The Trail Less Traveled
Many of my favorite hikes with my autistic son have been on Mt. Tam. Paths through shady redwood groves rise to broad bay and ocean views. Live oak and madrone-lined trails twist and turn until they broaden into rolling hills with grass bleached by the sun. A trail from a watershed lake might lead to a forest waterfall.
The pandemic meant Sean and my weekday hikes with our old autism support buddy were fewer and farther between. One summer break weekday, I was determined to get Sean to explore a new trail with me, come hell or high water, despite it being just the two of us in a more rugged area. Destination: Mt. Tam.
We pulled into the Bootjack Trailhead parking area ready to go. We had a map and good sense of our destination as the crow flies. We headed out on the right trail, but missed one short turn and ended up taking a faded trail straight up the mountain.
What started as a fairly visible path faded into pretty much a bushwhacking climb. We made our way up through an open space of grass and rocks between patches of forest on either side. Instead of taking the switchback Bootjack Trail I’d planned to photograph, we were chugging directly up the mountain.
It was unexpectedly hot, we’d forgotten our hats, and we were both huffing and puffing as we stomped our way to the top of the ridge that would lead us to our destination, the Mountain Theater.
It can be a little spooky in the more remote areas with just two of us. We know there can be mountain lions and rattlesnakes around, but our bigger risk was heat exhaustion.
We scrambled up a rocky rise to a large patch of what looked like green serpentine rock. We’d reached a bigger trail that expanded into a stunning view of golden grass broken into visual geometric shapes against a bright blue sky.
After a water and snack break, we walked to the nearest trail sign.
“0.2 miles to the theater, Seanie! Almost there!” We got to the Mountain Theater, and then zigzagged our way back down the Bootjack Trail.
As a young man profoundly affected by autism, my younger son has spent his life walking a different path from that of typically developing kids. The rest of us in the family have walked that path with him.
Sometimes falling off the well-trodden trail brings more beautiful views and a greater sense of accomplishment. May some of your trails bring surprises and a chance to learn something new about yourself. Keep putting one foot forward!
This week’s Hike Notes, Mountain Theater from Bootjack Campground, leads readers on an accidental adventure straight uphill on an unmarked path between two popular trails.
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Hike Notes 164: Mountain Theater from Bootjack Campground
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