Monday, November 17, 2014

Bay Area Hikes: "The Mushroom Loop" Featuring the Mickey O’Brien Trail. 4.6 miles. Mt Tamalpais State Park (Marin Water District)

High Sierra Trail. Mt Tam State Park & Marin Water District. California
Hike: Laurel Dell Fire Road area loop, Mt Tam State Park & Marin Water District near San Francisco, California
Length: @ 4.6 mile loop
Location: Mt Tam State Park - Marin Water District - Marin County, California
Difficulty: Steeper entrance/exit. Rolling hike.
Exposure: Shade and sun
Dogs: Welcome in the on Water District side on a leash

After my weekly morning coffee with the Twitter #Hikerchat crew discussing foraging for plants, mushrooms, berries in the woods, we head up to Mt Tamalpais State Park - the water district side - to explore the north side of the ridge along West Ridgecrest Blvd.

THIS is the place where they shoot all the gorgeous car commercials – literally on top of the rolling-hills world. Breathtaking.

Now back to the hike.

Jumping out of the car with our dogs and not a hiking plan other than “let’s see where we end up” - down the ridge we funnel towards Laurel Dell Fire Road.


The lush Cataract Trail. Mt Tam State Park & Marin Water District. California

We’ve had some rare, desperately needed rain over the last few weeks – just a day here and there – but you can see that the California plants have gone nuts over it. Lush and green in shady spots, we literally feel as if we are in a rainforest.

As we head further north along Laurel Dell/Cataract Trail, we loop out into the grassy fields staying high on High Marsh Trail instead of dipping down into Cataract Falls, and loop back west then south on Kent Trail. Cue the huge surprise. We next stumble upon the Mickey O’Brien Trail. This is where Alice in Wonderland starts….

Mushrooms of every color and variety. Tiny, village-like, coral clusters. Giant, massive toadstools. Slimy, creepy looking ones. Puffy, white, spiky ones. Even squeezable mushrooms that toot out spores like a smokestack when you squeeze them.





Poisonous or edible? We didn’t have a guide.

So we ooh and ahhh each at every ‘shroom cluster and our hiking speed slows down to a stop, walk, stop, look, peer, poke. As if we’ve gone back to being toddlers. One mile an hour….

And who knew, the world’s most gross yet beautiful creature, the brilliant, stomach-churning Banana Slug, loves to eat mushrooms. We witness a multitude of them devouring – in slow motion – big old toadstools.

Go NOW. While the ground is wet. Bring your camera and your sense of awe at the littlest of things. Enjoy!

- Outdoorsy Mama



Laurel Dell to Cataract Trail to High Marsh Trail (stay right) to Kent Trail to Lauren Dell Fire Road (again) to Mickey O’Brien Trail back to Laurel Dell.

For more info and related hikes:


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