Monday Footloose Hiking

3/4/19 - 12/16/19

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MONDAY FOOTLOOSE HIKING
SPRING & FALL

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

Make a Mosaic Memory

Join Michael and Mel for a day in the down-home Santa Rosa mosaic studio of celebrated artist Ellen Blakeley (aka Mel). Make several soulful memories and have fun at a small cottage industry hidden in the vineyards of Sonoma County. We will create visual memories by capturing and preserving your images under shards of shattered clear glass! Bring your personal photos, words, even small paintings or sketches. It will be a fabulous foray into the magical world of color, shine and sparkle. Michael will be in the studio making his own mosaic memories. It’s an easy mosaic technique and at the end of the day you will have 2 or 3 pieces to take home. For more information, check out Mel’s website: www.ellenblakeley.com, email: ebstudio@ellenblakeley.com or call (707) 843-3080 for more information.

COST: $165 per person includes all materials.

DATE:
March 15, 2020
March 21, 2020

The Mojave Desert

3/24/19 - 4/6/19

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THE MOJAVE DESERT

The center of this weeklong car camping adventure is a private oasis in the eastern Mojave Desert, just outside Death Valley National Park. Our exclusive camp (we have literally thousands of wild acres all to ourselves) is near the Amargosa River with the quaint and quirky Tecopa Hot Springs not far away. We drive right to our location and conveniently pitch our tents (or sleep right under the abundant desert stars). Though it is the desert, life-giving water (Willow Creek) bubbles to the surface right by our campground. This attracts a plethora of wildlife. We fall asleep to the sounds of owls and even frogs and toads (yes in the desert). The soft cooing sounds of male roadrunners attracting a mate waken us in the early morning. The rare Bell’s least vireos, yellow warblers, phainopeplas, Crissal thrashers, Gambels quail, hooded orioles and even cinnamon teals flourish. Several species of hummingbirds quickly find the feeders I hang.  I also love to catch lizards, little boy that I am. And release., of course.On day trips, we head north into Death Valley, east into the Kingston Range and the surrounding wilderness where the names say it all: Badwater, Dante’s View, Furnace Creek, chuckwalla flat. I show you places that are not known to casual travelers. And there is even a cultural component, which includes visiting some of my eccentric desert friends. Exploring on foot and by car, we’ll learn about the amazing adaptations that plants and animals have evolved to thrive in this harsh xeric environment. The photographic opportunities abound – eerie tree yucca forests, rugged mountain islands, iguanas, coyotes, kangaroo rats and abundant desert wildflowers. In the evenings we share cooking and gather around the campfire. The stars and moon are vibrant and seem alive. A silent night hike into the Badlands is an unforgettable experience.    This is one trip that some folks attend year after year creating a wondrous extended family of kindred desert lovers.

COST:        $550

DATE:
March 29 to April 4, 2020
April 5 to April 11, 2020

South Peninsula Bike Camping Ramble

Hunter (Michael’s son), along with good friend Justin, and Michael are leading an inaugural bike camping expedition on the SF Peninsula. Designed for intermediate cyclists who want to try bike camping but aren’t quite ready to do it on their own (or just want a helping hand), this ride will be as fun as it is challenging! Starting in Half Moon Bay, we’ll meander down the coast through San Gregorio and Pescadero to Butano State Park. The next day we’ll climb fire roads, back roads, and a short stretch of highway through Big Basin Redwoods State Park (the oldest state park in California!) After a pretty good day of climbing we’ll enjoy an exhilarating descent into our second camp at Portola Redwoods State Park. On day three we’ll ride out an old fire road, back up the coast, and finish the loop. The best part is, you don’t have to carry any camping gear! A van  brings your gear to each campsite and provides support during the ride. Breakfast, lunch, snacks, beverages, handmade craft beer, and delicious dinners will be provided! All you have to do is have fun, enjoy the views, and pedal your bike! A gravel bike is ideal for this trip, but mountain bikes, road bikes with wider (32mm or bigger) tires, and even commuter/hybrid bikes should work fine as well.

COST:        $400/person. Includes all food and beverage.

