At the turn of the last century, a trip to Tamalpais was the No. 1 getaway for San Franciscans.
The mountain visitors made their way to Marin by way of ferries. These boats ran day and night, 60 times a day.
High spirited choruses sung by the passengers accompanied each journey.
It was the rage to go up the mountain in the evening, stay at an inn, and be up early to see the sunrise.
Until 1885, the only way up the mountain was by cowtrail. In 1886, a scenic railway known as the "Crookedest Railroad in the World" was built. It had 22 trestles and 281 curves. The round-trip cost $1.00 from Mill Valley and $1.40 from San Francisco.
In 1912, a Swiss-German couple, the Claude Meyers, reportedly camped all over the mountain looking for the best combination of weather and views. They found it on a ridgeline straddling the ocean and San Francisco Bay; here they built the Mountain Home Inn.
The Inn became a Tamalpais landmark and a stop along the railroad route. A mid-century menu notes the Inn had become the "oldest continuously operating restaurant in Marin and one of the oldest in the Bay Area."
In the 1930's a spark from a train started a fire, causing the railroad to shut down. Today, the "Old Railroad Grade" is a hiking and mountain biking trail.
By the latter 20th century, the Inn was the last surviving business on Mt. Tamalpais. It was in a state of disrepair.
At that time, the current owners were living abroad. They fell in love with Europe's romantic small countryside hotels and resolved to own one when they returned home.
After searching many locations, some hundreds of miles from home, they found what they were looking for practically in their own backyard. It happened following a run on Mt. Tam when they stopped and chatted with the Mountain Home's then owner, Dieter Dengler. These after-run chats were not unusual as the two men shared a history going back to dramatic times in their youth.
Indeed, Dieter's riveting life story ended up becoming a book and, more recently, a motion picture by Werner Herzog starring Christian Bale.
After buying the inn from Dieter, the current owners spent three years and several million dollars on its renovation. A soaring lobby was added, connecting the 1912-era ridgeline cafe to the the Swiss-German family's home down the slope. That home became ten guestrooms with private baths and a visitor's snug.
Their vision was the inn should be in harmony with its natural environs and have warmhearted service and good food.
A place inviting to mountain enthusiasts, poets and lovers.