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Moving Forward (in Spite of it All)

Posted on May 14, 2020 by Admin

It’s not a stretch to say that what we are all experiencing right now with the COVID-19 pandemic is something none of us have ever seen before, expected or even imagined. I will be 73 next month and can certainly vouch that this is a first. The Corona virus has put a spotlight on the horror of a global sickness, something most of us never thought much about. Like 9/11, we are being confronted by things none of us ever wanted to contemplate and like 9/11 what we are discovering is that we have been caught asleep at the wheel.

Almost as bad as the virus itself is the generalized feeling that we should have been better prepared, “someone” should have known better (perhaps our government) and that this never should have happened in the first place. But similar to 9/11, it seems there must always be a first time and one cannot be prepared for everything, despite our best intentions. Like terrorism, the viral pandemic doesn’t care about a level playing field or being fair or the assumed sanctity of borders. And it makes even the most mundane things, like an errand to the grocery store, an undertaking fraught with risk and inconvenience as we head out armed with masks, hand sanitizer, and the awkward and unnatural maintenance of a 6-foot social distance. Indeed, we have never seen anything like this before, young or old.

As the daily news continually reminds us of what not to do, the question remains: What is left to do and what is best to do? For me, I have found that maintaining my own personal sanity and a positive attitude is at the top of the list and possibly one of the biggest challenges—and the biggest accomplishments. Despite the fact that “normal” has left the building, life still must go on.

To celebrate that intention, my wife Connie I and headed out to Stinson Beach for a long hike on Mother’s Day.* It was a perfect day for a long, hard hike due to a cold front that had blown in the night before, changing temperatures from the mid-90s to the mid-70s. Both of us having spent an idyllic childhood in Mill Valley, we were up to speed on where to park in Stinson in order to access the trails by foot. We were rewarded by a perfect day full of panoramic ocean views, spring wildflowers, old growth redwoods, and the feeling that we are truly blessed: out and about and enjoying all the beauty inherent in our glorious North Bay lifestyle……almost like normal.

As they say, we will get through this. And there are some things, like our beautiful corner of the world we know as “the North Bay area” that will endure and continue to offer up all its wonders to those who choose to live in this magical place we call home.

 

–Mark Stevens

May 2020

*Note: There were numerous courteous groups on the trail and when passing, we all applied our masks.

(More about the trail: The Steep Ravine Trail takes you to the Pan Toll Station, and from Stinson Beach to the Pan Toll station it is about a 1500 foot elevation climb)

We Live in a Beautiful Place

Posted on November 25, 2019 by Admin

Mark Stevens, November 2019

I took a few days off at the beginning of November to celebrate my wife’s birthday at a place that we both hold dear: West Point Inn on the wind-swept ridges of Mount Tamalpais in Marin County. For three days we hiked the numerous trails surrounding the Inn, ate delicious meals, and enjoyed the company of our two grown daughters who made the trip up to join us from their busy lives in the Bay area. This was a rare treat!

For those who are unfamiliar with the story of West Point Inn, it was built in 1904 and was a brief stop on what was then known as the “crookedest railroad in the world” where passengers could meet a stage coach bound for the beach. The railroad is gone now but the West Point Inn remains as an “off the grid” haven for hikers and a monument to the rich historic heritage of our region. The Inn offers sweeping panoramic views of the East Bay, parts of San Francisco, the Marin Headlands, one tower of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean.

Back in the day, it was a place where trains met a horse-drawn stagecoach from Willow Camp (today’s popular Stinson Beach) and it provided hospitality for visitors at the westernmost point of the railroad—hence the name “West Point Inn.” The stagecoach service ended in 1915; between 1918 and 1920 the Inn’s porch was enlarged and a dining room added. The West Point Inn and its cabins are the only things left of the railroad and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1930 the railroad abandoned operations and the Inn came under the jurisdiction of the Marin Municipal Water District. The Inn became popular with weekend hikers but was abandoned during WWII due to lack of profitability. In 1943 volunteers began running the Inn and their ideas are the basis of how the Inn is run today.

West Point Inn remains a unique destination for many and a rite of passage among serious mountain bikers, where it’s argued that Mount Tam was the birthplace for that sport. To get a reservation at the Inn, members pay a $20 fee and volunteer for three workdays or public pancake breakfasts and can reserve 120 days in advance. Non-members are limited to a 90-day reservation window. The Inn hosts seven rooms in the inn, and five cabins where you can bring your camping gear and meals.

This time around we spent three lovely days at the Inn, hiking, relaxing and spending time together as a family briefly reunited. It was a lovely and much appreciated pause from our everyday routine.  West Point Inn is truly a unique gem in our region and if you’ve never been, be sure to put it on your bucket list.