World's Shortest
Backpacking Trip

Marin Headlands, Golden Gate NRA, April 10-11, 2004
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On Friday I headed up to the San Francisco area where my sister Kristine and
brother-in-law Joe reside.  I have been trying to get them to try backpacking and
found the perfect opportunity... A campsite in the Marin Headlands, part of the Golden
Gate National Recreation Area, which is only 3/4 of a mile in. It would be a very short
intro to the idea of backpacking, having to pack light and carry everything on your back.

Well, the first lesson on carrying a light load pretty much fell on deaf ears.  Of course
Joe had to bring copious amounts of reading material.  Kristine had to bring her entire
toiletry kit.  At least they didn't bring their Coleman tent stake mallet!  No, I'm just
teasing, they did okay with the packing.

So after packing up we drove over the Golden Gate and into the Headlands where we
stopped at the visitor center to get our permit. The campsites there are free and
they even offer use of the hostel's kitchen and showers which is near the visitor
center. If I ever go to SF for an extended period of time and can't stay with my
sister for some reason, I'm going to do that instead. Heck with expensive hotel rooms!

After picking up our permit we took a short stroll out to the Point Bonita Lighthouse.
It was the first lighthouse on the West Coast and it is in a spectacular spot at the
mouth of the Golden Gate. To get there you hike down a steep path then through a
tunnel then over a suspension bridge. After the lighthouse we went over to the Marine
Mammal Center where they rescue and rehabilitate seals and sea lions. Then it was off
to buy a few burritos (I offered to cook dinner at the campsite but they thought
eating in town would be easier.) So we headed into Mill Valley and as we got out of the
car we spotted Bonnie Raitt walking a dog. Is this the first ever trail report to have a
Hollywood sighting? lol So then back to the trailhead we went and got our packs and we
were off!

After a grueling hike that lasted, oh, 20 minutes or so, we were at our campsite. The
setting was quite nice, green hills abloom with wildflowers and interspersed with little
glades of eucalyptus. We set up the tent and we had strawberries dipped in vanilla
yoghurt for desert  Every now and then we could hear a great horned owl and the fog
horn from the strait.

In the morning I made us all oatmeal and tea for breakfast and we watched as two
coveys of California Quail search in the long grass for their breakfast. Then we packed
up and headed out.
From Marin we headed up Hwy 1 to Point Reyes National Seashore. Now there's a
place I have to go back to. It was absolutely glorious up there! We hiked out to
the tippy tip tip of the Point, out the Chimey Rock Trail, and I've never seen so
many wildflowers blooming along the ocean! Thousands, millions of iris, Indian
paintbrush, asters, yarrow, gentians, two kinds of lupine, poppies - I counted 27
species all interspersed out there on that wild windy headland! Every single color
of flower imaginable amongst the green grass.  Down below the cliffs in small
curves of sand we saw hundreds of elephant and harbor seals. Then out off the
Point we spotted a grey whale then her calf spouting and their backs rising above
the waves. Talk about a great place!

Then we went to the northern tip of the park and saw herds of tule elk grazing
amongst the iris. We walked down to McClures Beach and combed it for
interesting shells but ended up only carrying a few pieces of plastic trash back up
the trail, as usually happens when I go to a beach.

So overall it was quite an enjoyable weekend, and who knows, maybe next time I
can get Kristine and Joe to go backpacking on, say, a 3 mile trip ;)