Have you ever woken up to the force of wind and rain ferociously pounding on your tent? It feels as if the flimsy polyester separating you from the outer elements might rip open at any given moment, releasing a torrential flood capable of sweeping you deep into the forest. You are vulnerable at the mercy of the sky and its’ peculiar sense of humor. No app on your phone can save you now.
Going on a backpacking trip makes you realize quite a bit about yourself. The disparity of how comfortable our lives are at home with vehicles and endless distractions are a stark contrast in comparison to how we can live out of a backpack in the woods. By no means do I claim to be a resourceful survivalist like Cody Lundin or anyone within that stratosphere. In fact, I’m quite the opposite of that. The reality is, calluses are foreign to my delicate hands, carrying groceries up the apartment steps are my main form of exercise, and I crank the heat as soon as the temperature dips below 70 degrees. But what I have found, is that this year of microadventuring has rumbled my notion of self and what is really required to live and be happy. You’ve heard the saying, “choose experiences over things”, right? I think we should also discuss which kinds of experiences we are selecting. At this point in my life, I know that my happiness can be summoned by traipsing on an adventure instead of sipping a cocktail at a too-loud Halloween party. Going on these microadventures has injected perspective back into my world that was starting to feel as predictable as the Game of Life. Spin the wheel to find out where you are heading.
Castle Rock is a rare gem embedded in the Silicon Valley.
Castle Rock State Park is located on the edge of Los Gatos on the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains. What’s more, it is only a 30-minute car ride away from one of my favorite ramen destinations, Santouka in the Mitsuwa Japanese grocery store. It’s well known in the bouldering community due to its’ abundance of friendly rocks full of nooks to artfully balance extremities in. There is a remarkable collection of moss-covered trees with slightly eerie auras and refrigerator (aka. Madrone) trees with curling bark, revealing so much smoothness you are compelled to touch. Backpacking is the only kind of camping permitted on site, which makes for a unique experience. Expect a 2.6-mile trek into camp along the ridge or through the trail.
Indulgence is worth the few extra pounds (for a night).
Microadventures are all about short, attainable experiences near home. Even though we were shlepping our packs and supplies into camp, we certainly did not skimp on tasty snacks and meal preparations. For my dinner cooking assignment, I conjured a hodge-podge Japanese curry udon noodle soup loaded with a thick slab of spam, chopped zucchini, a generous handful of sliced green onions, and a hard-boiled egg. We snacked on classic favorites such as teddy grahams and enjoyed the afternoon sunshine over a large bunch of seedless green grapes. Admittedly, I dozed off in my camp chair and then stretched out for a nap inside of the tent while the sun was at its’ highest.
Don’t look down. Look out.
By some feat of sheer magic, I was convinced to leave my cozy nap to go on a hike to Goat Rock. We went along the Ridge trail, which unfortunately has far too much uphill. Let’s just say this is roughly a 1-mile “buns of steel” kind of path. I’ve gone on enough of these type of hikes to have been let down by less-than-impressive experiences with no views at all. Goat Rock caught me completely off guard with its’ epic scenery that awaited us at the top. As if it couldn’t get any better, the exquisite slab was practically begging to be climbed with its’ many pockmarks. Discover the secret cave which is clearly loved and decorated with artful murals and writings inside. Sit on Goat Rock and you are on top of the world.
Learning a new game sure takes a lot of time.
If you plan on camping in the rain or foul weather, a lightweight game (or two) might just keep you from going a bit “tent crazy”. We had seen a sleeping shelter structure during the trek into camp and had wondered what the sign “use for inclement weather only” truly meant. California weather is typically like living in a warm dream looking out through wayfarer glasses and the shelter’s structure seemed a bit like overkill. Around 4am, we were accosted by the stormy gifts of mother nature. The term “inclement weather” began to make a lot more sense. As the sky continued to pour, we taught ourselves how to play a new game called “Bang”. This fun-spirted wild west themed game is rife with a play on stereotypical western character names such as Calamity Janet, Lucky Duke, and Slab the Killer. Each person is assigned a hidden agenda and must act on their task while keeping their identities hidden. Learning the game with its’ many rules and nuances was particularly painful during the first two rounds since we had to refer to the instructions every time a move was made.
During all of this, the notion of missing out on a Halloween party seemed all too far away. There was no FOMO, regret, remorse, or anything of the like. I was exactly where I wanted to be on this microadventure– just a few friends waiting out the storm in a stunning setting.