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Bon Tempe Lake

Mount Tamalpais State Park

Mt. Tamalpais Links:

March 21st, 1999

9.0 miles
2000 vertical feet
Total Time: 4:45

Rating: 6/10

Directions: If you want to go: take 101 north across the Golden Gate Bridge. Take the Stinson Beach exit west and drive about 4 miles to the Panoramic Highway. Turn right and continue uphill for 5.5 miles. Turn right onto Pantoll Road. Turn right at the T-intersection. Park at the second lot on your right.   View Driving Map

Jennie, Kane, Lan and I hiked at Mount Tamalpais State Park.

On the first full day of spring, we drove through a thick mist under a completely clouded sky, up and up to the Mountain Theater parking area. Jennie and I ended up in the wrong parking lot; half an hour after our original meeting time, Lan and Kane walked down the road a short ways to find us.

The mist lent a strange, almost magical sense to the area. Trees above us captured the moisture and drops fell from their soaked leaves occasionally. A bit after 12:30pm (though it still felt like morning), we finally started down the Rock Spring - Lagunitas trail. The reason for the late start was that I'd intended to catch the sunset. As it would turn out, however, there would be no spectacular sunset to photograph.

The trail, a wide fire trail, headed uphill immediately. It was a short climb, however, and we would be heading downhill almost exclusively, down to Bon Tempe Lake. Rains left the trail soaked and muddy in places. We had to step cautiously occasionally, but generally the trail was in good condition. It was certainly a favorite of mountain bikers, who passed us in both directions the entire day.

The first part of the trail is partly through meadows, partly forest. After passing Potrero Meadows, however, it is completely forested for at least the next mile and a half.

Jennie and Lan heading up Rocky Ridge

We turned left onto the Rocky Ridge trail. It was both rocky, and a ridge, and gave us occasional glimpses of the lakes below us. The clouds were high above us now, giving us good visibility in all directions. This part of the trail was surrounded mostly by small shrubs, including small manzanita trees. Along the way we saw a salamander crossing the road and we closed in to snap some pictures.

Turning a corner, we caught our first close view of the lakes. A few minutes later, we were walking along the dam between Bon Tempe Lake and Alpine Lake. A row of pelicans and sea gulls rested on a bar in Bon Tempe Lake. As we were soaking in the views, hawks started to ride the thermals, circling above us. They would start low and gradually rise higher and higher. I whipped out my camera as fast as I could to try to take some pictures, but the best shots eluded me as usual.

Alpine Lake (left) and Bon Tempe Lake

At this point, Kane turned around, since he had to get back early. Jennie, Lan and I stopped at the dam and had lunch before heading back up the same way we came.

The trip up was mostly uneventful. We simply retraced our steps back up to Potrero Meadows. There, tired of hiking on fire trails, we decided to head southwest along the Potrero Meadows trail. We passed through a meadow, of course, and a brief, damp, mossy section next to a stream which was a nice treat after so much forested fire trails.

Fuzzy tree on the Potrero Meadows trail

A completely different world from the rest of the trails

We then headed up the Benstein trail. The going here was tough at first, as it was hard to find the trail amidst the trees. This was definitely not a fire trail. After some struggling, we managed to find the main part of the trail. Or rather, some trail - I was worried the whole time that we'd stumbled onto a different trail and would end up far from our cars. But I kept my worries to myself.

The trail was forested but narrow. It was a very different feeling here. There was more of a feeling of isolation from the rest of the world. Mountain bikers would not be bothering us. If we got lost or injured, I wouldn't have been surprised if no one else passed through the trail the rest of the day. Even with these fears, it was still a nice trail. Lan spotted some red mushrooms growing on either side of the trail. And eventually we emerged from the trees to join up with the Rock Spring - Lagunitas trail yet again.

Soon we were back at our cars. The weather now was much as it was when we'd left them -- misty, cloudy. But that seemed just about right.

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