Exploring Marin’s ‘secret places’
The Sportsman’s Report
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By Bill Hanson  May 17, 2013 12:00 am

For many who live in the North Bay, there still remain “secret places” to visit. Some allow camping for the adventuresome, and many are day-use only.

It is easy to combine local camping with a day-use trek. One that comes to mind is Angel Island, perched on the north side of the Bay. 

It is a largely undiscovered jewel. Part of the state park system, the island is part of Marin County. 

Hiking is not an option as far as getting there is concerned. A short ferry ride from Tiburon docks at the small cove serves visitors. 

Be sure to allow extra time to find parking and getting to the ferry departure site. From the cove, visitors can hike or bike. Bicycles are allowed on the ferry, or you can ride a short bus around the island. 

The island served as a military facility, then a quarantine facility for mostly Chinese immigrants. It was a sad part of our history. Today, visitors can check out the museums and the incredible view of San Francisco Bay, Mount Tamalpais and Mount Diablo far to the East. From the highest point on the trail, views of San Francisco, the Marin Headlands and Alcatraz are at your feet. 

Check out their website, www.angelisland.com, for specifics including a map and ferry reservations. The crush of visitors during fair weather weekends during summer can make the visit a trial. 

Try to go on an off-season day or during the week. Cold and fog will also keep back less intrepid visitors. There is a café and a walk-up for refreshment. Packing a picnic lunch is an excellent option for your day on the bay.

Mount Tamalpais in Marin is an excellent day trip, although the lack of a museum and many, many dirt bikes tend to water down the experience of solitude on one of the highest mountains near the bay. Also in Marin are the beaches on the west side. Stinson Beach is an excellent choice. It forms Bolinas Bay and is a beautiful day-use option. Take Highway 1 from Sir Francis Drake off the 101 or drive the more serene Point Reyes road out of Petaluma, which can include a stop the Marin Cheese Factory. Driving south from bucolic Point Reyes Station, the road passes Olema, a great camping spot, and the Bear Valley visitors center, another day-use site and an excellent museum. 

It is a short walk to visit the Indian village and “the Great Earthquake” walk, a must at least once in life. Visitors can spend years discovering the beauty of Point Reyes National Park and Drakes Bay, from Olema drive to Highway 1 and on to Stinson Beach.

Bill Hanson is a Sonoma County native and a lifelong sportsman. He is the former president of the Sonoma County Mycological Association. Look for his column in The Community Voice each week.

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