Proximity to iconic outdoor meccas like Yosemite and Lake Tahoe makes the San Francisco Bay Area a fantastic place to live for outdoor lovers like myself. Yet, having 4 young kids while running my own business makes it hard to find the time to get away from home.
Luckily the Bay Area itself offers plenty of opportunities for shorter outdoor explorations, such as hikes in the many Mid Peninsula Open Space Preserves. Almost every weekend we explore a nearby trail to keep our inner-explorers happy.
Recently, I found a perfect middle ground between these shorter hikes which tend to leave me wanting more, and farther away explorations for which it’s hard to find the time: a 24-hour getaway with an overnight stay on a campground.
Those of you who have tried to book a spot on a campground during summer know how hard it is to find availability. Fortunately, Hipcamp makes this easier not only by providing a friendlier interface to discover campgrounds but, more importantly, by adding much needed campground supply.
On a recent Friday afternoon, I left home with my 6-year-old son (it was his turn for an activity with me, so it was just the two of us on this trip) and drove toward McCormick Creek Sheltered Campfire, located on the ocean side on the ridge that separates the Pacific Ocean from the San Francisco Bay. Within 15 minutes, as we passed the town of Woodside, we found ourselves on winding roads climbing towards La Honda on Skyline Boulevard and felt like our getaway had really started. I always find it amazing what being in nature does to your mind, as you leave hectic life behind and slowly but surely adjust to the slower pace of the outdoors. The roads on the west side of Skyline Blvd are an attraction in themselves, as they wind through redwood forests and open views along steep slopes.
By the time we pitched our tent at McCormick Creek it was only 6pm, so we had plenty of daylight left on this midsummer night to cook dinner and explore the surroundings before starting our campfire.
I am sure parents who have multiple children will recognize the fact that being away with one of your kids creates a different, more peaceful dynamic than the usual frenzy at home. My son deeply enjoyed helping prepare our meal on a stove, make the camp fire, and settle for the night. As it got dark, we were both reading and enjoying the silence of the forest.
We woke up early next morning, well-rested after a quiet night in our sleeping bags. There is always something special about waking up in a tent, just a thin canopy away from nature. We revived the campfire from the previous night and enjoyed a light breakfast before heading out to Memorial Park, just a couple of minutes drive away.
Memorial Park is a smaller sibling to nearby Big Basin State Park, and feels a lot more approachable due to its smaller size. It is lesser known, partly because it’s a county park, not a state park, and partly because it is tucked away deep in the hills. The park sports amazing old growth redwoods, and a creek with a great swimming hole. There were some other children playing in the water and my son joined them while showing off his recently gained knowledge about various shark species to the other kids.
After enjoying Memorial Park for a couple of hours we headed to Pescadero, a cool small town half a mile from the Pacific coast. Its tiny downtown feels like a laid back old western town with a slight hipster vibe. The local coffeeshop happened to have a weekly raffle and they offered my son the honor of drawing the winning number out of the box.
After a hot chocolate for my son and a very much enjoyed coffee (for me), we drove the short distance to Pescadero State Beach where we explored the rocky beach and its tide pools before heading back to Palo Alto.
We drove back on Alpine Road, via Russian Ridge, which is one of the most beautiful roads I know in the area. It’s narrow and windy and traverses some amazing redwoods before it emerges to open view close to the crest between the Pacific and the Bay. We arrived back home about 24 hours after leaving, having created lasting memories right in our own backyard.
Joost Schreve is a travel entrepreneur. He is founder and CEO of kimkim, a marketplace that connects travelers to local experts in adventure travel destinations, such as Nepal. Prior to founding kimkim, he was VP of Mobile at TripAdvisor and Founder of EveryTrail. He lives in Palo Alto with his wife and 4 children.
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