Posted by: morningofcreation | May 19, 2012

Big Sur Backpacking Trip with Bay Area Expeditions

Updated Post-Trip: May 21, 2012:

Imagine falling asleep under the umbrella of redwood trees and peering at stars through the canopy – in the middle of the forest away from anything remotely resembling modern society. This memory fully captures my thoughts on the trip. Furthermore, Bay Area Expeditions was a great choice for an intro into backpacking course for the following reasons: super cool guys, they know their stuff, they tell you only what you really need to know. Chris, Johnny, and Dan were very experienced, intelligent, and cool dudes – they shared very pertinent information that you would think would be obvious, but we almost always certainly forget. If you want to pick up the basics about backpacking, hear some great wilderness stories and have a great time, I would certainly recommend Bay Area Expeditions. Bay Area Expeditions also has a survival and safety course with more in-depth field analysis, can do hikes up through Cataract Falls in the Mount Tamalpais area, and excursions deep into the Black Rock Desert where the annual Burning Man festivals are held. For more information, here is a link to their website as well as Yelp reviews:

Bay Area Expeditions

Bay Area Expeditions Yelp Review

Things learned about survival:

Rule of 3:

  • You have 3 minutes to stop any profuse bleeding or arterial wounds or to regain access to air (the first thing to do always in a dire situation is apply triage to injuries)
  • You have 3 hours to setup shelter from the elements (once shelter is set, find a way to signal for help)
  • You have 3 days to find sources of water
  • You have 3 weeks to find food


  • What poison oak looks like and what wild strawberries and eddible weeds/plants can be used for survival purposes
  • Note: There is a lot of poison oak on this trail, and hives of ticks in some areas so be sure to bring both bug repellant and wear long pants, especially if you are susceptible to poison oak.

Lessons about Technology

The reason why we evolved as a species is technology. If there is anything that is wrong about the “Survivorman” of “Man vs. Wild” shows, it is that 99% of the situations we will face will not require any of the extreme methods used and the likelihood of us having odd resources such as “coke cans and chocolate to create a signal beacon” are highly unlikely. The best two ways to prevent death are proper planning (leaving an itinerary with someone you know and mapping out exactly where you are going to go) and “buying your way out of trouble” through use of technology. If there are three essentials any day hiker or backpacking would need in case of emergency situations for survival, the three things are 1) a handheld GPS with a solar rechargeable source, 2) a homing beacon which is directly connected to emergency search and rescue satellites and 3) a water purification and filtration system. These 3 modern and relatively inexpensive devices can drastically extend chances of survival along with the other obvious items brought during outings (flashlight, knife, lighter and first aid kit).

Going to War with Nature


Fallen Bay Tree Crossing

The Hike

The hike was one of the most unexpectedly beautiful hikes I have done in a long time. The drive from the Fremont/Union City area to the meet up point at King City took approximately 2 hours. From King City, we drove another hour to hour and a half crossing the Santa Lucia Range and through Fort Hunter Liggett on the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. Another viable but much longer but scenic route would have been to take Highway 1 down the coast to the junction of the road.We accessed the Mills Creek trail head – note that the trail head is near the end of the Nacimiento-Ferfusson Road coming from King City and on a U-shaped switchback on the road with a view of the coast. The Mills Creek trail sign is small and located on the left-hand side of the road.

We hiked a relatively easy 2.5 miles into the forest. The biggest obstacles were not the elevation gains so much as the trail’s conditions. Massive trees had fallen and blocked a number of sections on the trail and there are a couple of creek crossings. However, these obstacles made the hike much more interesting and a little challenging – figuring out how to slip between branches with a 30+ pound bulky sac makes for great agility training. It was definitely an adult playground of sorts – and adult jungle gym. Although the hike may not be challenging for those looking for more physically demanding routes, this trail is definitely one that most people can enjoy.

We hiked to a spot just a quarter mile below a homestead site which was built by local settlers hundreds of years ago. The land was once owned and a part of the vast estate of newspaper magnate William Randolph Heart and was ceded to the government due to tax evasion in the early 20th century (a great trip that could be down after the hike is a visit to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, only about an hour and 15 minute drive south on the Pacific Coast Highway). The site was a fairly flat ground under a grove of second growth Redwoods which towered hundreds of feet above. There is directly next to the creek, so the sounds of rushing waters could be heard along with the moving critters and nocturnal animals at night which made for a surreal experience. The weather was warm at night – not reaching below 60 degrees which allowed for tent-less camping – just picking a relatively clear spot on the ground and laying out the sleeping bag. It was definitely an experience to remember, and something I recommend all day and backpacking hikers to do just to get a better understanding of the dos and don’ts, as well as simply to have a great experience on the Central Coast.

Mills Creek Running

JJ Muir

Landscape Garden

Jungle Gym

The trail head has spectacular views of the California Coast, and an extra afternoon or day can be spent driving leisurely down the coast.

Cali Coast

From Ragged Point on the PCH


Driving Through Fort Hunter Liggett

Near the Trail Head

Simple Bare Necessities

For the entire unedited album, visit the trip’s Picasa Album via the following link: Big Sur Backpacking with Bay Area Expeditions Photo Album

For a link to directions to near the area of the trail head click on the following link: Big Sur Backpacking Trip Map

Updated Pre-Trip: May 19, 2012

So it is the night before the big backpacking trip. How has time gone by so fast? Looking at my archived e-mails, we originally bought this package deal on Living Social on 10/20/10 – going on 2 years ago. We had planning for last summer, but never found the time to make the trip work and finally, in May 2012, we are fulfilling the purchase. I was surprised they were still willing to work with us.

I am going in relatively unprepared and out of shape. I was trying to get into good habits, but it has been hard when working 60+ hours a week regularly and have a ton of personal, family and financial issues on the side to boot. Working out has come in second place to sleep and rest in terms of priorities, and with two months to go in my friendly wager on weight loss, I need to step it up. I thought by this trip, I would be in better shape, but I find myself in the shape I was 2 months ago. I will admit that I am an outdooring wanna-be. Not so much nature-snob, but more so looking for my own peace as I don’t pretend to do crazy hikes and travels beyond my ability. It is what it is. I am out of shape and am pretty slow, but God do I love beautiful scenery. I am just hoping I don’t stick out like a sore thumb tomorrow amongst the more physically-able.

Supplies: After catching up on sleep after work this afternoon, I missed out on picking up hiking pants at REI (I was planning to go right after work, but was falling asleep while driving home), so I ended up picking up a couple of pairs of cheap cargo pants from Walmart – hopefully this won’t make too much of a difference in the hiking portion. I have my Big Agnes Lost Ranger sleeping bag and sleeping bag pad, a first aid kit, headlamp, leatherman, binoculars, whistle, compass, thermometer, swiss army knife, lights, several layers of clothing, my point-and-shoot, and my camelbak and canteen cooling in the refrigerator. Bay Area Expeditions says they will supply a majority of the gear, so we will see about that. David and I are meeting at JJ’s at 7:30 AM to get to the meeting point at King City at around 9:30AM or 10:00AM. I am excited to learn about the basics or backpacking and hope to parlay this into future trips and expand the types of trips I do. Car camping a couple times a year is fun, but to add backpacking to the array of options of trip that can be done would be great because there are so many resources and places on the West Coast to really explore.

I will update my post with pictures and thoughts when we get back.


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