Marin Headlands Trail Run

If you would ask me for a paradise within 45 minutes of San Francisco, no doubt, I would say “Marin Headlands”. There are beaches, a lighthouse, the best view on Golden Gate Bridge ever, and uncountable trails. This Marin Headlands trail run loop is about 20 miles (somewhat 30km) but one should not underestimate the elevation gain (more than 2500 ft as the hillcrests are to be crossed multiple times.


Best starting point is Rodeo Beach, there are restrooms and a drinking fountain and it plays well with the plan of returning from Tennessee Valley via Hill 88. I ran into Gerbode Valley, up the hill until Alta Trail. If you are there, make sure you go right first – it is a dead end but you have incredible views (you are exactly above 101 there) and you can sit on the bench dedicated to Mr. Clyde Wahrhaftig. You don’t stay long on Alta Trail, later it is better to take Oakwood Valley Trail until you cross Tennessee Valley Road. On Rhubarb Trail to the parking lot, actually a few feet before make a right and go up on Miwok Trail. It was hot, just incredibly hot! I ran on Miwok trail – which is really long – to Highway One.


After crossing Highway One I ran on Dias Ridge – it was still extremely hot – with spectacular views on Mount Tam down to Muir Beach. Finally – the was a bit cooler there. Once again (and not the last time), I went uphill and followed the coastal trail. Unfortunately the trail goes down to Pirates Cove. The elevation gain – just gone! Up along a steep trail with wooden steps. There is no wind – really a rare condition, up above the Pacific Ocean.

Finally I came to Tennessee Beach Overlook, I visited it coming from the large hill (the way down is pretty dangerous, if you slip you might end up a few hundred feet down in the water). Time for a short break as it is so beautiful it is impossible to just go without inhaling the stunning scenery there. It would be good to get something to drink, but no chance.

Tennesse Beach Overlook in Marin Headlands

Now it’s going down again to the next beach, Tennessee Beach, back up through the valley to the intersection with the north-side trail to Hill 88. Currently not recommended for people with allergies, as you run directly through grass and all sorts of plants. The way up is long but somehow interesting, so you feel it goes by very fast.


Suddenly I was on the old road to Hill 88, and of course I did the extra half mile to go to Hill 88 (and back there) and later down to the parking lot. The sunset is beautiful, I take pictures before it is finally becoming too dark. A great place to run.

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Red Rock Canyon, Nevada

Red Rock Canyon is a federal nature conservation area in close proximity to party capital Sin City aka Las Vegas. Just half an hour of driving separates Margarita pitchers, theme shopping, pools, gambling from pure nature and rock climbing.

In Red Rock Canyon

Now Red Rock Canyon is a well-known climbing Mekka (see Red Rock on Supertopo), but I did neither have the gear nor the time at this visit, so this was more a drive-trough with a short hike into Ice Box Canyon. The name Ice Box Canyon is actually funny, as this is all in midst of a hot desert, but still it is the coldest part of the area.

Entry to Ice Box Canyon

The mountains in Red Rock Canyon are awesome – and sometimes a little bit intimidating, as high as they are. Compared to another climbing Mekka, Joshua Tree National Park, there are many long routes (more than ten pitches is not uncommon). A very interesting location, and easily accessible (once you exit the plane after the one-hour flight from San Francisco).

102. Bay to Breakers – a San Francisco classic

It was the 102nd time that Bay to Breakers took place, and of course I had decided to take part already long ago. As usual the start is at 7am near the Bay waterfront, close to the Ferry Building, and the race course goes across the city and Golden Gate Park to the ocean.

Bay to Breakers 2013 - Start

I had signed up for corral A, and of course I wanted to stay in this corral’s time limit; it was the first time of running after having shin splints (not really funny) and it was the day after yesterday’s long Velma Lakes hike – but it worked out well.

Bay to Breakers 2013 - Ziel

It was gorgeous day – warm and sunny, an ideal day for such an event.

Velma Lakes (8,000ft)

One of the absolute highlights in the whole northern Sierra Nevada – Lake Tahoe area is Desolation Wilderness, a relatively small but incredibly beautiful spot southwest of Lake Tahoe. The hike to Velma Lakes is a multi-day classic hike there. We were there before Memorial Day, you do need a permit for overnight stay, but unlike one week later, there is no quota.

