A big thank you to BPL member Amy Lauterbach (drongobird). Her suggestion for an itinerary and map recommendation helped immensely.
From Vancouver, BC airport to SFO, on BART, then started walking. I can't believe how easy it was to get to the trailheads/campsites using public transit.
There is a huge outdoor store in Golden Gate Park, called the Sports Basement, about a mile away from the Golden Gate bridge/bus stop. You can't miss it, it's about 100 yards from the water. A perfect place to pick up fuel etc.
US customs was kind enough to let me through with my dehydrated stew and ground beef. Amy's organic lentil soup also dehydrates super well. So I had to buy minimal supplies.
First solo backpacking trip.
I used the "Map Adventures" maps. Excellent. Hiking/biking trails, bus routes, grocery and outfitter stores, topographical and spot elevation indicators etc.
The GGNRA (Marin County), a federal park, is just right across the Golden Gate bridge and offers free campsites. The first one I stayed in--Bicentennial--was excellent. There are two others. Then walked on to the adjoining MT. Tam State Park.
A 21 km ocean view walk (I kind of took an unexpected detour).
I stayed at their mediocre Pantoll site, which has nine different excellent trailheads from it. Water at Pantoll and Steep Ravine campsites, Bicentennial has water by Marin Visitor center nearby (1 km or so, where you pick up free permits for all 3 GGNRA campsites). You can use showers and kitchen at youth hostel across the street for $2.
Took the Steep Ravine Trail (supposedly one of the nicest in the area) south to Stinson Beach, a classic Californian beach town, and stayed at the stellar Steep Ravine/Rocky Point Campsite a couple of on trail miles away. Ate a huge lunch in town, and bought some KD at grocery store conveniently across the street from the Marin Coach (services area for $2) bus stop. A block away from the beach.
Took bus back to city, BART, airport.. home.
You can walk from Stinson beach west to Point Reyes National Seashore (another National park), or go north/stay in the Mt Tam area and explore Muir Woods.
I know my rain gear is solid. My driducks ultralite 2 and EB Downlight kept me cozy and dry. The Zpacks hexamid performed admirably in 2 all night downpours. The big mesh wall was lovely to look out of whilst warm and cozy in my quilt, listening to the waves.
Highly recommended. I got a good look at the area on the Marin coach home. MT. Tam further north from where I was definitely looked worth exploring. Not exactly rugged granite peaks, extreme wilderness/solitude, and the campsites were more like car camping sites, but it was exactly what I wanted. I'm looking forward to making greater use of my maps. I was able to fly into San Fran for $45 and the trip cost me less than what I'd spend hanging out at home.
For those who've never been, San Francisco is a beautiful city well worth a visit in itself. I'd say great for couples and going with those less initiated (running water, real toilets/bathrooms).
50 yards behind my tent at the Bicentennial Campsite. 10 minutes to sunset. I wish I got there earlier to explore. You can't make it out, but a great view of Golden Gate bridge and the city in the distance.
On the way, looking for the coast trail from bicentennial.
Beginning of "Steep Ravine Trail" to Stinson Beach and Steep Ravine Environmental Campsite.
Looking down at Steep Ravine Campsite at Rocky Point. 7 tent sites ($25/nt) and some really really clean rustic cabins w/bbq and woodburning stove ($100/nt, supposedly books 6 months in advance). Prices went up because of State cutbacks.
Pictures don't do them justice, the site is actually quite nice.
The only sheltered site. I thought this site, Site 3/Starfish was the nicest. Not the most private, but large, flat and shaded/sheltered. Site 5 is the most private, but small and exposed.
Just behind tent.
Walked down Shoreline Hwy back to Stinson Beach. Late start, had to rush to catch bus. View of the town.
Beach all to myself. You can imagine what it's like on a sunny clear day.
Back in San Fran waiting for my flight. Trails in Golden Gate Park. Spent day tooling around, walking in city making my way to Bart Station downtown. Beautiful neighborhoods.