Trip Report - Point Reyes

Sky Camp Sunset (Matt Pritchard) More photos below.

By Jody Pritchard

This is where it all began. Up until April 2001, Matt and I spent our first four months of dating, sharing stories, and professing our love of the outdoors and spending time outside. Yet we had not actually gone anywhere together in a place requiring hiking boots. Our first adventure led us on a 3-day weekend excursion to Marin County's Point Reyes. Only 45 minutes from San Francisco, this National Park gem is right in our own backyard. We made reservations two months in advance (this is a very popular local site on the Northern California Coast) and began the process of planning our first trip together.

This is when I discovered Matt is a map dork. A navigation, compass hungry, triangulation wiz, map dork. It's an endearing trait that keeps him entertained, and us from getting lost - generally considered a Martha Stewart "Good Thing" of back country housekeeping. We picked up the first of many to follow Tom Harrison maps and planned our route, meals, and packing list. Packing for this trip was a showdown to see what actually hid in our individual mountain toy chests as we compared our equipment, deciding who's stove was better, who's tent to take, and who's cook kit weighed less. Our secrets revealed, we planned our itinerary and prayed for good weather.

It was pouring Friday morning. Not just a drop here and there, but the kind of rain I've only seen in California that drenches in blinding sheets of solid wetness - this is a lot coming from someone born and raised in the Northwest. Oh, and there was lighting too. Matt and I laughed uncontrollably as we picnicked in the safety of my Civic in the Rouge et Noir Cheese Factory's parking lot, munching on sandwiches and my new love, breakfast cheese. We each looked at each other with testing glances to see if the other would cave in - neither of us wanted to show the other even of hint of weakness. Game on.

By the time we arrived at the trailhead and got our packs on, the sun burst through and birds started to sing. Once we arrived at the beach, I realized what all the fuss was about. Point Reyes is a stunning, sparkling, haven on the Pacific Coast. The sand was warm, the water 50 shades of green and blue, and the arcing beaches of Drakes Bay stretched out as if to throw it's arms out and say, "Ta-Da!"

Our first night was spent at Coast Camp, a walk-in campground with grass, waist high shrubs, and a giant oak just off the beach. We were by no means roughing it. At Site 5, a picnic table, food storage locker, and grill - yes a BARBEQUE greeted us. The only thing missing was a cooler of beer! Perhaps the roughest thing about this place was avoiding the aroma of the ripe crew at the group campground on our way to the water faucet and pit toilet. All the while, Matt and I were talking about how this would be a great destination for first time packers due it's proximity to the trailhead, amenities, and reward of destination. After a dinner of freeze dried Mexican chicken and rice in tortillas, we took a romantic stroll on the beach at twilight, and we're lulled to sleep with the sound of waves crashing in the background, that, and Matt's snoring.

Bagels for breakfast, and a broken camp, Matt and I headed south along the beach towards our next destination: Sky Camp. Sky Camp is actually almost directly above Coast Camp by about 1000 ft. on the side of Mt. Wittenberg. But to only hike 4 miles in one day seemed like cheating. Wanting more of an excursion, and to look like a badass in front of the other, we hiked along the beach, then a bluff above the rocks with dried grasses, California Poppies, Ice plant, and poison oak lingering by our feet. I should mention here that Marin County is chock full of poison oak. Dress accordingly and be mindful of where you're stepping and resting your hands for balance.

We were able to piece together a nearly 8 mile hike by taking the Coast Trail south until it met the Sky Trail and followed it up the hill. This provided us with glittering views of the entire bay and even the Farallon Islands out in the distance. These islands are about 25 miles offshore from Point Reyes and consist of three groups of mountain peaks governed by the Point Reyes Bird Observatory where research on wildlife including Great White Sharks is conducted.

Sky Camp greeted us with the same luxuries as its brother down below and gorgeous, panoramic views. Although there was running water, Matt and I were sure we had heard somewhere it would be a good idea to filter our while at this site. Looking back now, there was probably no need, but it did provide us a chance to feel tough and test out our new Pur Hiker water filter. We dined on Mountain House Lasagna (by far, still our favorite freeze dried meal) and Matt taught me how to play cribbage as we sat at our picnic table enjoying the sunset. Because Sky Camp is fairly exposed on the side of the hill, it tends to cool down and get damp with fog very quickly. I get chilled easily and wished I had had a thicker hat and an extra layer. Next time.

Sunday morning we hiked out through the portion of the park burned in the 1995 Mt. Vision fire. This is an eerie zone where 90% of the Bishop pine forest was destroyed and ghostly silhouettes stand stark against a friendly blue sky. It was early in the season and the trail had not yet been cleared, so we took our time picking through the overgrown bushes and vines of wildflowers. By the time we got to the car, any concerns we had about the other's true love for the outdoors had been erased.

We drove towards our well deserved burritos with no music and sat in silence, content, and happy with the world.

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