Monday Footloose Hiking


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 and Sonoma counties. We identify the abundant flora and diverse fauna in our backyard and learn about the geologic and human history of the Bay Area. Our endlessly fascinating and entertaining fellow hikers are yet another bonus! Sign up for one or both 14-week sessions. (Warning: there is usually a wait list for these series as current hikers get first priority.) I am thinking of restarting the Sonoma Tuesday hiking series so let me know if that is of interest to you.

COST: $460 per series

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

SPRING: March 6 to June 12, 2017

FALL: September 11 to December 11, 2017

The Pantanal and the Amazon


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After having an amazing trip to Brazil last year, I decided to go again in 2017–twice!! South of the Amazon Basin in Brazil lies one of the world’s most extraordinary natural areas: the Pantanal (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). It is an enormous wetland about the size of South Dakota. Biologists compare it to the African savanna with its vast prairies divided by meandering rivers forested at the water’s edge. It is by far the best place to view wildlife in the New World.
 A mosaic of different vegetation types – 80% is under water during half of the year, and in the other half dry – this region teems with many of South America’s largest mammals – tapirs, jaguars, capybaras, marsh deer, giant otter and giant anteaters. And so many birds! Even non-birders can easily see 100 species in a single day. The flora and fauna of the Amazon and Atlantic forests of the north, the Chaco grasslands from the east and west, and the pampas to the south intersect in the Pantanal to create one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. We stay in comfortable lodges and explore by vehicle, on foot and by boat. Then we fly north into the Amazon Ecosystem. We stay at the remote and very comfortable Cristalino Jungle Lodge Reserve, a true rain forest sanctuary. This richest region in the Amazon has eight
different species of monkeys, three kinds of sloths, frogs galore, toucans, macaws, cotingas and more. Two amazing 164 feet tall observation towers give us an extraordinary perspective of the canopy rarely glimpsed. We can help you extend your adventure to Iguaçu Falls, Rio or the Atlantic Rain Forest.

DATE (s):

June 16-June 30, 2017; June 30 – July 14, 2017
COST: $7400

The Farallon Islands

DSC_1462Just 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 PRBO out to the Farallons in 1979 and have been leading natural history trips there ever since. What an astonishing and biologically diverse world so close, yet so far away, from the rest of Bay Area.

COST: $135

DATE: Friday, August 4, 2017, 7:30 to 4:00

DATE: Friday, August 11, 2017, 7:30 to 4:00

Natural History, Natural Mystery


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. Joining me is Jennie Oppenheimer who will support us in exploring and discovering who we are amidst this remarkable landscape . 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: $350

DATE: September 15 – 17, 2017

Bhutan: The South!



This trip is specifically designed for people who have traveled with me in the middle Himalaya on my “regular” Bhutan trip. But anyone is welcome. This adventure explores the Royal Manas National Park—Bhutan’s Biological Treasure. In November 2014 I brought the very first foreign travel group into this newly opened park. We kayaked into the King’s Special Campground right at sunset – one of the highlights of my life.  Royal Manas represents the largest example of tropical and sub-tropical ecosystems in Bhutan. With hundreds floral and faunal species, several of which are globally endangered, it is not only the most diverse protected area in the Kingdom but also one of the world’s biologically outstanding conservation sites. After being maintained as a forest reserve by the Royal Government of Bhutan for many years, Royal Manas was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1964, making this park the nation’s oldest protected area. In 1993 the area was upgraded to a national park. Now, it forms part of the Bhutan Biological Conservation Complex, an extensive system of protected areas and biological corridors covering over 50 percent of the country. The park’s location and the largely pristine forest, which covers approximately 92% of its area, make the park extremely rich in biodiversity. The diverse flora includes tropical monsoon forests, subtropical broadleaved forests, warm broadleaved forests, cool broadleaved forests, and evergreen oak forests. These habitats support a wide range of fauna, affording us the opportunity to spot many rare and endemic birds and mammals. We’ll drive and hike through the lower elevation forests, visiting the local towns and families, and keeping our eyes out for wildlife. We then fly up into the middle Himalaya giving us the wonderful opportunity to experience several more of the major ecosystems and cultural delights of this peaceful Buddhist world.


DATE:  January 6- 22, 2018

Palau and Yap

11/03/2016 - 11/19/2016



Micronesia’s thousands of high volcanic and low sand and coral islands are interspersed with low-lying atolls and coral reefs encircling still blue lagoons.  Just north of the equator, this is the remote unspoiled Pacific, with palm-thatched huts, outrigger canoes and coconut trees.  Palau is one of the best snorkeling sites on the planet, harboring more species of marine life than any similar-sized area in the world. It is also renowned for Jellyfish Lake, where visitors can swim with million of golden stingless jellyfish in a landlocked marine lake. On the island of Peleliu, remnants of World War II-era tanks and bunkers are reminders of the most deadly battles in the Pacific theater. A visit to Yap takes us to the most traditional corner of Micronesia, where Yapese still practice a traditional lifestyle.  Yap is also known as the best place for seeing manta rays on a consistent basis, recognized by the recent establishment of the Yap Manta Marine Sanctuary.

COST: To be determined. Refundable deposit, $500

DATE: November 2018


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.

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