Where Did Summer Go: Ten Essentials to Ending on a High Note


Seems only days ago that we were looking toward summer having noted the best places to visit, the top 25 activities for kids, 50 outdoor events for the lay enthusiast and 99 ways to pass your days. In our attempt to differentiate the dreamy from the droll, maybe we were successful in checking off a handful of memorable adventures and experiences to define our summer: plane rides to parts unknown, afternoons at concerts in the park and summer music festivals, day trips to Bay Area beaches. There is still time to squeeze in several more adventures during the temperate, even warm days that remain.  If you are day-tripping in the Bay Area, civilization is never too far away, but depending upon your plan and your destination, a little preparation can go a long way in inspiring you to travel safely and be able to respond to any small hiccups along the way. The Ten Essentials are an important part of that preparation.

hiking in bay area

The Ten Essentials were first published in January of 1974 in the third edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.  Mountaineers and backpackers insisted on the original essentials as a means of promoting safety and preparation for the unexpected. The original ten essentials are:

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Extra clothing, can include rain gear
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • First aid kit, including prescriptions
  • Firestarter
  • Matches
  • Knife
  • Extra food

The thinking behind the ten essentials has not evolved much in 44 years. Whether you are taking a day hike in the heavily traversed Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park or exploring Point Reyes National Seashore with a multi-day backpacking trip, carrying the ten essentials in your daypack or backpack will provide some peace of mind for a perfect outing and the basics should something go awry.  

hiking in bay area

On many occasions I have seen folks walking a seven mile loop on a warm summer day with a 12 ounce bottle of water and nothing else.  If they don’t get lost or encounter an unexpected thunderstorm or slip and fall on the trail, they will likely make it back to their starting point hungry, dehydrated and maybe a little sunburned–typically not a life threatening situation. Each hiker, carrying her own essentials however, would be able to spend an unexpected additional 5 miles on the trail, in the dark or even a night in the woods should that be necessary.

The ten essentials, however, is an approach that you can utilize beyond the local trails and employ it for every outing. If you have a child and you’re taking a day trip to the beach or the aquarium, filling a daypack with extra food and water, a favorite book, first aid kit, change of clothes, sweatshirt, sunscreen and hat can prevent meltdowns, sunburns and a trying day for all.

If you are spending the day with your best friend at the Treasure Island Treasure Fest, carry some extra cash for the Bloody Marys and churros, sunscreen for his thinning pate and a bottle of aspirin, again to prevent meltdowns and a trying day for all.

What you carry is important, but where you carry it is the point.  Living in the Bay Area, we are surrounded by landscapes of incomparable beauty. These surrounding mountains and seashores are home to essential locales you will want to add to your adventure list before summer comes to a close and you can always create a new list of Fall adventures:

  • Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park–Old growth redwoods, easy to strenuous day hikes, camping and exploration among four distinct habitats within the 4,650 acres.
  • Muir Woods National Monument–The only old growth coastal redwood forest in the Bay Area. What was once 2 million acres of redwood forest from California to Oregon has been wittled down to this remaining 3% of first growth woods.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore–Alamere Falls flows over a 30 foot cliff onto Wildcat Beach but does require a minimum 13 mile round trip hike to reach the Falls. Backcountry camping and boat-in camping also available for adventurers.
  • Mount Tamalpais State Park6,300 acres of redwood and oak groves, steep trails, waterfalls, and gorgeous views of the Pacific Coast. This destination peak offers excellent mountain and road cycling and hiking opportunities.
  • Angel Island State Park–The second largest island, the first is Alameda, in the San Francisco Bay. In addition to views as far as Napa and San Jose from this vantage point, Angel Island has a long and sometimes fraught history given its strategic location, particularly relevant given current events surrounding migration and immigration.
  • East Bay Regional Park District–A unique district operating in Alameda County and Contra Costa County, EBRPD is the largest urban regional park district in the U.S. with 120,000 acres, 65 parks and over 1,200 miles of trails.

Point Reyes National Seashore

My high note for closing a summer evening, or fall or even winter evening–Ice cream. Boutique scoop shops and creameries are the latest boon to neighborhoods these days and you will get no complaint here. Some of these scoop shops have been around much longer than the last few years, but we are definitely seeing plenty of new growth, new approaches and often a focus on local flavors and seasonal foods.

  • Saturn Cafe –no pandering here. The vegan milkshakes are amazing and the seasonal offerings are a must once they appear on the menu. Try not to miss the short-lived mint chocolate milkshake made with Girl Scout cookies!
  • Marianne’s Ice Cream–Since 1947, Marianne’s has been innovating with ice cream and it’s a definite destination stop in Santa Cruz before making the trek back home after a day at the beach or on the Boardwalk.
  • Cream–on both sides of the Bay, this shop sandwiches ice cream between delicious cookies, which can then be rolled in toppings–talk about excess, excessively satisfying.
  • Smitten–ice cream made on the spot from organic milk and cream and frozen with liquid nitrogen-Wow, science at its creamy best!
  • Salt and Straw–July at Salt and Straw was flush with berry ice creams–Goat cheese marionberry habanero was my favorite, a few times. And August offers vegetable centric flavors with a few fruit options. Each venue offers several flavors unique to its area with local bread and cheese producers as well as other consumables.

Ice cream does not comprise one of the Ten Essentials, but it can be essential to ending your summer days with a contented smile and satisfaction that it was a summer well spent.

Saturn Cafe vanilla milkshake