John Muir Local Adventures - Muir Woods - Mike Muir and Access Adventure - Mount Wanda


Pure Muir

"Wheresoever we may venture to go in all this good world, nature is ever found richer and more beautiful than she seems."

-John Muir

John Muir is one of California's most celebrated outdoor enthusiasts and environmental activists, and his 170th birthday (April 21) falls appropriately in line with Earth Day (April 22). Here's a trio of adventures honoring both occasions.

Muir Woods Bootjack Trail

Through the Backdoor

It's home to some of the most beautiful old-growth coastal redwood groves in the state, and a popular destination for locals and tourists. But take Muir Woods' path less traveled and enjoy the area's natural treasures without the crowds. Bootjack Trail is a backdoor route that starts from the Pantoll parking lot and lets hikers warm up with ease. The trail parallels Redwood Creek, crossing it from left to right, over bridges and along natural rock steps—mostly under the redwood canopy. (Van Wyck Meadow is one of the few open sunny spots along the trail.) Everything radiates green, and the moss and glistening ferns give the feeling of being in a rainforest. Some of the towering, muscular trees have natural trunk openings wide enough to walk through. The second half of the hike, after Bridge 4 in Muir Woods and along the Ben Johnson Trail, requires some uphill leg power, but the oak growths and warming sunbeams are natural inspirations. Backdoor access is for outdoor VIPs only!

This is a 4-mile hike. Park at the Pantoll parking lot (not the Muir Woods parking lot) in Mount Tamalpais State Park, off of Panoramic Highway. Start on the Alpine Trail behind the bus stop at the driveway entrance to the parking lot. Go about .5 mile to the Bootjack Trail, turn right and descend 1.5 miles into Muir Woods. Turn right, go across Bridge 4 and hike up the Ben Johnson Trail for about 1 mile. Continue .3 mile on the Stapelveldt Trail up to the Pantoll parking lot. No dogs.

Mike Muir Access Adventure

The Muir Legacy

Mike Muir is as inspiring and passionate about the outdoors as his great-grandfather, John. At fifteen, Mike was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; today, at 56, he continues to be an active and enthusiastic outdoorsman. In 2005, he founded Access Adventure, a non-profit organization that gets people with disabilities into the outdoors via a uniquely crafted horse-driven carriage. The wind- and solar-powered operation is based at Rush Ranch, with over two thousand acres of open space on Solano County's Grizzly Island. From April through October, Mike, his volunteers, and a team of draft horses give free carriage rides with valley views reaching from Mount Diablo to the Suisun Estuary. For those seeking backcountry solitude, Access Adventure offers multi-day wilderness journeys, such as a five-nighter on the Lost Coast and a week in the High Sierras near Yosemite—his great-grandfather's beloved playground. In the legacy of John Muir, Mike and his crew "like to get off the beaten path as far as you can go…"

TIP: Rush Ranch offers field-trip programs for underprivileged youths. The organization also leads trips for the blind, where the beauty of the outdoors is seen through the scents on the wind and the touch of nature's many offerings.

Saturday, April 26, is Access Adventure's annual Open House at Rush Ranch from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Activities include blacksmithing, wagon rides, sheep-dog shows, and old-time music. After that, Access Adventure is open to all on the third Saturday of every month from April through October. For further dates and information, click here (directions are under the "contact us" page).

Mount Wanda John Muir Historic Site

Mount Wanda Wander

When John Muir wasn't meeting with Teddy Roosevelt or trekking across the Sierras, he could be found hiking nearby his home in Martinez at Mount Wanda, named after his daughter. The 325-acre preserve gently rises to a high point of 660 feet (pictured) with unobscured views at almost every turn. Muir used to take his family up this hill to study the spring wildflowers—shooting star, buttercup, purple owl's clover, mule's ear—that currently are in full bloom. Traffic noise from Martinez can be heard at the start of the trail, but the farther back it goes, the quieter it gets. Stop and relax underneath one of the many large oak trees along the ripe green hillsides, or at one of the viewpoint benches. Muir enthusiasts can also visit his nearby home—now a National Historic Site. The 14-room Victorian mansion sits on nine acres of land filled mostly with fruit orchards and oak woodlands. It's a genuine walk in Muir's legendary footsteps.

BONUS: Celebrate John Muir's 170th birthday and Earth Day at the John Muir Earth Day Festival this Saturday. Take a guided wildflower walk on Mount Wanda, and enjoy birthday cake, bagpipes, and a barbecue.

The trailhead to Mount Wanda is at the park-and-ride lot on Franklin Canyon Rd. and Alhambra Ave. in Martinez (map). Pick up a map at the kiosk in the park and follow the Nature Trail with a stop at the top of Mount Wanda. John Muir's home is just on the other side of Highway 4 on Alhambra Ave. Mount Wanda is dog-friendly!

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