Tam Valley Improvement Club
P.O.Box 1446
Mill Valley, CA 94942
Message line: 415-383-3691

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Mt. Tam facts

Height - 2,571 feet at East Peak, descends to sea level (the Pacific Ocean) on the West.

Area - 6,300 acres

Trails - 50 miles of trails within the Mt. Tam State Park, connecting to 200 miles of trails outside the state park.

Birthplace of mountain biking.

The history of the Mill Valley & Mt. Tamalpais Scenic railway, with pictures, can be found at Don Hargraves' website.

Jerry Coe describes "How I Built a Gravity Car for Mt. Tamalpais."

Olema photographer Marty Knapp offers a spectacular collection of black and white photos of Mt. Tam.

    Mount Tamalpais, "the sleeping maiden"

    by Brenda Grantland

    I may be partial because I live here, but I think Mount Tam is the most beautiful mountain in the world.

    It's certainly the most beautiful mountain I've ever seen in my life. I fell in love with it the first time I saw it, when I came to San Francisco on vacation in 1989, and a friend took me for a drive on route 1 from Mill Valley to Stinson Beach. Before the end of the day on my first day in California, I said to my friend - "I have to live here. It's just too beautiful here to live somewhere else."

    Three years later I moved here. Moving to Marin was the best decision I ever made in my life.

    The Sleeping Maiden

    In all of the research I've done, I haven't found the source of the folk lore surrounding Mt. Tam's alias "the Sleeping Maiden." Could someone help us out here?

    The Miwoks

    In the two centuries before White Man "discovered" the Bay Area, Mt. Tam was the home of the Miwok Indians, who still have a tribe today, but no reservation or casino. In 2000, they had to fight to get reinstated as an officially recognized tribe after the U.S. government denied them official tribe status because of dwindling numbers. Currently, they are landless.

    The Miwoks have lived in this area for 3,000 years. According to an early 20th Century account by E.S. Curtis, the Miwoks of that time wore deerskin clothing, rarely engaged in warfare except for occasionally assassinating people believed to be sorcerers, and ate just about anything presented to them:

    It is sometimes said that the Miwok ate every species of living creature available to them, except the skunk. The statement is not true. They regarded the skunk as excellent food, and this opinion was shared by many other tribes, not all of whom were inhabitants of California. Other animals not commonly used for food, but eaten by the Miwok, were the bat and several species of snakes.
    California cuisine, with its willingness to experiment, probably traces its roots to the Miwok culture.

    The former home of the "Crookedest Railroad in the World"

    From 1896 to 1930, the Mill Valley and Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railway carried tourists from the Mill Valley Depot (now a restaurant and bookstore) up the steep and winding mountain roads to Mt. Tam's East Peak. The Mt. Tamalpais Interpretive Association adoringly describes the experience:

    Traversing the double bow-knot, locals and tourists alike delighted in
    jaw-dropping vistas as they reached the 2,571 foot summit at East
    Peak for a day of unparalleled sightseeing, dinner at the Tavern of
    Tamalpais and dancing in the Pavilion. At day's end, the daring would
    climb aboard the Gravity Car, and the "Gravity Man" would "turn on
    the gravity", and down they would coast over 8 1/4 miles, around
    281 turns on the mountain's 7% grade to the Mill Valley depot or
    Muir Woods. This was clearly the "E" ticket ride of its day!
    Remnants of this railroad can still be seen -- the old railroad grade remains a popular hiking trail, and the West Point Inn has been restored, and may be rented for special events.

    Plans are well underway to rebuild the old Gravity Car Barn. Mt. Tamalpais Interpretive Association has raised $100,000 toward the $250,000 needed to rebuild. You can make a tax-deductible donation to the project through the MTIA website.


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