As with every experience, there is the beginning and the goal – and then there is the experience itself. Followed quickly by a sense of accomplishment, I never realize what I am being guided to when I start out, and a quest is all about finding yourself in quiet and stillness. When I set out, there was just the thought to be together with nature, a little vegetation and water. National Park guidelines about dogs in the Forest Preserves are a little strict, so, I took the hike to the top of the coastal trail, and then I sat down to watch the water. A Vision Quest isn’t about suffering, it’s about calm. Here is what I found, and maybe we will both know at the end, what I learned.
Muir Woods Road, Building MW-020, Mill Valley, CA 94941
This is a unit of the National Park Service on the Pacific coast of southwestern Marin County, California, 12 miles (19 km) north of San Francisco. It is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and it protects 559 acres, of which 240 acres are old growth Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) forests, one of a few such stands remaining in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The star attraction of the Muir Woods is the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). These relatives of the Giant Sequoia are known for their height. While redwoods can grow to nearly 380 feet (115 m), the tallest tree in the Muir Woods is 258 feet (79 m). Strangely, though, the trees come from a seed no bigger than that of a tomato’s. The average age of the redwoods in the Monument are between 500 and 800 years old with the oldest being at least 1,200 years old.
Redwood Creek provides a critical spawning and rearing habitat for Coho or silver salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch), coastal cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarki clarki) and steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), each of them is a threatened species. Central Coast Coho Salmon have been listed as federally threatened species. Muir Woods is home to over 50 species of birds, and this relatively low number is due to the lack of insects. The Monument is home to a variety of mammals ranging in size from the American Shrew Mole to much larger deer.
There’s a store and restaurant, but the draw is imposing coast redwoods, Sequoia sempervirens, many of them 20 stories tall and some as old as the Magna Carta. The main groves have been likened to cathedrals but they’re more impressive than that; when you’re standing in the cool, muffled shadows, it seems that even sound and light have paused to show respect.
It may be time for you to reconnect with nature. Disconnect from all the media, the negativity and the propaganda of fear. And time for you to reconnect. Reconnect with yourself, reconnect with your spirituality as the peace and serenity around and this is just the place to do it.
Shorreline Hwy, Muir Beach, CA 94965
I honestly had little or no knowledge of the place, until I drove by the signs on my way to Muir Beach. The Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, also known as Green Dragon Temple (Soryu-ji), is a Buddhist practice center in the Japanese Soto Zen tradition offering training in Zen meditation and ordinary work. It is one of three centers that make up San Francisco Zen Center, which was founded by Shunryu Suzuki Roshi.
In addition to its Zen training program, the center also manages an organic farm and gardens. Founded in 1972 by the San Francisco Zen Center and Zentatsu Richard Baker, the site is located on 115 acres in a valley seventeen miles (27 km) north of San Francisco and offers a variety of workshops and classes throughout the year. The land is an inholding of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and has much wildlife within its borders.
In addition to meditation retreats, offerings include classes and workshops, Green Gulch Farm has a residential monastery and retreat center, and guest house as part of the conference center. It is also become recognized as a place where organic farmers can come to learn the tools of their trade.
1 Cove Lane, Muir Beach, CA 94965
California’s Highway One sneaks over the last coastal ridge west of Mill Valley and descends like a falling ribbon to Marin County’s Muir Beach, a small hamlet that shares a zip code with Sausalito but it is more typical of the towns and villages that dot Highway 1 from there north. For example, the next truly urban area on the coast road is along the Puget Sound.
The beach at Muir Beach is not vast. It is well-tended, and it has oceanview homes flank one side while a couple of hundred feet south, trails climb up along the bluffs of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Protected inlets and pools provide excellent access for kids to play away from the surf, while most of the beach goers were considerate and patient, especially within the small parking area.
Excellent for kayaking and sheltering smaller sail boats, this expanse is open to dogs (yes, even off leash), and boast drift wood campfire areas – as well as pick-nick tables with barbeque pits right off the small parking area. The coastal tral splits between the Green Gulch Farm walking trails and fields via a small covered bridge that allows direct access to the beach.
Muir Beach Overlook Rd, Muir Beach, CA 94965
In addition to the beach, I thought I’d write about one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen — views from Muir Beach Overlook. The overlook trail is a safe boardwalk atop a high cliff that jutts out over the frigid Pacific and it reminded me of Meat Cove, Nova Scotia. The only difference besides being on opposite sides of the country, and the weather!!
I was lucky enough to experience the overlook of Muir Beach (doesn’t actually overlook the beach) and the beach on a clear, sunny day in late March this year. There was actually very little wind, even at the top of the coast trail and the overlook. Without it the scenery was extra special and literally breathtaking.
