Travel

May 13, 2013

West Marin Inn continues to attract hikers
By Nicholas Bischoff

The historic West Point Inn has greeted visitors on the mountain for over a hundred years.
The historic West Point Inn has greeted visitors on the mountain for over a hundred years.

A semester can be stressful and distracting, and sometimes students need a quiet escape leaving behind the tweets of twitter for the songs of a Swainson’s Thrush. Located above the coastal fog line at 1,800 feet above sea level stands the last remaining structure of the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Scenic Railway, the West Point Inn. Recently recognized as a National Historic Place, the inn is a perfect get-a-way right in Marin’s own backyard. In just a few hours hike from College of Marin, one can be on top of the world at this historic mountain retreat.

The West Point Inn was built in 1904 as a restaurant and inn along on the ‘crookedest railroad in the world,’ to accommodate the increasing number of people wanting to stay on the mountain. It got the name because its location of being the most western point of the railway the inn’s location was a key trail hub for those who wanted to hike the mountain or continue on the stagecoach to Bolinas. It is the only standing structure left from the Mill Valley and Mt. Tamalpais Scenic Railroad, and one of two surviving inns on the mountain.

The inn, which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in late 2011, stands as an important part of Bay Area history. It is one of the last remaining landmarks of the early 20th century hiking culture on the mountain. People would come over in ferries from the city to get to spend the day or the whole weekend on the mountain.

Organized hiking groups, such as the Sierra Club and also the Vienna-based Nature Friends, which still has their clubhouse overlooking Muir Woods, created a strong hiking culture on Mount Tamalpais. The West Point Inn was a destination for many hiking groups.

Over its hundred-year life, not a lot has changed in the inn. The building has kept its historic architecture with few add-ons over the years. There is still no electricity available, the lights of the inn are powered by propane gas.  But having no electricity hasn’t stopped the association from hosting events such as the recent, ‘Tango on the Mountain’ fundraiser, where they had a live tango band and a hand cranked Victrola record player spinning in between sets. This recent event echos times past when one 1920s inn keeper, Martin Kliewe, built a radio and used it to broadcast programs from San Francisco for guest to enjoy.

The inn was under threat to be torn down, but in 1943 concerned citizens organized and created the West Point Inn Club. Now named as the non-profit organization, the West Point Inn Association, the inn is run and maintained by roughly 470 volunteers.

“Most of these members are from Marin County,” board president Marilyn Skaff says, adding that there are also members throughout the Bay Area and even across the country. These members help maintain the building and grounds and make sure everything runs smoothly.

“People become members to support the inn,” explains one member Allen Reynolds, “Other benefits of becoming a member are discounts on staying at the inn and being able to attend member events.”

The inn has become so popular that the organization has to cap membership for the first time because members are having a hard time reserving nights at the inn, Reynolds explains.

Becoming a member does have its advantages of staying in the inn, you can reserve a room a month before the general public and you can attend members-only events such as West Marin Inn’s Heritage Night, which this year will be celebrating a century of the Mountain Play.

Although becoming a member does have its advantages, anyone is able to stay the night. There are also public events such as the inn’s very popular pancake breakfast.

Starting at College of Marin, this six-mile route takes hikers above the towns of Corte Madera and Mill Valley with grand views high above the Bay Area.

Starting at College of Marin, students can walk through the Kent/Woodlands neighborhood and up on to the Indian Fire Road leading you along the ridge to the Hookooekoo Fire Road, named for the band of Coastal Miwok who lived in the area. Once past the Hookooekoo Fire road, hikers cross the Double Bow Knot, which was part of the old train line that would take you up to the Inn, and continue along the Hookooekoo trail to Matt Davis Trail.

Matt Davis trail is named after the eponymous trail builder, who had built a cabin on the mountain and was called the ‘dean of trail workers’ by the Tamalpais Conservation Club. Following Matt Davis Trail, hikers will come to the switchbacks of Nora Trail, which will lead you to the West Point Inn.

This hike has great views and a diverse plant life along its trails. You will find flora Madrone, Manzantia, Bay Lauel, Douglas Fir and Redwoods along creek valleys. In the spring time check for the array of wild flowers including the Indian Paintbrush, Morning Glory, and Iris that dot the trails.

The journey from College of Marin takes hikers through a variety of plant communities and views of the Bay Area. This six-mile hike is worth the trek.

Through Marin’s long hiking tradition and dedication to preserving this historic landmark, the volunteers of the West Point Inn Association has created a wonderful hiking and overnight destination on the mountain and a great quiet place to finish that final paper.

Visitors spend the afternoon relaxing in a common room of the West Point Inn.
Visitors spend the afternoon relaxing in a common room of the West Point Inn.

