Saturday, December 14, 2013

East Peak

* * *


Until today I had never hiked around East Peak. I've always considered East Peak to be more of a tourist destination than an interesting hiking location, and it costs $8 to park there. It seemed like it would be a good place to catch the sunrise, though, so in the interest of exploring the whole mountain I drove on up. The ranger who opened the gate down at Pantoll was gracious enough to be early and to let me head on up before she even had both sides of the gate open. I was the first to arrive at the peak, but I was soon joined by another sunrise photographer who asked me if we were on the right trail (which wound clockwise around the peak, so we had to take it on faith). I said, "I don't know. I've never been here before!" I could hardly believe it myself.



Here's an example of how not to take a good sunrise picture. It was kind of a precarious spot, so I paid more attention to the tripod's footing as well as my own than to thinking things through. I knew the graduated neutral density filters were going to flare out, but I used them anyway, hoping that luck would overcome physics. As usual, it did not.



I was surprised to hear some other people nearby, and was quickly able to spot them on a promontory below me. They must have hiked up from below, well before sunrise.



It's the seventh Spare the Air Day in a row, which I believe one of the weather guys said is a record (and we're not done yet). We've also had record cold temperatures this month and might experience record high temperatures before the month is out. More ominously, we are also wrapping up the driest calendar year since rainfall record-keeping began in 1849.



The Fire Lookout is perched on the very peak, elevation 2,571 feet.



The Gravity Car Barn is open on weekends beginning at noon. 



The Verna Dunshee Trail circumnavigates the peak and offers tremendous views north. Even on a Spare the Air Day I could see Tomales Bay, Black Mountain, Nicasio Reservoir and, of course, 4,342-foot-high Mt. Saint Helena. 



I'm pretty sure you could catch the sunrise and be out of there without getting cited, but I wasn't taking any chances on my first visit. Besides, it's worth eight bucks to be up there.



From East Peak I headed down the hill to pick up the trail camera and was surprised to see a blanket of fog coming down over Bolinas instead of moving in from the ocean.



At the very bottom of the Steep Ravine Trail where it meets Highway 1, I found my first waterfall of the season.... Yes, it's only about a foot tall, but it was refreshing to hear moving water for a change. Maybe it'll start raining next month....

* * *

10 comments:

  1. It's funny, I tend to avoid touristy destinations, too, not because there probably isn't something to marvel at, but because there tends to be more people on the trails. What town is in the background in "Dawn Chorus"? FYI, our local news said it's the driest since 1949: http://www.montereyherald.com/news/ci_24583517/monterey-county-could-see-driest-year-since-1949. I wonder if SF is thinking of the Gold Rush?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The town to the left (north) of the sinewy body of water (Corte Madera Creek) is Greenbrae; to the right it's Larkspur and Corte Madera. Across the bay is Richmond, San Pablo and Pinole. The gold rush must have brought the record-keepers out here since that's how far back the records go. Only three rain years (July-June) have been under 10 inches: 1850-51, 1897-98 and 1975-76 (http://ggweather.com/sf/monthly.html).

      Delete
    2. Do you think the Herald got it wrong by 100 years? I can't imagine SF and Monterey would be that different with regards to relative weather records.

      Thanks for the direction-locating cities. San Quentin is in there, too. I always thought the prison was near Sacramento. I am only vaguely familiar up to Mill Valley. Google maps shows East Peak in a lighter green with a tiny patch of dark green. Do you know if Mt. Tam State Park has unconnected parcels of land?

      Delete
    3. It's possible the Herald got it wrong. It does seem unlikely there'd be such a difference, but there is a huge difference between what the water district records at one of its reservoirs and what we record in San Francisco.

      Speaking of San Quentin, I was just reading a book about the Trailside Killer who murdered three women on Mt. Tam a long time ago. Turns out the killer, now in his 80s, is still on San Quentin's Death Row, trying to appeal the verdict. Found guilty in court, he has maintained his innocence and never confessed (despite being recently linked by DNA to yet another murder).

      I wouldn't be surprised if there's a bit of a checkerboard of jurisdictions on the mountain, with unconnected parcels. When I look at Google maps I don't see what you describe.

      Delete
    4. P.S. In the LA Times, they say their records only go back to 1877 (and they are also having the driest year since then).

      Delete
    5. Aha! The local tv station clarified that Monterey records only go back to 1949, Salinas to 1959, Santa Cruz to 1893. That'll teach me to trust tv weather over newspaper, probably b/c tv has weather personalities on staff who need to know this stuff. Here we had 8.95 inches in 1953, whereas SF had 14.27 - so, there is quite a bit of difference. Sorry to perseverate, but I'm totally fascinated by this record dry year.

      Delete
    6. FYI: http://natureid.blogspot.com/2013/11/habitat-111913-san-francisco-bay.html

      Delete
    7. Yes, more trips to SF, please. We need the rain. The fascination to me is that we aren't breaking the record by a tenth of an inch, but by several inches! Scary, frankly.

      Delete
  2. I think the "flare-up" picture is kind of nice. One wouldn't want all their sunrise pictures like that but occasionally one thrown in...why not? I like the "fog over Bolinas" one too. Neat how it all of a sudden stops at the water's edge.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, John. I agree it's passable enough to throw it in just this once.... Maybe I'll try again next weekend. As for the fog, by the time I left the area it had burned back quite a bit over the land. I'm glad I caught it when I did.

      Delete