Despite my love for the outdoors, I get a bit creeped out in the wilderness. The silence and the solitude jump start my imagination and my eyes end up darting around the trail, looking for danger, rather than taking in the magnificent surroundings.
When Russ and I decided to take a day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore, I figured we would be surrounded by tourist groups and family hikers. I was fully prepared to share the trail with noisy clans of out-of-towners. But, as we turned onto the beginning of the Mt. Wittenberg trail, everyone else disappeared.
The only sounds left were squeaking trees as they swayed in the breeze and my persistent talking (I get chatty when I'm nervous).
With so few distractions, my mind went into hyperactive danger monitoring. I pointed out every clump of poison oak and nettles. I peered through the dense vegetation to watch for potential monster attacks. I listened closely to the wind in anticipation of a storm. I was annoying.
We climbed higher, watching the wilderness around us change. Each level brought with it new types of trees, birds, and weather. The air became so damp, it collected and condensed on the needles of each tree, then dropped down like rain as we wandered through the dark tunnels of conifers reminiscent of a Brothers Grimm tale.
I began talking less. My wilderness wary was melting away as I focused on these actual surroundings full of nature and science. The very solitude which I feared had become my portal to this peaceful place - where the whispers of the natural world have a chance to be heard.
By the time we arrived back at the Visitor's Center, full of cars and cranky teenagers, I felt as if I had spent a week in silent meditation. The sounds of the forest replaced the ones of doubt and fear and I walked forward with the wilderness in my heart.
DAY TRIP ITINERARY to point reyes
Petaluma. Make a point to swing through this town. It's full of antique shops, beautiful buildings, and seriously fantastic brunch. Try out the Tea Room Café to fuel up before a day of hiking.
Marin French Cheese. There are a shocking number of cheese factories in the area, but this one is right on the main road between Petaluma and Point Reyes. Sample them all, then buy your favorites along with baguette or in a freshly made sandwich and enjoy a picnic around their on-site lake.
Hike. Point Reyes is more than a lighthouse (though you should see that too). Pick a hike that fits your activity level and timeframe and get into the wilderness. It will be good for you. Promise.
Lighthouse. The Point Reyes lighthouse is historical and incredible. It has limited hours and requires a trek down and back up 300+ stairs, but totally worth a tour. Getting to the lighthouse also requires quite a drive through some winding and sometimes bumpy roads. Plan accordingly for time and car sickness.