Head to Mount Tamalpais for a 3.6-mile loop
from Bootjack that’s shady, but opens out to an incredible view at the top
of Cardiac Hill where both the Farallones and San Francisco are visible. It
makes a great place to stop for a lunch with a view.
From Bootjack, cross the Panoramic Highway and head downhill through the
redwoods on Bootjack Trail. After you pass Alpine Trail keep an eye out for
a bridge over a stream on your left. The turn is easy to miss. Shortly after
the bridge the trail splits, and a sign points right to Bootjack Trail to
Muir Woods. Follow this to Van Wyk Meadow.
Sidney Van Wyk Jr. was an attorney who did pro bono work in 1927 in the
condemnation proceedings against Newlands and Magee of the North Coast Water
Co. to create Mount Tamalpais State Park. When I was at the meadow there was
a kaleidoscope of California tortoiseshell butterflies puddling. (For
curious readers, a group of butterflies can also be called a rabble or a
swarm, but I like kaleidoscope.) Puddling is a behavior seen in male
butterflies that need minerals from the mud for their reproductive systems.
I also saw the first spring azure of the season, a small butterfly with pale
blue underwings that emerges in early February.
Turn right at the meadow and cross a bridge. The TCC Trail continues through
redwoods, Douglas firs and an understory of huckleberry bushes. Redwood
wake-robin has just started to bloom. The “tri” in its genus name trillium
refers to its three leaves, three petals and three sepals. Native people
used juice from the plant for sore eyes and also as a love charm. There are
many of the four-petaled milkmaids in bloom, and now the veined white
butterflies that over-wintered as pupae have emerged to lay eggs on them.
These veined white butterflies will pollinate the hound’s tongue that burst
into bloom the week they closed.
After stepping over a muddy area, look on the right for fetid adder’s
tongue. Amazingly, in early February some of it had already gone to seed,
but flowers remain. The seedpod is the head of the adder (though the stamens
give the head a tongue with three forks instead of two) and the stem is its
body. TCC meets Stapleveldt and they run together for about 20 yards. When
Stapleveldt goes downhill, stay right on the TCC.
A right turn puts you on the Dipsea Trail for 300 yards, up the hill dubbed
Cardiac Hill in 1954. If the climb made you thirsty, take advantage of the
water fountain, dedicated to Sam Hirabayashi in 2013 by his wife, Eve Pell.
Hirabayashi had nine of the 10 Dipsea records for the 74- to 83-year-old age
group at the time of his death. You will be welcomed to this lovely hilltop
by footsteps-of-spring, a low, bright yellow flower. The scientific name
makes it clear that someone had in mind the footsteps of a bear, no doubt
emerging after a winter’s sleep in its den, but children like to imagine
spring dancing over the hills leaving flowers wherever she steps.
On a clear day you can see the taller buildings in San Francisco, and all
the way out to the Farallon Islands 30 miles off the coast.
You’ll be on Coast Trail for about 200 yards before the signed right turn on
Old Mine Trail. It is half a mile to Pantoll, passing an old mine site. At
Pantoll Campground turn right, and follow the arrows out of the parking lot
to pick up Alpine Trail. In .35 miles this brings you back to Bootjack
Trail, where you will have a déjà vu experience for .2 miles as you complete
the loop and return to the parking lot.
From Highway 101, take the Stinson Beach/Highway l exit in Mill Valley. In
2/3 mile turn left, staying on Highway l. After 2.6 miles, bear right at
fork, onto Panoramic Highway. After l mile, at 4-way intersection, take the
high road, Panoramic (sign says Mt. Tam). Pass Mountain Home. Bootjack
parking lot will be on the right; the fee is $8. No dogs.
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.