Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Hike

Shannon made a visit to SF over the week of birthday-pallooza and the first days of school (I know I need to get those birthday pics up). The nice thing about Shannon visiting is that she has the ability to get us up off our duffs and do touristy things that we wouldn't normally get up off our duffs to do. Last year she motivated us to do the bike ride over the GG Bridge. This year we went to Muir Woods.

Muir Woods is described as the home of the "giants" namely the California Redwoods. A nature lovers dream. The touristy part of the park is designed with placards chock-full of interesting factoids about the trees, about the park, about FDR and the National Parks, and about lots of other fascinating Muir Woods topics. Website says it's perfect for a little stroll through history surrounded by nature's glory on a lovely San Francisco Sunday. Sounded perfect for us!

Muir Woods website also touts it's "miles and miles" of hiking trails. But, since we're not hikers, I read this part as : "Interesting information, but not applicable to us since we are just going to go and stroll through the little park area, take some photos, commune with nature and then go have a great lunch on the water in Sausalito." (cue the evil laughter...cause you know that's not the way it turned out...)

I prepared for the day by filling up a 12oz bottle of water and throwing the following in my backpack: the camera. 2 small bags of sunkist fruit snacks (about 8 little fruit shaped morsels per bag). 1 sesame cracker plank. 2 Oatmeal Raisin granola bars. We were heading out before lunch, so I thought maybe the boys would get cranky before we could get to the restaurant. You should never be unprepared for snackage when it comes to two growing boys. I smugly threw the backpack over my shoulder and away we went.

We arrived at Muir Woods at around 12:30. A little later than we wanted to get started - seeing as we were having lunch afterwards - - but still plenty of time to see some trees, fill out the Junior Ranger Quest Map, and take some great family photos. We planned on about an hour. Plus, I still had snacks for the restless indians.

We saw pretty trees:

We saw beautiful streaming sunlight through humongous redwoods:

We took kitchy photos of the children standing in the tepee doorways of massive bits of nature:

We posed for silly shots of Mom and Dad. We were smiling even though Mom had to buy the most expensive long-sleeved t-shirt EVER as it was frickin freezing in there among all that nature! Why I can't seem to get the hang of carrying polar fleece with me at ALL times here in SF is beyond me. It's as if I can't be taught.

It was grand. It was fun. We were pronounced JUNIOR RANGERS as a result of our ability to follow the craftily designed treasure hunt provided by the national park service. We were on a roll. We were high on our achievement when we happened upon a little map located at the end of the "for tourists wearing flip flops and carrying cameras" part of the national monument.

We studying the little map. We looked at our watches. We questioned how hungry we were and how long we could wait until lunch. We looked at our shoes. George the Younger and Henry - tennis shoes - good. George the Elder and I - chucks - not so good. Shannon - little oxfords by J Crew - least good. We counted our remaining snacks. 2 bags of fruit snacks. 2 granola bars. 1 bottle of water. We studied the trail maps some more. We decided a little hiking would be grand.

The map below is NOT representative of the map at the end of the "tourists with flip flops trail." Had we seen THIS map, we may have chosen more wisely. What we saw was a cute wooden plaque with an etched little line that said "Ocean View Trail: 2 miles. Some Steep sections. Allow for 1.5 hours." The little etched line looped right back to the visitors center. It seemed harmless enough. It seemed adventurous. We headed off leaving our wooden boardwalk (and every other person that was visiting Muir Woods) behind and took on soma-dat real nature. We were S.T.U.P.I.D.

There are a couple of things we should have known before we headed off. First: It became abundantly clear that the verbiage "Some Steep Sections" has a different connotation to "real hikers" than to laymen.

Here is the beginning of our ascent up the "Lost Trail" - not so bad, right?

Then we encountered this. This should have been our clue to TURN BACK NOW! Any incline that requires a person to claw upwards with their bare hands is no longer considered a PG slope.

But, then it "sorta leveled off" again and we thought - this isn't too bad. Except the "this" went onward and upward relentlessly 10 solid miles. Okay maybe it was only about 1.5 miles, but it felt like about 100 miles - so I'm rounding down. All I knew was that at one point, my heart was beating so loudly in my chest that I couldn't even hear nature. Unless you consider that reaching that physical stress point where the sound of your aorta rupturing is considered a pleasant sound of nature. In that case, I was hearing nature. Loud and CLEAR.

We stopped to catch our breath a couple of times and had a few sips of water. At this point, we realized that we were unprepared. 1 bottle of water for 5 people walking straight uphill to "see the ocean view" above 300 foot redwoods = unprepared.

But, HUZZAH!! We reached the top. Refer to above map and see spot where "Lost Trail" meets "Panoramic Highway"? There we are! Gazing over the tops of untamed forests. George the Elder is taking the photo. Too bad, cause this would have been a GREAT Christmas card, eh?

So, now all we have to do is loop back down to the visitors center, right? Remember the little etched line? Remember the little loop? 1.5 hours and we were going to get lunch. Yummy. Not so fast there Tonto. Sometimes life doesn't work out in the little etched loop. Or so I've heard said.

Which brings us to the second thing we needed to know before heading off the tourist boardwalk. What the little signs say out there in nature are not reliable. Not reliable AT ALL. What we needed was a GPS and a compass. At an absolute minimum, an Eagle Scout might do the trick. We had nothing. Nada. And then I spied a group of folks with a big ginormous map.

