Last weekend I went along on a trip with Bay Area Expeditions, a small outdoors/adventure company based here in San Francisco. I found out about them via a deal on HomeRun, and jumped at the chance to go on a guided camping trip, curious to see the equipment, the people, where we’d go, etc.
Chris was our guide, and Ingrid was our chef (yes, I said chef, on a camping trip!). Apparently Ingrid doesn’t always come along, but she arranges food which Chris then prepares as part of the deal. Everything she prepared or brought along was delicious, and made for a really nice touch to the trip. This included an awesome curry with meat and veggies, and lemon-ginger oatmeal with tequila-soaked raisins (seriously!)
I got a ride to the trailhead with Chris, and we chatted pretty much all the way there. He obviously knows his stuff; grew up in the Bay Area and has clearly spent years camping, hiking, offroading etc in the area. He’s been through a ton of equipment and knows what works and what doesn’t, who makes the best stuff, where to get it, etc. The best part is that he’s more than happy to pass all this info on to you either on the trip, or via packing lists and other tips after you get home.
The equipment we were provided with was top-notch, military grade gear. If you needed it, you could have pretty much turned up empty handed and come along. The “team gear” was split up and carried amongst us, and I tried out 2 different (Kifaru) backpacks; both of which were super comfortable once adjusted correctly. We were all given a primer on how to adjust a backpack to fit us properly before heading out; as Chris said “these backpacks are great, but even a $500 backpack will feel like a $50 one if it’s not adjusted correctly.”. The hike in/out was nice and easy – around 2 miles in each direction with not too much elevation.
Once we got to our campsite (after only seeing one or 2 people on the trail), we snacked for a while, then set up the giant tipi that it turns out I was carrying in my backpack. The thing was huge — literally big enough to sleep all 9 of us if it needed to. As it turns out though, it was such a beautiful night that most of us ended up just sleeping out under the stars; only three people ended up in the tipi. We stayed up chatting until tiredness got the better of us, then we bedded down for the night, looking up through the treetops and listening to the river gurgling away below us in the valley.
The next morning we got up and took a short hike up the hill to an old homestead ruin. There were some clear rock walls, signs of plants that had been obviously planted there (prickly pear, cotton, some kind of chestnut), including some lemon trees that were fruiting heavily. We grabbed a couple lemons for a snack (amazingly delicious and refreshing; my mouth is watering just thinking about them), then headed back down to our campsite. After breaking down camp and re-packing, we headed back on the short hike to the vehicles and to make the trip home. On the way I saw/heard my first Rattlesnake which was pretty exciting. It definitely lived up to its name — it took me a second to realize what I was hearing, but then it was very clear what was going on. It was off to the side of the path we were taking so we just gave it a wide berth and then we were good to go.
I’m definitely signing up to do a couple more trips with BAE — I heard about a Wilderness First Aid one and a trip out into the Desert which both sound awesome. This is the perfect way to get out into nature if you 1. haven’t before and don’t know where to start, 2. don’t have your own equipment, 3. don’t know where to go or 4. don’t have anyone to go with (or any/all of the above!). I think it works out as fantastic value given what you get for your money: food, transport (first come, first served), equipment and expertise provided.