Preferring to maintain a shred of outdoor integrity, we rented mountain bikes and struck out on our own. We drove south to Waddell Creek, parked, and rode into Big Basin Redwoods State Park, along the Skyline-to-the-Sea trail. It was glorious. We swooped through shadows and pine scent alongside burbling creeks, clattered across wooden footbridges, and sat beside a still pool shot with shimmering sun ripples, snacking on Organic Chocolate Paradise trail mix purchased at the general store.

Once, we came upon four campers shouldering grimy backpacks and weary looks. We shot merrily past, trailing the faint odor of peach soap.

Late in the afternoon, we hiked up into the hills behind Costanoaon Whitehouse Creek Trail, a steep, duff-soft path that eventually opened to a stunning vista. Far below us, fields of brown grass swept away to the Pacific, where great arcs of sandy beach absorbed the impact of lines of tiny white breakers, and birds wheeled in fall-away space.

It was a hushed Donner Pass snowfall and velvet black outback night, one of those exhilarating moments that snaps your senses to full attention and makes you giddy to be under spectacular sky.

That night, Kathy sleeping beside me, I raised myself up on a softly cushioned elbow and stared at the hills perched below the full moon.

It would be nice to sleep up there, I thought, but not tonight.