Lake Tahoe seen from the trail towards Velma Lakes

First caught in Bay Area traffic, then caught in Sacramento area traffic, we arrived pretty late at the trailhead, much later than planned. We still went into the wilderness, almost running to make as many yards as we could. Found a great place to pitch the tent, made dinner, put the food on a bear hang, and go to sleep! Subfreezing temperatures reminded us of how good it is to have cozy winter sleeping bags.

Next morning we went towards Granite Lake, up the hill to a saddle to have a first breathtaking view on Desolation Wilderness. Now along a ridge, we find that there is still much snow there. When I remember my tour to Matterhorn peak just three weeks earlier, this is unbelievable to have so much snow here. Finding the trail becomes pretty difficult. Almost no footsteps to follow…

Dozens of smaller lakes until you get to Velma Lakes

Later on the trail is more southwards exposed and not covered; it is a good, visible trail. So many lakes, small melting water pots and also large lakes everywhere. The further way to Velma Lakes is just long but not steep, in fact there is no more significant elevation gain, a few hundred feet actually are lost down to Middle Velma Lake. After all, that is not too far away, if it wasn’t about searching the trail all the time. We took a long lunch break as it was just so beautiful there. We might have taken the loop via Dick’s lake back, but there was a river that we could not cross safely (I assume in August this could be totally dry, but now it was a real river).

So we went back, but did another loop by going towards Eagle Lake and following that valley back to the highway – it was absolutely worth the effort, including the hike back along the road to the parking lot where the car was.

Mt. Shasta (14,179ft / 4.322m)

I didn’t anticipate a ski trip on the weekend, mainly because of the weather forecast. I have to thank my comrade since he really wanted to go, and indeed an evaluation of Saturday’s next day forecast yielded a clear “go”. (Well, it said high wind, but what would you expect from a free-standing volcano thats fourteen thousand feet high).

I had done Mount Shasta already in 2011, I created a trip report here. Then, in mid-June 2011 there was more snow than now, early/mid May. Currently it is still possible to do Avalanche Gulch skinning from and skiing to Bunny Flat. So we went up Avalanche Gulch.


Mount Shasta keeps me fascinated, at least as much if not more than on the first day I saw this mountain. At a certain altitude, you always think the view is a bit weird, but why? Well, there are no neighbors! Shasta is indeed free-standing. But you can see Lassen Peak, far away.

The tour is long, very long. You have to climb up almost 7000 vertical feet, that’s more than 2 kilometers. Furthermore the altitude makes you slower, no matter what, when you live in San Francisco at sea level and arrive late evening before going on this trip, for sure not a proper acclimatization. No wonder why many choose to camp out there somewhere on the trail.


Shasta deceives you – you always think “I’ll be up there soon”, but that’s not the case. It’s a long way to go to Helen Lake. It’s a long way to Red Banks. It’s a long way up on Misery Hill. And it’s a long way to the summit. Winds on the summit ridge were hurrican-strength, but hiding behind a certain rock made it almost not windy at all.

Now we had good corn, so we skied “Left Of Heart” back, steep but excellent skiing! Soon after that the snow got slushy but at least we didn’t have to walk. This might be the last tour for this season, in any case it was an absolute highlight.

Matterhorn Peak 12,279 ft (3.743 m)

After yesterday’s backcountry ski trip we of course wanted to do a second trip – after all, it was a long drive and we were there in the Eastern Sierra where you usually can’t go so easily in winter time from San Francisco. So we decided to go to Twin Lakes and approach Sawtooth Ridge, and do Matterhorn Peak. We included Dana Couloir also in our consideration but that would have been far more south and thus stretching the drive back via Sonora Pass too much – Tioga Pass was still closed.

Matterhorn Peak - Eindrucksvoller Anblick

Sawtooth Ridge is awesome – no doubt about that, and Matterhorn Peak is really outstanding, such a massive, intimidating tooth. However, we found that snow had receded to a much higher altitude than in the Sonora Pass area, so we had to hike up – skis on our backs – to ca 9000 ft.

I felt it interesting what kind of ecological disaster the beavers have caused – thousands of trees are cut. Probably nature can cope with that, so I suppose it’s not really a disaster.

Originally we thought about the East Couloir but found out that it was dry – so we went for the East Ridge Ramp which is said to be the much better skiing anyway, and indeed it was just sooo good to ski that down. What a day – what a weekend!