Sunday, April 17, 2011

Matt Davis and Steep Ravine Loop Trail in Mt Tamalpais State Park (and some picnic bean salad)

Hiking out here, in Point Reyes and the Mt Tam state park has been addictive and amazing.  The walks just keep getting longer because everything is so dramatic and beautiful that we don't want it to end.  Spring is here and there are new flowers to learn and clear blue skies to enjoy.  It also makes me realize how beautiful it is back in Tennessee and how, now that I have been here two weeks and becoming "used to" the incredible beauty constantly surrounding me,  it is easy to overlook our surroundings and keep your eyes trained on the the tips of your shoes.  Going new places always helps me open my eyes to all of my surroundings.

what to do when approached by a mountain lion

We started out after an early morning rain storm, up in the mountains.  After practicing warding off mountain lions, we traveled further down into the woods of oaks covered in rich layers of green moss and fragrant bays.  There were white false Solomon seal flanking fallen trees and beautiful little calypso orchids peeking out of the leaves and moss on the ground.

Suddenly we burst out into a wide open grassland, the sun playing games as it ducked out from passing clouds and showing off the brilliant yellow poppies and shining on blue lupines and western larkspur.  All around us were rolling hills and further out the sea.  We felt so alone in the quiet stillness accompanied only by fat banana slugs in the shadows, but the highway snaked below and we could see houses further down by the coast.  All too soon we left the open grasses and dipped back into Douglas firs and bays, walking along a stream running down the mountain-side with us.  As we switched back slowly down a rather steep slope it was almost laughably beautiful, like it wasn't even real.  I felt as though I were trespassing into a private Fairy Land where one must be far more exquisite than I was as I lumbered along, breathing in the rich and wonderful wood smells and wanting to stop and somehow capture forever that one patch of sunlight where the forget-me-nots danced.

But down down down we went, coming out near the ocean into a dry patch with thistles and false yellow lupine bush and huge white cow parsnips..  We walked though the town and sat on the beach, ready for a lunch of heirloom bean salad and fresh baguette from the bakery down the street.  After resting and a golden nugget tangerine we found our way to the continuing trail-head and began the march back uphill.  We began walking through dry scrub and the hot sun.  I had to turn around every few feet just to take in the growing view behind us as more mountains and the low-tide marsh became visible.

Then the trail went downhill a moment and we were back in the woods, again walking beside another mountain stream.  And although we were but minutes away from the first trail down, these woods  were completely different.  They were darker and wetter, protected by towering Redwoods and the ground completely covered with ferns.  Trilliums had just finished blooming and were sporting tri-seed pods.  Stone steps were set into mossy banks so we could climb our way up.   Halfway up we stopped and sat on huge Redwood stumps, drinking warm miso soup from a thermos (the Rainbow Grocery co-op in the city sells locally made white miso in the bulk section) and crunching on a Pink Lady apple bought at the market.  The clearest mountain stream ran over mossy rocks at our side and fairies dangled by their knees from the curled ends of new fern shoots.  We passed over mossy bridge after mossy bridge, climbing back up towards the clouds.

The guide book we found the hike in said we would not want it to be over, that we would want to turn around and do it again.  We laughed at that, thinking we could not possibly want to hike a trail called "Steep Ravine Trail" (for that is what it was) again.  But I wanted to turn around and do it all over again.

Heirloom Bean Salad 
with roasted beets, fennel, and fresh beet greens

Unfortunately I don't remember what the name of these beans was.  I am not good at remembering those kinds of things, and I have heard so many new names for things in the past few days.  They are medium sized and meaty and red and white, like calypso beans.   The only thing in this salad not bought at the farmer's market was the salt, although I could have gotten that there too.

for four people:
  • about 2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight
  • 2 large beets or 3-4 smaller ones, unpeeled and sliced into wedges
  • 2 fennel bulbs and stalks, sliced up to the fronds.
  • the greens from the beets, sliced into ribbons
  • 1/2 bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • small handful chives, chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • salt to taste
Cover the beans with water and cook til soft- about 45 minutes or so.  Toss the beets and fennel with a touch of oil and salt and roast in a medium oven til soft and the beets are beginning to shrivel.  Let beans and veggies cool.  Toss the beets and fennel with the beans and the chopped herbs and greens.  Whisk the olive oil gradually into the lemon juice and pour over the salad.  Mix it all together and add salt as desired.  A little minced raw garlic can also be added, if you like raw garlic.  Serve room temp or cool with fresh bread.

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