Monday Footloose Hiking

3/4/19 - 12/16/19



I started this Footloose series in 1984 and some folks have been hiking with me since nearly the beginning! Monday morning hikes are such a great way to start the week. We ramble on quiet trails mostly in Marin but also in San Francisco, the East Bay and southern Sonoma county. We identify the abundant flora and diverse fauna in our gorgeous backyard and learn about the dynamic geologic and fascinating human history of the Bay Area. Our endlessly beguiling and most entertaining fellow hikers are yet another bonus! Lifetime friendships abound! Warning: there is usually a wait list for this series as current hikers get first priority.

COST:        $480 per series

DATE:        Fourteen Mondays, 10:00 to 1:30

SPRING:    March 2 to June 8, 2020

FALL:         September 14 to December 14, 2020

The Farallon Islands

8/2/19 - 8/9/19



Just 25 miles off the Marin coast lies the largest seabird colony in the contiguous U.S. These remarkable granitic islands—part of the City of San Francisco—are home to 250,000 seabirds as well as thousands of California sea lions, elephant seals, Steller sea lions, harbor seals, and a growing colony of northern fur seals. Late summer provides the best sightings (a chance to see blue and humpback whales as well as tufted puffins) and relatively flat seas. We’ll discuss the current research of the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (now called Point Blue) and tell tales of Sir Francis Drake and the early island “eggers” as we motor from Sausalito under the Golden Gate Bridge, skirting the scenic Marin coast, out onto the greatest ocean on earth. I first volunteered with Pt. Blue to the Farallons in 1979 and have been leading natural history trips there ever since. You have looked at the Islands for years and now get up close. We do not land on this sensitive wildlife area. What an astonishing and biologically diverse world so close, yet so far away, from the rest of Bay Area.

COST:        $140

July 31, 2020. 7:30 to 4:00
August 14, 2020. 7:30 to 4:00

Natural History, Natural Mystery

9/13/19 - 9/15/19



The Cedars Preserve, in a remote corner of western Sonoma County, has a wild, otherworldly topography: unusual geologic formations, ancient forests of Sergeant Cypress trees, chaparral, seepage thickets, perennial creeks, waterfalls and pools, and massive talus slopes and barrens. The preserve contains five rare species of orchid and seven endemic plants that are found nowhere else in the world. Among the most surprising features of the area are the hyper-alkaline springs which seep from cracks and create large crystalline patterns along the pools. The Cedars is composed of 9,500 acres of terrain composed of ultramafic or serpentine rock. Over the past 200 million years, this specialized rock has been transported from deep below the Earth’s crust to the continental margin where it now sits above sea level. The bare cliffs and scree slopes that rise abruptly out of the Main Canyon are the result of this giant upswelling and are one of the best examples of such metamorphic reshaping. We have been granted special permission to camp in this magical area. Moving beyond the “usual” Footloose Forays experience, we will stretch ourselves by discovering the wonders of such an alive and ever-changing outer landscape while simultaneously exploring our ever-evolving inner landscape. The invitation is to reconnect with our inherent nature as we come to understand the ecology of The Cedars. An openness to explore inwardly as well as outwardly is strongly encouraged for this unique weekend adventure.

COST         $360

September 11 to September 13, 2020

Mono Lake in the Autumn

10/04/19 - 10/06/19


The eastern Sierra Nevada is glorious in the fall, the air is crisp, the sky so blue. The aspen groves will be shimmering in brilliant shades of burnished gold and orange as we explore the wonders of Mono Lake and environs. This body of water is over 1 million years old – a remnant of a much larger inland lake. Its wildlife, unearthly scenery, and life-sustaining streams were recently released from hostage to the water needs of Los Angeles. Bizarre tufa towers, fantastic cinder cones, spooky lava caves, gurgling hot springs, and dramatic mountain canyons are its backdrop. We will get intimate views of California gulls, coyotes and the nearly two million eared grebes that stop here in the fall. American Avocets, Western and Least Sandpipers, Snowy Plovers, White-faced Ibises, and Dowitchers are stopping to feed on their journey south. While this is not an official photography seminar, bring your camera because the photo opportunities are incomparable. A list of accommodations is sent upon registration.

