Camp Navarro

Poor little east-coast-turned-midwestern-boy, I had no idea places like this existed. You can find out more about this place here if you want, but this magical place was a boy scout camp for forever, then retired, and is now opened once again to the public. I took the train out to San Francisco, then met up with some friends to get to here for a wedding actually. For the first half of this long trip, here is where I stayed. My first day was mostly settling in, finding out where I could find my preferred sleeping spot (alone, in the woods, not inside) and exploring the immediate grounds of the camp. Though the camp’s property has some interesting trails and gives you an intimate look at California’s current drought, in the coming days I’d come to find the Navarro area has a fantastic amount of wilderness to offer.

The contentment that began to creep into me during my time at Camp Navarro didn’t go unnoticed. My first night sleeping out alone in the adirondack was a great moment of enjoying pure darkness and total silence. Initially when I explored I thought the soft ground so unique the redwood forests might be great for barefoot hiking, but in the mountain ranges that connected the groves the ground went dry, sun-bleached, and rocky. Stuffing my feet into huge, padded boots is so unappealing to me that I’ve settled for wearing Toms for hikes too rough for bare feet.

So, to wake up from the most serene sleep ever, with just the right amount of my body sore, as first light was hitting the sky but not quite making it down past the canopy was a transcendent moment for me. I immediately grabbed a water bottle, an apple, and feeling hella cute and manly I stomped away from camp with goals of getting really sweaty, really dirty, and wasting as much of the day as possible. It took less than a day for me to feel like I was where I belonged and doing exactly what I was meant to do.

The first time I remember being surrounded by redwoods was six or seven Januaries back when I went to San Francisco for the first time and spent a day with friends in Golden Gate National Recreational Area. Like, I was in awe of their size and stuff just like every person upon first encountering redwoods, but at the time I wasn’t yet brainwashed by bearded dudes like Muir and Abbey. By that I mean I thought nature was cool and having nice paths and parking lots in and around it was acceptable. In Navarro, though, I was isolated. No paved paths or trashcans— hell, no water for that matter. There was one road that I decided was as best to avoid. Deer trails were good enough until I’d stumble across an old, abandoned ATV route. You don’t really care how you’re getting through the woods when the woods you’re in are the oldest and most beautiful thing ever.

If this sounds like a great way to get lost, you’re right. Don’t walk around the woods like this. You’ll get eaten by at least one bear and no one will know what to do with your camera gear or your dog back home. People who die alone in the woods aren’t remembered for ending their lives like badasses but as living like fools.