Top of Mt. Tamalpais with Armando – 13 May 2013

It was the Mountain Top Trail this Monday as we hiked up from Rock Spring past the Mountain Theater. Armando explained that the West Peak was the historic top of Mt. Tamalpais at 2604 feet that is before it was bulldozed by the US Army during WW 2 to 2560 feet (2574 on the Tom Harrison Map) to make a radar site. The project at the time was described by the Army as a “weather observation station” which rang with some truth since there had been a weather station on the East Peak since 1898. This made the West Peak second to the East Peak with its Fire Lookout at 2571 feet. Mando went on to describe the plan to restore the West Peak to its former height and glory as the process of reclamation proceeds. It is a joint venture of a number of government agencies so the details are being negotiated, as he said, “Who will get their picture on the cover.” The West Peak area is the property of the Marin Municipal Water District and is part of a series of restorations that now are entering their fourth year.

As we began, we looked out at the Pacific fog pouring in through the Golden Gate. San Francisco was completely obscured, only the masts of the 977 ft (297.8m) Sutro TV Tower (rising on a hill between Twin Peaks) were visible above the fog – not quite in this picture. This is the same fog that kept San Francisco Bay a “secret” from so many early explorers for centuries.

Mt. Tamalpais became a California State Park in 1927-1929 with Muir Woods on the south & the water district to the north and rapidly expanded to the south and west. Here Mondo is talking about the new director of the State Parks, Major General Anthony Jackson, who brings the experience of a long and distinguished career of leadership in the Marines and a dedication to nature to his new appointment. He is looking for innovation in the State Park system but: “We are not looking at turning our parks over to private enterprises or in any way disrupting the natural beauty of a beach or a forest or a waterway or anything like that.”

Heading out on the Rock Springs Trail and casting our shadows in the sunlight.

Lisa and Margie spotted this beautiful Swallowtail enjoying an “artichoke” breakfast on California Native Cobweb Thistle.

We stop at the Cushing Memorial Amphitheater (in the Greek style) preparing for the Centenary year of the Mountain Play. “In the first two decades the performances were accessed by hiking or riding the winding Mount Tamalpais and Muir Woods Railway which was led by businessman Stephen B. Cushing. In 1933 the Civilian Conservation Corps began construction of a 4,000 seat stone amphitheater named in Cushing’s honor constructed of massive serpentine rocks. And here in 1967 a two day Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival was the opening event for the “Summer of Love”. Cf.

This year’s Mountain Play is The Sound of Music running from May 19 – June 16th.

And this will be the first year since 1967 when the Music Festival returns to Mount Tam, June 22nd.
Here’s a recollection of some the 1967 show along with a video at the end which captures the mood.

Inge spotted this rare Mariposa Lily (Calochortus clavatus) as we entered the Mountain Top Trail.

Last week we enjoyed Yerba Buena and this week it’s Yerba Santa, Eriodictyon californicum.

Normally we see the Douglas fir cones in beautiful browns but here a cascade of green cones was under the tree. Armando said that they were being harvested by the squirrels for future reference.

Armand passes some Yerba Santa and the old barbed wire perimeter of the Mill Valley Air Force Station.

The hills of the East Bay and Mt. Diablo’s distinctive double summit across a river of fog over the Bay.

Angel Island is partially covered upper left, Belvedere Island is next closest and clearing as is the Strawberry Peninsula. The bridge is Route 101 crossing the Richardson Bay and Sausalito is to the upper right communing with the Bay all the way.

Having a gather with the FAA Radome on Middle Peak in the background.

Where have all the life guards gone? We explore the old swimming pool area now replete with thistles and Coyote bushes.

Armando shows us some of the amenities of the Mt. Tam Radar Base and yes, there was a bowling alley too – one lane.

Low growing Mimulus, Monkey flowers, adorned the roadsides of the derelict swimming pool area. Here one adds a new dimension to some serpentine.
They continued to blaze beautifully along the road as we walked up to the old helipad for lunch with a view. Let’s see, serpentine, low growing mimulus, hmm.

Definitely an affinity group. Here’s a view of largely Marin Municipal Water District Watershed lands with the cool blue water of Bon Tempe Lake prominent and just a snatch of Lake Lagunitas right middle. Mt. St. Helena is high right on the horizon. Lunch tasted so much better with the view.

Reaching out

To touch someone

Perhaps Armando here wearing his Marin Municipal Director hat with Bon Tempe below and next week’s destination at Tamarancho – the lower peak to the left, right?

P.S. Here’s a video by Gary Yost, a Mill Valley photographer, whom we met at the beginning of this hike-log. It’s called A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout and it captures the magic that we all felt as we looked out along our trail: the Trail of the Stunning Views.
Oh yes, it’s the East Peak but you won’t mind.

Thanks Mando! Lew et al.

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