COST:        $370

September 29 to October 1, 2020
October 2 to October 4, 2020

The Holidays in Ecuador

1/2/19 - 1/19/19

Ecuador slide show 192

Ecuador slide show 187


My son Hunter is leading this remarkable tour of Ecuador. I have led this adventure over 25 times, and it’s time to shake things up a bit and let Hunter lead the way. He’s visited Ecuador several times and done this trip twice—you’ll be in good hands! This journey takes us to the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon, the Andes, and around the capital city of Quito.  The Amazon:  From Quito, we fly 30 minutes to the frontier town of Coca and travel by speedboat down the Napo River deep into the Upper Amazon Basin.  Biologists think that this part of the world has had no major climatic change for 100 million years! The diversity of life is astounding:  jaguars, caimans, piranhas, monkeys, sloths and more exotic tropical birds than you can possibly imagine. We will venture daily into the surrounding jungle on foot and by canoe. Best of all, there are surprising few annoying insects!  The Galapagos:  We then have a week in the Galapagos on one of the finest yachts in the archipelago, and we swim and snorkel every day.  Our yacht carries 16 passengers so we are guaranteed an intimate visit to islands where fauna show little fear of humans.  We’ll see close-up giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, lava lizards, fur seals—we’ll even swim with penguins and sea lions!  The Andes: Back on the mainland, we will tour dramatic Quito and the Highlands (9300’ high) and surrounded by the Andes snowcapped volcanic peaks. Colorful Indian markets offer incredible shopping, and we’ll have a birding and wildflower adventure on the lower slopes of Volcano Cotachaci.

COST:        $7950 land costs, $1100 single supplement. $500 non-refundable deposit

DATE:        December 9th-26th, 2020

Greatest Show on Earth: The Serengeti

1/28/19 - 2/27/19






Tanzania, not Kenya, has the best wildlife show left on the planet, and we will be there at the peak of 1.5 million wildebeests giving birth in a 3-week period! This is in addition to viewing giraffes, elephants, lions, rhinos, leopards, gazelles, impala, hyenas, jackals, cheetahs, dik-diks, and zebras. And the birds! Flamingos, storks, pelicans, white-crowned shrikes, eagles, bee-eaters, ostriches, rollers, and so many more. Comfortable private tent camping combined with cozy lodges make this the perfect trip. Resident Tanzanian naturalists accompany us throughout our visits to Arusha National Park, the Serengeti Plain, Tarangire National Park, Olduvai Gorge, and the Ngorongoro Crater. I have been leading trips to the Serengeti every winter since 1992, and it remains my all-time favorite natural history experience. I have taken over 800 people on this safari and they have all had a phenomenal time and a life-changing experience. It remains the perfect choreographed itinerary with exquisite local guides. This is indeed the trip of a lifetime; you owe it to yourself. If not now, when? And no, it’s not too hot, and yes, the food is delicious and it is definitely glamping! All three trips are filling fast.

$9650 land cost (no change from last year) Non-refundable deposit, $500.

January 28 – February 12, 2021
February 12 – February 28, 2021
February 28 – March 14, 2021


To register, please fill out and submit the form below.

To pay, please mail a check (sorry no charge cards), payable to Footloose Forays, for the full amount for domestic trips or the required deposit for international trips. You are officially registered upon receipt of your check.

Michael J. Ellis
Footloose Forays
1275 4th St. #311
Santa Rosa, CA 95404-3522

Please sign up early, as most trips fill quickly. A trip information package will be sent as confirmation. Call (707) 570-2187 or E-mail us at with questions.

Cancellation of domestic trips will be accepted four weeks prior to the trip. There will be a 15% processing fee. Cancellations received after that time will result in fee forfeiture. Cancellation policies for international trips vary. Please ask me for particulars.

Sorry but you must sign a Liability and Release form.