April 16, 2013

Student travel: Coasting through Europe at 10 miles per hour
By Nicholas Bischoff

The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, was the subject of a recent film starring Martin Sheen and his son, Emilio Estevez, called “The Way.” Pilgrims have been taking this spiritual journey through Northern Spain for more than a thousand years.
The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, was the subject of a recent film starring Martin Sheen and his son, Emilio Estevez, called “The Way.” Pilgrims have been taking this spiritual journey through Northern Spain for more than a thousand years.

The clouds were getting darker and the storm was on my mind as Tiffany, Katie, Venetia and I biked into the Swiss countryside leaving the urban sprawl of Zurich behind us. We had just left our couch surfing host’s apartment in Zurich, Switzerland, which was a nice shelter from the summer thunderstorms that had caught us almost every day in Switzerland.

Like most nights, we weren’t sure where this campsite was, but being on the road for about a month now we knew we could get by with the one German phrase we knew really well by now, “Sprechen sie Englisch?” If that didn’t work, we resorted to the key word “Campingplatz?” and asked it as a question is if it were a full sentence. For our last resort rest of communication we relied on the universal language, body language. These forms of communication had worked so far and had got us by from Frankfurt, Germany to our current location just west of Zurich, Switzerland.

Pedaling along the river’s edge we stopped in a small town square for some lunch, the usual Nutella and banana sandwich, and looked at the map for further directions. While looking at the map an older Swiss lady came up to us trying to help us out. She tried to communicate with us, telling us that a storm was coming and we have to go up a big hill to get to the campsite, the only issue was she didn’t know any English and we didn’t know any German. We knew we couldn’t camp in city limits and had to be on our way to set up camp before the storm would come through.

The woman kept repeating the gestures over and over again and we kept repeating in English what we thought she was trying to communicate. It wasn’t going so well. “Danke schon!” we smiled and waved trying to focus back on the map knowing we had to get on the road soon. She smiled back and retreated across the street.

Neuschwanstein Castle in the foothils of the German Alps.
Neuschwanstein Castle in the foothils of the German Alps.

A minute later she comes back with another woman. She spoke good English and told us that we can stay at her hotel in town. She told us stories of her daughter traveling Australia and her brother biking all over Europe. She wanted to contribute to the good graces the traveling community. Hoping that her good karma would be transferred into good luck for her daughter. Not shy anymore about taking people up on their offers we jumped on her offer to stay at her hotel for free. A few minutes later we found ourselves in very nice hotel right in the heart of town with hot showers and comfortable beds.

The “big storm” never materialized that night and I didn’t sleep that well that evening. I was woken up very early by clamoring of church bells that seemed to be rung by a three year old with no sense of rhythm. Waking up really early to the loud sounds of chaotic bells didn’t bother me so much as I was laying in an actual bed with warm sheets, listening to the sounds of a small Swiss town waking up.

Traveling on bicycle is a great way to see a region. Traveling at 10 miles per hour you use all your senses and become apart of the place. You are really engaged with your surroundings, the sites, the sounds, and the tastes. With an open schedule and open mind the detours are endless and experiences enriching. Traveling on bicycle is also a great conversation starter and it’s a great way to communicate with locals, learning about people who live in the region, and to meet new people. People are very interested in your story when they see you are traveling by bike and it’s fun to hear their story.

Sunset in Brugg, Switzerland where we were given a hotel room to escape the storm.
Sunset in Brugg, Switzerland where we were given a hotel room to escape the storm.
A serving of pulpo in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
A serving of pulpo in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

On a bike tour you are a part of the environment and you can feel the changes of the environment and culture as you pass. It is a great sensation seeing the change of environment around you. I won’t forget the Riding across Switzerland the most apparent culture change occurred the day riding across from the Swiss-German side to the Swiss-French side. That day of riding we found our selves in a whole different environment starting the day in a German influenced environment and ending up in a French influenced environment.

I really enjoyed my time in Europe. When people ask me what was my highlights I usually ramble a story or two about the generosity of people I met or the beauty of the sites that I saw. But one thing all my highlights contain is that they occurred while riding my bike exploring a region that was new to me. Cycling is a great way to travel.

TRAVEL TIPS

So you want to go on a bike tour? Biking around Europe sounds great, but very expensive. The great thing about bicycle touring is that it can be done at home. The adventure can start right out of your front door and very little travel expenses are needed. Bike overnight trips are a great way to get started on bicycle touring. Here in Marin County we have access to many campsites throughout the county. Here are two great Bike-In campsites available right here in Marin County:

Samuel P. Taylor State Park

Located 15 miles west of San Rafael, this is a perfect bike    overnight trip is right in our backyard. Park Rangers are there to answer questions, help with registration and also sell firewood for evening campfires.

