Golden Gate, China Camp & Pt Reyes

As Marin County is considered by some to be the birthplace of modern mountain-biking I was keen to hit a ride in the area. But I couldn’t find any that really grabbed me as must-do, so I opted for a loop in China Camp State Park – near San Rafael. First that meant crossing the Golden Gate Bridge & stopping for Valerie to get a closer look & walk to the middle. I didn’t mind – it really is one of the most beautiful bridges in the world & possibly my favourite after Tower Bridge in London. I love its size, simplicity & elegance. This time we didn’t get to see it with the towers peaking up through a layer of Bay Area fog as it was a gloriously sunny day, with a nice breeze as you got out onto the bridge.

The China Camp area is so called as it was home to a large settlement of Chinese shrimpers at the end of the nineteenth century. There are still some remains of the buildings they used & some brief exhibits detailing the history of the fishing in the area. With just a light occasional breeze, as I set out on my ride it was the warmest I’d been for a while. But that wasn’t too much of a problem as the first half of the loop remained generally level as it traversed the bay just above the road. A big wide smooth trail, it was the least technical I had rode in a while & it was good fun with great views out towards the sun covered bay. At the far end of the loop, the trail hooked inland & climbed gently up to the ridge. Doing so, it became more thickly wooded (the odd stand of redwoods) & nice & cool in the trees. Wildlife sightings of note for the ride were a big family of turkeys, a large coyote & a grey squirrel (who got the fright of his life as I came around the corner). Along the ridge & back down to China Camp was pleasant, although the views were never as good as they should have been with all the trees in the way.

As Joel & Kristy were supposed to be driving down the coast we drove across to Olema to meet them. While we were waiting, we popped into the Pt Reyes National Seashore area to have a look. As I remember, the peninsula has been slowly moving up the coast of California on the back of the San Andreas fault. We walked around short loop learning about the fault & the 1906 San Fran earthquake & fire – at one place we saw where a fence had been split in two & the two halves were now running along parallel lines, but sixteen feet apart. It was a long & windy drive out to the Pt Reyes lighthouse (set low on the rocks to stay under the fog) past numerous old cattle ranches. At the point we had to walk a fair way in a howling gale to see the lighthouse from well above – a pretty desolate area, but we had the time to burn.

We ate in Olema waiting & then gave up waiting & headed back to San Fran – on the tortuous & slow Highway 1. As it is not far off Route 101 & there was little traffic at the late hour, it was a perfect opportunity to drive up Lombard St & then down the famous crooked part. I think just getting up to top was the biggest challenge – those are some steep streets. That in itself is not so bad as the car could (just) make it up in second gear, but at every intersection is a four-way stop. That meant a lot of very steep hill starts, & the handbrake on my car has a long grab before engaging just to make it interesting (“we’ll have a shilling on the side”). Back to the motel eventually exhausted from the driving, the ride & the worst hayfever I’ve had in who-knows-how-long.

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