Our leader Pete, after twenty or so group texts, each with ten or so recipients creating a combined 200 or so communications bouncing from microwave cell tower to satellite and back again, directed some of us in the group to cover meals — I owned dinner for example — and for all of us to meet on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge at 9:00 am Sunday morning before driving the rest of the distance to our camping destination at the Headlands in Marin north of San Francisco.

Obligingly, we wake up crack of dawn, pack our car, stop at an organic market to pick up supplies for our meals (Cameron, my son, had breakfast), and easily make our journey along 19th Street in the City and over the Golden Gate. Early and now parked on the side of the road, we received another series of texts explaining that our leader had a flat tire and the new meeting time would be a leisurely 10:30. I demanded to see a receipt for the tire repair.

With the group assembled, we first go the Point Bonita Lighthouse which is only open to the public for a few hours three days a week.

Marin Headlands1

We were early so we killed time along the shore below where there was a 1920’s loading dock crumbling into the sea.  Some of our group remained on top, terrified of Gloria and her like-minded daughter Erin’s response if either found out.

Marin Headlands2

Marin Headlands3

Marin Headlands4

Marin Headlands5

Marin Headlands6

Marin Headlands7

Below is a photo of Pete, our leader, scrambling up the dilapidated structure, unbeknownst to his wife Gloria at home while the group looks on from above.  (I hope she doesn’t read this.)

Marin Headlands8

Marin Headlands8

We still had some time before the lighthouse would open so Pete, our leader, entertained us with his weird-man’s-hand -from-the-other-side-of-the-door trick which goes something like this: you first put your hand through an opening in the door and then back through another opening and begin a dialog with a make-believe person on the other side supposedly connected to this strange hand,

“Is everything OK?,”

in which response the hand signals ‘OK’.  To which you repeat the question,

“Is everything OK?”

Repeat again and again for twenty minutes.

Marin Headlands9

Finally the docent comes and opens the lighthouse to visitors.  Point Bonita Lighthouse was built in 1855 but had to be moved in 1877 because it was too high and in the fog and thus had little effect.  There are 300 some odd ship wrecks along the shores of this natural harbor.   The wreck of the SS City of Rio de Janeiro that left 130 passengers and crew dead is just a few hundred feet offshore below us.  The same migrant workers from China that built our railroad dug a tunnel to Bonita Point and we follow our guide through it and over the only suspension bridge in the U.S. that leads to a lighthouse.  It is also known as having the first fog horn in the country — a Civil War canon that was fired every 15 minutes at night and in fog but it became a very boring job and the canon guy left on vacation complaining and never came back — true story.

Marin Headlands10

Marin Headlands11

Marin Headlands12

Marin Headlands13

Marin Headlands14

Marin Headlands15

Marin Headlands16

When we finally get there after an hour and a half of waiting and grueling “man behind the door” tricks, we come to the end and find just a really old lighthouse afterall.

Marin Headlands17

But the boys find many intriguing questions to ask our young volunteer ranger and guide.

Marin Headlands18

Marin Headlands19

The photo below is Pete and his son-in-law, Jim, who had the intelligence not to scale the cliff and risk Erin (Pete’s daughter) finding out.

Marin Headlands20

Lunch, which was Pete’s meal to manage, was a jar of Skippy and some white bread that he got at a Shell gas station.  He brought some orange juice, kept cool from ice he took from his fitness center, and passed out cups he got from there too.  Afterwards he passed out chocolate eggs from Easter 2005.

We park the cars and make our mile long trek to camp.  It was a little harder than we thought.  Danny in a stroke of divine genius brought a wagon and loaded it six feet high, while Cameron and I carried a trunk of cooking equipment that was quite heavy in the sun.  It’s little surprise that the team led by Danny and Pete didn’t see the sign for our camp — Haypress — and continued walking to the ocean.

We make camp and get to work on dinner — my designated responsibility.  With the paella pan on medium, I caramelize thick cut bacon, coated in brown sugar and cayenne pepper – on a stick.  I passed them out as an appetizer with some nice cabernet (albeit in a box.)  I begin the Sofrito of garlic, tomatoes, onion, and bell pepper in virgin olive oil.  I brown the chicken in the pan and put it to the side.  Then I add the arborio rice on the paella pan and add wine to open the rice up to more flavor.  Being careful not to over stir the rice, I watch and add more broth over the course of an hour and a half, bringing the rice to the perfect texture; slightly toasted and chewy on the bottom — called the socarrat in Spain– and perfect on the top.  I add the shrimp and stir until they are cooked and serve while making comparisons to the lunch we had hours earlier.

Marin Headlands22

Below is Clark. We were celebrating his graduation from USD.

Marin Headlands23

This is Danny. We were glad that it got a little cooler and he was forced to put a jacket over his pornographic, alternative lifestyle t-shirt.

Marin Headlands247

This is Jim, the son-in-law who brought an aged single malt and Cuban cigars (again I am forced to compare his contribution to lunch.)

Marin Headlands25

To the right and below are the English brothers.  Everyone has been together since first grade.

Marin Headlands26

Below is my pensive son, Cameron, contemplating the archeology of the surrounding region.

Marin Headlands28

Below is our makeshift sleeping arrangement.

Marin Headlands29

After dinner, and now dark, we head for the beach, about two miles down the road at Tennessee Cove.  This is probably the most gorgeous beach I have ever seen in my travels, including Hawaii, Tahiti, and Amalfi.  This is a must, and relatively easy to get to from San Francisco.


Marin Headlands30


Marin Headlands31

My camera runs out of battery, as does my phone, and my mattress air blower.

There are no more photos, only a great memory of breakfast sandwiches on San Francisco sourdough by Cameron and Conner (yes, real bread, not that Wonder Bread we had for lunch that you as a kid rolled up into a ball of dough and threw at the girl you liked at the table across the cafeteria.)

Take care,