The days filled with sun and blue skies have given way to wind and rain…a lot of rain. For those of us (aka: Me!) contemplating the next camping move, the rain is not exactly an ecstatic premise. However, the thirsty lands of our country’s fruit growers, nut purveyors, and cattle ranchers are drinking up the rain and everyone is talking rain with broad smiles. (Well, maybe not the folks who got stuck on the Bay Bridge when it flooded.)
When I came to visit a friend in San Francisco back in the mid 1990’s, I was not terribly impressed. The streets were painfully steep, the directions confusing, and people were everywhere. There are still people everywhere on the plummeting streets of San Fran, but the East Bay area—the cities just outside San Francisco with water and mountains—has welcomed me several times. In turn, I have become a vigilant visitor. The streets are bike friendly, the farmer’s markets (that’s plural) are plentiful and often, and there is a coffee shop or yoga studio on every corner—sometimes both. The East Bay is also where my dear friend, Kara, and her family lives and where I have cultivated many friendships that, quite honestly, make it very difficult to saddle up the wonderful Subaru and hit the trail.
While in the area, I have continued my visits to National Parks and Historic sites and even camped one night in a state park. A week after arriving, I took Kara and her six year daughter Lillie to Mt. Diablo State Park. After the gates were closed and the option to bug out early surrendered, Lillie informed us that she was cold, hated camping, and wanted to go home. That might have been enough of an obstacle to overcome, but the wind picked up and picked UP and picked UP as did my worry. For the entire night—as my arms stretched out to hold down the tent—I imagined we would be PICKED UP and tossed over the mountain’s edge. In one of the 40 mile per hour gusts I figured Lillie would never trust me again, but the trooper was all smiles and laughter the next morning and happily accepted a hot chocolate truce.
Tina is my yoga friend who I met years ago at a yoga retreat and then traveled with to India. No other way to get to know someone then spend a month together in a remote region of a country in a time zone 12 and a half hours away from home. She has taken me on numerous hikes including a grand post Turkey Day hike through Las Trampas Regional Wilderness Park where our tree was just as lovely as any of those found along the range. We also hiked up another section to visit Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House where he lived during the late thirties and early forties. Oh, the books I could write with that view in site!
Along with Tina and her family I participated in the first Voices Against Brain Cancer 5k in Golden Gate Park—a National Recreation Area. The event was not only held on an inspiring Sunday morning, but for an inspiring cause: to help raise money and awareness for individuals with brain cancer. I was honored to be a part of the Team Kauffman: Manifest Wellness!
Not far from Golden Gate Park are the piers where ferries can be found to transport folks to the islands in the Bay—even at 5:30am on Thanksgiving! That’s when my friend, Jen, and I caught a ferry for the sunrise service on Alcatraz. In California I feel the Indigenous People are celebrated and respected, but that may be my naïve interpretation. Also my naïve perception was the thinking that the Indigenous People were hosting a gathering to merely recognize the glory of nature and sun. Um, the Native Americans do not celebrate Thanksgiving so much. I mean those Pilgrims didn’t exactly enhance their lives. But being the every-so-clueless one, it took me a bit to understand why there was so much anger in the voices around the bonfire on the island. Alcatraz, another U.S. National Park designee, is considered sacred ground to the Indigenous People and the venue for the Sunrise Ceremony which began in 1975 to commemorate the protest of 1969 when Native Americans occupied the island trying to reclaim their land. I listened and tried to understand, but to be honest, I liked it when the protesters took a break and the chanting, dancing, and singing began. The costumes with huge headdresses were stunning against a back drop of clear skies and the sun rising over the Bay Bridge. The protesters on their soapboxes decrying our government reminded me that I am grateful to live a free country.
The Bay area is surrounded by plenty of places to explore and Angel Island and Mt Tamalpais remain on my list. But there is Muir Woods, Point Reyes, and countless other parks, sites and recreational areas. Just today I found my way to the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant. In 1940 the plant was retooled to make jeeps and tanks for the second World War. Now Rosie the Riveter National Historic Site sits at the edge of the old Ford factory and a Victory Garden supplies one of the restaurants nearby with fresh vegetables.
Alas, it is time to begin the packing and repacking—getting the Subaru its maintenance and selecting a route back east. As I pull out the maps and google possibilities, I am startled: How did I get this far from home? If I hit the road tomorrow, mapquest tells me I can make it in one day and fifteen hours…only 2,740 miles away. Since it took me just over 7,900 to get out here, I suppose that seems far less daunting. But that mileage uses the old geometry theorem: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. One discovery I’ve made in my camping expedition: I don’t do straight lines.
Thus, as the last of my belongings are re-packed and my camp stove fuel re-filled, I look at the map and see places I have never been, sites that I have heard are “not to be missed,” and spots that just look interesting if not slightly exotic. As I watch the weather and navigate toward warmer temperatures and clearer skies, I will stay south….way south. There’s Big Bend National Park on the edge of Mexico and New Orleans seems like a fun diversion around the holidays.
The trick to all this is not letting go of the desire to keep the adventuresome spirit with me. Winter will chase me home. The holidays will push me to get back. The sheer reality of stopping the money spending train will hoover over me. While I believe this will not be my only adventuresome trek across our great country, I do know it’s the only one right now for me.
Thus before I hit the trail and start logging the miles and the campsites, I pause for a few more moments and soak up this California dream—the one where I ride my bike to yoga, catch coffee with a friend, and watch the waves on the edge of the Bay.