Cataract Falls

Living in the city, the proximity to shopping and dinning often obscured our sights. It is easy to forget how close we are to mountains and trees. After much usual thanksgiving activity such as pigging in and out, shopping, and movies, we went for a hike under the blue blue winter sky, bathed in crystal clear November sunlight.

Driving across Golden Gate Bridge, advancing into the mountains, surrounded by greening hills dotted with oak trees, and eventually entering into the shady redwood forest, we were having a lovely time long before we arrived at the trail head.

I came across the description of Cataract Falls trail on-line, and was attracted to its many waterfalls along the way. It was also a short hike, 2.6 miles round trip, with a steep ascend within the first half mile, going from elevation of 680 ft to 1100 ft.

Based on past experience, the proximity to a stream or waterfalls often enhanced a hike exponentially. All these varied little waterfalls packed into such a short hike was even more breath-taking. Naturally, there was a price to pay. The endless wooden steps delivered us to ever higher and steeper ground. When we entered the forest, we could feel the winter chill snaked in our open collars like knives. Before long, we were sweating and panting. All coldness was forgotten until our descent.

Dense forest and thriving ferns greeted us along the way, boulders, large and small, were coated with a thick layer of moss. The profusely green scene resembles a carefully arranged Japanese Garden gone wild. There was surprise at almost every turn of the trail, either a new waterfall, or a dashing creek came to a sudden stop amidst rocky pool. Joyful energy mingled with serene oasis in this small hidden corner of Mountain Tamalpais. The sound of the creek followed us everywhere, occasionally we could even hear a bird or two chirping. The smell of California bay and fresh scent of the rushing stream filled our nostrils with delight.

Knowing this is a popular hiking trail in Marin county, we weren¡¯t too surprised to run into a few other hikers, including family groups with small children or elderly. We were reminded once again that the Bay Area was filled with outdoor enthusiasts, old or young. What a wonderful way of life. How lucky we are!

The returning trip was much easier, except our knees hurt from the continued steep descend.

The recent storms have instilled new energy into the forest, the slopes along the narrow trail was laced with young ferns newly broke ground. Watching their tender green leaves among the dark green forest, my heart was filled with hope and happiness, winter in the Bay Area always symbolizes a new beginning for the wild. I thought of the ending of the movie Kinsey, where Kinsey said, ¡°Some tribal legends claimed that trees are imperfect humans. They were rooted to one place as their punishment. But, ¡±He placed his wife¡¯s hand on the thousand years old redwood, and his on top of hers, ¡°I¡¯ve never seen a discontent tree. Look at this, how happy it is.¡±


Cataract Falls, from Bay Area Hiker site.