Family Service and Fun in Marin County, California

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14218A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Explore the varied landscapes of Marin County: redwood forest, grassland, mountain, and seashore
  • Work together on conservation projects under the guidance of park rangers
  • See amazing wildlife—seals, banana slugs, salamanders, and deer—all within sight of a beautiful city skyline


  • Lodging at the comfortable California Alpine Club in Mill Valley, above Muir Woods National Monument
  • All meals, except one dinner out
  • All admissions and parking at national and state parks and monuments


DatesJul 6–12, 2014
Price$795 (Adult)
$695 (Child)
Min. Age6
StaffHelen Bannan-Baurecht

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Trip Overview

The Trip

Share your community spirit and your love of the outdoors with your family this summer, in beautiful Marin County. Just a short drive from the traffic and congestion of San Francisco lies a land of majestic redwoods, a 2,500-foot mountain, dozens of trails, and a lagoon where harbor seals lounge on sandbars and egrets and herons feed. Our trip focuses on the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which is home to 53 species of mammals, 250 birds, 20 reptiles, and 11 amphibians. Last year, we saw about 50 of them (counting bugs and butterflies too)!

Each day of our trip will be different, as we explore the possibilities offered in this richly varied environment. Days of recreation—hiking local trails, visiting a lighthouse, and swimming at an ocean beach—will alternate with two days of service featuring work projects within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. 

The Project

Join us in caring for the Golden Gate National Parks, where volunteers support projects that protect endangered species such as the Mission Blue butterfly, Coho Salmon, and California Red-legged frog. Activities range from habitat restoration to native plant care along the rugged California coast. Leaders will work with the volunteer coordinator to finalize specific details of our work assignments by late spring. We expect to work one day in Marin Headlands, and the other will possibly be in Muir Woods. Our volunteer effort is essential to preserving public access and natural beauty in our magnificent national parks.


Each day will be filled with activity. Full details will be given in pre-trip correspondence. Every day will begin with eating a hearty breakfast and making a sack lunch. We will then carpool or walk to our morning’s trailhead or work site. At the end of each day's outing, we will return to the lodge, have time to relax before dinner, and spend time together in after-dinner activities.

All hikes and programs are subject to change, depending on a variety of factors, including trail conditions, permits, weather, and availability of speakers.

Day 1: The California Alpine Club Lodge (CAC) is not available for our check-in until 4 p.m. If you arrive earlier that day, you can sightsee in the San Francisco area or take a leisurely hike in Mount Tamalpais State Park, just up the road from the CAC. When we have settled in, around 5 p.m., we’ll have a warm welcome, with getting-to-know-you activities and an introduction to the area, which will continue after dinner.

Day 2: From a path that starts across the street from the CAC, we will hike downhill through redwoods to Muir Woods National Monument.  There a ranger will introduce us to the plants and animals of the area. Later, weather permitting, we will see 360-degree panoramic views of the Bay Area and the open spaces of Marin County, as well as a spectacular sunset, from the trail that circles the summit of Mount Tamalpais.

Day 3: We will begin with carpooling to our first service project, probably in the Marin Headlands, focusing on habitat restoration and native plant care. After lunch, we will have a docent-guided tour of the Marine Mammal Rehabilitation Center and gain a new understanding of the impact of trash on our oceans and their inhabitants.

Day 4: With a naturalist as our guide, we will hike in the Marin Headlands, perhaps with stops to watch the surfers at Rodeo Beach and to see defensive installations built in earlier centuries to protect the coast. After lunch at the visitor center, we plan to tour the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

Day 5: Our second service project will either be at Muir Woods, possibly doing trail or boardwalk/deck maintenance, or elsewhere in the Golden Gate Recreation Area, continuing our work on habitat restoration and native plant care. Afterward, we will explore another interesting feature of this area.

Day 6: We plan to hike down the Steep Ravine Trail to Stinson Beach, followed by a visit to Bolinas Lagoon in the Point Reyes National Seashore, where we will explore the tidal pools at low tide. On the way back to the lodge, we will stop for a meal at a local family-friendly restaurant. This meal will be at the participant’s expense -- not included in the trip budget.

Day 7: After cleaning up the lodge and making lunch for the road, we'll say our goodbyes after breakfast. 



Getting There

Travel to and from the California Alpine Club (CAC) is the responsibility of each participant. The CAC Lodge is about an hour away from San Francisco International Airport and about 40 minutes from downtown. The CAC website includes a link to a Google map of the area: The leader will provide directions when  participants are approved.

Due to insurance regulations, all transportation to the lodge, trailheads, and work sites is the responsibility of adult trip members. Leaders are unable to arrange carpools for participants. Those arriving by air or being dropped off at the lodge should plan to rent a car or make their own arrangements to carpool with other trip participants; leaders will share the contact information of those who may wish to participate in ride-sharing. Do not make any transportation reservations until the leader approves your participation in the trip.

