Bass Lake and Tomales Bay (Day 71)

Today started early.

It was the first of a two-day swimming getaway with Angie, Arwen, and Sheila and we headed for Palomarin trailhead on the Coast Trail where the plan was to hike a few miles to Bass Lake, swim, and hike back. The lake is along the same trail as the extremely popular Alamere Falls and by the time we arrived at the trailhead at 9 am, the car park was already full. 

It was a gorgeous three-mile hike, one of those trails where one minute you are on a narrow dirt path in the shade, trees and cliffs rising up around you…


And then you round a corner to a breath-stealing vista of the ocean, twinkling in the sunshine.  

Angie was the only one of us who had ever hiked along this trail before and she didn’t stop at the lake, nor did she particularly remember it and so when we saw a lake after a couple of miles we wondered, was this it? 

It was small and marshy, more pond than lake with a twin, equally small lake behind it. I thought to myself, I hope this isn’t Bass Lake, but if it is, I guess I’ll have to swim in it. 

We decided to keep going and, before long we came to a strange red lake. The color was beautiful and otherwordly, but whatever made it that way did not seem like something I wanted to be swimming in. 

We carried on and in a little while, we came to a lake that looked like it was a meadow because it was completely covered in green growth. It was so still and overgrown we weren’t even sure it was a lake until we threw a rock into it and it made a plunking sound and sank. While it may have technically been a body of water, there was no way we were going to crawl our way through all of that grass and algae to swim in it. 

Continuing along the path we were soon relieved to see an actual lake spread out below us. The moment my eyes clapped onto it, the excitement bubbled up in my belly. This was what I had been imagining. 

My excitement faltered briefly when I was sitting in the dirt on the edge of the lake preparing to fling myself in. The water was dark green and I couldn’t see to the bottom. Not knowing what was underneath was unnerving: Was it deep or shallow? Mushy? Cold? But I fought past my trepidation and soon I was swimming. It was amazing. Deep and clean. The temperature felt about what we are used to at the bulb, which I love. Fresh and cold. We swam right across the lake. Occasionally we’d see people on the trail above us (inevitably stopped to stare at us), but mostly it seemed as if we were all alone except for the birds and the creatures living in the woods that surrounded us. 

Swimming in a lake is so different than swimming in the ocean. Freshwater feels thin compared to the briny saltwater of the bay and today I felt nearly as if I was floating through nothingness, just pure, empty air. The density of saltwater makes everything, including our human bodies, more buoyant and I really felt its absence in the lake today. Also, the bay is full of the movement and energy of the tides and currents whereas this lake was still and calm; as serene as the forest and hills around us.

Reluctantly we pulled ourselves out and changed into our warm layers, which didn’t really warm us. We sat in the sun and shivered while we ate a delicious picnic and then hiked back to the car. 

On our way to Sebastopol where we would be spending the night at Angie’s sister’s house, we stopped for oysters in Marshall, a lovely little town along the Tomales Bay.

A light rain started to fall as we ate, dark clouds gathered and the bay looked wild and beautiful. We couldn’t help but strip out of our clothes, don our soggy bathing suits and get in for another swim. 

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