Read Mountain and Valley of Byways Around San Francisco Bay, free online book, by William E. Hutchinson, on

It is hard for us to leave the falls with all their surrounding beauty, and with reluctance we take one last look at this delightful glen planted in the heart of the wilderness, and strike out on the upward trail.

At a turn in the path, where it seems as if we were about to walk off into space, we get a glimpse through the trees of Mount Tamalpais. Towering above us with its seam-scarred sides, rent and torn by the storms of centuries, it rears its jagged dome amid the clouds. We can just make out a train of diminutive cars winding a tortuous course in and out around the curves, the toy engine fighting every inch of the steep incline, and panting like an athlete with Herculean efforts to reach the summit. Across the intervening space a hawk wheels and turns in ever-widening circles. We watch him through the glass, rising higher and higher with each successive sweep, until he fades into a mere speck in the distant blue.

Up we climb, until another view discloses the valley below us like a panorama. We creep out to the very edge, and for miles in either direction it stretches away, as if some giant hand had cleaved for himself a pathway between the mountains. We stand spellbound, entranced by the wonderful beauty of the scene, and drink long draughts of the fresh mountain air.

The dazzling splendor of the noonday sun brings out vividly the variegated colors of the foliage, and banks of white fleecy clouds floating overhead trail their shadows over the valley and up the mountainside like ghostly outriders. The pointed tops of the fir trees, miles below us, look like stunted shrubbery; the buildings in Mill Valley seem like dolls’ houses nestling among the trees; while far in the distance the blue waters of the bay glisten in the sunshine, Alcatraz Island rises out of its watery bed, and San Francisco stands silhouetted against the distant hills.

We are lost in wonder at the grand spectacle spread out before us; it is a very fairyland of enchantment, as if brought into being by the genii of Aladdin. For nearly an hour we watch the lights and shadows flicker over the valley, the high lights in sharp contrast to the deep dark purples of the canon.

On the far side of the valley the sloping hills are covered with that most exquisite flower, the California poppy, its countless millions of golden blossoms fairly covering the earth. It is a sun worshiper, for not until the warm sun kisses its golden head does it wake from its slumbers and throw open its tightly rolled petals. No wonder the Spanish mariners sailing along the coast and seeing these golden flowers covering the hills like a yellow carpet called this “The Land of Fire.” This beautiful flower is one of California’s natural wonders “Copa-de-oro” cup of gold. It is as famed in the East as in the West, and thousands come to California to see it in its prodigal beauty. Steps should quickly be taken to conserve this wild splendor, and restrictions should be put upon the vandals, who, not content with picking what they can use to beautify the home, tear them up by the roots just to see how large an armful they can gather, scattering their golden petals to the four winds of heaven when they begin to droop.

An old dead pine, whitened by many storms, its gnarled and twisted branches pathetic in their shorn splendor, is brought into prominence by the background of vivid green into which it seems to shrink, as if to hide its useless naked skeleton.

But the lengthening shadows in the valley warn us to begin our descent, and as we have no desire to sleep out on the trail without blankets or other camp comforts, we begin our return trip by another route. Light wisps of fog begin to gather around the top of Mount Tamalpais, and we hasten our steps, for to be caught in a fog at this altitude may mean a forced camp, with all its attending discomforts.

We pause for a moment on the margin of a little lake nestling amid the hills, its blue waters, unruffled by the wind in its sheltered nook, reflecting back as in a mirror the trees that surround it on all sides. But we may not linger to drink in the beauty of this quiet spot, where the red deer once slaked their thirst at its quiet margin, standing kneedeep in the rushes and lilypads.

Ahead of us a blue jay, that tattler of the woods, flashes his blue coat in and out among the trees; always saucy, impertinent, and suspicious, bubbling over with something important to tell, and afraid he will not be the first to tell it. When he discovers us watching, he sets up his clamorous cry of “Thief! Thief!” and hurries away to spread the alarm. A mighty borrower of trouble, this gayly dressed harlequin of the woods, and yet the forest would not seem complete without his gay blue vestments.

Suddenly we find ourselves in a cul-de-sac; the trail coming to an abrupt end. We retrace our steps, and after much searching, find a narrow trail almost hidden by vines and underbrush. Venturing in, we follow its tortuous and uneven course along the edge of the canon, and, as the evening shadows gather, and the stars come out one by one, tired and dust-covered, we reach the valley, and enjoy the moonlight ride across the bay to San Francisco.