Hike & Trail Maintenance in the Marin Headlands

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January 23, 2004

Outline and Background

Another relatively shorter hike. Both in terms of mileage and time. A bit if trail clearing on the Rodeo Valley Cutoff, accessed by the usual route.Maps of perambulations below.

Planning and Route Description

The weather forecasts were pretty steady on overcast but not raining for Friday (with rain predicted for Saturday), so I posted the hike for 10am, meeting at the Strauss statue at the Golden Gate Bridge. Plan was an 8-ish mile fast hike over the Bridge, over Slacker Hill Saddle, and along the ridge to the upper end of the Rodeo Valley Cutoff. Some amount of light trail clearing. Depending on the energy and preferences of the hikers, there are possibilities for side trips (like Slacker Hill) or alternate routings.

The Rodeo Valley Cutoff is badly overgrown, although the tread is easily followable. The obvious trail is actually the Cutoff Cutoff, which crosses a saddle and drops to the Rodeo Valley Trail about a mile up from the Cutoff junction which is near the valley floor.

Hike Description

By 10:10 noone had showed up, so I took off, making good time on the standard route into the Headlands. There appears to be some welcome thinning and removal of eucalyptus along Alta Avenue. A quick jaunt around and down to the Cutoff and the Cutoff Junction where sandwich #1 was wolfed down.

I put on the long sleeve shirt and gloves (no desire to get intimate with Poison Oak if at all possible), got out the pruning shears and started clipping away at the chapparal, virtually all the overgrowth was (some bush I can't key out since I have neither plant nor flowers...evergreen, grows into trails, not Ceanothus). Over the 1/3 mile I cleared, there was probably a couple hundred yards of medium to bad overgrowth. The apparent operation of an ATV along the trail (probably NPS, judging by the care with which the trail was followed) was a mixed blessing...a lot of stuff was broken, needing only to be removed, and the path was more distinct, but as this is apparently the only maintenance this trail gets (once a year?), many previously flattened branches were buried in the duff and layering.

Anyway, substantial portions of the trail are cleared to a 2-3 foot width, with follow up work to be much easier if done regularly. I stopped before I reached the saddle where the trail turns and drops through grassland to the Rodeo Valley Trail. A blister was threatening mayhem on my clipping hand. Probably a couple hundred feet of clearing remains. I remember this portion as having taller overgrowth, so loppers might be a welcome addition to pruning shears for this bit.

Overgrown Trail
Overgrown Trail

Before and After

After my reward of a Red Bull, I plastic bagged various tools and outerwear for detoxification, and headed back up the trail. When I got to the Morning Sun Trail, I took that down the trailhead on US-101, and on a whim decided to walk back though Sausalito and Fort Baker rather than along the ridge. So pleasant street and road walking up to the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, then up to the Overlook (new bathrooms are VERY FINE) and a quick walk (very quick...I kept catching up and passing a group of joggers) back to the South side.

Summary and Technical Details

The hike ended more or less as planned, a bit longer if not faster, but that's unsurprising for a solo hike. ~12 miles, 1800 feet of ascent, 4:10 of hiking time. Unsurprisingly, my right hand is sore and weak from unaccustomed use.

Weather and Conditions

The weather was cool, but not windy and the sun was intermittently diffused by the light clouds. Quite hazy/smoggy, especially on the bay side. The trails are generally in good condition, except portions of the Rodeo Valley Cutoff, which are degraded and/or eroded. Just the barest few wildflowers yet, domestics and escapees are blooming though.




Map of San Francisco and route detail maps, outbound route in fuschia, inbound route in blue

headlands map

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Hike & Trail Maintenance - Marin Headlands / Robert Parks / rparks@lvhot.org / revised Jan '04