Field Trip: Steep Ravine

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Nov 7, 2012 | By HB HQ


Once a season, we put our pencils down, load up the cars, and hit the outdoors for an office retreat. The fresh air clears our minds, lifts our spirits, and provides perspective, not only for us, but for the gear that we write about. It's a field test of sorts, one that spans gear, beer, and invariably, one another.

One of our favorite camping spots in the Bay Area is located a few klicks due north of the Golden Gate Bridge on a windswept bluff overlooking the rolling breakers of the Pacific. The camping ground is called Steep Ravine, and is speckled with cabins that are often reserved months in advance. The six campsites have names like "Abalone", "Star Fish", and the one we stayed at, "Cormorant". Oceanfront views don't come cheap in Marin County, except if you got twenty-five bucks, the flexibility to camp on a weeknight, and a camping permit. 

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Three weeks ago, on a rainy, misty, foggy, and all-together unpleasant Thursday afternoon, we caravanned our way up the coast to Steep Ravine. Earlier in the day, Zach, our operations director and culinary aesthete, hit the tri-weekly farmer's market at The Ferry Building. Looking dapper in Holden Outerwear and Topo Designs, he loaded up on farm fresh vegetables for dinner.

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First order of business at camp was, of course, to set up camp. In addition to Holden giving us gear to field test in advance of our sale with them this week, Topo Designs hooked us up with their Klettersack, Poler provided a tent and sleeping bag, Wenger spotted a few sleeping bags, and ODLCO contributed a Wabi Nabe cast iron pot. That is to say, our camp was robust, and if I may, looked like a page out of a Huckberry catalog. All of the gear exceeded our expectations, even in spite of the inclement weather.

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After the girls had properly rigged our camp (I kid, I kid), we headed down to the beach and tide pools to fish for some crab. No crab = no meat for the cioppino we planned to make for dinner that evening. The pounding surf and rocky shoreline made casting nets downright impossible, so we used fishing rods with bait and snares at the end. Just getting to a good casting point was knee-knocking on account of the slippery and jagged rocks, and after a couple of hours battling the elements, our spoils only included a couple of Rock crab. Nothing to write home about. 

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Back at camp, we prepared a crab and vegetable cioppino in our Wabi Nabe, a cast iron pot inspired by Japanese 1-pot cooking. We paired the cioppino with some fire-warmed grog, a concoction invented by the British Royal Navy that consists of rum, juice, cinnamon, beer, and any other potentially-tasty ingredient within ambit. Bacon s'mores followed, which allied with the grog and face-close darkness, provided a one-stop ticket to camping catatonia. 

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The next morning, after a hearty breakfast of bacon and egg sandwiches which we munched on amidst the hum of fishing boats patrolling the quicksilver seas, we packed up camp and rolled into Stinson Beach for a little hiking. Situated at the foot of Mt. Tamalpais, Stinson is pretty much ground zero for Bay Area hiking, as multiple trails converge on the sleepy beach town. After a couple of hours ascending the Steep Ravine trail, we doubled back, and packed into the car for the ride home.

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Just another Friday at the office.