Hike #7: Mount Tamalpais, Phoenix Lake

Location: Marin (Lagunitas)

Distance: 5.3 miles

Entry fee: $0

This hike yielded some of the best flora and fauna to date.  And some of the most awesome views.  I am falling in love with Mt Tam.

Molly and I had originally planned to do the Cataract Falls hike in the same area.  We underestimated, however, the level of fun we would have the night before at Chrissy’s 29th birthday celebration (which started out at La Trappe…we should have known better).   So after a late start to the day and taking into account the puke probability, a 7 mile “moderate” hike did not sound appealing…or even really possible.  So we settled for the shorter, easier Phoenix Lake.

After driving through much of Marin (yes, we may have gotten lost on the way there), we pulled up to a line of cars waiting for a parking spot.  Wtf.  Lesson one: if you plan to do this hike, get there early.  We only ended up waiting about 5 minutes (during which we ate about half the birthday cupcakes we had baked for Chrissy the day before…we had them in the car with the good intention of delivering them on the way home.  Guess what didn’t happen.)  Anyway, we finally parked and got our hike on.

Chrissy's cupcakes

The fireroad at the early part of the hike has relatively heavy traffic…the area is very popular with mountain bikers, and the very beginning of the fireroad is full of families and dogs and people just enjoying a nice stroll around the lake.  Once you break off the fireroad onto Yolanda trail (which, surprise, we missed on the first flyby and had to backtrack to find), it empties out.

The first half of this hike is AWESOME.  To begin with, the day was beautiful.   The recent rain meant that all of the brooks and streams and waterfalls were flowing, and that the moss and mushrooms were all out and sporing (or whatever it is they do) making everything look soft and fuzzy and bright green and surreal.

We saw tons of birds (humming birds, robins, hawks, vultures–which freaked Molly out) and some really amazing views of the peak of Mt. Tam.  We also identified a few flowers and plants, including the invasive broom (duh duh duh) and bluedicks (I’m not going to say anything in case my parents read this site).

Once you complete that part of the loop, you hit the fireroad again and, after about 300 yards, branch off into what is essentially a small redwood forest.  While this part of the hike was less exciting (partially because we’ve spent a decent amount of time in redwood forests, partially because we were ready to get back to the car and eat more cupcakes) it was here that we saw some of our more exciting fauna, including: a huge banana slug (which, did you know, can weigh up to a quarter pound), and what we thought was a salamander but is actually a coast range newt.

(For all of you out there wondering what distinguishes a salamander from a newt…and I know you are….a newt is actually the common name for certain members of a family of relatively small salamanders.)

banana turd

Hike #7: hungover success!  I know I said this about the last Mt Tam hike, but I really think THIS one might be my favorite so far.

Lessons learned: all newts are salamanders, but not all salamanders are newts

Flora and Fauna: California Bay tree, broom, coast range newt, banana slug, bluedicks (which are actually purple)

2 thoughts on “Hike #7: Mount Tamalpais, Phoenix Lake

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