Tag Archive: Mill Valley

First, let me welcome you back to Sausalito Waterfront! After a seven-month-or-so hiatus, the blog is back. With any luck, the posts will become regular for a while again, at least until school starts stealing all my time.

Second, the rebirth of the blog now includes a new section, Sausalito Hiking. While obviously still in it’s infancy, the ultimate goal of this section is to build up a post for as many of the hiking trails in and around Sausalito as I can. So, to the point then.

Tennessee Valley is “an amazing offshoot of the Marin, with hiking trails to suit the whole family,” according to the National Park Service. The Tennessee Valley, which is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, stretches from Highway 1 and Tam Junction all the way to the Pacific Ocean. To get to the trailhead, turn West off of Highway 1 onto Tennessee Valley Road just South of Tam Junction. If you go on a weekend, you’ll probably be able to find it simply because the car ahead of you will be turning there too.

At the end of the road, there is a dirt and gravel parking lot as well as lots of stables. The parking lot seems enormous, but be warned, it fills up early on the weekends. Fortunately, there are lots of places to park off the side of Tennessee Valley Road as well.

The parking lot is to the left. Yes, that paved road is, in fact, the "trail."

The “trail” starts at the West end of the parking lot. But calling it a trail is a bit misleading. More correctly, it’s a road with a gate across it. It’s paved at first, turning to dirt after the first half mile or so. The Tennessee Valley Trail is the main artery along the valley floor. There are lots of other trails that cross the valley, but thank’s to the GGNRA’s excellent signage, you’d have to be very dull indeed to get lost.

The Upper Valley Trail allows for some views of the beach and the nearby wetlands of the valley floor.

About two thirds of the way to the coast, the trail splits into the Upper and Lower Valley Trails. They both go to the exact same place, so I opted to take the high road on the way out and the low road on the way back. And the verdict? It doesn’t really matter. The Upper trail (which isn’t really very “upper” at all) offers some nice views of the valley floor and the beach. The Lower trail does without the view, but is more like a trail than a road. Also, the lower trail is closed to bikers and horses, making it a more pleasant place to hike. No dogs are allowed anywhere in Tennessee Valley except on the Coastal Trail.

The Golden Gate National Recreation Area has been around since 1972.....This photo, however, has been around since only this morning. Technology = Win

After 1.7 miles, the trail ends at Tennessee Beach, which could best be described as a miniature version of Muir Beach. Most of the valley was blanketed by coastal fog when I visited, but on a nice day it would be a great beach to enjoy. I’m from Hawaii, so I’m not one to ever use the blanket statement “No Swimming,” but the shore break is pretty rough. Use you’re judgement, and don’t go in the water if you’re helpless and going to drown.

Just like a miniature of Muir Beach, complete with a stream and everything.

Since the trail dead ends at the beach, the return route is the same, and flew by surprisingly quick. At about 3.5 miles round trip, a quick hiker can do the round trip in an hour, but an hour and a half of actual hiking is probably a better guess for the average person.

People with babies made up a sizable chunk of the trail users.

Thoughts? The valley and beach are both beautiful, and it’s cool to find a beach tucked so far away from roads–hiking to a beach gives a much greater sense of accomplishment than driving does. But that said, the mobs of hikers and bikers make this hike less than ideal if you hike to be left out in nature. This is definitely one to do on a weekday. It’s so short and so easy, you really have no excuse. So go do it!


No affordable taquerias in Sausalito

Sausalito has a reputation for great restaurants and fine dining, which is all well and good—if you’re loaded and can afford it. But as a student on a budget, I much prefer the quick, easy, and relatively healthy option of a good taqueria. So I was justifiably disappointed when I moved to Sausalito from San Rafael and had to give up my old favorites. But, in the spirit of optimism, I’ve decided to give a chance to every Mexican food joint nearby—some with better results than others.

Sausalito Taco Shop is the only Mexican food option in the town of Sausalito, and as you would expect, it’s on the pricy side. Their menu optimistically states “No need for a plane ticket—Mexico is right here…” But after eating there only a few times, you’d probably spend enough money to have gone to Mexico several times over. A big burrito costs nearly $12, well above the typical college student’s budget. Even worse, the quantities aren’t terribly big. “When I go to a taqueria, I want lots of food for not much money,” my housemate complained. “So this place fails on two fronts.”

Sausalito Taco Shop

Sausalito Taco Shop--as pricy as expected

So with the only option in Sausalito a no-go, it was time to move on to the neighboring town of Mill Valley. The first stop was High Tech Burrito, a Ronhert Park, Calif. based chain with 14 restaurants around the Bay Area. While it may be a chain, the stores do live up to their “Fast, Fresh, Made Your Way” slogan. They also offer a number of vegetarian and vegan options. While it’s hard to find fault with the local Mill Valley restaurant, like all chain restaurants, it’s missing some of the charm that individually owned taquerias have. But the food was excellent, and reasonably priced.

High Tech Burrito

High Tech Burrito was the ultimate winner, despite being a chain restaurant

If chain restaurants aren’t your thing, then check out Lucinda’s Mexican Food To Go, only a stone’s throw from High Tech Burrito. This is probably the closest thing to an authentic feeling taqueria anywhere near Sausalito–and even so, it had a distinct upper-class feeling. While the burritos appear cheap on the menu, it’s really an illusion–a basic burrito is just that: Basic. By the time all the goodies have been added, the price is nearing the dreaded $10 cut-off. And the burrito was just ok, not brilliant.

Lucinda's Mexican Food to Go

Lucinda's Mexican Food to Go was solidly middle-of-the-road, but on the pricier side

Things were getting desperate now. I’d yet to find a suitable taqueria that was cheap, filling, and tasty. Heading up the road into Mill Valley, the last real option was Joe’s Taco Lounge. Joe’s is similar to Sausalito Taco Shop: classier than your typical Mission-style taqueria, but not a sit-down restaurant either. But at least the burritos were reasonably priced, although again, be careful with what you add-on, as you can run the price up quickly with the usual extras like sour cream and guacamole.

Joe's Taco Lounge

Joe's Taco Lounge was definitely the runner-up

So, without an adequate replacement for my old favorite—Taqueria Mi Familia in San Rafael—I headed home, passing one last tempting option on the way. Good old Taco Bell. While this does fulfill the “cheap” and “filling” part of the test, it also fails the “tasty” section. In fact, it would be better described as “gross.”

Taco Bell

Taco Bell is always there and always open--but it's a new level of desperation

After all the searching, I was back at home where I’d started. In short, none of the places are bad, but none stood out as a regular spot for a grabbing a quick meal on the way home either. San Rafael definitely has Sausalito beat in that respect.

But if I had to pick a winner, it would have to be High Tech Burrito, despite being a chain, it offered the best combination of taste, price, and quantity.

Test Criteria: From each taqueria, I sampled a chicken burrito. The results are my opinion, not a conclusive test. If you know of a taqueria near Sausalito that I missed, by all means, leave a comment and I’ll check it out.