One of the finer points to the day were the mule deer and the Hawk that I encountered between the beach, the coastal trail and the Pelican Inn. I had heard that there were smaller population due to the lack of insects found near the redwoods themselves. However, I was able to get pictures of both on my phone, which considering, I had to turn around a come back a couple of times, means that they have no fear of humans – what a nice surprise.
10 Pacific Way, Muir Beach, CA 94965
This is the signature (read only) industry in town, and is a Tudor-style lodge plus eatery that often has live music and always offers fine imports on tap. About two miles inland lies Muir Woods National Monument, a 550-acre gift to the federal government in 1907 by Marin’s prominent Kent family, it is well tended and provides a large outdoor sitting area.
The Inn includes indoor and outdoor seating, and it is as genuine as can be imagined, having traveled as a Yank, I think it reasonably close to the pub food served in England. I had a few friends from the UK that swear the food, layout and bar are pure English, so there you are. First, second and third hand information.
The dining room is quaint, lots of old beams and posts architecture making the building match what is back home. There is a huge fireplace that is up and burning during the wintertime, which is very much appreciated after a walk to Muir Beach on a blustery day. Nice to sit and relax before sitting down to dinner, and overall a relaxed and pleasant dining experience near the beach
Drinks are great, good coffee and teas as you might expect. Fine English cuisine could be considered an oxymoron, there usually is none. But while not complex, the simple dishes served here are healthy, tasty, and satisfying. We had had the beef wellington, which was highly recommend as it has a tasty savory pastry that complements the beef. I also has the fish and recommend this dish as well – and it is done well, especially the salmon. Good desserts too.
Point Reyes, CA 94101
Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. Weeks of fog, especially during the summer months, frequently reduce visibility to hundreds of feet. The Point Reyes Headlands, which jut 10 miles out to sea, pose a threat to each ship entering or leaving San Francisco Bay. The historic Point Reyes Lighthouse warned mariners of danger for more than a hundred years.
The lighthouse was used as a location for the 1980 John Carpenter film The Fog. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. The lighthouse is its crown jewel. Not merely a windswept beautiful place to spend hours scanning the surface for a precious glimpse at a whale, but also a place to view spectacular wildflowers, birds and other wildlife, all whilst perched on the very edge of Marin, our state, our country and our contient. Its downright magical.
A lighthouse was assigned to Point Reyes in 1855, but construction was delayed for fifteen years because of a dispute between the United States Lighthouse Board and the landowners over a fair price for the land. The lighthouse is a sixteen sided, 37 foot tower, and a twin of Cape Mendocino Light. The first-order Fresnel lens was first lit on December 1, 1870. Electricity came to the lighthouse in 1938, and concrete steps were built into the cliff in 1939. The station was automated in 1975.
The Point Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870, was retired from service in 1975 when the U.S. Coast Guard installed an automated light. They then transferred ownership of the lighthouse to the National Park Service, which has taken on the job of preserving this fine specimen of our heritage.
Point Bonita Trailhead, Field Rd
Sausalito, CA 94965
The lighthouse is located at Point Bonita at the San Francisco Bay entrance near Sausalito, California. Point Bonita was the last manned lighthouse on the California coast.
- Point Bonita Light Station had the first fog signal on the West Coast. It was an Army surplus 24-pounder siege gun.
- This light is the only one in America that can be reached only by crossing a suspension bridge.
- In 1877 the lighthouse was moved to its current location because the original location was often too obscured by fog for the light to be visible from the bay. This location required the builders to overcome many challenges, including the need for a hand carved, 118-foot (36 m) long hard rock tunnel.
The original light was at a height of 306 feet (93 m) above sea level, so the second order Fresnel lens was often cloaked in fog and could not be seen from the sea. In 1877, the lighthouse was moved to its current location at 124 feet (38 m) above sea level. The United States Coast Guard currently maintains the light and fog signal. It is accessible to the public during limited hours on Sundays, Mondays, and Saturdays.
If you have a fear of heights over water – not heights, heights over water, and especially the loft over bridges – especially little rickety ones that move with the wind and weight. Then the trek to the Point Bonita Lighthouse over bridge is not for you. Only 2 people are allowed at a time and made me very nervous but I did get over it!
The lighthouse itself is tiny and you spend maybe 10 minutes max out there then get back in line to cross the bridge. The views are amazing and my guess would be that on a perfectly clear day the place is crowded.
I love the little .5 mile hike to get to the lighthouse – thru a tiny tunnel, curving along the rocks, overlooking some sunbathing sea lions in the cove, gazing at the GGB.