Reserving a camp site six months out is a gamble. Six months out it is hard to know if you'll be free. Six months out on the California coast you can't know if the weather will be fabulous or atrocious. Fitness? Who knows! These questions are immediately deemed irrelevant by putting the option of an escape to a new place on the calendar. In the end it didn't matter - we were free, the sun shone bright, our legs got us up the hills and back again.
The destination was Wild Cat Camp, a remote campsite on a bluff in the Point Reyes National Seashore. We'd never been, because Point Reyes is under the National Parks Service, which means that reservations are hard to get. Not as hard however, as access to Wild Cat. It is my favorite kind of campsite, in that it keeps out the faint of heart. There is no driving - the approach is a reasonable 3 mile climb on a gravel road followed by an aggressive 3 mile gravel. The reverse is required to get out. Everyone who camps at Wild Cat has some semblance of the idea that nature is better when you've worked to get to the good spots.
After pancakes and a few repacks, we casually rolled out on our cross bikes. We opted for the most direct route to Point Reyes, skipping some fun dirt, so that we could maximize our time in the new areas - there were new spots to explore and photos to be taken. The climb to camp - a turn off of Highway 1 that I've passed 100 times and hardly noticed was covered in dense trees and ferns, a verdant tunnel that eased the gradient significantly. From the top, a rip roaring descent with only a few necessary stops to drop our jaws as the mighty Pacific suddenly came into few.
The campsites were nothing short of extraordinary. Situated on a bluff a few hundred feet above the beach, Wild Cat in early May is one big field of 6 foot tall wildflowers with a cleared areas for tables and tents. It was a blast and a scratch riding through these overgrown nettles and flowers on "trails" to find our spot - but the sun was still high in the sky, thus spirits were as well.
It turned out that we were just a short beach stroll North of the Alamere Falls. A popular spot because the internet has deemed it an "epic bay area hike," it has always seemed wrong to drive to a trail head that I usually ride to. Good things come when you don't rush though, so a quick cruise down the beach and there we were. The falls were as pretty as any waterfall, but not the epic destination the hype had led me to believe.
We passed our time until sunset exploring the bluffs, prepping dinner and sipping whiskey. As colors exploded in the sky, the wind picked up so much that the stove barely worked. But in classic California fashion, it died down the second the sun disappeared. We ate under the starriest sky I've ever seen so close to home, taking in the constellations until the eyes were as tired as the legs.
The next day the sun lit up the field of flowers magnificently as we ate a quick breakfast and broke down camp. I had to get to work so there was a sense of urgency to the day, but the scenery and trails kept us from rushing. I'll take being late for a little more exploration any day. Once we'd conquered the hill (impressively hard from the coast side) we decided to try the Olema Valley Trail, which ran parallel to Highway 1. It was an amazing trail for about a quarter of a mile, then proceeded to be five miles of baby heads, grass, thick brush, and mud. But boy was it gorgeous. We were happy to be back on the road nonetheless, but glad we had taken this new route. Hopefully it will clear up later in the season.
After a few mini escapes to the headlands - barely 12 hours outside - it was a treat to spend so much time away. Even a night out of the city, a day in new scenery refreshes the soul to an unimaginable degree. Next up, more miles, more nights and unseen sights.