I am now a Tennessee Valley authority. No people, I am not talking about the Depression Era corporation set up by the US Government to create an economic boost in the hard hit south. I am talking about a little valley in Marin County that offers a nice little path to the ocean. After becoming exceedingly jealous of all you out there posting about your fabulous days at the beach I decided we needed a little beach day of our own, Northern California style. I didn't want to do the traditional park in a lot and walk 100 yards to the beach. I wanted something more. So I checked my Foghorn Outdoors California Hiking book and found this little gem.
Tennessee Valley is a very popular hiking spot. Even on a Wednesday we saw our fair share of hikers. There are a number of trails that start in this area of the Marin Headlands. We chose the Tennessee Valley Trail. Why? Because it is paved for the first mile and a nice hard dirt trail the rest of the way. Perfect for strollers. We used our jogging stroller and it was easy going to the beach. The trail is shared with bikers and equestrians so the kids got a kick out of watching the bike riders whiz by and identifying every pile of horse poop along the way.
Mari is especially obsessed with all things fecal so this was quite the treat for her. She would get really close to the pile, point, and say "yucky!" in a very excited voice. We would reply "Yes, its yucky, don't touch it. Lets go" and we would move on to the next pile. Ben was busy running his little heart out down the trail. Since it was paved the first mile this really kept him moving.
The gravel trails really mess with his sensory issues and get him sidetracked into Benland easily. The trail is not the most scenic I have ever been on nor is the beach the most jaw-droopingly beautiful but it was very pretty and the beach was definitely not a disappointment. What I liked about the hike was that we kind of went through different ecological zones along the way. There were golden hills dotted with green coastal shrub and a gentle stream trickling along the side of the path with plenty of greenery surrounding it. Like most hikes in Marin, this hike had a grove of eucalyptus trees. These trees are native to Australia so somebody was doing alot of planting of these trees back before the land became a National Park. I think they are so popular because they make great wind breaks and the Northern California Coast has its fair share of wind. Anyway, once again, I digress.
We did some flower picking and dirt drawing and rock throwing. All things the kids love to do on hikes.
One special part of the trail was when Paul showed the kids how to blow on those white puffs that dandelions turn when they go to seed. The kids got the hang of it after getting a bunch in their mouth from inhaling when they should be exhaling. It was so cute when we showed the kids the pictures last night and Mari started blowing at the screen. Its like they are little smart people now!
We took an upper trail on the way there (accidentally) and got a great view of a lagoon and the valley framing the ocean. Paul called this little view "the vagina of the sea'. Such a classy individual.
The lagoon itself was very pretty and the birds seemed to especially enjoy its calm waters. Just beyond the lagoon was the beach. It was a tiny beach, framed with dramatic sea cliffs on either side. The wind was howling and skies were gray. A typical summer day at the beach in this part of the country. I think the gray skies can sometimes add to the drama of the scenery of this rugged coast. Its a different kind of beauty. Tennessee Beach is a dark sand beach. If you look closely at the pebbles intermixed with sand you can spot so many variations in color. I actually remembered to bring something to collect sand in this time! A perfect beach to start this tradition. I think I got quite the interesting specimen. Highlights of our time at the beach included a little cave that the kids enjoyed hanging out in, A really neat waterfall that was created by breaking waves, and a neat hole in the rock that jutted out into the ocean. Mari thought it was especially fun to dump sand into Ben's hood. Such a little stinker. Ben was interested in the "balls" he found on the seaweed. Shocker, I know. We tried to get the kids to pose for what we call our "Christian Album Cover" shots and had some success but the kids seemed to be interested in other things. Ben loved me pretending to toss him out to sea (Mari didn't think this game was quite as fun) and Mari once again made it her personal goal to stand on every rock on the beach.
Alas- Ben was quickly looking ragged from the lack of nap (why he didn't sleep in the car on the way is anyone's dress) so we decided it was time to head back. The kids were forced to stay in their stroller on the way back so we didn't turn the two mile walk back into a three hour tour. For some reason, whenever they are in the stroller for extended periods of time, they insist on socks and shoes coming off. Maybe they enjoy the wind between there toes. Or maybe its just more comfy. Either way, it was really cute to see those little toes wiggling with excitement at their new found freedom.
Our hike ended with a visit with a horse and a flock of turkeys. Spy (the horse) was a bit wary of the double stroller so we couldn't get too close which did not please the little ones. They think they are entitled to ride every equine that they come across. I was much more into the turkeys and gobbled my way up to them so I could get a decent picture.
By the end of the walk the kids were ready for a good old fashioned diaper change, juice, and car seat combo and we were happy to oblige. On the ride home all was quiet in the backseat. Always the sign of a successful outing.
If you would like to visit the Tennessee Valley check out this website http://www.nps.gov/goga/planyourvisit/tennessee_valley.htm
If you would like to see all the pictures from our day then check this one out! http://picasaweb.google.com/sharlene.earnshaw/TenneseeValleyHIke