The Invisible Peak (hidden in plain sight)

The first film in my West Peak trilogy.  -- Mt. Tamalpais, sentinel peak of the San Francisco Bay Area, is considered sacred by many... native and non-native alike. In 1950, the military bulldozed the highest peak of the mountain to build an Air Force Station tasked with directing jet interceptors and short range Nike nuclear missiles against the potential threat of Russian nuclear bombers.  By 1980 the base was obsolete and summarily closed. The military literally walked away from dozens of structures, leaving behind a huge toxic mess on the mountain. Through the use of historical footage, 3D reconstruction, interviews and breathtaking timelapse cinematography, this 20-minute film, narrated and co-written by Peter Coyote, explores the history of Tam's West Peak and how local citizens have been fighting to restore their mountain to a natural state.    Project Website    © 2014 Gary Yost

Media about the film includes:

Pro Video Coalition and FCP.CO:  in-depth discussion of how the film was created
KQED Forum: half-hour radio interview with Michael Krasney
KPIX TV:  CBS televsion report on the premiere
Marin Independent Journal:  article about the making of the film
Faded + Blurred:  interview about how collaboration was critical in the making of the film
Marin Independant Journal: article about the interactive historical timeline developed as a secondary project based on research for the film.


Tour of ruins of Cold War Air Force Station on Mt. Tamalpais | 360 video
"The Way it's Supposed to Be" Tamthem

Mill Valley songwriter Dore Coller's story in song of the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, California and how the Air Force moved in, blew the top off, used it for 30 years and then left without cleaning it up.  Featuring performances by Bob Weir, Maria Muldaur, Ramblin' Jack Elliott, Susan Zelinksky, the Zucker Family Singers, Lorin Rowan, Darren Nelson, Matt Jaffe, Caroline Sky and a citizens Earth Day chorus of over 120 souls.

For more information, go to

"A Day in the Life of a Watershed Ranger"

My tribute to the Marin Municipal Water District watershed rangers, the protectors of Mt. Tamalpais on the 100th anniversary of their inception in 1917.

A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout.

The video documents the (usually) very peaceful life of a fire lookout in the Gardner Lookout on the East Peak of Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County, California.  I've been a Marin County Fire Department volunteer lookout for years and deeply love the mountain and the peace it brings to us here in the Bay Area.  Perhaps this 6-minute video will convey some of the emotions I feel when sitting (and sleeping) on her peak.

Media about the film includes:

Kessler University:  discussion of the use of timelapse techniques to tell a deeper story
Adobe Photoshop Blog:  in-depth about video concepts and post-processing
The Atlantic:  focussed on the responsibilities of a fire lookout
Marin Independent Journal:  report on the viral nature of the video
KALW Radio:  feature Audiograph radio story about life in the fire tower

"The Trace They Leave Behind"

An exploration of how Sitting Bull's words were Zio Ziegler's inspiration for the mural on the wall of the Sequoia Cinema in Mill Valley, California.

You can read an excellent article about the film and the mystery of the plaque here.

Mountains Made of Chalk, Fall into the Sea, Eventually.

A Meditation on Impermanence.

The second film in my West Peak trilogy. -- The synergy of creative collaboration can result in magic beyond our imagining.  Witnessing Genna Panzarella paint this 8x10' mural of Mt. Tamalpais as it was when it was whole, literally inside of what used to be the mountaintop, is akin to stealing a peek through the kimono of mystery... the misty mystery of impermanence. Created as part of the ongoing project to raise awareness about the need to restore the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais.  

Chalk painter:  Genna Panzarella
Sponsored by Italian Street Painting Marin
Soundtrack from "Serenity" by Michael Hoppé and Harold Moses:  
Filmed with the permission of the Marin Municipal Water District.

Media about the film:
Marin Independent Journal article about the film.
Mill Valley blog post about the concept behind the film.


Song of the Last Place (There is nowhere else to go.)

The third film in my West Peak trilogy.
Musicians:  Katy Boyd (cello), Jimmy Dillon (guitar)  -  Based on JS Bach's 5th Cello Suite (Serabande)
Marin Independent Journal article about the film by Paul Liberatore. and piece about the trilogy.

Please read this poem before watching. It was the inspiration for this film.

by Lew Welch

This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.

Human movements,
but for a few,
are Westerly.
Man follows the Sun.

This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.

Or follows what he thinks to be the
movement of the Sun.
It is hard to feel it, as a rider,
on a spinning ball.

This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.

Centuries and hordes of us,
from every quarter of the earth,
now piling up,
and each wave going back
to get some more.

This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.

“My face is the map of the Steppes,”
she said, on this mountain, looking West.
My blood set singing by it,
to the old tunes,
Irish, still,
among these Oaks.

This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.

This is why
Once again we celebrate
the great Spring Tides.
Beaches are strewn again with Jasper,
Agate, and Jade.
The Mussel-rock stands clear.

This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.

This is why
Once again we celebrate the
Headland’s huge, cairn-studded, fall
into the Sea.

This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.

For we have walked the jeweled beaches
at the feet of the final cliffs
of all Man’s wanderings.

