by Jen Lucas, Pack Up + Go Contributor

Having been to the Bay Area several times, I knew I wanted this trip and the activities to be as unique as all of the trips I take, each one a snowflake. This time around I would be navigating the city with a good friend who is a San Francisco native. I planned to take total advantage of having my very own tour guide, and disappoint she did not!

It’s August and the average temperature in San Francisco is a high of 72 but these few days it barely made it to 60 in the city. I’d battled the East Coast heat and humidity for months, so I welcomed the gloomy, misty San Francisco microclimate as a bit of relief.

On day one I suggested a trip to Muir Woods. The weather was similar to that of the city and required us to layer up, but the large tree canopies seemed to be a buffer between us and the damp fog lurking above. The smell hits you as soon as you enter the forest, like a whiff of clean air, tree sap and fresh pine. We decided to take one of the more intense hikes which included some insane switchbacks and one serious ascent up a rocky staircase. It turned out to be about a 2 hour hike through the majestic forest with many different sites, tall, skinny trees, round fat ones and various creeks running through. The main obstacle was wanting to view the site in all of its glory but having to look down so as not to trip over a root or tumble down a very steep hill.

The following day was one that I’ll remember for this lifetime. Everyone recognizes the Golden Gate Bridge as the major landmark of the city, which I’ve seen previously, but when my friend mentioned us riding bikes across, I visualized myself with a huge sharpie checking off a large box on my bucket list.

We started in the heart of the city, dressed in layers, forced to walk the bike up a few of the famous, steep incline hills, down the Presidio and finally arriving at the iconic red bridge. After the obligatory photo, we continued the adventure, weaving in and out of people on that very chilly, windy afternoon. The crowd did not intimidate nor affect my riding abilities, although it’s possible I was in such a euphoric state that I didn’t notice. The total distance across was about 1 mile and our plan was to keep going onto Sausalito to grab a well-deserved brunch then take the ferry back to the city.

After a welcomed descent down hill to Sausalito, we agreed to perch at the Barrel House Tavern, which boasts outdoor seating along the water. The weather in Sausalito was a sunny 75 degrees, so we stripped off the two top layers down to tank tops. In the spirit of brunch, despite it being a Thursday, we both went with the Summer Champagne Cocktail complete with Brut champagne, Blackberry and Elderflower Liquor and with zero regrets! I chose the blackened snapper sandwich as I was immediately sold on the fried caper aioli—another exceptional choice. I felt like I’d just conquered the world!

After brunch and a little shopping, everyone on Sausalito had the same idea to head back on the ferry, as it was about 4:30pm, so the boarding line was enormous. Luckily there are anxious cab drivers offering to take those passengers unwilling to wait for the ferry and their bikes back to the city. Their goal is to fill up the car with a minimum of 4 people and they all charged around $18 per person. If choosing this option you’ll need cash and to confirm with the driver whether the fee includes bridge charges, as I learned they try to throw that in at the end if you do not ask up front.

We finally made it back and somehow managed to keep the adrenaline flowing for another amazing meal and drinks in the Polk, which is known as the “city’s premier bohemian drinking enclave.”

Sadly it was time to say adios to one of my favorite cities and battle the airport nightmare that is SFO. Luckily, my next stop was Southern California and I’d just had an epic, enlightening trip, otherwise I may have been more bummed about the 5 hour delay I encountered. Instead I let my battered body heal as I sat in the airport, staring at the foggy sky I look forward to seeing again very soon.