Trail Mavens – Kayaking Tomales Bay

Written by Ariana Pritchett, Flight Design Co

Banner image by Kristina Frost 

Photo Katrina McHugh Flight Design Co.
Photo Katrina McHugh Flight Design Co.

Everybody needs a little wild.

As I turned off of Hwy 1 the fog was slowly lifting. Tomales Bay opened up to me as if she’d missed me as much as I her. The small group of fellow kayakers had formed at the Pt. Reyes, California visitor center and as I joined them I became one of them, our collective desire for adventure filling the space between us.

I was born wild.

My childhood was spent climbing trees, making forts and foraging off of edibles in our garden – earth caked beneath each fingernail. Taking it in from first light until nightfall. Nature, my first love, stayed in my daily life through my early 20s when I lived out of my car working as a seasonal outdoor guide, sleeping as many nights outside as I did in.

But life moves on and now over a decade later comforts have become easy and responsibilities aplenty. I am a wife, mother and business owner, and the often unromantic amount of planning needed to attempt balance of these three beloved roles can leave little behind for spontaneous whims.

But the wild always calls.

I am the co-founder of Flight Design Co, a business born in the dreams of creative entrepreneurs, strategizing their vision and giving them life through branding, graphic design and foundational development. Our work is all about adventure. There is fog, there are choppy waters, there is the moon and the stars, and the tide, and it thrives on the adventurer in us all. We join our clients on the trail, trace the shoreline, and paddle with them. We become the oars, the flotation device, compass and they are the water, wind and horizon. So, when my business partner, Katrina, and I got the invitation to join Trail Mavens on an overnight kayak trip to the Pt. Reyes National Seashore, I knew my silent prayer had sought out its perfect path.

Sasha, the ring leader and founder of the outdoor guiding company for women, had thought of everything; every t crossed, every i dotted.  After packing our individual snack packs we caravanned to our launching station. Once adorned with neoprene and floatation devices, our boats packed to the gills, we set afloat onto the blue waters of Tomales Bay.

Feeling the sun on my face, the paddle slicing through the water, the gentle wind coming off the coast, I turned to Katrina, work-wife, friend, creative-genius, and vessel co-captain and said, “I need more of this in my life.” Her smile returned the sentiment in spades.

Something that drew Katrina and I together to bushwhack our way into business was our affinity for adventurous spirits and gypsy souls. There is something so exhilarating about sharing adventure in common with a group of unfamiliar women. Whether navigating a wilderness expedition or the daring path of business ownership, something primal is uncovered. An exhale heard around the fire. Even the most skilled outdoorswoman often defers to men when faced with a challenge.  Remove them from the equation and it is us we must depend. And here on Tomales beach it was just us, and that was more than enough.

Photo Kristina Frost Trail Mavens
Photo Kristina Frost Trail Mavens

Our team was strong, each bringing their own flavor of adventure to the table from techies to musicians, film makers to the unemployed, we brought strength, grace, grit, and humor. As we sat around the campfire with stories, sing-alongs, and a little wine and whisky it was as if we’d known each other for years. The wild has a way of stripping down social norms and creating a place in the circle for all, regardless of what might be under different circumstances.

Throughout the trip Sasha cheered us on to try new things and embrace opportunity.  Never used a backpacking stove? Perfect, you’re on cooking duty. Not adept at reading a topo map? Awesome, we’ll show you how and you can help us navigate the trail.  Each participant was encouraged to lean into the challenge, the unknown, and to take the chance to step out of our comfort zones and try something new.

The terror of the unknown can be paralyzing, but the thrill of making it through to the other side is so worth it’s weight in overcoming fears and connecting with your courageous self.  As we allowed ourselves to be stretched into new realms of learning we allowed the natural environment to envelop us.  We were raptured in the tiniest wildflower asking to be discovered to the magic of the bioluminescence lighting up the midnight sea.  And as thousands of cormorants took off in a ballet of flight skimming just above the water and out of the fog, something in my spirit lifted as well.

Ah yes.  This is what it means to be alive.

In the morning sun we drifted toward bayfront, our night for new friends and wanderlust, for being and remembering, had come to a close.

But I knew better than to leave it all behind.

These days I harmonize with my wild. Freeing it into my dailyness, ever-aware of her presence, so if eating a ripe tomato from my garden is where we meet on one day, the next we go running through the redwoods. We get lost together. We never make promises to each other, we are as much reckless abandon as we are unexpected tiny adventures in the most orchestrated of moments.

We are braided, a sisterhood of self.

So sometimes when my life feels a little more like a desk lamp than the Northern Lights, I listen for the quiet lapping of the shore, getting further and further away with every stroke.

I am my wild.

Photos Katrina McHugh

Trail Mavens brings together intimate groups of dynamic women for weekend-long, skill-based camping and backpacking adventures. We provide the equipment, permits, topo maps, and marshmallows, making outdoor access seamless.