This is the last place. There is nowhere else we need to go.

Full Moon Pacific Blanket - SF Bay

The Bay Area is famous for its dense fog, and when you're in it the fog is cold and grey.  But there's another side to the fog and the only way to see what happens when it fully comes in and blankets the SF Bay Area at night is to be above it.  Because Mt. Tam is closed to everyone but rangers and fire lookout volunteers after sunset, very few people have ever seen the majestically mysterious vapors of the Pacific ocean as it flows in to completely cover the Bay.  What starts as a partial blanket quickly rushes in to fill the gaps and by 1am, the lights of the cities below eventually become completely smothered.  

music:  "Tsunami" (Die Welle) by Rüdiger Oppermann (
In-depth article about how the film was made. 

Growing up on the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais: Interview with Lisa and Madelyn Byrne

Two of the six daughters of Lieutenant Colonel John Byrne, commander of the Mill Valley USAF 666th Air Warning Squadron on the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais from 1957-1959, speak about their childhood experiences living at the top of the mountain.

"The Old Railroad Grade" by Dore Coller

A celebration of the Mt. Tamalpais & Muir Woods Railway
Dore Coller, guitar & vocals
Dan Large, mandolin & vocals
Steve Kalai, fiddle and vocals
Gary Kaye, banjo
Larry Arlin, bass & vocals
written by Dore Coller and recorded at STR Studio L in Mill Valley
video by Gary Yost for the Mill Valley Historical Society (
special thanks to Debra Schwartz (and to Thomas Edison for the historical footage)

iPhone meets Steep Ravine

Wandering along Webb Creek in Steep Ravine, Mt. Tamalpais State Park. (iPhone7+)

Sky Road Webb & Jane Hirshfield at a benefit for Mt. Tamalpais

Sky Road Webb shares Miwok stories and introduces poet Jane Hirshfield, who performs a reading of her poetry relating to the mountain, with images from Gary Yost.  At a benefit for Mt. Tamalpais in Mill Valley's Throckmorton Theater on May 5th, 2016

Selected scenes from upcoming Mt. Tam fire lookout mini-documentary.

A collection of many timelapse sequences shot at the Mt. Tam East Peak Gardner Fire Lookout during one 3-day lookout shift in August, 2012.  Pieces of these were used as a part of my Mt. Tamalpais fire lookout 6-minute mini-documentary for the Marin County Fire Department, "A Day in the Life of a Fire Lookout."

Music:  "Geometry of Dreams" from the album "Bow and Cello" by Gretchen Yanover

Photogrammetry time-lapse composites of the Mill Valley Air Force Station

Source images from the Library of Congress archives.


The Story of the Making of "The Invisible Peak"

This is the story of a guy from New Jersey who fell in love with a mountain in California.  

Filmed by Todd Osborn on the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais.  More information about the work of the Tamalpais Lands Collaborative. 

Mt. Tam West Peak Status Update

May 2016 update about the initial planning work on the Mt. Tamalpais West Peak Restoration Project.

Doug McConnell & Armando Quintero discuss the Mt. Tam West Peak Restoration Project

Doug McConnell and MMWD board member Armando Quintero discuss the progress being made to clean up the vestigial remains of the Mill Valley Air Force Station and restore the West Peak of Mt. Tamalpais to a natural state.

More about OneTam.

Mt. Tam Fire Lookout Glory (40 seconds)

Sun glory definition, from Wikipedia:  

A glory is an optical phenomenon that resembles an iconic saint's halo about the shadow of the observer's head. The effect is believed to happen due to classical wave tunneling, when light nearby the droplet tunnels through air inside the droplet and, in the case of glory, is emitted backwards due to resonance effects.

That's the Gardner Fire Lookout shadow in the halo.  I was shooting this from the north catwalk of the  Lookout on East Peak, which explains why the center of the Glory is where I was standing.

The angular size is much smaller than a rainbow, about 5° to 20°, depending on the size of the droplets. The glory can only be seen when the observer is directly between the sun and cloud of refracting water droplets. Hence, it is commonly observed whilst airborne, with the glory surrounding the airplane's shadow on clouds (this is often called The Glory of the Pilot). Glories can also be seen from mountains and tall buildings, when there are clouds or fog below the level of the observer. The phenomenon is related to the optical phenomenon anthelion.

Music:  "Sky" by Sky

Hidden West Peak Forest

Short and immersive study (with a surprise ending) of a beautiful section of the forest behind the FAA radome at West Peak on Mt. Tamalpais.  This area was closed in 1942 when the Air Force temporary radar site was installed there and it's still fenced off. My hope is that one day it will be a marked connecting spur from the International Trail where it intersects with the Lakeview Trail on Middle Peak, providing access on the northside over to the old helipad on West Peak.  This will connect all three of the Tamalpais peaks for the first time in 72 years, opening up a new set of awesome hikes.  


Mt. Tamalpais Air Force Station - Fog / Peace

30-second meditation on peace at the site of the former nuclear weapons targeting center on top of Mt. Tamalpais.

Chant by Silvia Nakkach.

Prayer for Mt. Tamalpais