In May of 2013, Molly Shaw Deich was browsing through books at the John Muir National Historic Site visitor center in Martinez and came upon the Bay Area Ridge Trail official guidebook by Jean Rusmore. Having never heard of the Ridge Trail, she turned to her friend Donna Thomas and exclaimed, “I want to walk the Ridge Trail circuit!” Donna immediately responded, “Let’s do it!” One month later, their journey began.
Donna and Molly both live in Santa Cruz; they have busy lives so decided to tackle the Ridge Trail in segments when time allowed and completed the journey over three years.
Molly brings a unique perspective to the Ridge Trail exploration. She teaches sixth-graders earth science and is just receiving her doctor of education degree from UC Santa Cruz in science education. She also has a degree in physical geography from UC Berkeley. Walking on the ridges, she has been awed at how much the trail allows one to experience the region’s geology and the juxtaposition of the North American and Pacific plates. Their blog is filled with comments about the region’s unique geography.
Donna says, “Molly and I have both been struck by how the Ridge Trail allows you to get views of the bay and major peaks from hundreds of different vantage points.” Molly adds, “I grew up in Livermore, and I always saw Mt. Diablo from the same angle. Being on the Ridge Trail, I’ve realized how visible this remarkable landmark is, and I like seeing it from so many different perspectives!” Donna is also a Bay Area native, raised in Fairfax. They’re seeing their home turf in a whole new way.
They have appreciated the little things along the way: a swimming hole after a hot day of hiking in Napa County, spring-blooming buckeyes near Novato, the cool redwood forests on the Peninsula and in Marin County, the shade of majestic oaks on a record-hot day. All they see keeps them busy talking, and raises more questions—about the history, landscape, and geology. They return home and start looking things up. Molly says, “Up on the ridges, I can imagine what the Bay looked like when it was a broad valley in the last ice age, and I start to visualize historic animal migrations!”
Molly and Donna’s trip shows the possibilities for anyone wanting to walk the entire Ridge Trail route. They work out logistics by having an email list of about 30 friends and family around the Bay Area who they invite to join them and help out with rides (or they work out car shuttles on their own). They usually have company on the hikes, and by inviting friends and family, they’re expanding the group of Ridge Trail fans. They set realistic goals of walking the route when time allows. Donna emphasizes, “It’s important to be able to take walking vacations here, close to home.”
Visit their blog, to view Molly’s photographs and Donna’s beautiful watercolors.