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Escape from the Tenderloin

A San Francisco gallery owner trades gritty streets for pristine trails.


Carson Lancaster’s road trip companion, Cameron Corley, hikes along the Trail of Ten Falls in Oregon’s Silver Falls State Park.

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Corley atop a sandstone rock formation at Kodachrome Basin State Park, in Utah.

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Corley perches cliffside at Bryce Canyon.

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An attempt to dry out the tent.

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It was so cold at the campsite in Utah that everything in the cooler froze solid—even the carton of eggs.

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Carson Lancaster and Cameron Corley's route.

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Living in the Tenderloin means that San Francisco art gallery owner Carson Lancaster can afford to rent a penthouse apartment. But it also means that on occasion, random people break into his apartment and use his razor. “I could not live in the Tenderloin if I didn’t get out and spend a lot of time in a tent,” Lancaster says. “When you can tell the difference between the sound of a car window being smashed and a 40 breaking on the sidewalk, you need to cleanse your palate.”

So last fall, when Lancaster had a chance to road-trip through Oregon and Utah with Cameron Corley, a friend from high school who lives in San Diego, he took it. After Corley picked him up in San Francisco, they drove north, stayed a night in the Humboldt redwoods, and continued on to Redwood National and State Parks, near the California-Oregon border—where they discovered the downside to winter camping in Oregon: constant rain. But with some rope and a tarp, they were able to string up an A-frame tent cover that sheltered them well enough, and they managed to build a fire and cook up a skillet of bacon and kale. 

From the state border, the pair made a stop in Cape Blanco State Park, just south of Coos Bay, and hit Eugene, Portland, and Bend, staying with Corley’s relatives along the way. They spent a night camping in Silver Falls State Park and hiked the Trail of Ten Falls, which winds behind a 177-foot-tall sheet of water. Though it was the most beautiful state park Lancaster had visited, it was also the wettest part of the trip. “At night it would just pour rain,” he says. “Nothing would ever get dry.”

To escape the weather, Lancaster and Corley hopped back in their station wagon and drove 1,000 miles to Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park, stopping only for food and a night in a motel. The duo had planned to camp in the canyon, but the site was packed when they arrived. “There were buses of tourists,” Lancaster says. “People were pulling up to take a photo and move on.” So they followed a tip from a park ranger and drove 25 miles to Kodachrome Basin State Park, so named by the National Geographic Society for the saturated colors of its blue sky and red rock formations, some of which date back 180 million years to the Jurassic period.

When Lancaster and Corley arrived, they discovered amazing views and a pristine campsite with hot showers. Even better, they were the only humans in their campground. “It was such a refreshing change,” Lancaster says. Though it was bitterly cold—at one point the temperature dropped to 9 degrees, freezing their eggs solid—they loved the site enough to spend three days there. “It was what we were looking for the whole trip,” Lancaster says. “Up until that point, we’d mostly stopped for one night. But this felt like home.”


Distance traveled: 2,700 miles
Days on the road: 11
Money spent: $700
Favorite accommodations: Kodachrome Basin State Park and Silver Falls State Park
Provisions: Kale, bacon, whiskey, and 95 bottles of beer (some of which were used for barter).
Necessities: warm sleeping bags, a tarp, long johns, coffee, serapes, and hot chocolate.


Originally published in the February issue of San Francisco

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