It was a bit difficult to bask in the serenity of the giant redwoods as a human chain of thirty eight-year-olds trudged across the wooden boardwalk, a field trip to the John Muir National Monument. It was late Thursday morning. I can’t wait to come back in the winter, when the crowds are thin and the air is crisp and the trees are happy in the cool, temperate air.
Luckily my dad purchased a lifetime pass to the National Parks a couple years ago when we visited Joshua Tree. Whenever I’m with him, I try to visit a National Park, as he gets free admission (and his guests do, too).
Before making friends with the awe-inspiring redwoods, my parents and I walked the Redwood trail in the mountainside above the John Muir National Monument to reach the Nature Friends Tourist Club.
(I’d heard rumors about this semi-secret place, so I figured we should check it out. This lodge is part of the Nature Friends organization, founded in Austria in 1895. The organization encourages its members to learn about nature and offers free lodging in exchange for trail maintenance. The Tourist Club in Muir Woods is open to the public a few weekends per year, and sells beers and brats to be enjoyed on picnic tables with board games. But you must hike to the lodge.)
Starting at the Mountain Home Inn, indicated as a starting point on the Tourist Club’s website, we didn’t see any clear trail markers. Luckily a park ranger was nearby, and pointed us in the right direction.
After about a half mile walking on the narrow trail, the landscape quickly changed, revealing a thick, mossy canopy and luscious soil, so different from the dry trail and open hillside through which we had just meandered.
And then we came around the corner to a clearing, the Tourist Club barely visible in the sea of trees. A forest green, Bavarian-style building, nestled into the hillside, surrounded by misty fog.
After a bit more walking, we arrived at the Tourist Club, only to find a big “closed” sign outside. Even though it was only 10 am, I figured the lodge wouldn’t be open to the public on a Thursday. Luckily, neither my parents nor I were disappointed – it was a wonderful hike to the lodge.
We stopped for a few minutes, checking out the building’s creative architecture and wood-carved shutters. A woman sat on the deck, blonde dreads halfway down her back. There was a nice picnic area behind the building, one that I hope to enjoy on a sunny Saturday when the Tourist Club is open to the public.
As we left, we took a different route – up the private (only for members) driveway that leads down to the Tourist Club. Perhaps the steepest driveway I’ve ever encountered, and on one of the more humid days in Northern California. My parents and I took multiple stops to rest on the way up, and at one point a pickup truck came down the drive, two young guys in the front, eight kegs in the back. That was the beer we had hoped to have at the Tourist Club, but for which we’d have to come back another day.
We concluded the day with a trip to the Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. Though in an industrial park just outside of Petaluma, the brewery boasts an outdoor beer garden, live music, and dogs galore. We took a 30 minute brewery tour, which highlighted its entertaining history and current standing as sixth best craft brewery in the nation. Afterward, we enjoyed a sampler of their 16 beers – including one of my favorites, Lagunitas’s flagship IPA – even if just to make up for the beer we were denied at the Tourist Club.