Point Reyes National Seashore

An Easy Backpacking Trip to do ‘Alone’

Campsites:

There are many options to choose from as far as camping options go for Point Reyes. I specifically chose Coast Camp so that I could have easy access to the beach. It’s also an easy 1.8 miles from the parking lot to the campsite. Reserve your site ahead of time. Cost is $20 per night. Toilets and water available. Permits must be picked up at the Bear Valley Visitor Center. I booked a campsite 2 days in advance. It was for a Monday so I got lucky and found a site. However, I would recommend booking further in advance as I noticed the rest of the week was already booked.

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Setting up camp

The Trip: 

After failing my first attempt at solo backpacking, I decided to keep the next trip super easy. I prepared myself well this time as I didn’t want to make the same mistakes. I thought one near death experience in a month would suffice. I drove up and reached the Bear Valley Visitor Center early in the afternoon. Already there was wildlife and I saw a couple deer just hanging out and eating grass on the lawn. The drive to the trailhead is quite scenic and peaceful, but be careful you don’t orphan another Bambi. Enjoy the ride slowly and soak in the scenery.

At the trailhead parking lot, I met a small group of travelers who were hiking from the hostel. They were making their way to the beach to hang out. They were mostly European, but there were a couple Americans. I chatted with them for a bit, but decided to give them a head start, so I pretended to tend to my pack. I really wanted to do this on my own, even if it would only be barely two miles.

After ample time, I strapped on my pack and hit the trail. There was so much shit on the trail. It’s like someone saw the horse that was having diarrhea and thought Perfect! Aside from that, it was nice to walk through the green hills and fresh blooms of classic California Golden Poppy. It didn’t take me long until I reached the campsite. I immediately set up camp and headed down to the beach to relax and wait for the sunset. There were a few other people on the beach including the group from the hostel, so I looked for a spot where I could be on my own for a bit.

I meditated before reading my book. It was one of the most relaxing moments I’ve had in awhile. It was an odd mix of both escapism and living in the moment. The soothing sound of the waves crashing softly as the sun was setting put me into a dream like state. I walked on over to some driftwood set into makeshift benches and sat staring across the horizon waiting for the sun to set.

A stranger sat down on one of the other logs. We both sat in silence as the sun slowly dipped down drenching the clouds in a deep, soft orange hue. We watched as it sank, taking its light to the other side of the world. And then he acknowledged me. I kind of wanted to be alone, but he wanted to talk. He was from Southern California. His job allowed him to work remotely, so occasionally he would take short camping trips. He was an avid hiker, climber, and photographer traveling usually to Joshua Tree, but would occasionally venture to Yosemite and Bishop. He had a warm personality, carefree and mellow. He turned out to be pretty funny. We ended up having a great conversation about slowing down and how our wants and needs change as we get older. The two of us also talked about our time in the outdoors and how spending time in nature helped us to recharge. Affable yet centered, the dude seemed pretty content with his life.

We walked back up the path towards the campground. There was a rope swing jerry-rigged onto a massive tree. I was hesitant, so he went first. He looked like he was having the time of his life with a giant smile slapped across his face, so I had to try it too. I slipped my foot into the knot and pushed off the tree. I honestly thought the rope was going to snap. But it didn’t break. And I swung freely back and forth. And then we parted ways.

As I began to prepare my dinner back at camp, a guy from the neighboring camp invites me to have dinner with him and his girlfriend. The invitation was a nice gesture, so I happily joined. They were a lovely couple. Their passion for backpacking bonded them and forged their relationship. Backpacking deepened their connection. The two met back in college and have had countless trips since. We talked about backpacking a lot. They clearly loved taking trips together. They romanticized their stories of backpacking so much that they had me dreaming about my next trip in the Pacific Northwest. They asked me why I was backpacking alone. I told them I had always wanted to do it. To get to know myself. To reduce the noise, so that I could hear myself.

We decided we wanted to do some stargazing, so we headed back down towards the beach. We leaned our backs against the same logs I’d sat for the sunset and stared up. The same guy from earlier happened to be walking by and joined in. We swapped stories. We laughed. We shared stories both intimately deep, yet also monotonous. We talked about life and time and how we fit in the grand scheme of things, small underneath the blanket of stars. The four of us spent a couple hours sharing whiskey and witty banter. And then I said goodnight and went to bed.

I can’t remember their names anymore. We didn’t exchange information, so there was no way we could connect again afterwards. For me, there is a beauty in that. To connect with strangers without expectation, to share freely without fear of being judged or measured, is beautiful. We just happened to pass through each other’s lives at the time. It was fleeting and it was enough.

I woke up the next morning and decided to go on a short hike to what I believe is Sculpted Beach. I had a Fitbit this time around, so that I wouldn’t get lost. However, I still missed the sign and ended up passing it by a quarter mile. Luckily, I ran into an elderly couple who told me to turn back. I found the junction and headed down the path. It was overgrown and had fallen trees, so it felt like I was heading the wrong way. Eventually, I reached some steps and knew I was in the right place.

I sat down facing the beach and meditated. It felt nice to be alone. I decided I would walk back to camp along the beach instead of heading back up the trail. I took off my boots and treaded the sand. I had been reading up about the art of grounding also known as Earthing. Basically, it’s walking barefoot outside to transfer the electrons from Earth through your body. I can’t attest to the attributes of siphoning the earth’s electrons for bodily benefits, but walking barefoot in sand sure does feel good.

Along the beach was a beautiful tributary, the water flowing in looping grace. A buck that had been drinking from the stream suddenly noticed me and looked up. I tensed up as it stared back at me. It felt like he was getting ready to charge down at me antlers first. But he just stared back, probably thinking why the hell is this guy just staring at me. I walked on, and the buck turned away and ran up towards the trees.

Along the walk, I’d lost myself in thought. I didn’t even notice I was walking right past the path to the campsite, but luckily the couple from the night before noticed me and waved me down. They were relaxing under a makeshift hut. We chatted for a bit and then I said goodbye.

I hiked back to my car, happier and more content. Sometimes what we seek may not actually be what we need. Sometimes we should take things easily and just go with the flow. This was a short and easy backpacking trip, and I’d suggest trying it alone for the first time, although traveling alone doesn’t mean you’ll actually be alone.

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California Golden Poppy
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Doing some grounding
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There’s a buck in there

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