Accommodations and Food

Our home base will be the rustic and charming California Alpine Club Lodge in Mill Valley, California, tucked into the redwoods of Mt. Tamalpais State Park. Perched on a scenic ridge, we'll enjoy privacy as well as a central location for traveling to our daily activities. The lodge boasts a large stone fireplace in a comfortable living room. Sleeping arrangements are in two buildings. Each dorm-style bedroom has four to six beds; rooms will be assigned once family configurations are established, and some small families may be sharing larger rooms. Blankets and pillows will be provided, but you will need to bring your own pillowcase, towels, and either sheets or a lightweight sleeping bag. Bathrooms are shared. Shower and toilet rooms are separate and have privacy doors. Participants are not permitted to remain at the lodge during the day unless a leader is on the premises. No smoking is allowed on the premises.

All meals, except one, will be provided by trip leaders, starting with dinner on the first day and ending with breakfast and a sack lunch on the final day. On our way back from Point Reyes, we will enjoy an informal dinner out. The cost of this meal is not included in the trip price.

Our cook has planned healthy, hearty meals, and a vegetarian option is always available. Participants with other dietary restrictions can usually be accommodated, provided that the trip leader is informed in advance. Coffee, tea, and water are served with breakfast and dinner.

Participants are invited to bring their additional beverages of choice. Each morning before breakfast we will prepare our own lunches; please bring a reusable plastic container to carry your sandwich. In the cooperative spirit of Sierra Club national outings, all participants will take turns assisting with meal preparation and clean up.

Trip Difficulty

Our hikes will be from two to four miles round-trip, up and down uneven ground and with some elevation changes; those seeking a challenge will have options for longer hikes. It's important that participants get in and stay in good physical condition. Start some kind of aerobic conditioning program now--you'll be happy you did. Being physically unprepared is unfair to yourself and to other trip participants.

Equipment and Clothing

Weather in Marin County in early July is usually dry, with days reaching 80 degrees, and nights in the 50s. However, hills and valleys along the Pacific coast have microclimates, and can vary greatly over as small a distance as ten miles. Cool ocean winds and fog also occur often in this area, so be prepared for changeable weather by dressing in layers.

Your day pack must be large enough to hold lunch, at least two liters of water, and a warm, waterproof jacket. Sturdy, broken-in hiking shoes are important, and everyone must wear long pants on service projects. A detailed clothing and equipment list will be sent when you are approved for the trip. Be sure to bring your camera and your binoculars for observing wildlife.



  • Ashley, Beth, Marin. 1993.
  • Evans, Jules. Natural History of the Point Reyes Peninsula. 2008.
  • Fanning, Branwell. Marin County. 2007.
  • Lage, Jessica, Point Reyes: The Complete Guide to the National Seashore and Surrounding Area. 2004.
  • Martin, Don and Kay, Hiking Marin. 2005.


  • Olmsted, Gerald, Trails of Mt. Tamalpais and The Marin Headlands
  • Harrison, Tom, Pt. Reyes National Seashore Trail Map
  • Harrison, Tom, Mt. Tamalpais Trail Map



Your leaders are volunteers with a long-term dedication to the Sierra Club mission: "to explore, enjoy and protect the wild places of the earth." Our hope is that the children on this outing will become strong believers in the need to protect our wild areas, and perhaps become members of the Sierra Club and activists of the future.


We believe that the Sierra Club's outings program provides an excellent opportunity for members to enjoy the fruits of past conservation victories and to learn about current concerns. On this trip, we will benefit from the heroic efforts of many individuals and environmental organizations who protected more than 60 percent of Marin County land through various forms of public ownership, preserving for everyone its beaches, wetlands, and old-growth forests.


During the trip, participants will report on environmental issues in their home areas, so that we can all be informed and share a commitment to continue environmental awareness and activism.


We'll be practicing Leave No Trace wilderness principles throughout the trip in order to minimize our impact on the environment. At the lodge we will model recycling, conservation, and minimal use of disposable products. We ask that you bring reusable sandwich containers and bags for carrying your lunch, and a few bandanas or cloth napkins.


Since any traveling leaves a carbon footprint, check out the information the Sierra Club offers about carbon offsets:


In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.


Sierra Club National Outings is an equal-opportunity provider and will operate under permits from Mount Tamalpais State Park.



Helen Bannan-Baurecht has been a Sierra Club member for many years and has participated or helped on Sierra Club outings in New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, and California. She has loved the outdoors since her Girl Scout days, which included a stint as a camp counselor. A certified national outings volunteer leader, Helen looks forward to sharing the joy of learning more about nature with everyone on this trip, as we explore, and help preserve, a portion of the nation’s most precious legacy, its public lands.

Assistant Leader:

William Baurecht has participated in or led the same Sierra Club service, family, lodge, and base camp outings as his wife, Helen, and they are excited about leading this trip together, as they did last year. Bill has camped and hiked for most of his adult life, and particularly enjoys sharing his love of mountain hiking and his knowledge of Western history and cultures with children. He has been recycling as much as possible since that was considered odd, and is hopeful that commitment to preserving and protecting wilderness will someday be considered equally normal.


Candy Barnhill, an outdoor enthusiast and Master Gardener, enjoys volunteering as a Sierra Club Outings chef and trip leader. Smitten with traveling nationally and internationally, she enjoys being outdoors with her shelties, living healthfully, making new acquaintances and sun-soaking on any beach or trail. Candy looks forward to learning your strategies for living greener lives and sharing adventures on National Outings trips.

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