March 21st, 2016

backpacking // angel island.

I haven’t gotten outside as much as I’d like to since moving back to San Francisco. California offers a host of hiking and backpacking options, but I’ve remained primarily indoors over the last couple of months. Partly, this is due to finances and the weather, but also, I was scared. I hadn’t climbed so much as a steep hill in months. I was afraid to challenge myself and fail at it.

I admit that, when it comes to the outdoors, I am more Henry David Thoreau than Sir Edmund Hilary. I am not competitive or fast, I am an ambler, a wanderer who aims to meander through nature, experience it wholly, then attempt to recapture it in words. I want to write the whole world into a notebook I can re-read and experience every thistle, pine cone, ocean wave and grain of sand over and over again. But, in order to accomplish this, there must first be the challenge.

I signed up for a Trail Mavens trip on Angel Island. I have been on Trail Mavens trips previously (this was actually my fourth), so there was a level of perceived comfort that cushioned the fear of the unknown. I had also never been to Angel Island, but it was on my Bay Area Bucket List, and I knew we’d have to backpack in — so I was excited at the chance to utilize my (highly underutilized, of late) backpacking gear.

We went through the proper packing protocol, distributed group gear, then left on the ferry from Tiburon to Angel Island. Upon arrival, we hiked approximately 2 miles in to the campsite — a fairly developed site that provided us with privacy, potable water and trash cans. We had a fabulous view of the entire East Bay and the Bay Bridge. Sail boats dotted the water, dipping and swerving with determination as they faced the aggressive ocean breezes. They tipped so far over, almost touching the water’s edge, but never sinking. Perhaps, in my next life, I could be a sail boat.

We also almost immediately spotted a hummingbird. I love hummingbirds and see them so rarely in California, in stark contrast to Texas, and even Mexico, where they continually dot the sky — I perceive them as a definite sign of good luck.

During the day, we hiked to the summit of Mt. Livermore (with day packs, no heavy gear) and watched the fog roll in to entirely obscure our vision, but not our ascent. We sat in silence and quiet meditation — together, each listening to the breeze and our own breath.

At night, we cooked a Mexican-themed backpacker bowl (rehydrated beans, rice, avocado, bell pepper and cheese) on two camp stoves. Sidenote: I love Trail Mavens’ commitment to excellent backpacking meals and the prioritization of always bringing booze.

Since Angel Island prohibits campfires and burning, we participated in a vigorous session of jumping jacks before stripping down to one layer and zipping ourselves in for the night. I made it through six pages of White for Witching before my eyes began to close on their own. I always enjoy sleeping outside, with the notable exception of increased urination due to staying properly hydrated.

The second day brought intermittent rain, sideways swiping our faces as we hiked away from camp. But, I really enjoyed exploring the abandoned (see also: potentially haunted) buildings. The juxtaposition of backpack-toting women set against the backdrop of a distant city and the more proximal addition of both wild flora and deserted buildings gave me a very dystopian vibe — shades of Station Eleven.

We rode the ferry and walked back through Tiburon in the same sideswiping rain. Suffice to say, I was very glad to change into warm, dry sweatpants and go to bed early. However, this experience provided me with a bit of a reset, a reminder of where I want my priorities to be, and encouragement to seek out my own adventures.