Camping And Hiking With My Daughter at Mt. Tam


It’s nice my grown daughter still likes to hike and camp with the old man. For Mount Tamalpais she booked us using the website ReserveAmerica, which you must use for the reserved campsites. Our web transaction had a software glitch which can assign handicap campsites to the non-disabled, like us. So we had to move on to the first-come, first-served campground which turned out to be very nice. So avoid ReserveAmerica if at all possible as their faulty software can cost you a campsite and $52USD.

We wondered as we lugged the gear from the car up to ridge top at Pantoll Campground why everything looked so damp under the trees. Site number 16 was at the tip of the ridge and pretty private with a great view, even distant lights from across the bay. We set up two tents because, why not?

tntsEach site had a level tent spot, a wooden storage cabinet with hasp for lock, very solid steel fire pit with grill and a picnic table with benches.

racknBought some hardwood firewood-with kindling-for $8; walk-in tent sites at Pantoll, the only kind there, cost $25 per night; which I thought pretty fair as they had 16 fairly level sites with two flush toilets and sinks and many nearby trail-heads. Stuffed birds and animals at the toll booth showed some of the birds we had hopes of seeing.


sgns_trlhdAfter resting and reading the park brochure we set off at daughter-San’s killing pace down the aptly named Steep Ravine Trail. Amazing how much greenery and ferns Mt. Tam still has, how startling that trees can condense so much water from mere fog.

trail1_fgMy cotton shirt got wet and then my hat from mopping my face, from the many switchbacks, terraces of steps and inclines, stepping over roots and rocks polished by many shoes through the years. At one point the trail is so steep a ladder must be used.

It is mostly dry in the creek, the trickle of water going silent as the creek runs underground for a while. When you keep walking down the sound returns as the creek surfaces once more. Walking back up to the campsite my long leg muscles and hip joints started aching. My daughter is a harsh taskmaster.

trail2Good thing we set up the tents because the wind and fog soon came howling in on our ridge and the trees started to drip and drizzle on us for the long haul. This was actually pretty pleasant for drought-tormented Californians like us so we sort of reveled in it, smoking and joking, roasting weiners both grass-fed and soya-dog, campfire gazing, and drinking tea, kombucha and Columbian coffee with heavy whipping cream. Ain’t car-camping grand? We both slept hard despite the usual campground party loudmouths from down the hill.

We had planned to stay another night but the chk engine light persuaded me to retreat to the Bay Area and the thought of mechanical breakdown, my usual condition it seems, no matter the vehicle.

So we stopped at Muir Woods on the way out and hiked the 2.6 mile [4.18km] trail to Muir Beach-thankfully it was flat all the way as my dogs were barking by then. Don’t know what this little trail-side bunker was once used for.

grfitySince almost everybody on Muir Beach drove in and parked, we were sort of smug since we hiked in. The beach is smaller than I expected but very pretty, whitish sand with some pebbles but no polished rocks like at Moonstone Beach. Many cavorting dogs and kids, surfers.

We were searching for Buteo raptors but saw only Turkey vultures (Cathartes aura, buzzard). Many dead birds and live gulls on the beach but the sea lion head in the surf turned out to be a log.

ft_jlyfshDaughter just had to touch a dead sea lion and this dead jellyfish. I said don’t touch that, you don’t know where it’s been.

The 2.6 mile hike back to the car was nice but the Bay Area traffic wasn’t so I’ll spare you. Made it back to Roseville despite the chk engine light glowing brightly all the way, complete with my daughter’s dog Oliver, on loan for a week or so.

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4 thoughts on “Camping And Hiking With My Daughter at Mt. Tam

    • Thanks Taunya. Next time we’ll try to climb the mountain. It was ten years ago that we climbed Lassen Peak, the last time we hiked and climbed together. I was a lot stronger then.

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