Fall Escapes in Marin


Marin Menagerie

With shorter days and cooling temps, there's no better time to step outside for a breath of crisp air. These three Marin quickies deliver the goods in time to be home before dark.

Hike Baltimore Canyon Marin

ColorFall Canyon

The hundreds of acres of open space surrounding Mount Tam are packed with surprises. Take Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve, a 193-acre gem on the eastern side of Tam. Here, an easy network of trails weaves through forests of Douglas fir, madrone, and second-growth redwoods, with punchy fall colors and views to boot. Start a 3.5-mile (round-trip) hike from Crown fire road where big-leaf maples are currently displaying leaves of light-green, deep yellow and burnt orange. Weave up and along the Mount Tam watershed on Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail (try saying that five times fast!). Connect to the Blithedale Ridge fire road where the vistas are best: Mount Tam towers from behind, while San Pablo Bay and Mill Valley swoop left to right. The views give way to a forest of second-growth redwoods, spawned from what were once some the largest redwoods in the Bay Area. Follow the Crown fire road back to the trailhead. Canyon-ball!

From Hwy. 101 going north, exit Sir Francis Drake Blvd. Continue to the town of Kentfield and turn left onto College Ave. Take a right on Woodland Rd., then a left on Evergreen Rd. Take this up the mountain. Turn left on Crown Rd., drive to the end and park. Cross the gate found at the end of Crown Rd. Hike a few minutes and take your first right on the Hoo-Koo-E-Koo Trail. After a mile you'll reach Blithedale Ridge fire road; turn left. After .75-mile reach a four-way junction with a sign for "H Line fire road." Make a hairpin left turn here. In a few minutes you'll reach the Crown fire road (a.k.a., Southern Marin Line fire road). Turn left here and hike 1 mile back to the trailhead. Here's a map of Baltimore Canyon Open Space Preserve. Dog-friendly!

China Camp Village

It Takes a Village

She sells seashells by the seashore. How about: Frank sells clam chowder on the Bay shore. Kinda has the same ring to it, right? Perched bayside, China Camp State Park's Fisherman's Village is steeped in history. In the early 1880s, it was thriving due to an abundance of shrimp that was being exported to China. But the Chinese Exclusion Act and an eventual outlaw on shrimping left the village largely abandoned, save for a general store run by enterprising villager, Quan Hock Quock. His sons were the last fishermen left at China Camp, and today Quan's grandson, Frank, still lives there and runs the store—The Quan Bros. snack shop (pictured). This charming no-frills establishment serves everything from Polish dogs to Popsicles. Dine alfresco at a nearby picnic table with a warm clam chowder, a cool Tecate, and views of San Pablo Bay. You may even meet Frank! Those preferring to bring their own food and beverages can head to the south side, where a long and tranquil stretch of pebble beach runs up to a grassy knoll with picnic tables.

BIKE-IN BONUS: Park at the Back Ranch Meadows and mountain bike into China Camp Village on the 5-mile Shoreline Trail, a rolling singletrack with bay views almost the entire way. 

From Hwy. 101 in Marin, exit North San Pedro Rd. Go east for 3 miles to reach Back Ranch Meadows. If you're mountain biking, then park here and get on the Shoreline Trail just behind the entrance station. Follow this trail east for 5 miles to China Camp Village. If you're driving to China Camp Village, then continue another few miles on North San Pedro Rd. until you reach the village. The village is dog-friendly!

Kayak Bar Bocce

Paddle Ball

Kayaking and bocce may seem an unlikely combo, but the two pair perfectly in Sausalito. Bar Bocce is set right on Richardson Bay, fancied up by a fantastic patio with a warming firepit and, of course, a bocce court. Most people drive to this waterside restaurant, but arriving by kayak makes for a much splashier entrance. SeaTrek is located just a couple blocks away and will set you up in a single- or double-kayak and point you in the right direction. We recommend steering south from the put-in, toward downtown Sausalito, where views of the San Francisco skyline seem so surreal it's as if you're inside a postcard. After enjoying the scenery, flip it and paddle back for a few minutes, nosing up to the marshland shore that leads to Bar Bocce. Belly up to the firepit and order a classic margherita wood-fired pizza and a local draught beer, like a Racer 5. Just don't go overboard! The return paddle is no fun if your flotation device is a beer belly.

SeaTrek (415-332-8494) is located in Sausalto on Libertyship Way. For directions, visit their Web site. Rentals are $20 an hour for single kayaks or $35 an hour for a double kayak. Bar Bocce (415-331-0555) is located at 1250 Bridgeway in Sausalito.

Climb Against the Odds

We've all heard that life is about the journey, not the destination. But sometimes the journey and the destination work beautifully together to help you reach new heights. Climb Against the Odds is your chance to climb one of the tallest mountains in the United States: Northern California's Mount Shasta (14,179 feet). The Breast Cancer Fund's annual mountaineering expedition is designed for women and men of all abilities and supports the organization's groundbreaking initiatives to eliminate the environmental causes of breast cancer. The 2012 Climb Against the Odds expedition starts with a 6-month journey to learn the nuances of mountain climbing with the support of your team and an expert training leader. The 3-day climb is an adventure of a lifetime. Starting from the trailhead at 7,000 feet, you and 39 new best friends will travel with professional guides, climbing above the tree line to base camp (9,400 feet), a spectacular moonscape setting. Refill your bottle with water from a glacier that's actually expanding (!), and enjoy meals prepared by your guides. Get an early start on summit day to reach the 14,179-foot peak or your own personal summit. Take a moment to fly a prayer flag in honor or memory of loved ones touched by breast cancer. Conditions permitting, you'll have the unique opportunity to glissade down the mountain back to base camp. Cap things off with a pancake breakfast followed by a rousing welcome from friends, family, Breast Cancer Fund staff, and the Mount Shasta community. Ready to take the first step? Join Climb Against the Odds now to begin your journey!

Climb Against the Odds is June 17–23, 2012.

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