On Saturday morning, we enjoyed a final rooftop brunch at the wonderful Andaz Hotel, bid adieu to the fun Honda Fit and San Diego, and pointed the Xterra north. Our destination? San Francisco.
My mom lives not far from Washington Square in North Beach — a neighborhood with the highest density of Italian cafes outside of Rome. We’re lucky to be able to visit. And she had a birthday surprise in store for me.
We made good time cruising up Interstate 5, with good weather and light traffic almost the entire way. We hit rain as we approached Livermore, slowing us down a bit. Being a Saturday, traffic wasn’t quite as bad as it could’ve been, and we pulled into the garage about 5:30 that evening.
The surprise? We headed out for southern food and live blues at Biscuits and Blues.
Sunday we headed over the always-beautiful Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County. Last night’s rain had cleared and the skies were a vibrant blue, punctuated with photo-perfect clouds. We didn’t have a specific hike in mind, or a particular summit to reach. We were simply enjoying a perfect spring day in Marin.
We thought of heading to the over-crowded Muir Woods, but would’ve had to take the shuttle in (not a good sign). We drove on to the coast and the Muir Beach Overlook. It’s a short walk from the parking area to the overlook — no more than a few hundred yards — but the views go for miles. There’s a small parking lot with free parking, a few picnic tables and some short trails. One heading out to the overlook, one that loops through the pines and a third that heads north to the beach.
This is a beautiful spot to stop and appreciate the Marin coastline.
Just a few miles north, we reached Stinson Beach. It’s a broad beach and the wind was brisk and strong. Families vacationing in seaside rentals were flying kites. A few hardy souls braved the icy cold waters, learning to surf or body boarding on waves that barely curled. We walked — not hiked — for two miles down and back along the beach, our senses filled by the smells and sounds of the ocean. It’s a beautiful beach for walking…or flying a kite.
Feeling recharged by the walk on the beach, we headed up to Mount Tamalpais. At 2,574 feet Mt. Tam is the highest point in the Marin hills. It’s also generally regarded as the birthplace of the mountain bike.
We parked at the saddle and hiked the short trail to the summit of Mt. Tam, with 360-degree views of the San Francisco Bay, the city and out to the Pacific Ocean. Well worth the trek and a very family-friendly hike.
Can you spot San Francisco in the panorama below?
Mt. Tam has a rich history, including one-time home to the former Muir Woods Railway — once known as the “Crookedest Railroad in the World.” The narrow gauge train climbed nearly to the top, where there was a lodge for guests. The train would tow behind a few gravity cars — so called because they had no engine or other form of propulsion. As many as 30 thrill-seekers would pile onto these cars and a brakeman would keep the speed down just enough to keep the car on the tracks for the ride down.
At this point, we’d worked up an appetite. We drove down through Muir Woods and out to Tiburon for lunch at the popular Sam’s Anchor Cafe. This place is usually crowded, especially on a beautiful day like this. Maybe it was birthday kismet, but we were seated right away, at a great table right next to the marina.
Not a bad lunchtime view, eh? And a perfect way to cap our Marin adventure.
Back in North Beach, we dove into Mom’s amazing made-from-scratch chocolate cake. And a very happy birthday it was!
The next stop on our Spring Break Road Trip? Bend, Oregon.
Road Trip Resources
- Bisquits & Blues – Directions
- Muir Beach Overlook – History | Directions
- Stinson Beach – General Info | Directions
- Mt. Tamalpais – Plank Walk Trail | Friends of Mt. Tam | Directions
- Sam’s Anchor Cafe – Directions