Joan Larsen’s Favorite Travel Moments Above San Francisco: Communing With Giants — A Most Magical Day Spent in California’s Muir Woods

Posted on May 10, 2017


 By Joan Larsen



2017 . . . and, with it, still another return journey to the West in early spring – to The City By The Bay, San Francisco. Once again the city has exceeded my expectations. It always does. That city pulls out all stops – and then continually adds some more – – to have us delight in the days and make the evenings overflowing with new culinary delights that never seem to end. (Why do I always seem to end up humming Tony Bennett’s I Left My Heart In San Francisco ? . . . but perhaps we all do?!)

But it is always – always – that incredibly beautiful lighted span of “the landmark of landmarks”, the always iconic Golden Gate Bridge, that – to me – forever comes with promises of a world of wonders that lies just beyond.


I personally save the best until last – MUIR WOODS. . . for it is a special place that touches mind and heart, lodging itself there forever.

Yes, at the end of the rainbow of that bridge – and just a very short distance further – lies what will be the perfect finish to your stay. Muir Woods, tucked away in a spectacular natural setting that – once it is seen — will forever stay in your heart. Yes, I DO promise it will.


You must go. How can I tell you my feelings? There is something so humbling about walking in silence among the world’s oldest and tallest living things – huge redwood trees that successfully reach for the blue skies above. We stand – well, we stand in AWE. Actually, I find there are no words that cover the feelings you will have.

In any way you wish – GO! Just go! Rarely have I suggested “the best way” to enjoy this magical place. Of course, you can drive there by car – or with a canned tour bus spiel. That is up to you.

But I want you to see Muir Woods, come away immersed in the spell of the redwoods as I have been. For too many years to mention, Tom Martell’s Famous Muir Woods Tour is the only way to go for those “in the know”. You are picked up at your San Francisco hotel — and how good is that? – and only 5 other fellow passengers will be joining you. This is very special. Your first stop is to the “must-see” gorgeous Sausalito across the Bay, early in the morn before the world descends on Muir Woods.

Tom – as we call him Tom – walks with you through the woods on easy dirt trails, away from any crowds – and at your own pace – answering all your questions – and it’s for an entire morning. Just think of it: Tom is all fun and knowledge – and he is all yours! But you are on a treasure hunt in the woods it seems.





The man leans down constantly,unearthing treasures under logs – amazing small things you would never dream live there. And then he is pointing out elusive spotted owls who blend so well into the trees that it takes his sharp eye to spot – and, then, it is all up to you to photograph and enjoy.

Tom is making every moment – every moment – seem one hidden delight after another. There is even a picnic lunch, for Tom is a man who performs all sorts of magic for you.

Please enjoy the photos that – this year – I hope will capture a bit of the experience for you. Seeing Muir Woods in person though will provide memories that will last a lifetime. Seeing it with Tom will cap off your trip West in the most beautiful way imaginable.



To share my own private thoughts: I almost hate to give Muir Woods away. To be honest, I consider it my own most sacred place. As a child it used to be my own – or so I thought. We wandered there alone. But in today’s world, there are few stones left unturned. Even this remote grove of coastal redwoods – rising to the sky – has become a small national monument and on the very short list (just out this month) of our country’s greatest natural treasures.

Go soon if you can. Capture the beauty and serenity of being in a cathedral of redwoods that reach for heaven as you gaze upward – something I have done so many times. You will return home with a sense of peace, of quiet, of calm that is so needed these days in the world we live in. You will feel whole once again – and, truly, there is nothing that can be better than that!


JoanAvatar2Writer Joan Larsen has spent a lifetime searching for the most remote places on Earth.  But it is the polar regions of our world that she has been drawn back to again and again.  She has done research in these lands of ice, and considers Antarctica to be her “other home.”