Backpack Camping in Point Reyes National Seashore

Last year I had told myself on my birthday that I was going to do the California “Lost Coast” Trail as a birthday challenge for myself.  My birthday was in October, and I am not that far from the next birthday now.  Life gets busy, I can start to loose a little focus,  and sometimes those goals get a little further during the course that time.

The Lost Coast Trail is actually where the people in charge of building California’s famous Highway 1 actually decided not to build.  Where the Highway known for its beautiful cliffside and coastlines, decided… “meh… this area looks a little too rough for roads”.  Where you actually have to shuttle a couple hours, or have two cars so that you can get from the start and the end of the trail.  It’s a couple days long and can take you on some challenging terrain… and somehow I convinced myself that this should be a goal for me this year.

Well, it’s almost October and I have no backpack camping training to show for it.  I somehow convinced my very supportive husband, Peabe, to do a Point Reyes Backpacking trip with me.  We signed up with a company called Treks and Tracks out of the Bay Area and were lucky enough to get a pretty good deal through a third party flash-sale site.  My goal, to survive a couple miles through what may be pretty similar terrain, camp out for a night, hike back, and not kill my husband in the process.  It sounds easy enough, right?

I put together a 35 pound pack, actually lots more than my husband was going to carry in order to get a feel of what I would imagine my pack would be for the Lost Coast.  Evie would definitely not survive this, so we had her spend the time at one of her best bud’s place.  We met our guide, Heidi, and the rest of the group close to the southern end of the park on a Friday morning.  The day immediately started to get surprisingly warm and was really nice until we were walking in unshaded areas.  We did a bit of group stretching in the lot and we set off for the first 5.5 mile hike into Point Reyes.

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Peabe and I trailed in the back which actually gave us some time to catch up with each other, which we don’t really have the time to do sometimes.  I was also able to take photos freely from this point, and not feel like I’m getting in anyone’s way, except sometimes I was just a little too winded to get the shot I wanted.  Totally getting a reality check regarding my fitness and endurance.

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We broke for a lunch and sat in the shade by one of their smaller lakes.  This was my view.

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The singing Steller’s Jay that hung out during our little break.

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We passed a couple of bodies of water along the trail, but I believe this one is peaceful Pelican Lake.

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We kept on walking… and walking… and walking… stopping only for a short break at a time to regroup, talk about different methods of hiking up and downhill, or to notice something in our view.

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The views were incredible, though, so we didn’t mind stopping at all.

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Finally making it to the area where we would set up camp, Peabe and I set up our tent and bags and just laid out for a bit to give our legs a break.

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With all food packed away and the tent set up, we walked over to the cliff’s edge to take in our view.

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Seriously, we had condors so close to us you felt like you could reach up and touch them.

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A short walk down to the beach gave us a better view of the not-so-far Alhamere Falls.  Do you see it?  All the way down along the cliffs?  No?  Yeah, it’s waaaay down there.  Only because I’m a glutton for punishment, I was convinced I wanted to hike another mile in the sand to see the falls.

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This guy took a little convincing.

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As we walked along the coast, we noticed we had some company.  There was a family of at least 4 dolphins that swam along with us.  It was pretty hard to catch all 4 of them coming up for the photo.

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We also had a couple friendly sea lion buddies who would come up close to tease when I wasn’t camera-ready.  In a frantic, out-of-breath panic I was able to get this quick snap before he went back to swimming with his friends.

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Our group was now way out of sight, and this one was dragging behind, and we were still about halfway to the falls.

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Finally arriving at Alhamere Falls and realizing, like most draught-prone California falls, the gushing water was more like a fast trickle.

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After that hike through the sand, we spent some time just cooling off a little in the spray.

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Watching the Pacific never gets old.

Unfortunately, I didn’t really bother taking photos of the rest of the night, but it was definitely one to remember.  We hiked back up to the cliffside camp and had dinner with the rest of the group.  Some wine was opened and the night got more interesting.  We all shared stories and learned a lot about each other that night.  It was a great group to be sharing that experience with.

Luckily, that night was also the night of the Perseid meteor shower.  I had my tripod and camera ready for the nights action, but was still watching the skies because it was a bit overcast by the ocean.  Unfortunately, the combination of my body aches and the wine made it very difficult to stay motivated for it.  I woke up once in the night to check, and after seeing what I think was clouds, I went back to sleep.

The night was chilly without my little Evie as my personal space heater in the tent.  I woke up thinking about her and wondering what she was doing.  She was actually a little upset that she wasn’t coming on this camping trip but quickly got over it when we told her she was having a slumber party with her friend.

I wasn’t out of my bag early enough to catch the whale swimming by our beach.  Some of the group went to go check it out in the morning, as I scrolled my phone for photos of my baby girl back in the tent.  We all got back together for breakfast with instant eggs and bacon and some coffee.  Then started taking down camp and packing it back up for the hike.

At this point, Peabe and I did 5.5 miles into camp and 2 miles to and from the falls, so the last 5.5 miles were tough.  I thought it would go by a to faster than it did, but I was glad to have Peabe there to keep me entertained.  At times we would break into song, sometimes it was an old Chicago house track sometimes it was a theme song from our daughter’s favorite cartoon.  Either way, it helped the time pass.

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The walk can’t be all that bad if you are finding some gorgeous wild orchids along the trail.

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We kept calling these the “Totoro” tunnels, and there was a lot of them around with the wind-swept trees.

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Poison oak was everywhere…. seriously, everywhere.  As my nephew mentioned that he doesn’t know what it looks like, I thought I would take a photo as a friendly PSA.  Leaves of 3, let them be.

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A rare photo of me by Peabe.  Sometimes, it’s like I never went on these trips because I’m not really documented in the photos.

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Another “Totoro” tunnel.

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Peabe really wanted to catch a glimpse of a whale, and kept checking when we would be by the water.

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Almost at the end of our trip, this is when I started dreaming of rolling down the poison oak hills into the ocean.

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A group photo, minus two who went a little ahead, after finishing our backpacking trip.  Seriously, a great group of people to share it with.

All packed up in the car after saying goodbye, I was telling Peabe all the aches in my body.  I thought for sure my back was bruised from the weight of my backpack and I lifted my shirt a little for him to check.  It was not bruised at all, but apparently I had a stowaway.  A tick somehow got onto my back and was hiding under the backpack so I didn’t even notice it was there.

With the backpacking crew still getting packed up in the lot, we got out of the car and called for backup.  Luckily, someone in the group came prepared with a “Tick Key” for such occasions.  Everyone gathered around me to remove the tick with key and a little lighter action.  I think, I would probably be more alarmed about the situation if I wasn’t so tired and ready to get back.  Either way, the little bugger wasn’t completely dug-in and wasn’t too bad to remove.  We made sure to treat it with some anti-bacterial stuff as soon as we got home too, just to be sure.

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We picked up Evie and was so excited to finally see her, and she was so tired from playing all weekend that she immediately knocked out in the car.  I couldn’t help but take a photo, she’s just so cute.

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In the end, am I ready for the Lost Coast trail?  I guess I would feel more comfortable with another backpacking experience under my belt, but I don’t want to put it off either.  With this month practically over, next month almost completely planned, school starting for Evie, and another vacation right around the corner, can you I fit hobbies like this in?  I hope so, I still want to do it.  Juggling life’s responsibilities with personal goals can be a bit tough at times, but sometimes it just needs to happen.  With my fingers crossed, I am putting out there on my blog and maybe it will hold me more accountable for making it happen.  Wish me luck… I’ll need it.

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