Hiking & Backpacking

A family hike at Point Reyes National Seashore


I was promised a hike at Point Reyes last weekend as part of my birthday gift from Alvin, but when the Saturday preceding the Big Day dawned cloudy I decided that prodding him along the trail on a not-sunny day actually wasn’t much of a birthday present after all.  So when the Saturday after the Big Day dawned sunny, I said “Let’s hike!”.  We went for the Laguna/Coast Trail loop, which I’ve done many times before and even he has done a couple of times as well.  It provides a nice mix of hillside, coastal, and stream-side scenery, with a lunch stop on the beach.  What’s not to like?

Laguna Coast Trail Hike Map


Things started out well; we always begin at the hostel and do the Laguna Trail first because then you get up and over the one small hill on the trail early on, leaving the much gentler-graded Coastal Trail for later in the hike when we have less energy.  Carys noticed the California Poppies on the side of the trail and wanted one to hold; she is now rather confused about the difference between “poppies” and “puppies” and every time she sees a poppy she says “Woof Woof.”

The Laguna Trail dead-ends into the Coast Trail and we hiked along the low hills of the coast for half a mile or so before finding beach access for our lunch.  Carys was quite keen to get out of the backpack by now, and she had fun sticking my poles – and sometimes her feet – into muddy puddles along the trail.


drakes bay point reyes

point reyes coast trail hike


Tip: There is only one beach access along this route (which is signed, and it’s right next to a tiny creek) – after that, the Coast Trail turns inland again with no further connection point to the beach.  You can hike along the beach if you want to but then you’ll either have to bushwhack up the dunes to get back to the trail (not recommended due to dune fragility) or continue to the Limantour Beach parking area and hike back up the road to the hostel.

It was pretty windy out but we found a log in a sheltered spot and hunkered down for some lunch.  Bread, brie, and apples for Alvin and I; brie licked off bread for Carys.  We briefly looked at the ocean (Carys thought the bubbles were cool but was in no way interested in having any body part touch the water) and then I took a cat nap while Carys played in the stream.


playing sand point reyes


We put her back in the pack for a short stretch while we hiked to the sheltered portion of the trail (she kept saying “All done!” because she was tired of the wind), and then she campaigned to walk by herself for a bit.  We were happy to oblige as long as she was walking, which she did pretty cheerfully for a quarter of a mile or so, while saying ‘hi’ to the other hikers and investigating all the puddles with poles or with feet.  She had only had a short nap in the car on the way, though, and eventually she was neither walking nor willing to be carried.  This was a new experience for me – she’s been keen to walk more and more over the last few weeks but until this point she’d always been somewhat happy to get back in the pack.  We gave her several chances to “walk or go in the backpack” and she always picked “walk,” but eventually she just wasn’t moving at all and we had to pick her up and strap her into the pack.

She was none too happy about it, and I was none too happy with making her do something she clearly didn’t want to do.  We probably could have gotten her in quite easily if we’d promised her something yummy to eat once she was in (she did a full sprint down the length of Alvin’s – quite large – open-plan office on Friday when she spotted Goldfish crackers in a glass container), but I probably would have felt even shittier about bribing her than I did about apologizing as I maneuvered the straps over her shoulders.  She cried for another minute or so and then she noticed a plane in the sky and it was all over – with Alvin teasing her and me playing Peekaboo with her as she pulled the sun shade down over her head she was quite happy to be carried for the last mile back to the car.

All in all a mostly successful day, with a bit of a taste of things to come…we’re off to Italy in 2 1/2 weeks for my week of class followed by a week of hiking at Cinque Terre.  I’m not too worried about that hike because we’ll literally only cover a mile or so each day, so we can meander to our hearts’ content.  I am getting slightly more worried about the Pembrokeshire Coast Path that we’ll do later in the summer – that will be closer to 10 miles a day, so I’m about to mark all the bus routes on my map in case we need bail-out options.

If you have a ‘spirited’ toddler and would like to read more about how to get into the outdoors more often, you might like to check out Meghan Ward’s blog at Adventures In Parenting – Carys mostly manages our adventures very well, but I’m guessing that some of Meghan’s tips could help me as we move toward Carys ditching the backpack.


poles coast trail california poppy


If you go: From southern Marin County, take Sir Francis Drake or Highway One to the village of Olema.  Turn left (west) on Bear Valley Road and left again on Limantour Road, just before Bear Valley Road reconnects with Highway One.  About four miles down Limantour Road, turn left at a sign for the hostel.  Park when you see cars; the lot at the top of the Laguna Trail is tiny and most people end up parking on the side of the road.  The complete loop we did is just a touch over five miles; there’s a small hill on the Laguna Trail but the rest is fairly flat.  The trail is in good condition and is mostly as wide as a road, with occasional spots on the Laguna Trail that are doubletrack and a bit eroded.  There’s a pit toilet at the Coast Campground close to where the Laguna and Coast trails intersect.  There may be water there as well (we didn’t check), but other than that there are no facilities on this hike.

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