If you spend any time in the Marin Headlands, one thought generally does not come to mind – gee, this would be a great place for a huge development of homes.

But that was exactly what a Pennsylvania entrepreneur nearly succeeded in doing some 45 years ago. It was to be called Marincello and would have been home to about 30,000 people. Located just north of San Francisco and on the Pacific coast, it probably seemed like a virtual money-making machine for the developer. It was supported by the Marin County government as well as many prominent local folks and seemed on the fast track to reality. Soon would emerge 16-story apartment towers with views of the ocean and bay. Bulldozers cleared the main road into the property, but that turned out to be the end of the development.

A few tireless local residents spent several years challenging the project on various legal and procedural grounds and eventually, the tide of support turned and the project died. With no ability to create the massive housing development, the owners sold the land to the Nature Conservancy, clearing the way for it to eventually become part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Thus went Marincello.

An interesting coda? Three of those vigilante folks who led the crusade to block the project – some lawyers from Sausalito – went on to found the Trust for Public Lands a few years later, an organization well known for supporting land conservation efforts in the U.S.

I learned about this slice of North Bay history last weekend while heading out on a hike in and around Tennessee Valley, a breathtaking swatch of the Marin Headlands that includes Tennessee Beach and terrific views in all directions.

Our group was doing nearly 10 more miles of the Bay Area Ridge Trail, that expansive and interesting vertical loop of trails and open land around the Bay Area. This hike would follow a few different trails, lead down to Tennessee Beach and then circle back to a main parking area. As it often is, fog and cool weather were the order of the day on this hike, which turned out to be nice given all the climbing.

Over the course of the loop, we climbed about 2,350 feet in total elevation including a cascading series of upward ridges. Given the fog, it was often unclear to see where each ridge was ending, and whether the next one would be the last. It generally wasn’t, making this a challenging hike at points.

But as tricky as the footing was at times, whether in creeping down some steep inclines or trudging upward, it could have been worse. The trails at Tennessee Valley on Saturday were also the site of an ultra-marathon 100-mile endurance run that was taking place. Runners started at 7 a.m. and were expected to start finishing as early as midnight, and as late as 4 p.m. Sunday.

We encountered many of these runners throughout our hike, and it was impressive how upbeat they seemed to be. Maybe that’s because they were only 30 miles or so into the race?

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