Highlights: Camping among the redwoods and along Lagunitas Creek you have easy access for spotting Coho Salmon and Stealhead trout, hiking along Bolinas Ridge, or up Mount Barnabe.

Address: 

8889 Sir Francis Drake Blvd

Lagunitas, CA 94938

Bike-In Cost: $5

Website: http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=469

Pantoll Campground,

Mount Tamalpais State Park

Pantoll campground is on Mt. Tam under a patch of Douglas Fir trees. This ride is more difficult and does take some more strength to get up the mountain, but the location is worth the climb.

Highlights: This site is a perfect base camp for exploring Mt. Tam with day hikes starting right at camp some highlights include Muir Woods, East Peak, Steep Ravine, and Stinson Beach.

Address: 

801 Panoramic Highway

Mill Valley, CA 94941

Bike-In Cost: $5

Website:  http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=471

Whether you are cycling in Europe or here in Marin, getting on a bike is a great way to explore a place. All you need is an open mind and adventurous spirit and the rest will come naturally. There is so much to explore out there and no better way to do it than hoping on a bike and exploring the back roads.

April 16, 2013

Kentfield-Novato campus shuttle needed
Students finding it difficult to get from main campus to Indian Valley
By Liam Werner and Nash Kurilko

Students board the 22 Northbound Golden Gate Transit bus at the Kentfield campus, which will take them to San Rafael.
Students board the 22 Northbound Golden Gate Transit bus at the Kentfield campus, which will take them to San Rafael.

COM has provided an affordable alternative to traditional secondary education to Marin County since its founding in 1926. While COM’s contribution to our community far outweighs any potential deficiencies, it is unable to provide absolute excellence in all of its community programs, specifically campus transportation.

A plethora of students lacking cars or bikes are severely hindered by the current bus system, which only provides rides to hubs in San Anselmo or San Rafael. Riders must spend up to an hour waiting to transfer buses, at which point they may be late for their next class.

Those who hope to take on a full-time schedule are forced to commute via three long buses just to get from the Kentfield campus to its sister campus in Indian Valley.

Many students find it very difficult to arrive to classes on time when they are to put up with three separate bus rides between the two campuses, all-adding up at a max of two hours.

Student Kevin Carcamo said, “I used to take classes out at Indian Valley but my major is going to be in automotive technology. It’s a shame because I was looking forward to study in an environment so relevant to my course.”

College of Marin has an obligation to strive for excellence, it is essential that COM re-evaluate it’s transportation system. This would further provide each generation of young academics with the opportunity to succeed.

“I don’t think they offer any classes I need. I’m an engineering student so I mostly need science classes. I live right next to the IVC though, so I would totally use the shuttle if they offered it,” said Matt Stewart, engineering student.

Our nation’s infrastructure has been dramatically modernized since COM’s establishment in the 1920s. It is essential for the institution’s well being to reassess any inherently flawed programs in order to enhance its service to our community and to its students. If this issue were resolved, it could also possibly boost COM’s enrollment, the rate of which fell to its lowest level since 2003 this semester.

April 16, 2013

Club X welcomes students 18 and up
By Austin Bodek

The club’s dance floor packs around 800 to 1,200 students every friday night.
The club’s dance floor packs around 800 to 1,200 students every friday night.

It’s the weekend. No early morning classes, monotone lectures, or chalk flying at your head for checking your Facebook in class. But what’s there to do on a Friday night if you’re not 21?

Club X, located at 715 Harrison Street in San Francisco, is a dance club that welcomes the 18 and older crowd. Every Friday night the doors open at 10pm and the 15,000 square foot club becomes packed with around 800 – 1,200 people. Each week features a new theme, such as their upcoming neon theme party in April.

The club has two main dance floors, go-go dancers, multiple dance cages and two fully stocked bars for anyone who is 21 or older. Stage contests, such as dance offs, offer a chance to win $200-500 bucks! The club has eight speakers with powerful base, that shake the room up with electronic dance music mixed with some Top 40 hits. Club X has three light shows every night, with a lighting system that is the best of its kind. Promotions manager Barrett Hahn says, “Our club has the nicest lighting system in Northern California”.

Club X has an admission price of $20, but offers customers a hook up pass that gets them in for only $5 by simply texting CLUBX to 69302. They also hand out VIP cards that get not only the card owner in for free, but also a friend.

Hahn says, “At Club X we understand that you just want to let loose and have a great time. That’s why we have beer pong, hookah, and desserts…to satisfy all of your needs”. And that’s exactly what Club X does, by welcoming the 18 and up crowd to their unique dance club. To find out more information about Club X, you can visit their Facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/club.x.sf

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