Thursday, August 21, 2014

At the Pond: A getaway to the Big Pond

After hiking through a lush canyon, the Steep Ravine Trail opens up with spectacular views of the Bay Area, the Marin Headlands, the Pacific Ocean and the town of Bolinas. Even toddlers are inspired to hike the trail. Jean Jackman/Courtesy photo

From page A10 | June 23, 2013 |

Do you want a one-day, magical, lush green, shaded hike that all ages enjoy and includes a stop at the ocean? I can recommend one.

I have done it dozens of times with babies, non-hikers, toddlers, seniors and teenagers. Our family, including grandchildren, revisits this trip repeatedly. It’s good at all times of the year but especially welcome when it is hot and dry in Davis. It is always lush there with some water in the creek the path parallels.

Each time we plan to do it again, I think, “Gee, should we be more creative?” Then I experience it and I remember why we repeat it. It is an easy, gorgeous hike that allows for enough time and energy to visit and enjoy the hike, play in the ocean, and even have lunch and dinner together before we head in our separate directions.

I’m talking about the Steep Ravine hike near Stinson Beach with a bus ride up and a hike down.

Here’s how you do it. From Davis, it is a two-hour drive to Stinson Beach. The beach is about 20 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge on Highway 1 and the Pacific Ocean. Park either in the town around their little park or in the free beach parking at the Stinson Beach National Golden Gate Recreation Area.

In the summer, it’s best to get there early in the morning before the crowds come. Then, right along Highway 1, across from the grocery store and the little park, you can catch a bus up the hill for a 10- to 15-minute ride to the Pantoll Ranger Station. It’s $2 for general and $1 for children and seniors to ride. The hike is free. We left Davis at 7:30 a.m. and had plenty of time to leisurely catch the 9:55 a.m. bus up the hill.

There is a sign for the start of the trail. It advises you that a ways down the trail, there is a 14-rung ladder to climb next to a waterfall. It is something we have done, surrounding our toddler grandchildren as we went down or with a baby strapped to us with no problems. Slow and steady does it. That’s your biggest challenge on the hike.

Be adventurous. You will love it. There are multiple little waterfalls and ponds along the trail.

We always find our favorite spot and give the kids time to play in the pools or climb fallen trees and be photographed striking heroic poses. And we have a snack.

The trail winds down the redwood canyon with twists and turns and crosses the creek via wooden bridges — great for playing Billy Goat Gruff if you have younger children. Lower on the trail it enters open grassland with spectacular views of the Bay Area, the Marin Headllands, the Pacific Ocean and the town of Bolinas. You will see redwoods, Douglas fir, oak forests, grass lands, canyons, California bay, toyon, sage brush, buckeye, big-leaf maple, many kinds of fern and lichen-draped trees.

Make sure that you can identify poison oak as it is in various places along the trail, and though we have several family members very sensitive to it, knock-on-wood, we have never gotten it there. However, once home, we launder the clothes and take a shower.

If you miss the bus and have two cars, you could do a car shuttle. The parking at Pantoll is $8 with credit cards only and summertime gets filled early on. So better to get there early and take the bus.

Check the bus schedule at The West Marin Stagecoach runs seven days a week with additional runs in the summer months.

Stinson Beach is a very small town of about 600 people. In addition to the grocery store/deli, there is a coffee kiosk outside the grocery. There are several restaurant choices and take-out places. The beach, half a block from the tiny town park, is one of the best in Northern California, featuring white sand with few stones. There are bathrooms, showers and lifeguards in the summer. Dogs are permitted at the county beach portion but not on the main beach or the Steep Ravine Trail.

Enjoy your hike, our big pond (the Pacific Ocean) and the winding, spectacular views traveling there.


Closer to home, go on Homeplace Adventures. It’s Tuleyome’s award-winning program that inspires people to get outside. I attended one this month on the night sky held out at the Conaway Ranch headquarters. Volunteer John Oberholtzer had his powerful telescopes and offered us all views of the night sky.

On Saturday, June 29, you can learn “All About Bees” from UC Davis beekeeper Billy Synk and then stroll though Bee Haven on the campus. For information, email

Activist challenge: Go to and learn a new fact about climate change and find one thing you can do to keep our climate from warming so fast. Ride a bike more? Take public transportation? Use the cool delta breezes to cool your house at night and then shut the doors and windows in the morning to naturally cool your house?

This is the only planet we’ve got and it’s as hot as during dinosaur times.

Enjoy our planet and kiss each day.

— Jean Jackman is a Davis resident; her column is published monthly. Got a question, comment or correction? Contact her at



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