Last Weekend in September Tour

Day 1: 4pm Shoving the last bit of gear into my panniers. The Goal is to arrive at Samuel P. Taylor with enough time to setup camp before the sun sets. Totally possible if you haul ass. I arrive about three hours later pulling into the hike in bike in site and it’s a full house. I greet my new neighbors.

After a rapid setup I begin to understand that I love everyone in this group. Everyone here is touring. For all of these various groups tomorrow is their last day with their final destination of San Francisco. So many amazing people are here! Two very awesome dudes in their sixties natives of Seattle have spent the last twenty eight days on the the road. They keep the conversation going by engaging everyone of as whole team. There is a second group, an Italian couple again traveling from Seattle to San Francisco. Another couple from Holland have been on the road for close to five months cycling across the US from New York. Such amazing stories of adventure, beauty, mechanical failures, obscene weather conditions, unbelievable roads, and of course the gear. Cyclists can talk about their gear forever. With such a caliber of exciting folk I feel like a tourist on my three day weekender tour. My story is weak in comparison however, I provide tips and “must dos” for San Francisco.
Day 2: 7am There’s a reason why the touring circuit travels from north to south. On the Pacific coast, it’s the wind. I knew this, but how bad could it be, right?

Well today, pretty brutal. The road between Point Reyes Station and the small town of Tomalas is wedged running parallel along Tomalas Bay. This geographic feature creates wind tunnel effect that is amazingly powerful . The only problem is I’m traveling against this fantastic force. The final Drop into Bodega Bay is a three mile decent blasted so hard by the Pacific winds I imagine I’m sky diving.

Day 3 6:30 am up before the sun. I’m nervous about the seventy five miles I must cover today. Luckily, I seem to always over pack, which is good news for the camper who follows. I’m leaving behind 2 cans of beer, 2 slightly used gas canisters, and some random bits of food. Every gram will count today, so shaving off these unneeded bits will buy me some much needed energy.

I’m up early enough that I beat everyone to an amazing sunrise. My journey is simple, follow Highway 1 to Stinson Beach, then climb Panoramic Highway up Mount Tamalpias. Once on the road the miles click by with the Pacific winds at my back.

Two hours later I’m at Point Reyes Station and I fuel up at the Bovine Bakery. From here Stinston is a mostly flat with a few rollers about an hour away. Reaching Stinson, my hope is that I can poach the closed Highway One which has been closed since last year’s record rainfall. If I can poach this road I will not have to deal with cars and hugging the white line. As I approach the signs that are clearly marked “no cars, no bikes, no one”, just around the corner I pass a state trooper whom is protecting this pass from people like me. Unfortunately, playing dumb is a failure , I am turned around, and now head up the grueling climb out Stinson via Panoramic Highway. Reaching Pantoll which is by no means the top of this climb, it is however all I have to accomplish as the rest is all downhill until the base of Golden Gate Bridge.

As I wrap up this journey I recall my first night with all my cycling pals. Thirty days from Seattle to SF totally doable.

Sam P. Taylor

Bovine Bakery

Bodega Bay Camping Doran St Park.

Farallon Isands, San Francisco CA


The idea of visiting the Farallon Islands has haunted me for many years. You almost forget about it, then on one of those clear clear days, it’s likely also warm, you spot them. There they are reminding you of their hidden existence sticking up out of the ocean jagged, sharp, and deadly like a shark’s tooth. Unlike “the world’s most visited prison” in the middle of the bay staring at you the Farrallon Islands are almost always hidden by a coastal marine layer that is barely ever removed.

As with most adventures of this type it’s an early morning. The “Salty Lady” pulls up to the dock at 7am. She’s a fifty foot fishing boat that is going to be our refuge for the next eight hours. Our tour is lead by the Oceanic Society. This organization consists of people who’s focus is on education, and pursuing ocean conservation. These folks really care about what they are doing. Their tours are stacked with naturalists whom help identify wildlife, interpret the nature around them, and deepen connections to nature. That being said, this is not pleasure cruise, there is no snack bar, there is no drink service, if you get wet there are no clean towels. As the captain Jerrod puts it “This is rustic eight hour trip into the open ocean.”

The Farallons are around twenty five miles off the coast of San Francisco. When they do reveal themselves to those on land it can be tough to tell exactly where they are. They are literally straight out from the mouth of the bay. In fact they are part of San Francisco’s Richmond district. By boat it is a two and half hour journey into the Pacific. The time melts and after breaking through the coastal fog bank these mysterious islands begin to appear in the horizon.

