newts in Marin have orange bellies, and
both have toxins to protect themselves so they amble along without much fear
of predators. The neurotoxin tetradotoxin is the same toxin found in puffer
fish. While the rough-skinned newt is more toxic, California newts still
have enough of the toxin to kill a person foolish enough to eat one.
The trail crosses the creek several times before the fence that has a wooden
Z-gate, and a green metal gate that may be open, that goes to Upper Meadow
Trail. Sunset Corral is below you now.
There is a majestic buckeye tree on the right, leafless now but hung with
many buckeyes like brown Christmas tree balls. People are sometimes confused
to find buckeyes here, since Ohio is the Buckeye State. The buckeye in Ohio
is a different species, Asculus glabra, while ours is Asculus californica.
Buckeyes are not unique to North American — other species of buckeyes grow
in Europe and Asia.
When you go through a gate, Big Trees trail will be on your right. Retrace
your steps along the short stretch of Upper Meadow Trail you took when you
began your hike to complete the loop.
From Highway 101 take exit 463, San Marin Drive, west for 2.7 miles. When
you cross Novato Boulevard, San Marin turns into Sutro. In one mile, turn
right on Vineyard Road. Park where the paved road becomes a dirt road.
Wendy Dreskin has led the College of Marin
nature/hiking class Meandering in Marin since 1998, and teaches other nature
classes for adults and children. To contact her, go to wendydreskin.com.