I hiked over twelve miles, finally felt rain on my skin again, had some pretty awesome deep conversations with people I’ve never met before, visited the most beautiful town I’ve seen in the USA so far, slept in my car there, cooked meals without fire using just water and time, heard the most beautiful guitar playing ever and saw the famous San Andreas Fault damaged fence. Except coming here (literally last-time plan), all of it completely unplanned. Or, was it?
[all names in this article have been changed in order to protect my companions’ identities]
Thursday evening. We were supposed to go to Yosemite with my friend. Friday morning, she canceled the plans. Because I didn’t feel like driving so far alone that day, staring at the Mount Tamalpais and Point Reyes map, I made up a new plan. Which didn’t work out either, and still worked out perfectly. Wondering how this could have happened?
(if you like watching videos better, you can watch my vlog from that weekend HERE)
In my original plan, I wanted to hike in about 7 miles, camp at Coast campground, hike out the other day (about 11 miles) and go home. But I messed something up with the reservation system – and I ended up just trying my luck in case somebody canceled. For staying in the area, you need a permit. I didn’t get one. No camping for me.
I was really looking forward to it, I haven’t been camping (or, here they call it “backpacking” – in my language there’s just one word for it so I often confuse people here when I say “camping” and they are, like, ‘Hey, but there’s no road to get there, how do you wanna camp there?’) since I left for my high school or longer. When I was a child, my dad used to bring us sometimes, but it’s been a couple of years since I actually wandered off and stayed in a tent or under the stars overnight.
I came up with a new plan for the hike and converted it into a something over 12 miles long loop, leaving the rest of the day and weekend completely without any plan.
And when you do this, amazing things often happen.
But let’s not rush.
I left my tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and some of the food in my car and hit the trail. At the very beginning, there was a hill waiting for me, almost 1300 ft ascent in a bit under 2 miles. I know, it’s nothing so bad. But I am in literally no shape. Oh, well, I got better since moving to Cali, I can go up the stairs without losing my breath! Does this count like a big improvement?
Not so far below the top, it started to rain. Well, not really, it was just the dew falling down the trees – but, oh boy, it made me so happy! I haven’t seen rain for quite some time – and for somebody who grew up having rain at least every week or two, it started to be a bit depressing (I know, I’m probably the only person you’ve ever met who is depressed when there’s no rain instead of when there’s no sun).
On this wet trail, I saw a banana slug for the first time in my life!
I didn’t put on my rain jacket. It wasn’t “raining” so much for this piece of clothes – and what more, every cool drop of water on my skin felt so great! I felt… Well, I imagine this is how people feel at the starting point of drunkness. My spirits were lifted, I smiled – and even laughed out loud for no obvious reason (I’m sorry, you three young hikers who passed me on my way and probably thought to get away from me asap) and wanted to sing. Joy.
I felt joy because of a few drops of water on my skin.
I made it to the top! There were clouds racing over the hill, you could see the fog to literally fly over you. It felt and looked amazing. Like if I was in some fantasy movie (if it were a horror movie, it probably wouldn’t feel so great – but on the other hand, I would probably survive the longest as at the same moment something or somebody would want to kill me, I would be just, like, ‘Oh no, sir, no thank you, for I have to admire this beauty for a bit longer’).
(this picture is edited, the fog was so thick it was impossible for me to take a good pic straight away, the original was almost pure white)
Past a fingerpost I went, checking in with my map. I just joined the Sky Trail and started my slow descent.
Everything was so GREEN. It felt amazing.
It didn’t take me long to get to another crossing. My way led me straight into the most mystically looking part of the wood. I stopped there for a second to just admire the calmness and tranquility of the fog covering up the trees in front of me.
And that was where I met my first companion of the day, an Indian man in his early forties (I guess, I have no idea how old he actually was).
Next two and a half miles of walking were enriched with some really deep and meaningful conversation. If you read my article about hiking in Yosemite, you know by now, how much I enjoy a good conversation theme (and you are probably wondering how does it come that I always meet Indian men on my travels – I have no idea).
We walked through the thick fog, listened to the quiet disturbed by nothing but our steps, shared our snacks to create a perfect trail mix (raisins from me and almonds and walnuts from him) and when we reached the path crossing where our ways were about to split, gave each other warm goodbye and wandered off.
I can say without fear that during this short time I learned more than most of my teachers in schools.
How does it come that I alway learn so much from strangers?
My next steps led me through Baldy Trail. A very – VERY – primitive trail mostly completely disappearing in the undergrowth with bushes growing over your head. I strongly recommend bringing your machete if you plan hiking this trail (hope you know I’m just kidding – a brush cutter will be more effective).
The path is full of deep cuts from when there are strong storms and the water creates its own little river basins in the ground. You need to pay attention not to twist your ankle there.
Even with my eyes constantly fixed on the path, I almost stepped on a snake. Luckily for me (well, probably for both of us, but…) it sprinted off to hide in the bushes. (Can I say about a snake that it sprinted?)
Reaching the bottom of the valley, I walked over a bridge and started to climb my last uphill of the day, aiming for Glen campground.
I would love to say that it was easy and I have reached the campground in no time, but the truth is that the last hill was more than what my body could do in somewhat comfortable zone and when I finally reached the campground, my brain was trying to persuade me to regret the decision to come here.
