Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Play Date on Saturday

Saturday morning showed up clear, sunny and warm, so I hopped in the car at 10:30 and didn’t get home until close to 5 p.m. Where did I go? Everywhere – a mountain, a forest and a seaside town. All in a day.

That’s no miracle – here, it’s typical.

I look at Mount Tamalpais every day, as it is north of my wall of windows. Mt. Tam – whose profile is said to resemble a sleeping Indian maiden -- is 34 miles from San Francisco, in Marin County. The highest point is 2,571 feet. You may walk up, bike up or (thank goodness) drive right to the top. I headed for the East Peak Visitors Center, driving up a road that twists and turns for more than 10 miles at a time through redwood groves and oak woodlands.

At the top, I put on my hat, bought some fruit and nuts at a small snack bar and headed off on a paved .07-mile path marked accessible for wheelchairs. It was, but I quickly discovered that I was not entirely comfortable walking where no rail separated me from the steep drop-off. Halfway along, I sat down on a comfortable wooden bench and breathed in the beautiful day. 

Graceful turkey vultures and huge ravens soared below me. I pondered how small, how like a toy, the magnificent city of San Francisco appeared. The island of Alcatraz looked as though it were idling momentarily, and would head out under full steam any minute. On the trail once again, I watched a man teach another man the sport of rock climbing. I eavesdropped as a little boy (maybe 4) told his sister (maybe 6) that he, too, would learn rock climbing when he is bigger and stronger.

Only one spot along the trail was windy, and buena vistas surrounded me: Mount Diablo to the east, the Farallon Islands to the west, my home to the south and more of Marin County to the north. I didn’t know to look for this, but I learned later that sometimes you can see the snow-covered Sierra Nevada mountains, some 150 miles away.

Driving back down the mountain, I saw a sign for Bolinas. I headed west, driving through silent stands of redwoods and along rolling hills decorated randomly with carpets of purple flowers. Bolinas is a seaside town of about 1,500 and the adjacent estuary laps quietly above the San Andreas Fault. The people there are described as “independent,” and they have exercised their independence by removing all signs that tell how to reach the town.

I found it, only because Charlie and I had visited Bolinas a year or more ago. I parked and strolled down the street to the edge of the land, where kids and dogs splashed in the surf and people my age sat on benches staring out to sea, enjoying the day. On the way back to the two-block-long business district, l passed an art gallery, a museum and a shop that sold locally made cotton socks and plenty of items from Thailand and Nepal. 

Hungry, I took an outside table at the Coast Café, across the street from a 100-year-old saloon and hotel established in 1851. In some ways, the café seems lost in time, with stained oilcloth covering the tiny tables. The menu, however, is completely up to date, and emphasizes local produce. I ordered an omelet made with fresh local mushrooms, cheese and scallions. Then I settled in to watch people passing by – lots of people with young kids (one mom was barefoot, which didn’t look comfortable), lots of Serious Bikers in Serious Spandex, a handful of older folks.

Waiting for lunch, I glanced through the wooden trellis just to the left of my table. The trellis partly obscured a public altar to Yemanja, a goddess of the sea and an old friend of mine. Coins had been left on the altar. Everyone passing by was going along with the “Respect This Space” sign until a young couple plopped their crying baby on the altar and started rummaging through a cloth bag. I was worried that a diaper change was in the offing, but they simply retrieved a bottle and moved on. In some incarnations, Yemanja also is a protector of children, but still…

Walking to the car after my late lunch, I saw this sign: “Open Studio – Welcome.” Tucked back off the street was the door to Emmeline Craig’s one-room abode that serves as her home and her studio. A watercolorist, Craig is from Provence, France. She paints Provence but also Bolinas, where she has lived for 10 years. Her work is beautiful -- check it out at

Driving home, I passed though tiny Stinson Beach (half the size of Bolinas), waved at The Sand Dollar (where Beth and I had lunch last year), and caught glimpses of the sun sparkling on the sea. Mostly, I kept my eyes on the twisty, winding road, much like the one I took earlier in the day. What a grand Saturday!



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