It was Thursday afternoon, and I was free and desiring a little adventure. My friend, Nathaniel (who traded in his car for a bicycle 5 year ago), was free too. We initially talked about heading to the Ferry Building in San Francisco to checkout Cowgirl Creamery and Hog Island Oyster retail stores. Instead, we opted to go “to the source” of both those retail outlets, which happen to be located near or in Point Reyes National Seashore, and throw in an impromptu biking and one night camping trip. This was perfect for me as I wanted to experiment with some more of my untested camping equipment. Side note…I love that camping is a viable option given that it is December after all.
Point Reyes National Seashore, located about thirty miles North of San Francisco, is a 71,028-acre park preserve known for its diversity of both seafaring and onshore animals and plant life…and encompasses the famed Drakes Bay Oyster farm –now in battle to stay put within the park.
We loaded up my car with our gear and bikes, and head out around 10:30 am. First stop, the Sports Basement. I needed some sort of fuel for my Brunton cook stove that I’ve had for more than 5 years and never tried (gulp!). The stove’s claim to fame is that it is supposed to operate with any sort of liquid fuel. I wanted to try gasoline, but both Nathaniel and the sales clerk discouraged me…might effect the food flavor, they mused. I since learned more about that (coming soon a cook stove review). Anyway, I picked up some propane….and a few snack items.
We rolled into the little town of Point Reyes Station about an hour later. First, we came upon a fine thrift store and secured a fork for Nathaniel, and some cat food for his kitty (Just kidding…no cat food, but one can really was for sale…I love thrift stores, you do just find the darnedest things). With rumbling bellies, we came upon the Cowgirl Creamy just a short stroll down the road. The friendly counter gal offered us generous samples of every type of cheese that they produce. From soft to hard, cow to sheep, mild to spicy, about 6 in total, and they were all delicious. Who knew it had a café too? Bonus! We munched down some fantastic cheese crowned sandwiches…and snagged a cheese wedge for the road.
We loaded up on some food supplies at the local grocery store, and took off to find our home for the night. Neither of us was familiar with the camping options, so we let the helpful volunteers at the Bear Valley Visitors Center make recommendations. The four campgrounds located in the actual recreation area are all hike-in or bike-in sites with pit toilets only. A bonus water spigot was available at each for drinking and dish cleaning purposes. We opted for Coast Camp ($20), a campground described as very close to the beach and with a 2 mile easy bike ride. We unfortunately learned that the “Spare the Air” ban (http://sparetheair.org/) was in effect, which prohibited campfires so as to pollute the air (ah, no comment on that one…ya know, as people on bike trip after all) — So much for keeping warm by a fire. Thank goodness the primary camping item that I wanted to test was my cook stove. My fingers were crossed that it would work so we could at least eat.
We loaded up our bikes, complete with a full-size Scrabble game and my extra robust sleeping bag (big, but warm as hell)…and enjoyed a lovely meandering ride –first through woods and then along the coast to the campground. Our timing was perfect in terms of available light to unload and set up camp. We no sooner got done and sauntered down to the beach, only to round a corner to experience a breathtaking sunset. We scrambled up into a huge tree strategically set for optimal viewing, and later strolled the beach while the colors over the ocean turned from golds and oranges to reds, dark pinks and purples.
With the sun down, it got cold…like really cold –especially after the wind picked up…and picked up it did! Thankfully, the park guides had suggested a site with some protection from the wind. Even with that, it was the gustiest wind night I’ve ever experienced in a tent.
Time to test the ole cook stove. It took a bit to figure out how to work it, but we got it (despite the French directions). Then the fun was keeping it lit long enough of heat up some water for our much anticipated pasta dinner. Okay…so why didn’t I listen to Nataniel when he suggested a bit less water? I’m stubborn some times! We would pop in and out of our protective tent to make sure the water was still boiling. Eventually, the water almost boiled, and we added the noodles. The sauce was tasty, but the chewy noodles were a little odd. Fortunately, we were so hungry by the time it was finally ready, that we both ate it happily…and we still had the fine cheese, and chocolate to give the dinner moral support.
Despite the wind, we took a moment to lay in our sleeping bags out under the stars. They were in abundance and show bright. The wind made watching the clouds speed by them all the more interesting and beautiful. Sleep wasn’t easy with the wind wiping the tent. Not until we removed the rain fly, did some sound sleep ensue.
We carefully put all food items, and any items that could possibly smell of food, into the metal storage-locker provided. We were now attuned to those clever raccoons after our last adventure. In the morning, we discovered that while we indeed secured ourselves against the coons, the mice prevailed! What? Whoever heard of mice getting into a metal food-storage locker? Fortunately, these rodents were not big eaters, so only a few items were compromised. We fired up the cook stove again and finished off our fuel cooking up some tasty BLTs…with some more of the cheese added! Yum!
Note for next camp trip…bring body wipes and a French press. I think these would be good adds even to an extended bike trip. You just never know when you are going to need to feel a little cleaner or a little more caffeinated!
The hope was to have a kayak adventure that day, but the winds proved to be prohibitive. We opted instead for some beach hiking. We had fun wandering the shore alongside crashing surf, checking out tide pools, and watching seals play in the waves. Given the slightly sleep-deprived night, we indulged in a nap in our now perfect temperature tent. We awoke to find all the contents in our bike bags (which had been on the bikes all night…why now?) strewn all over the ground. Raccoons!! Fortunately, the mischievous creatures know how to unzip bags, so they did not tear any of the bags. They just made a mess and got Nathaniel’s Good and Plenty candy. Broad daylight…the nerve!
We packed it all back in and meandered our way back to the big city. We took a pit stop in the quaint town of San Anselmo, and watched life go by as we ate our sandwiches and sipped coffee on a picnic bench…and then finally called it a day. A very nice little adventure for sure.