There's nothing quite like a climb to the top of a mountain to make you feel like you've accomplished something on a given day. Especially when you are rewarded with not only a fabulous view, but the company of Butterflies for the entire trip back down.
Samuel P. Taylor State Park was one of the first to come off the closure list way back in October 2011. The National Park Service will be taking over the concession here, (as well as at Tomales Bay and Del Norte Redwoods,) to keep them open through 2013.
The hiking trail to the top of Barnabe Peak was going to be between five and seven miles round trip, depending on which paths I chose.
I parked in the day-use area near the park entrance, and walked past the picnic grounds which were in heavy use by families, bicyclists, frisbee throwers and dogs. Dogs are allowed in the picnic and campground areas only, not on the trails. I walked across a bridge over the creek which was also a Salmon crossing, although on this day I didn't have to stop to let any pass by.
I headed down Devil's Gulch trail. The first half mile followed both the creek and the highway. This short portion of the trail was quite thick and overgrown with foliage and brambles. One wildflower seemed to be trying to conserve space by plastering itself onto the leaf of a neighboring plant.
I crossed the highway and picked up the trail on the other side. (Why did the hiker cross the road?) Here the path became a more legi-timate hiking trail, with bram-bles cleared from the path-way, and well marked mile-age signs. What a pampered hiker I am!
Another half mile and I veered off onto Bill's Trail. For the next couple of miles the hike is a respectable, 1400 foot, uphill trek. I welcomed the shade of the Douglas Firs, Oaks and Maples. I took a short, five minute detour to see the Stairstep Falls, but they had already dried up to a trickle in early June.
Samuel Penfield Taylor came to California from Boston during the gold rush, and was one of the fortunate few who actually prospered by it. He cashed in his gold, purchased 100 acres of timberland and built a papermill. Using scrap paper and rags from San Francisco, his mill produced newsprint as well as the new-fangled square-bottomed paper bag.
Taylor built a resort hotel and Camp Taylor. It was one of the first places in the country to offer camping as a recrea-tional activity. It was one of California's most popular vacation destinations in the 1870s-1880s.
The forest trail made a bend and in an instant I was out of the woods and in a bright, treeless meadowland with a long view of the Marin headlands. From here it was a short climb to the top, via a service road, where a tree bearing strange fruit stood next to a fire lookout.
At this point I had a choice of returning the way I came - through the cool, shady forest - or taking the sunny service road back down the mountain. I was uncertain as to how long the service road was, but I chose it anyway, for variety sake. It turned out to be quite a bit shorter - and steeper - than the forest trail. I was glad I was going downhill rather than up.
Now that I was out in the sun, Butterflies and Lizards joined me on my excursion. The Butterflies seemed ambivalent about my presence, flitting all around me and landing right in front of me.
The Lizards on the other hand, found me startling, and froze to camouflage them-selves, giving me ample opportunity to take their picture.
As suddenly as I had found myself out of the forest, I found myself back in it and at the campground. No ecotones here!
But, I had climbed a moun-tain. It was a good half-day adventure, with time left in the day to head 15 minutes down the road and visit Tomales Bay. I definitely plan to return soon, and enjoy the park at a more leisurely pace.
I hope to see you at the State Parks.
This blog is dedicated to the memory of my Father, who loved reading maps, exploring alternate routes, and taking the road less traveled.
Alvin David Dick, April 28, 1926 - May 20, 2012