Vignette 293 > Circumambulation of Mt. Tam

In May 1956, when Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac were living in a cabin on Montford Ave. in Homestead Valley, they did a lot of hiking on Mt. Tam.  After his three-day long going away party attended by many beat generation poets and writers, Gary Snyder moved to Kyoto to study Zen. Gary learned about the practice of certain monks who did a 20-mile circumambulation around a mountain in Japan. In 1962, Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky traveled to India where they learned about the great circumambulation of Mt. Kailash. The first such walk around Mt. Tam occurred on October 22, 1965. Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg and Philip Whalen established the 13-mile route and identified eight sacred stops for chanting.  The walk began and ended at the Muir Woods parking lot. It wound its way up the west and north sides of the mountain to East Peak, and back down on the south side. The first public circumambulation was in 1967.  By 1972, there were four walks per year on the solstices and equinoxes. Homestead resident Matthew Davis (1935-2015, no connection with the Matt Davis trail) led the walk for thirty years and wrote a book about it, “Opening the Mountain.”