Hipcamp Journal

4 Midweek San Francisco Microadventures

Alastair Humphreys Shows Us How to Micro-Adventure in the Bay Area


I get it—you’re busy. You work nine to five (sometimes longer) and your scant remaining hours are spent commuting to and from said job, then standing in line at Trader Joe’s, then ordering underwear in bulk on Amazon Prime so you can stave off laundry for another night. Please, God, just give me one more night. How could you possibly fit a camping trip in on a weeknight?

Start by thinking micro. Like 45-minutes-from-your-desk micro. Camping doesn’t have to be the result of hiking hours into the deep woods or remote backcountry. And it doesn’t have to take up more than a night to totally refresh you. “My microadventures have gotten smaller and smaller over the years, mostly to get around people’s excuses,” says National Geographic Adventurer of the year and pioneer of the microadventure, Alastair Humphreys. “Eventually, there are no excuses left.”



Humphreys’ first micro-adventure was in 2010, when he spent a week walking around London’s 117-mile M25 motorway in an attempt to reveal beautiful camping spots close to heavily-trafficked areas. It was a sharp contrast from some of his more extensive trips—like when he biked 46,000 miles through 60 countries and 5 continents over the course of 4 years—but it satisfied his adventure craving just the same. It was around that time that he realized camping trips didn’t have to be on an Everest-scale to “stretch you, challenge you, and refresh you.” They just had to get you outside for the night.

Also during this lap around London, he started thinking about the nine-to-five ball-and-chain most of us have, and how we might flip our perspective to consider all the opportunities to have fun in the remaining 16 hours of the day. “There’s something really special about having stolen an adventure from the week,” says Humphreys, and his subtle suggestion that work owns our Monday-to-Friday isn’t lost on me.

But hell, I’m no model micro-adventurer myself. Even though I know I should (and want to) unchain myself from work, it’s hard to muster up the motivation to adventure midweek. That’s where Humphreys suggests taking a long term approach to decision-making: five years from now, will you wish that you’d finished those spreadsheets an hour early or watched the sun dip down behind Mount Tamalpais while you and a friend sipped hard-earned red wine from your enamel cups?

It’s a no-brainer, sure, but pulling off a midweek micro-adventure can still seem daunting. Start by committing to a date. (“Recruit a friend so you’re less likely to bail,” Humphreys suggests.) Then, when that day rolls around, make sure you’re packing light. Humphreys recommends packing as much as is necessary to keep yourself warm, and ditching the rest. But save some space for a special treat, “something that’ll taste great when you’re sitting on a hill, like a pie or cake or bottle of gin.” Twist my rubber arm.

So, now that you’re equipped for and willing to micro-adventure, here are four great candidates for weeknight escapades in the Bay Area. No excuses, remember? “If you’re even vaguely tempted to try a midweek adventure, just do it,” says Humphreys. “You’ll be glad you did.”


Photos by Field Scout manager Madison Kotack


South Bay

Cozy Up to the Redwoods

On a weeknight: 1.5 hour drive

The traffic getting out here might drive you nuts, but one whiff of the redwoods at this ultra-chill mountaintop hideaway will melt all your stress away. And if it doesn’t, host Juko offers evening “mountain yoga” classes for only $15 (you can catch them at 6pm every weeknight plus 7:30pm on Wednesdays.) Once you’re relaxed, pitch your tent among towering redwoods and marvel at how bright the stars can be an hour-and-a-half out of the city.

When morning comes, freshen up in their incredible greenhouse shower or strut into the office smelling like redwoods—your choice.


Photos by Field Scout manager Madison Kotack


North Bay

Mare Island Preserve

On a weeknight: 45 minute ferry ride and 20 minute bike ride

No car? No problem—hop on a ferry and enjoy dusky views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the city all the way to Vallejo. From there, the fully-equipped yurts of the Mare Island Preserve are only a 20 minute bike ride along flat roads and the Napa River. (You can travel especially light for this trip, since yurts include bedding and a kitchen.)

When you get there, ask host Myrna to tell you about the fascinating history of this former Naval Shipyard and ammo depot, being sure to check out the beautiful-but-eerie cemetery on your way up. Once you’re settled, walk north to a grassy, open clearing to watch the sun set over Mount Tamalpais while enjoying views of the entire bay. Don’t forget a light: “This is flashlight country,” says Myrna. You’d never suspect it, having only left your brightly-lit desk an hour ago.


Photos by Field Scout Sabrina Billinghurst


East Bay

Whiskey Ranch

On a weeknight: 1 hour drive

Who’d of thought you could feel this remote only 40 miles from your desk? As you hike along golden grassy hills and hundred-year-old oak trees at Whiskey Ranch, work will be the last thing on your mind. Except, maybe, how growing wheat for whiskey distilleries works, which host Albrecht will tell you all about.

And though you can charge your phone with the yurt’s solar-powered battery pack, you won’t need it to set your alarm—the roosters will wake you up just fine. (And if that doesn’t do it, the rustling of horses, cattle, and dogs might.)


Photos by Field Scout Juliana Linder


Coastal

Wild Tender Ranch

On a weeknight: 1.25 hour drive

At Wild Tender Ranch, you can completely immerse yourself in coastal wildlands, under bright stars by night and circling hawks by day, enjoying unobstructed ocean and coastal mountain views all the while. Sleep in a tipi with a working chimenea, or bring your own tent if it’s foggy.

No matter where you sleep on this sacred property, it’ll leave you feeling lighter and more refreshed than any work-night sleep-at-home ever could.


4 Midweek San Francisco Microadventures

Madison Kotack is the Field Scout manager at Hipcamp. She grew up in Canada and is now based in San Francisco where she writes, takes photos, and trail runs (with dogs, if she’s lucky.)

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