My time here in California is quickly drawing to a close – the summers always seem to fly by! When I came here, I brought a fair bit of camping gear with me (since I was driving, that was possible), and therefore I had decided that I basically HAD to go camping at least once, to make it worth having brought it all! Thankfully, I found a wonderful and enthusiastic camping partner in my roommate, Karina! Collaborating together, we managed to plan everything quite nicely: I reserved us a spot (for free!) at Haypress campground in Sausalito, organized our camping supplies, and acquired the all-important ingredients for S’mores (!), and Karina planned our hiking and the rest of our food!
After packing up the car, we headed off mid-day for Mount Tamalpais. We spent some time looking for a parking spot (it was a nice Saturday, after all), and then trekked off into the forest! We wound through some various trails, following Karina’s map, until we got on our target – the trail to Cataract Falls. It was quite a hike! About 9 miles in total, it involved several hundred steps, and a steep, continuous downhill for several miles.
While a downhill might sound nice and leisurely, boy was it not! My legs were truly shaking by the end, and the steep uphills felt tremendously easier and more preferable on the way back. It was also quite deceiving – I must have thought we’d gotten to the end at least five times, each time only to find that the trail did in fact continue! All of that said, it was a beautiful trail, and absolutely worth the effort! We stopped for some scrumptious avocado sandwiches (made by Karina), on a rock on the way there. Although surrounded by fog, the setting was still quite beautiful – and made rather mysterious by the mist.
The falls were beautiful, and the views throughout the trail gorgeous – definitely enough to keep us going! After reaching the official “endpoint” of the trail, we headed back. While normally I find return trips to be less exciting in cases such as this, because you’re essentially retracing your earlier steps, a fun feature of this hike was that was absolutely not the case! As we headed back to the rock we’d stopped at for our sandwiches, we found the mist dispersed, and incredible bird’s-eye views in seemingly every direction! Here we had been sitting, enjoying our food, not knowing that stunning views lay just beyond the clouds! Thankfully, we got to fully appreciate and enjoy them on the return route. We stopped in a nice shady spot for our other sandwiches – PB with apples – with me settling on a rounded tree bump (a bump, not a stump), and Karina scampering up to enjoy her sandwich from a tree branch higher up.
Returning to our car, we settled down to rest our legs and drive to our final destination for the evening – Haypress Campground! We found the campground parking lot easily enough, but then found a bit of a dilemma. It was about a 0.5-1 mile hike to the campground from the parking lot, and we didn’t have any good hiking backpacks/bag to carry all of our gear. So loading ourselves up with our water jug, sleeping back, canvas bag, one backpack, one string backpack, two blanket rolls, and various and sundry other items, we headed off. The water jug was by far the most awkward/annoying (the campground didn’t have water), but by passing it off back and forth between us, we eventually made it to the campground! And then we enjoyed some apples right away because we were both starving! We set up our tent without too much trouble – I hadn’t been camping in a long time, and had tried setting up the tent once just before I came to CA, which made things much easier, I think. As it was still fairy early in the evening, we set up a bit more, and then settled at our picnic table to enjoy some books for a bit. Once it got a little later, we set up our little stove (no fires allowed at this campground), and made some beans! We didn’t even really need the beans, but we wanted to cook something, just to get the full camping experience!
Then we attempted to make S’mores with the little burner. This did not turn out quite as well as we would have liked, but we enjoyed them all the same! (And we also did a take two on the S’mores, minus the outdoor ambiance, on the stove/in the microwave at home the following evening!) Then we cleaned up our food, packed away our things from any interested animals, and settled down for the night!
I can’t say it was my best night of sleep ever, but it was fun to drift off to the sounds of nature at night. When we awoke the next morning, we packed up our gear, enjoyed some pancakes warmed on the stove with bananas and cinnamon, and set off back down the road (much more easily thanks to an empty water jug!).
As we pulled back in towards our townhouse, I’ll admit I got rather sad. There’s something about camping/going out in nature that gives you a whole different kind of break – that lets you really get away and forget about all your everyday obligations! I love that, but it does make it hard to come back. All in all, it was an excellent experience! Karina and I were really very pleased with ourselves, and how well everything had turned out, considering neither of us had very significant camping experience. And I can now return home in good conscience, knowing I brought all my camping gear for a reason!