The islands are bare, no trees, a rocky mass standing up in defiance to the ocean. Today the islands and their surrounding water’s are a National Wildlife Refuge. These islands remained untouched until the arrival of the Europeans. Native Americans named them the “Islands of the Dead.” Obviously, they stayed away and the islands simply just existed. Upon the onset of the European’s arrival the islands history takes a turn for the tragic. The Spanish, the Russian’s and finally San Franciscan’s exploited the abundance of wildlife by economizing the harvest of animals to literally to the brink of extinction.

Mankind has left it’s mark of conquering this inhabitable place. Two turn of the century large wooden houses, and the remnants of a once glorious lighthouse which rests on the jagged peak of the Southeast Farallon. Outside of two to three scientists this place is inhabited by an astounding population of wildlife. These islands are a protected sanctuary for over a quarter million seabirds, seals, sea lions, migrating whales, and the illusive great white shark. Today is a particularly calm day which allow us to circle the Southeast Farallon Island to observe the different populations of wildlife. The land is jagged with a harsh shoreline but also exploding with wild life. It is not until we reach the Southeastern side of the island, that we get to experience what our naturalist refers to as “the smell of the Farallons.” The Pacific winds that have traveled over this land carrying a smell that is similar to a zoo, but more salty, fishy, and ripe. Makes me wonder what human beings smell like to wildlife.

After circumnavigating the main Farrallon Islands captain Jared turns the Salt Lady southwest towards the Continental Shelf. Apparently, whales love hanging out here due to a very a dramatic change in depth. At certain times of the year this very steep drop off, combined with the Earth’s spinning, and tidal currents cause vertical nutrient rich currents to rise toward the surface. It is obvious when we arrive at this unique place. We are literally surrounded by pods of Humpbacks and massive Blue whales. These incredible beasts could easily capsize the boat we are watching them from. At one point the captain cuts the Engine allowing us to drift. With the roar of the engine extinguished the sounds of the whales exhaling as they break the surface surrounds the boat. Here’s something you probably didn’t know unless you’ve spent time in close proximity to these creates. Whales have bad breath. I mean it stinks, like years and years of eating raw fish and never brushing your teeth. It’s ripe! After a good two hours of communing with the whales the Salty Lady turns back to San Francisco. Checking the Farallons of the list, I doubt this will be the last time I make this unbelievable journey our to sea.

Government Site :

Oceanic Society :

Wiki :






The Nā Pali Coast, Kauai HI

Day one, 6:30am : At the head of the trail on Ke’e Beach. The sounds of rain showers join the wild Kauai chickens in the their morning crowing rituals. Despite locals forecasting dryness there is a light rain that is producing spattering sounds of water dropping on lush forest leaves. The rain is to be expected, just that it’s not optimal today. Over the last year efforts to train for this day have been underway, simulated distances, elevations, and pack weights have been practiced. Water to distance ratios have been calculated, and significant dividends have been earned at our local co-op equipment store.

The goal today is to complete the entire trail, eleven mile or so. Pressing on, the weather has introduced a challenging beginning to this hike. After a prolonged dry spell, the morning drizzle produces a slip and slide sensation underfoot forcing our concentration. It’s obvious why the state of Hawaii requires permits for those passing mile two. Do not expect forgiveness for a miss step ocean side. One fumble to the right would be greeted by the sound of foliage brushing against your face wishing your training included a few session on how to swim with a broken neck bone. Weaving in and out of luscious rain forest valleys, excruciating switchbacks, and paths so narrow it’s questionable whether they ever existed at all. Pro tip number one: While preparing for this hike, study tight rope walking.

Six hours in, time for a short break, time to purify our first river water, and time to try to cool off. Mile six is designated as the first of two stopping points on the trail. This is because during the rainy season Hanakoa Stream can swell making it incredibly difficult and dangerous to cross. Our pace is a crushing one mile an hour, at this rate it’s going to be a twelve hour day. Proceeding onward mile six leads out of the rain forest and into a more dry arid open land. The forest clears the path narrows, the temperature rises, the turbulent oceanic gusts begin to push us around. Seems we’ve traded rain for wind. Our progress slows as our steps become smaller.