I decided to confer with real hikers with a big official map. We discuss. We decide to follow them. They say "THIS IS THE WAY" back to Muir Woods visitors center. In hindsight, these people were sent up from the underworld to lead us astray. This is where things went from bad to worse. This is where the Made for TV movie starts to get interesting. No food left. 1/2 bottle of water and we start down what is marked as the Ocean View Trail - but later we realize is the "Redwood Trail". Please refer to map. Please note we are heading in the WAY WRONG direction. We have just been seriously denied "the loop." Damn Daddy.

We trudge along. More silently than before. The jovial nature of our quick hike has turned to I-am-hot-and-i-want-some-lunch mantra. And for Pete's Sake!! MORE UPHILL? Aren't we supposed to be going down? And where is the blasted Ocean View?????

We finally connect with the Sun Trail. We didn't mean to connect with the Sun Trail. We wanted to connect with the Visitor's Center!! The Sun Trail could be described as permanently moving out of the moist calm and cool chewy center of the redwood forest and biting in to the hard hot dusty pit of misery. You are walking on a path about 16 inches wide cut through the impossibly steep incline of a big tall mountain where some where 100s of feet below you is the unobtainable visitors center where water runs like - well, - - water! Also, one errant foot hold and you were taking that Princess Bride roll down the steep steep slope yelling "As You Wish!!!!"
It was hot. It was sunny. We were out of water. And, we were now really cranky. Those Mysterious Satan's Minions - the ones who told us to go this way - were never ever seen again. Coincidence? Unlikely. They had morphed in to tiny red beady-eyed lizards and were laughing their tin sounding devil laughs while pointing at our miserable crew. At least the stroll was downhill in the blazing sun of the aptly named "Sun Trail"...

Remember that we have no map. We only know that we are on a trail that leads somewhere. We are starting to blame each other in that half-kidding-but-really-serious-way-that-families-do - - - who's idea was this little hike anyway??? We're Hungry! This is All. Your. Fault. When finally we saw a sign for The Dipsea Trail replete with pointing arrow and with Muir Woods Visitor's Center as a subtitle. We were optimistic - but guarded. We had recently spent a good portion of the day following a trail that said "Ocean View" where we saw nothing but trees and more trees (an ocean of trees, perhaps??) We likely would have been more guarded had we known at the time that we were not actually on the Ocean View Trail. At this juncture we remained naive to exactly how lost we truly were. That was a good thing.

We follow the Sun Path in our thirsty and sweaty state. We come to a Road!!! Where we are met with a sign that says - - wait for it - - - "Dipsea Trail CLOSED"!!!! Just as we were about to just sit down and cry on the edge of the road - we were met by a real hiker. You know the guy in the right clothes, with the camel back water pouch and the two walking sticks. We hated him immediately. But, he pointed down the road and said we would eventually connect with the Dipsea again. No worries. Yup. Right. We heard that from the Map People.

So, we had hiked up mountainous paths, schlepped across sun drenched arid inclines and now we get to trudge down a asphalt road to "hopefully" find another entrance to Dipsea. Wahoo.

The good news, since I am here to write this entry, is that eventually we did find our way to the entry of the Dipsea Trail. We made it back to the parking lot. We drank a great deal of water. We actually high-fived each other like we'd been lost in the woods for days with little more than a pack of Mentos and our keen wits. In reality it was 4:30 pm. We'd been hiking for about 3 hours. Time stretches when you have no friggin clue where you are. Really, it does. It just stretches right ooooouuuutttt.

Once in the car, we headed over to Sausalito to our favorite fish place - starving!! We arrived to find out that they are closed for exactly one thirty minute period in a day. 5:00 - 5:30. Yup. We arrived at 5:10! Luckily, they were still serving appetizers - so we scarfed down some cerviche and clam dip in much the same way that wild dogs would have. Henry nearly lost a finger to George the Younger during an especially heated cerviche incident.

But, you know what? Turns out that a little food and a couple of Arnold Palmers go a damn long way to improving the mood of most anyone.

And so, our adventure ended. Hardly the stuff of Chilean Miners. But, exciting nonetheless. I have promised to carry large quantities of water with me at all times from now on. Edna Mode still had it right, "Life favors the prepared Darling!"
We. were. not.


Jana said...

What a horrifying experience! Being the weenie I am I'd be scared to death. I must admit to chuckling a few times at your phenomenal story telling -- I guess because I knew you lived to tell about it! :-)

TNgrammy said...

I can only imagine what was going on in everyones head the last couple of hours!!!
Happy to know all escaped that adventure unscathed.......blisters were not mentioned!
I agree lots of water is needed on any trip, even to the grocery store.....love to all...

Stephanie said...

I'm surprised you didn't break a hip. Or - worse yet - put out an eye!

Molly D said...

This is exactly why I don't hike.... Dad used to tease that I could get lost in a paper bag. I don't doubt it. You'd think however that one of you would have had GPS on your phone. :)

KB said...

Hah! Been there, done that. Thankfully everyone came out okay (and the Arnold Palmers were ready).

My sister and I were in Ft. Davis, Texas (long story) and had the grand idea of taking three kids ages 5 3/4, 5 1/2 and 3 up to the scenic view. It was only .5 of a mile. Up the side of a mountain. Miraculously, everyone made it up okay. My niece even, uh, christened the place. Sorry future hikers!

Anonymous said...

Even given your penchant for Hyperbole......I just gotta say "WIMPS". I am sure George the Elder was not whining but rather marching resolutely along....on second thought he should have rubbed 2 sticks together for a fire and made a refreshing cappuccino out of pine bark and discarded squirrel hair to get you through your ordeal.....