Literal and Figurative Forest Bathing

Point Reyes

The point at Point Reyes


Forest bathing is supposed to be about the health benefits of walking in forests. The “bathing” is the soaking up of the sights and smells all around you.

But if you do your forest bathing on a foggy day at Point Reyes National Seashore, you can get a literal bath along with your figurative one. Fir trees soak up a lot of fog, but when it’s as thick as it was on Monday morning, it will drip down on you. (And when the fog is even thicker, which it was on Wednesday, it turns to drizzle and drips on you even when you’re not under the trees.)

We went out to Point Reyes to get out of the city, and set up camp at our favorite site at Sky Camp, which is about 1,000 feet above sea level and a couple of miles inland from the Pacific Ocean. That gave us a great view of the ocean when it wasn’t foggy, while surrounding us with trees instead of sand. (You can also camp near the beach at Point Reyes.)

This wasn’t quite a backpacking expedition. We had to backpack in from the parking area, but once we set up camp, we went day hiking. I had the illusion that we’d be able to hike all over the park if we didn’t have our heavy backpacks.

But the seven or so miles we did on Monday nearly did us in. I don’t know if it was the morning fog (it lifted about midday) or just the steep downhill of one trail we took, but we were both ready to drop by the time we got back to camp.

Which was just as well, because a stiff wind started to blow in the early evening. We added all our layers, but once the sun went down we decided that the only place where we’d really be warm was in our sleeping bags. Given how tired we were, collapsing into them solved two problems at once.

We did a more restrained hike the second day, which was sunny and delightful. Maybe next outing we’ll do the short hike the first day and try the more ambitious one on the second, when we’re warmed up.

The extent of fog on Wednesday morning meant that we packed up a lot of wet items for the trip home. But despite all that, we had a lovely time. And despite all the fog episodes, we saw the Milky Way every night — pretty amazing at a place just 40 miles from Oakland.

We also saw coyotes, bunnies, a skunk (who wanted to join us at our campsite), fence lizards, a garter snake, at least a hundred quail, hawks, crows, assorted other birds, squirrels, the nests of wood rats, butterflies, spiders, and banana slugs.

And trees, of course. Lots of Douglas firs. Some pine trees. Oaks. Redwoods, alas, do not grow at Point Reyes, though we went through some on the route out there.

And despite all the fog, we got a most excellent sunset on Monday night.


Sunset over Point Reyes



Literal and Figurative Forest Bathing — 3 Comments

  1. Between the wind and the fog, I wasn’t sure at the time that I was enjoying this trip as much as I’ve enjoyed others. But when I hit the traffic on the San Rafael/Richmond bridge on the way home (not to mention when I read the news I’d missed), I realized that I’d had a real vacation from the stress of daily live. I’m so glad we go camping and hiking on a regular basis.