Michael Ellis has received a number of letters over the years from clients who have participated in his Forays.

Here is a selection of excerpts about their recent experiences:

Michael was extremely well qualified for this expedition. His educational background in botany and marine biology, plus his daily research in all available references on local botany and ornithology made him more knowledgeable than any university professor. Additionally, his enthusiasm and eagerness to search for plants and animals kept us going all day every day.
He is also knowledgeable in astronomy. One evening, he set up a telescope on the roof of the hotel and we clearly saw the Southern Cross, Canopus in the constellation Carina, Jupiter with four moons, Rigil Kentaurus and its binary companion star, the Magellanic Clouds, and Orion standing on its head (as viewed from the southern hemisphere).
Every day had fantastic, wonderful, unforgettable events. Michael made them happen.

Professor Walter B. Miller
Biology Dept., Arizona State University

I heard your essay on the thrush and it’s relationship to the rain forests on NPR radio several weeks ago. I was delighted with the piece both for the contents and for the writing. I was driving to a teacher workshop I was conducting on writing. Your piece began as observational writing and drew us in with your personal observations and obvious love, then shifted to persuasive writing. I described it to the teachers at the workshop to illustrate a blending of kinds of writing and the importance of finding purposes for writing. If you would consider sending me a copy, I would incorporate it directly into my workshop.

Moreover, I have my 9th grade students do a research paper/project on environmental issues. In particular I stress the loss of the rainforests because the impact is so severe. Each year students end up caring passionately about saving the rainforests. We even raised money towards buying an acre of rainforest at Maquicupuna in Ecuador, a new Nature Conservancy area. Your writing would make a fine addition to my unit.

Lynne Nittler


My trip to Africa with Footloose Forays was a life event; something that I will remember for the rest of my life. I would travel anywhere in the world with Michael at the helm.

Don Neubacher

Don Neubacher works for the National Park Service is the superintendent of the Point Reyes National Seashore.


My word for the trip is magical; truly in every way it far exceeded any expectation I have may have had. I wasn’t prepared for all the natural beauty, the mountains, streams, and great diversity…Thanks as always for your great organization and leadership

Grace Brown


Thank you for airing the commentary by Michael Ellis this morning. On first hearing it, I thought it was wonderful prose. On reflection, I decided it was pure poetry.

Very Truly,

John Kohler
Daly City


Brilliant! I’ve have never gotten such a positive response from a Guild audience. You drew a record crowd, and no one was disappointed.

Carol Caiman (re. Slide show/lecture on the Deserts of California)
Oakland Museum


You were the medicine we needed. You had us laughing so hard, that our troubles were forgotten.

Jane Ritchie


I was thoroughly impressed with Michael’s ability to take advantage of every teaching moment and experience. He was incredible!

Carol Keiper

I can’t think of a better leader than Michael Ellis. Besides a thorough knowledge of plants and animals he has a very natural, and comical sense of humor. I don’t laugh much but he had me in stitches. There are many people who have the scientific background to lead a trip, but few who can combine this with a down-to-earth relationship toward their trip companions.

Richard Mikita
San Francisco

Thank you for a wonderful, informative three and-a- half days in the Carizzo Plain. It was a unique experience, mostly because of your good teaching techniques and your generosity of spirit in making sure that everybody heard/saw experienced each encounter with “nature”; and your relaxed demeanor in camp. I have taken a good many trips to the American Outback, and seldom have I had the pleasure of such a well-organized RELAXED trip.

Charlotte Rieger,

I appreciated especially the references to legends, mythology, etymology. The spontaneity of the days was refreshing.

Mill Valley

I have been on many trips of this type. Michael Ellis is one of the best leaders I have ever had.

Eleanor Rodgers


It seems that only occasionally do we experience the sense of wonder and joy that’s supposed to be a part of Christmas. Yet such occasions can be so sweet, so rich, so warm. Last year a friend and I spent a beautiful December evening walking along the California coastal cliffs with a group led by naturalist Michael Ellis. There on a clear, cold night under an almost full moon, out on a crescent strip of sand that curved at the ends into a seaside smile, I felt that sense again become a part of me.

Michael led his faithful following up the cliffs overlooking Muir Beach, north of the Golden Gate Bridge. To the south was the City, from a completely different vantage point outside the Gate. Not the Bethlehem of 2000 years ago but our Bethlehem, the representative cluster of humanity that reminds us of our everyday surroundings and responsibilities – yet exquisitely jeweled in the sparkle of myriad lights. The winking sentinels -Pt. Bonito, Mile Rock, Pt. Reyes — flashed their guiding beams as we learned of peregrine falcon toddlers being nurtured into independence from the outcroppings below.

Back on the beach, the bonfire was lit, its bold presence chasing both darkness and cold to the edge of the circle. And within the ring, families huddled close, some cuddling small children (one three-month-old child with eyes brighter than the gold-tipped flames), while Michael spoke of wishes to be written and tossed into the blaze.
Soon carols and other songs surrounded the fire and ,joined the hearts of those seeking the warmth of a brief but beautiful new community. Marshmallows and mugs of chill-chasing brews satisfied the need for evening sweetness, while the spirit of sharing filled the hunger of the heart.

The celebration of light in the midst of darkness is universal. Whatever our beliefs, the power of light compels us to break the darkness. May the light that breaks your darkness fill you with its brightness and give you renewed wonder and joy as you greet the days ahead.

Trish Kaspar



Posted on

August 6, 2009