Blithedale history
 

Blithedale Canyon hike (Pacific Sun, May 2007)
Redwood Lodge (Mill Valley Historical Review)
Mill Valley - An Early Health Spa
The Outdoor Art Club
Blithedale Hotel (coming soon)
Ralston White Retreat (coming soon)
Corte Madera Creek (coming soon)

Mill Valley Historical Society
Miwok Information
Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway
Mill Valley Photographs (Online Archive of California)

 

Blithedale Canyon hike (excerpt from Pacific Sun, May 2007)

Into the canyon
Towering redwoods, a burbling creek—what's not to love?


by Matthew Stafford

"For nearly a century and a half, Blithedale Canyon has been one of Marin's favorite places to relax, recreate and replenish after a long hard day in the outside world. Dominated by the gentle ebb and flow of Corte Madera Creek, it's a quiet, redwood-perfumed place of dusty sunbeams, shingled cabins, skeeters and crawdads, gravity-car artifacts, blackberry bushes, bounding deer, snoozing sheepdogs, stone walls, green mansions, foggy mornings, hidden staircases and the towering, eternal presence of Sequoia sempervirens... Even its name—which predates the town itself—sounds like a long and lazy afternoon in the hammock, iced tea at hand. Blithedale is one of two canyons that help make Mill Valley a valley. After the slow, steady collision of the Pacific and Continental plates forced Mt. Tam out of the ocean 60 million years ago, more or less, it took another epoch or two for trickles of mountain precipitation (Corte Madera and Cascade creeks to you) to carve out the rustic yet high-rent neighborhoods we know today. Cascade Canyon is lined with some of the oldest and grandest homes in town, but Blithedale's singular ambiance and historical sights and phantoms give it unique cachet among Mill Valley's neighborhoods" ...

"... With the building booms that followed the opening of the Golden Gate Bridge and the end of World War II, the gutted foundations of 1929 were a memory, and aside from the flood of 1982, when Corte Madera Creek became a deluge sweeping lawn chairs and other hefty items into the bay, not much has happened in the intervening years to disturb the neighborhood's placid nature. Above all, it's a fine place for a relaxing stroll.

Start at the old Pacific Sun building at 21 Corte Madera Ave., the starting point of the railway's spur line from the old depot, and head northwest into the canyon. (The wide, dusty path intersecting and adjacent to Corte Madera Avenue is the old railbed right-of-way.) Coming up on the right is the meandering old Redwood Lodge with its low stone walls, manicured grounds and tennis courts; further up on the left is a quasi-authentic Torii gate built by Japanese carpenters in 1920 at the behest of globetrotting author Donna Cole. Another Nipponphile, Australian businessman George T. Marsh, built many Japanese-style houses in the canyon in the early part of the last century (hence the neighborhood's surprising prevalence of Japanese maple); his own estate featured sliding doors, terraces, dwarf shrubs, koi ponds, stone lanterns and miniature bridges. Remnants of the long-gone Blithedale Hotel can be gleaned here and there: the adobe milk house at 205 W. Blithedale, the crumbling stone dam Cushing constructed to create a swimming hole just downstream from the bridge at Marsh and Corte Madera. Another archaeological site is just up the canyon on the railbed across the creek from the mouth of Eldridge Avenue: the foundation of the Lee Street Local's station platform. The Old Railroad Grade trailhead is just half a block up the street if you're in the mood for some mountain greenery, but there's something about the silent redwoods and burbling creekbed of Blithedale Canyon that make you want to stick around a while."