DATE:        May 1 to May 3, 2020

Wild Sonoma Coast Bike Adventure

Hunter, Michael and Justin return, this time leading a handful of adventurous souls through the mountainous backroads of Sonoma and Mendocino counties on an epic, supported, and luxurious bike trip. We’ll start in Healdsburg and ride through wine country, along the Russian River, and over the coast range to Fort Ross. We’ll sleep in comfort and have an elegant private dinner at the Timber Cove Resort. The next day will be a hard, beautiful, and remote foray up the coast and over the mountains into the Anderson Valley. The climbs will be difficult but the scenery stunning, and we’ll end up at the Boonville hotel. There we’ll have an astounding three course meal from a Michelin-starred chef. The family that owns the hotel was the original owner of the French Laundry. It’s an amazing semi-secret escape in rural Anderson Valley. The final day we’ll climb out of the valley, up through Ukiah, and spin our tired legs back south to Healdsburg, following backroads almost the entire way. This ride will be challenging, rewarding and made easier because it will be supported. All you need to focus on is riding! Not designed for novice cyclists, we’ll cover 185 miles and climb 16,000 feet over three days. Depending on the makeup of the group, there will be gravel/dirt options as well. A comfortable road bike is recommended for this ride.

COST:
$900/person, $500 single supplement. Includes lodging and food.

DATE:        June 10 to June 12, 2020

The Cerrado, the Pantanal and the Amazon

6/17/19 - 7/17/19

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THE CERRADO, THE PANTANAL
& THE AMAZON

During this 15-day adventure in central Brazil we visit three of the richest biological regions on the planet – the Amazon, the Pantanal and the Cerrado. We fly to Sao Paulo and then on to Cuiaba, the vibrant capital of the state of Mato Grosso. One-hour drive northwest is the charming town of Chapada and our very comfortable and intimate lodge. The little known Cerrado is the most diverse tropical savannah in the world. It has over 10,000 species of plants, of which 45% are exclusive to the region. There are over 400 species of birds and a diverse assemblage of mammals including the maned wolf, the giant anteater, crab-eating foxes, cavies, and tapirs.

The beautiful landscape is reminiscent of the American Southwest except for those brilliant macaws and parrots flying overhead. The Cerrado feeds three of the major water basins in South America: The Amazon, Paraguay and São Francisco Rivers. It’s an intersection of three biomes – the semi-arid Caatinga, the Amazon forest, the Atlantic Rain Forest. We are in the exact geographic center of South America – a true power spot. We hike, bird and botanize in this wonderland 15 degrees south of the Equator.

Next, we drive south to one of the world’s most extraordinary natural areas and a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Pantanal. It is an enormous wetland the size of Georgia. It is by far the best place to view wildlife in the New World. A mosaic of different vegetation types, this region teems with many of South America’s largest mammals—tapirs, jaguars, capybaras, marsh deer, armadillos, 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 to the north, the Chaco grasslands to 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 even in a Boat Hotel We explore by vehicle, on foot, and by boat. In 2019 we saw seven different jaguars, hyacinth macaws, yellow anaconda, thousands of caimans, and so much more.

Then we fly north into the Amazon Ecosystem, where we stay at the remote and very comfortable Cristalino Jungle Lodge Reserve, a true rain forest sanctuary. This rich region of the Amazon has eight different species of monkeys, three kinds of sloths, frogs galore, toucans, macaws, screaming pihas, and more. Two amazing 164’ observation towers give us an extraordinary perspective of the canopy rarely glimpsed. It is the perfect ending to an amazing trip.

COST:        $7980. Non-refundable deposit $500

DATE:
June 18 to July 4, 2020 Full
July 3 to July 20, 2020 Nearly full

The Farallon Islands

8/2/19 - 8/9/19

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THE FARALLON ISLANDS

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

DATE:
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

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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. 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

DATE:
September 11 to September 13, 2020

Mono Lake in the Autumn

10/04/19 - 10/06/19

MONO LAKE IN THE AUTUMN

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

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

The Holidays in Ecuador

1/2/19 - 1/19/19

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THE HOLIDAYS IN ECUADOR

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

DATE:        December 9th-26th, 2020

Greatest Show on Earth: The Serengeti

1/28/19 - 2/27/19

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THE SERENGETI:
THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH

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.

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

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

WANT TO JOIN A TRIP?

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 mjellis@footlooseforays.com 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.