Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tennessee Valley Beach - Marin Headlands, Golden Gate National Recreation Area

Tennessee Valley Lagoon and Beach

Marin County is blessed with some of the most beautiful coastline in California.  The North Pacific Ocean pounds and cuts into continental plates everywhere along the coast, but Southern Marin showcases the sea with unparalleled varied vistas.  This stretch of ocean landscape is almost entirely park lands.  The Marin Headlands in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area is foremost among the ocean parks: it is the first one encountered heading out of San Francisco across the Golden Gate.

Tennessee Valley Beach is unique in it's simple charm and is accessible by hiking 1.7 miles of gently sloping trail.   Biking is allowed, and horseback riding too.

Equestrian Surf

Traveling to the sea in the morning hours between breakfast and lunch are a fair number of mothers pushing cross-country strollers, joggers listening to headphone music, hikers, and seniors walking their moss off.  And, meandering alongside the trail, a small creek also makes its way to the sea while irrigating flora and watering the wilderness.

Headlands Bridge

Bridging civilization to wilderness Tamalpais Valley is linked to the Marin County Headlands and the Pacific Ocean.
Giant Eucalyptus trees clustered in mini forests tower over the path perfuming the air with mentholated scents while rustling in the wind, whispering songs. Primeval meadows make perfect homes for coastal wildlife.

Headlands Valley

Deer make their beds in the woods along the creek and in the valley.  Coyotes may sometimes be spotted sneaking off, glancing furtively. Overhead are the occassional Red-tail Hawks.  Bobcats may be spotted on the hill above, on a lucky day.

Turkey Stroll
Wild turkey toms sometimes saunter past, strolling;  occasionally one struts his stuff impressing his hen while last year's brood looks on disinterestedly like bored teenagers watching their parents carry on...  Still, Tom shows off, puffing up and ruffling feathers into beautiful larger than life displays, oblivious to Thanksgiving.
Black Crow Sentinel

Crows are frequently claiming their territory; now and then a sentinel may be seen surveying his domain as he mounts guard on rocky outcrops.
Also in that creek are white feather flowers in radial bunches, their white petals more radiant than nursery greenhouse flowers.

White Feather Flowers

Often, the marine fog burns off mid morning, lifting in a swirl of white, revealing red bluffs and verdant foliage glistening moist.

The Fog Lifts
The rounded hills lining up the valley roll up steeply, though gently, and some mornings the moon may be seen sliding past the undulating horizon as it returns to sleep on the West.

Moon Setting
Springtime brings out the California Buttercup, which while insignificant on its own, inundates entire fields in brilliant yellow.

Seagoing Trail
Almost two miles from the parking lot is the beach.  Not a white sand beach resplendent in perennial sun, rather a rugged red pebble beach often drenched in fog and mist.  And it is small.

Fresh Water Stream
Despite a fair amount of users this beach is relatively unknown.  Still, those in the know and withing easy access make full use of it, some occasionally commemorating a loved one with a simple gesture like casting a rose to the sea.

Red Rose for Tennessee Valley Beach

The path reaches the beach to the Southwest transitioning from fertile valley to barren saline sand: a small crescent adjacent the surf.

Blue Heron Flight

The creek also arrives at the beach, by this time more like a fresh water stream emptying itself first into a small lagoon some two hundred yards inland, then into the sea. A micro ecosystem thrives in these brackish waters and Great Blue Herons are sometimes seen flying off with a belly full of crab.

Moon Over Tennessee Valley Beach

The rounded hills on the North march right into the water, shedding their soil covering when reaching shore, suddenly naked, revealing a massive solid core.  Incessant surf has barely brought down the stony intruder; yet together with rain and wind, the ocean is carving out the rock's weakness, highlighting it's strengths.

Blue Sky Oculus

The solid rock outcropping extending out of the rolling mountains and into the sea is a weather-worn wonder, a water-etched sculpture changing color with time, going from dull mat red in the morning to shiny onyx black in the evening mist.  And it has an eye.  Some improbable natural process carved a large elliptical opening smack in the upper middle of the giant boulder through to the sky beyond and when the sun set before the fog rolled in, the oculus channeled the last sun rays into a long beam, casting it on the darkening sand like a wayward lighthouse beacon.

Sunbeam on Tennessee Valley Beach

The coastline is moody and myriad scenarios play out year round.  No two days are alike; neither sand nor surf remain the same. Nor, indeed, the very rocks themselves. The light and the temperature shifts. Sounds range from a deafening roar to soothing rhythms as the ocean waves dance in response to howling winds or whispering breezes and forlorn seagull cries.

Evening Sun-rays - Alabaster Bridal Lace

Evening sun-rays shine on the horizon as waves crash and surf spreads white foam on black sand like alabaster bridal lace on the obsidian altar of the Divine.

Sunrise, mid-day, or sunset on the Pacific is an occasion to enjoy the freedom of the eternal now, forever present.

Sunset on the Pacific

Regrettably, on January 9th, 2013 the oculus/arch ceased to exist.  It collapsed and was captured on camera, crashing down, by geologist Roger Willis who happened to by hiking there at the time.  The following is a new video compilation of the crash:

Gentle Surf

Today, a testament to the ever changing world around us, the beach endures. Different, perhaps diminished, yet on clear winter days gentle waves may be seen rolling into white surf, beautiful nevertheless....


  1. Ayer me regalaron un caballo es brown y precioso le puse Sebastian. Feliz 2013. Besos.