On yesterday’s KQED Forum about places to get outside this summer, Michael Krasny made the off-hand comment that, “Muir Woods has become like Disney Land.” His tone led me to believe that he didn’t mean it was vying to be the happiest place on Earth. Well Mr. Krasny I would like to take issue with that!
Ok, I haven’t been to Disney Land for perhaps 20 years. But I remember enjoying it greatly — despite the crowds, nausea inducing tea-cups ride, and fake smiles — I had a great time. As it happens I was in Muir Woods last week with my three sons for spring break. Yes the parking lot was full, and yes there were plenty of people in the woods, but to me Muir Woods soaks up people and gives each of them a memorable stay. I sometimes think that every nation on Earth is represented on those boardwalks — and while I might not know what they are saying, I can tell from the tone of their voice and look on the face that they are creating a memory to last a life time.
Those of us who live in the Bay Area can get jaded and overlook what an incredible place it is. Where else can you see ancient redwoods, tiger lilies, spawning salmon, and unusual albino redwoods, and get a great grilled cheese? Working with Save the Redwoods League for 15 years, I visited Muir Woods dozens of times and never tired. And as you can see, I even go on outside work to enjoy it with family and friends.
Here are a few simple tips to help you enjoy it.
1. You’ll find fewer people during the week and before the tour buses start arriving around 9:30 am. Get in their early for a walk and then go and have breakfast! Or go late as dusk draws in.
2. There’s a great adventure Quest that will keep kids 5-95 occupied — just ask for it at the kiosk! You’ll soon be skipping through the woods and looking for goose-pens while you learn about the natural and cultural history of the place. Kids love the treasure box at the end.
3. If you like to walk and don’t mind some serious uphill, take the back route into Muir Woods. Park by the Deer Park fire road and take it to the top of the park through meadows and a fascinating old burn area. Then drop into Muir Woods on the Ben Johnson Trail. You’ll be on your own most of the way!
4. If you’re going on the weekends, ride the shuttle from the Pohono park and ride off 101.
5. The concession shop turned over recently and now does a great grilled cheese sandwich. I am told that some people go just for the grilled cheese!
So Mr. Krasny, let’s go take a walk in Muir Woods — the happiest place in the bay area. I’ll even pick up the tab for grilled cheese.