Well, I didn’t let it – why would I? – and enjoyed my lunch watching some birds hopping around and apparently having fun. Yes, they had fun, don’t even try to say the opposite – how else would you describe climbing up on a log just to jump down on your siblings and repeat this for 45 minutes?
I set off onto the trail and begun my slow descent onto the final part of my way – a nice and straight bike route without any hills (really, not even one!). And that is where I met my today’s companion/teacher number two, a young man in his twenties with a huge, huge backpack.
And we spent the rest of our hikes together.
It was a different kind of conversation. While with the Indian man we talked about deep things, now our talking included everything from backpacking tips to language skills. And, of course, an exchange of opinions on everything im/possible.
In no time, we reached the parking lot and gave each other goodbye. I then ran to the visitor center to utilize the possibility of being able to use a bathroom – I had no idea if I was going to find any other one so this kind of comfort was very welcome.
And the hunt for a place to sleep begun.
Hunting for a place to sleep
There were some campgrounds around, even with the comfort of bathrooms and showers. But, hey, I wasn’t going to pay $65 for a night there (plus some hidden fees), that would be almost half of my weekly salary! No, no. And so I spent about 45 minutes driving around, looking for some cheaper place where to stay for the night.
And found nothing.
I stopped at the edge of a small road in the middle of nowhere and made my dinner – because, obviously, I couldn’t have a fire, I just poured water over some noodles and let the time do the work.
By that time it was clear I wasn’t going to sleep in my tent and that I wasn’t going to find any other place to stay for a reasonable price (from my perspective, of course, I guess everybody else would be OK with the prices).
And so, while my noodles were being done, I started to convert my car so I could sleep in it. I took out children’s car seats (yes, I have three car seats in the back because of my work), cast down two of the seats. But, because my car is a bit older and everything but sleep-in-friendly, What I got was… Well… Here’s the picture, I don’t know how exactly I could describe it.
Anyway, it was better than nothing and after I ate my not-as-yummy-as-always noodles and brushed my teeth, I drove to one town I went through earlier in my search for a place to stay and found a nice spot to blend in with other cars.
Having everything prepared to go to sleep, I walked to the edge of the most beautiful town I’ve seen in the USA so far. There was fog rolling down the hills covered in thick woods and dark was coming quickly.
Decided to go to sleep early, I headed back to my car and… yes, some of you may have already guessed, I met my third and last Teacher of that day.
Now, I’d love to write about every single thing we talked about but that would be quite difficult as our conversation included tens of minutes spent in complete quiet but still somehow shared.
That’s just some of the many things we shared with each other.
It was truly a peculiar time.
Time to go?
Besides the fact that I had to wake up every single time I wanted to turn because the “hole” leading to the trunk which half of my body disappeared in was too small and I could lay on my side only when I was in the trunk all the way up to my waist (and in that position I couldn’t stretch my legs), the night was really good. Nothing (but turning) woke me up, nobody knocked on my window, the night was peaceful and calm.
The evening before I mixed some oats with water and let the time do the magic, so, in the morning, I had my breakfast and coffee in one go as I mixed the coffee and sugar into the oats to give them some taste.
Now, I know that “Trail Angels” are only around AT and PCT etc. but I had my own one here. As I was eating the oats, Martin came and brought me some blueberry pastry (which I don’t know how was called but which tasted like heaven) from a nearby coffee shop which I had no idea was there.
“Farewell,” said he, as he got in his car and set off on his own long journey.
Now, I know how many times you’ve probably heard not to trust people.
Since I was a child, I had this “problem” trusting everyone, not being able to see the “bad” things.
And it stayed with me.
And I am glad for it.
It’s really liberating, to trust people.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t be careful, you definitely should; I just think that it’s necessary to keep some trust in people, in that there are good people and that not everybody is a villain.
A short walk in the town. As I have said already, it was the most beautiful town I’ve seen in the USA so far.
The cheese shop, the bookstore, the library and the church, the old farm, the fire station, even their Wells Fargo looked like from a western movie and I couldn’t but to smile all the time.
(if you want to see more of the town, you can watch my video HERE – if you are interested in the town only, skip to the 7.50 time mark)
But I couldn’t stay there forever. On Monday morning I had to get up to work and I still wanted to see the San Andreas Fault zone. And so, when I felt it was time to leave, I gave goodbye to this little piece of my personal paradise and hit the road once more.
To get to the famous fence damaged in 1906 during the big earthquake which destroyed San Francisco and moved the ground 16 to 20 feet in opposite directions, you have to drive to a Bear Valley Visitor Center parking lot. You leave your car there and follow the Earthquake Trail, a really short trail with informative signs.
Even when reading all the information signs (even the ones written especially for children), I arrived at the fault in no time.
The fault line is marked with blue poles so you know in which direction you shouldn’t run if an earthquake was to come. Well, if you were able to move at all… I have never experienced an earthquake but I guess that if you were so close to the epicenter, you wouldn’t really be able to run…
I walked few wooden steps to get to the fence. And, man, it felt weird. I know it was probably completely just me being scared but my legs shook almost imperceptibly.
With the last look towards the visitor center and the green hills behind it, I turned the key in the ignition and set off to go home.
Farewell, Point Reyes.
And have a beautiful day! 🙂