Some people would say the very last thing they would want to do on vacation is sleep on the ground. In a tent. In the great outdoors. But so many aspects of that type of experience cannot be replicated or simulated in any way, and that's why I spent a week on a Sierra Club outing to Point Reyes National Seashore, CA.
For instance, nothing matches the intrinsic beauty of waking up to the singing and chattering of real birds at the first sign of dawn:
And where else can you make friends with people from all over the country and different walks of life who suddenly are thrust together for a week (24/7, I might add) to figure out how to share camp cuisine, companionship and conversation? And we did it all while carrying our belongings over 38 miles of hiking trails through multiple ecosystems!
Group photo, courtesy K.Bardwell, 2019
Of course we experienced some challenges, too...mainly the weather. We hiked uphill on the day the temperature hit 102 and downhill into the coastal fog when it went into the 60s.
We put up a tarp (left) to create some shade the day it went over 100 degrees, and kept water on the boil for hot drinks the morning it was wet and in the low 60s (right, photo courtesy T.Ingovate, 2019)
But we also observed the effects of seismic activity and wildfires, heard the calls of wildlife, viewed groups of harbor seals swimming in the sea below us, and investigated a replica Miwok village compound.
Notice the two fences in the photo above. In 1906, there was one contiguous fence in this location until the San Andreas fault ruptured, moving Pt. Reyes up to 20 feet to the northwest. The fences were rebuilt in their final resting places to demonstrate the force of nature.
The Coast Miwok inhabited this area of California before the arrival of the Europeans. This re-created village demonstrates how the Miwok lived, using the abundant resources available in the surrounding lands and sea.
As with any outing where you are more or less at the mercy of the elements, even the best thought-out plans can hit a snag. We had planned to visit Allamere Falls at low tide, as it requires a walk along the shoreline that goes underwater at any other time. Unfortunately, the upcoming full moon made the low tide pretty high, so by the time we got close to the falls, we found the path impassable and had to turn around. The magnificent views and vibrant colors of the Pacific provided excellent photo opportunities regardless, and many of us took some great shots that afternoon.
The wildlife was abundant, even if we only saw evidence of them, and not the creatures themselves. We observed a variety of birds, Tule Elk, mountains of mussels, and even starfish and sea anemones.
Some of us even had the chance to record the frenetic activity of a Botta's pocket gopher who emerged from underground, right in the middle of our campsite one evening!
We waded through waist-high grass where the path was barely visible, lunched under the shade of enormous conifers, and enjoyed vistas of the entire peninsula from high points. Many of the park's wildflowers were in full bloom, hosting a number of insects and birds, including my favorite, the California quail, who are amazingly swift and hard to photograph.
Amazing sunset photo, courtesy S.Aseo, 2019
From beginning to end, the trip was a huge success! The company was terrific, the physical challenge just right, the views incomparable, and the opportunity to spend time in nature and learn about a new place perfect!