From Poppies to a Banana Slug

After hiking along the exposed trail where California poppies dotted the hills of Mt. Tamalpais and the views of the coastline blended into the foggy sky, we entered a world of green. The colors of lichen, sage, eucalyptus, and moss layered and interlaced, accented by the rich reds of the redwood and the yellowish green of the banana slug.

While my daughter chose a cultural experience, a trip to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art with her aunt and cousin, my son and I chose a natural one. With sneakers and windbreakers, he and I headed down the Dipsea trail from Mt. Tam’s Pantoll Ranger Station for a 4-mile hike.

We walked quickly, stopping only to take photographs or to take in a view. The trail was soft and mostly free of obstacles, unlike northeast trails where tree roots threaten to trip the unsuspecting walker. We neared the creek and crossed a bridge where the Steep Ravine trail sign took us right, away from the ocean and meandered along a creek.

Our guide book had touted the Steep Ravine trail as perhaps the most beautiful trail in California, I was ready to agree. Lush in colors and sounds, the trail is both peaceful and mystical. We encountered redwoods and fiddleheads, rocks and waterfalls and spider webs. Every so often, a hiker or two appeared from around the corner, passing us by.

We crossed another bigger bridge back to the other side of the creek before reaching a ladder. With its 14 plus rungs, the wooden ladder was slippery but stable. We climbed out of the dense greenness away from the creek knowing the end of the trail was near, and our hike was almost over. As we zigzagged up the side of the hill, we stopped to say hello to a banana slug. It raised its head toward us, as if to say good-bye.

For information on Mt. Tam hikes, go to the, the Mt. Tamalpais Interpretive Association website, or visit the state park website.

Trip taken in April 2011