Steps leading down to Pirates Cove, just down the coast from Muir Beach.

Years ago, I met someone who had hiked the Appalachian Trail. In fact, he had finished it the night before and was sitting at a bar in Athens, Georgia, telling anyone who would listen all about it.

Some people hike the 2,100-plus trail in one swoop like this traveler did, spending a few months trekking away. Others do it in segments. This fellow said his father had taken a decade to do it, accomplishing it in brief segments in between raising a family and a full workload. There are plenty of trails like the AT around the country, including the John Muir Trail and others across the western U.S. And then there’s the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which is neither a straight path nor a traditional hike. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s a collection of trails that form a huge ring around the Bay Area, and it’s a work in progress.

I’ve had the good fortune to start chipping away at the 320 or so miles of the trail in some very pleasant and vigorous 10-mile stretches on recent weekends. Last Saturday was a trail that began at Muir Beach, just at the base of a steep hillside of homes that somehow are defying erosion. The beach is a popular one and it’s obvious why. It’s not huge, but there is room to stretch out and explore, a close drive from 101, and easy-to-moderate hikes that sprawl directly away from the beach, if you’re so inclined.

Our group headed inland and did a large clockwise loop, touching on a few of the many trails that connect across the Ridge Trail, including the Miwok and Coastal trails, before landing back at Muir Beach. The first part had a fair amount of green hazards, particularly poison oak and stinging nettles, but once we emerged onto the main ridgeline, it was an exposed path. Over about nine-plus miles, we climbed nearly 2,000 feet. A few steep areas but nothing too onerous. And with a strong, cooling breeze coming in from the coast and fog-free views in most directions, the ridge trail was a welcoming spot for our group and many other folks on Saturday.

Click here for more on the Bay Area Ridge Trail, which is having its big annual fundraiser this Labor Day weekend.

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