Mile seven is know for it’s sandy ridges, unforgivably dangerous cliff ridges, and the infamous narrow steep dirt switchbacks leading up to Crawler’s Ledge.  It’s marked with a sign of a stick figure presumably plummeting to a horrible death in a shower of rocks.  It seems that words like ‘designated’, ‘danger’ and ‘cliff’ are up for interpretation. Crawler’s ledge is not only a part of the trail that is less then six inches wide on a vertical rock wall face, it is also a destination for the tourist boat circuit. Looks like I’m the entertainment today. Below the tour guide bellows. “… And looking upward check out this poor sap! Hang in there buddy!” Crowd of tourist cheering “… Whoa! That last wind gust almost knocked ’em right off that rock!” Looking down I can see the reflection of thirty phones pointing upward.

Past the ledge and into Mile eight the trail becomes sandy and behind each step footprints seem to trigger miniature landslides. I don’t know what it is? Perhaps it is the side effects of counter balancing each step? Maybe it was the result of sequential dangerous to near death crossings throughout the day? Then again, it could be the deadly Pacific wind gusts? Whatever it is it produces a meditative blackout state that takes over both us. Eventually this stalemate is broken once a fork in the trail is reached. The trail to the right follows the Pacific diving straight down into a valley. The trail to the left points inland with a gradual grade upward. Covered in footprints both choices appear to be well traveled. The difficulty of the right side is ‘uber,’ while the skill level on the left is far less intense. Okay, since neither trail appear to be marked one way or another, we settle on the path of least resistance.

Traveling inland the relentless beating of the sun is muted by the covering forest. Our reality has been bent, before the next set of switchbacks we rest. As we cool down there is a movement in the forest. We are not alone. Are we about to encounter the infamous native barefooted hippies know to dwell in the foliage? Could this be the elusive Mo’os of the northern coastal region? Following the sound of crunching leaves leading to the hillside and in almost perfect camouflage a herd of wild mountain goats. We read about these creatures, while they are fascinatingly beautiful, they can also be deadly. Wild goats grazing above high on the Pali’s can dislodge rocks and boulders and send them raining downward on whatever is below. Just like everything on the Nā Pali something beautiful is juxtaposed with something dangerous.

Around mile ten Kalalau Beach can be seen on the horizon. The trail begins to widen relative to the previous miles. Following advice we push through camp to literally the very end of the Kalalau trail. Here the sites are near the beach, shaded, and close to a water source. Finally, our packs are lying on the ground patiently waiting for us to set up our camp. Our beach front site is literally a few feet from a sign showing some pretty sizable boulders raining down on a tent. Thud! There goes one! Must be some goats grazing above. The landscape is clad with dislodged debris that has fallen from the Pali’s above. Having been faced by countless near death situations today, it’s no surprise that it’s raining boulders. Let’s just hope that the strategic placement of these signs is accurate enough to keep rocks from flattening our tent.

Ho’ole’a Falls is the only source for fresh water, showers, cooling off, or washing up camp. The water flows down a flat face rock. The water then gathers into pools before flowing downward on to the beach. There are two PVC pipes which can be used by placing one side on the flat faced rock. Water then pours out the other side creating a faucet of sorts. Holding this pipe thingy for one another each of us wash away the day’s layers of dirt, sweat, sunscreen. The cold water soothes, establishing our sanity and then our settlement after this rinse will be a much more enjoyable. A fellow hiker is scoping water from a pool below us. He pokes at it with a lighted stick. Another is drops a filter into a soapy pool pumping it into a bag. Pro tip number two, whatever your method is, use the freshest water possible and avoid purifying runoff.

Hikers are always generous when it comes to sharing tales of their adventures. Do be warned, some advice is better then others. “The fastest way to get downhill is to run.” “Last night I camped right in the middle of the trail.” “We camped at mile eight, right in front of the ‘No Camping’ sign.” “Yeah, it was beautiful we spent the entire day looking at our feet.” “Talked to some hippies around here and we’re getting a boat outta’ here tomorrow.”

Too tired to sleep the psychological effects of the trail are not to be under estimated. The body finally at rest the mind is allowed to wonder.  Escalated scenes from the day loop over and over. The anxious feeling of finally arriving knowing that all this effort must be repeated in reverse. Behind us the sound of large boulders thudding to the ground. What’s that fella’ saying’ about a boat?

Day two, our rest day. The tourist circuit starts early. The tranquil sounds of the waves breaking on the shore are broken by hovering helicopters. Sometimes two to three at a time. Various boats loaded with passengers all pointing phones toward the beach float just past the breaking waves. From the shore it seems like you are some exotic creature on exhibition. “If you look very closely, you’ll see the natives in the their primitive tent cities. They bathe in the ocean and drink from waterfalls.”

