Exploring the Marin Headlands and a Shy Dog

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Look at That Face!

This four-legged sweetheart was the reason for our next house sit and a timid fellow he was. We visited a couple of weeks before the sit to meet one-another, take a long walk, and enjoy a lovely dinner prepared by the hosts. His owners had informed us that meeting new people was difficult for him and boy was that ever the truth.

For the first two hours of our visit, he barked a lot and ran away from any attempt at a greeting. By the end of the visit, he sat by my feet and allowed some petting, but when we came for the sit, the process began anew. He was willing to warm up – but on his terms.

For those that don’t know, Mill Valley is a small city just north of San Francisco. You can tell you’re in upscale Marin County when you can hold your breath and drive from one Whole Foods Market to the next! Well, maybe, but for the traffic. This is a popular area and getting around isn’t easy. The home we stayed in was up a hill just west of the 101 and beautiful. 

This dog loved his walks: always ready to go, one foot out the door even. Walks always took us down the hill to the local park and the green playing field. That’s where he plopped down in the grass and wiggled around first thing – every time. He was content to walk, but his normal gait would tire dedicated runners (which we aren’t), so the dog park was good news.

He could run free and did just that, darting this way and that and hitting top speed every few seconds. No matter how much running he did or how far we walked, he never got tired and was always ready for more.  The prospect of treats was all that sparked any interest in going home.

It was such a pleasant area, just off the bay, and it was fun to watch the water birds all around and the tide going in and out of the bay.

The Marin Headlands

During our week or so in San Francisco, we had looked longingly northward across the bay wondering what that area was like to explore. The high mountains, almost cliff-like seemed intriguing, and we decided that during our stay in Mill Valley we had to go exploring.

I read a bit about the area, at least enough to know there was one road in and around the headlands and no backtracking to get out. Thankfully, the day we set out was clear and sunny. Can’t see much of the San Francisco Bay if it’s filled with fog.

Obviously, that’s the Golden Gate Bridge to the southeast of this spot. We loved all the green rolling hills. We drove a bit and stopped at the first real parking lot. That’s where we saw a sign for the Bonita Lighthouse. We hadn’t seen it from San Francisco and our interest in visiting it affected the clarity with which we read the sign. You can’t see the lighthouse in the photo below, but it’s on the other side of that hill down there.

There was a paved road down, so the path wasn’t treacherous, but it was a steep walk.

The photo below isn’t super clear, but there it is, we couldn’t wait to get down there.

It seemed we’d be walking through that tunnel to get to the lighthouse!

So cool, right? Here we go! Just one problem and here’s where reading that sign more carefully would have come in handy. It’s only open at select times, and this wasn’t one of those! Shoot, what a drag – no lighthouse for us.

When I agreed to walk down that monster hill, one of my first thoughts as – I have to walk back up! It seemed seeing the lighthouse would be worth it so down we went. Walking straight back up the hill without seeing the lighthouse was quite annoying!

Oh, well – live and learn. Take it as training for all the future hikes we had in mind. When we got back to the top, we decided to explore another area and found ourselves in another parking lot with an overlook and tunnel. The tunnel wasn’t interesting enough to add a photo, but it did afford us a peek down the hills to the northwest. Wow, that’s gorgeous.

There didn’t appear to much civilization down there, but it looked like a place to visit. The road seemed a bit steep for our liking. We talked with a biker resting in the parking lot before heading further west. We watched him get in the saddle and disappear in a flash down the road.

If a fellow senior-citizen can do it on a bike then surely we could do it in our car. Then we noticed the sign. An 18% grade may not sound like much but when you start out, and the pavement drops out of sight beneath your car — it’s more like a roller coaster than a road. A one-lane wide one-way road down a steep hill. Sounds like fun!

If you’re prone to motion sickness, you might want to close your eyes. This drive was exhilarating and petrifying at the same time. 

Our next stop was Fort Berry. This was the third area we’d seen where the military put a huge, defensive artillery placement along the shoreline, long since given over to civilian parks. 

Those of us who grew up with airplanes all around might have a time comprehending all this. These are truly relics from another time. Now, they’re just fun the walk around. 

You can see the areas dug out for the cannons, with an elaborate system (all gone now) for swiveling around quickly. These were built to withstand cannon fire from ships – concrete walls several feet thick. No doubt these could still be in place hundreds of years from now.

At one point, we noticed this path leading southward along the cliff and ventured forth to meet our next vista – hopefully, not our maker. Straight ahead it was a normal looking path. 

To the right — it was quite a drop and enough wind to make you wonder what you could grab hold of in a hurry if you needed to.  

This roofless structure at the top of the hill was a lookout post. You can see the entry tunnels behind it and the viewing slots just high enough to scan the ocean with binoculars.

Here’s another view of the lighthouse, well, at least the mountain it stands on. Quite a place at the intersection of the Bay and the Pacific that we will have to visit another time. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Headlands and recommend it to others!

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