One of the secrets (sorta) of California state parks are the nine Steep Ravine cabins on Mt. Tamalpais just north of San Francisco. Mt. Tam, of course, is one of the birthplaces of mountain biking. It shelters 6,300 acres of redwoods, oaks, and meadows, with views to the Farallon Islands from its 2,571-foot summit. And though there are seven million people living just on the other side of the ridge and the hugely popular Stinson Beach is two miles away, once you settle into to a cabin feels like California primeval – wild and empty.
The wooden structures date to the 1940s and rent for around $100 per night – but reservations require a scramble. On the first day of the month at 8 a.m. PST, slots are open for the month six months out via the Reserve California website. Be prepared to be fast and flexible – the entire month usually books in minutes.
Our own Justin Housman stays at the cabins every year, thanks to an industrious and early rising sister-in-law. His report: “The cabins are rad. We sit outside and watch whales, I fish and sometimes surf the little beach next to the cabins, there are world-class trails snaking through redwoods just up the road, and there’s even a hidden thermal hot spring up the beach. It’s the sort of place I’d normally keep to myself but it’s so difficult to get reservations it doesn’t really matter.”
Weekend Cabin isn’t necessarily about the weekend, or cabins. It’s about the longing for a sense of place, for shelter set in a landscape…for something that speaks to refuge and distance from the everyday. Nostalgic and wistful, it’s about how people create structure in ways to consider the earth and sky and their place in them. It’s not concerned with ownership or real estate, but what people build to fulfill their dreams of escape. The very time-shortened notion of “weekend” reminds that it’s a temporary respite.
Photo: Sean Hoyer