Boating in or out is strictly prohibited on the Na Pali Coast. Permit hiking is the only legal way to camp on Kalalau Beach. However, due to it’s isolation the logistics of enforcing this policy is a challenging prospect. It’s obvious to recognize who hiked in and who was dropped off. There is a camp cooking eggs in a large cast iron skillet. Other sites are lined with large coolers filled with ice cold drinks. Gourmets are displaying their culinary skills displaying bottles of Sweet Thai Chili sauce, Sriracha, and liters of booze. Seriously, the amount of effort it would take to hike an iced cooler in here… It’s not happening. These groups could not be any more different. Hikers are filling their time with self preservation activities like recovering, relaxing, and resting. Boat ins are relaxing on beach chairs, cooking extravagant meals, and partying until the wee hours of the morning.

This day is getting hotter, before repacking our packs for the return, a retreat to the Kalalau Stream allows us to escape some of the midday heat. Kalalau Stream is about a mile hike from our camp. Unlike the nearby Ho’ole’a Falls, it offer large shaded deep water in which one can soak and cool off. As we head out we discover the “free” table in middle of camp. In our delirium yesterday we must have walked right past this without noticing. Each day hikers do the exact same thing as the ones did before them. Items that are not needed and can be used by others are placed on this table. Tarps, shoes, food, gas cannisters, rope, for the permanent residents this is an excellent one stop shop. Curiously, this tablet appears to get cleared of it’s goods daily.

Refreshed from our dip in the river, we return to camp and begin facing the reality of packing for our return trip. Several hours of negotiations take place. Grams and ounces turn to pounds the free pile grows. The decision is made to hit the trail at sunrise. Camp will be broken down with headlamps as the sun is rising. After an early freeze dried dinner, then an amazing Nā Pali sunset it’s off to our air mattresses and dreams of falling off cliffs.

Day three 4:30am, hiking out, the idea is to get out past mile seven before the heat and wind have a chance to begin. In our minds miles eight and seven were the most severe . Once these are knocked out the rest will be “smooth sailing.” Up before sunrise our boat in neighbors are grumble in their hammocks having just passed out after a night of partying. It was easy to wake up, not only did sleeping with air force grade earplugs keep our neighbors endeavors to a dull roar but the anxiousness of conquering the trail is working as a great motivator. This morning’s menu consists of headlamp coffee, a couple energy bars, and a rapid breakdown of camp.

On the trail by six am miles eleven and ten melt by. Our packs are lighter. Our knowledge on where to refill and purify water make calculating amounts more accurate reducing our overall weight. The cooler less windy conditions allow us to travel much quicker. It is becoming clear that the trail conditions play important role in the hiker’s experience. Miles eight and seven which were terrifying on the way in become much easier to navigate. Approaching the sandy path leading up to Crawler’s Ledge it seems wider and more navigable without a furious wind pushing from behind. At the top of this valley looking back it is unbelievable how completely different each of these experiences were. Hiking the trail today has given us a new perception, allowing us to look up from our footings and enjoy the adventure.

With seven miles behind us the conversation turns to the things we are going to do upon returning to “civilization”.  “I want to cook food.” “I want to eat something that does not have the word ‘trail’ or ‘mix’ as part of it’s name.” “I want water that is not green and tastes like a pool.” As we get closer to Hanakoa Beach we begin to pass more and more day hikers, the population on the trail increases. Arriving at mile two Hanakoa Beach it feels strange with all these people around. Here the trail widens to such a degree it seems as if you could drive a bus down it. With the prize in our sites we push on through the midday heat until finally arriving at the head of the trail. It’s a quick walk over to Ke’e Beach where we drop our packs and dive into the blue water rinsing the sweat, dirt, and greasy sunscreen from our tied bodies.

If given the opportunity to hike the Kalalau Trail again, would you do it? I would. I would do a few things the same and few things differently. I would park my rental car head of the the trail on Ke’e Beach again.  This time I would fill the trunk with bottled water to drink upon our return.  I would refill and purify water more often I would leave earlier as to beat the wind and heat on every mile after six. Know that miles seven and eight are going to be rough even under the best conditions these miles can sketchy. Bring cash in case you find the need to to boat out. I cannot stress this enough most most most of all pack light!