Date of trip: June 13, 2019 - June 23, 2019
If you missed it, check out Part I of our West Coast Road Trip! In this second part, expect rolling hills, ocean views, and a brief stint in funky San Francisco.
I tried not thinking about bears and mountain lions throughout the night. We woke early around 6:00am and drove to a magical place called Fern Canyon. Hazy orange light cut through the trees, laying stripes on the road. When we had reached the state park, a dirt road took us through sleepy camping grounds on the beach and to a tall forested cliff. We followed a dirt trail through tall grasses. A lone elk feeding in the field stopped to stare at us as we passed.
We entered the wide, shaded canyon where the sign indicated. It was rocky and a game in itself crossing logs and stepping stones to cross a shallow stream.
Soon the canyon narrowed and we were stunned with a massive gorge of greenery. The canyon was so shaded from the canopy, it made it impossible to capture the scene with my crop frame. I think I got an attitude and whined for Chris to share his camera about every five steps.
We wandered deeper into the canyon, gently touching the wet ferns and spinning in circles to see all the way up to the tree tops.
We lingered as long as we could, and turned around when the canyon’s river became too tricky to cross. Chris needed to use the restroom badly, which was also ruining the vibe. As we left, I pulled out our phone to check the time and saw that our music had continued playing, and was playing Message to the Bears. CHRIS!!
Afterwards, we made a picnic breakfast of burritos and coffee near an open field within the park and then wandered a grove of Redwoods.
A headache had brewed all morning for me, and was peaking at this point. We probably bickered about not being able to find something on the map, to which I responded with crying and saying I needed a nap. My head hurt so damn much. We opted to rest back at the campground for a few hours. Afterwards, Chris made a late lunch for us around the fire.
That afternoon we took a campground trail to Agate beach where we searched for swirled patterns among the driftwood. Chris had to pull me away from the beach, said I was good at spotting stones but we needed to eat! We ate chicken sandwiches and ice cream at a tiny grill house called The Lighthouse, listening to two pariah’s talking about the purpose of life, religion, multi dimensions and universes. The men had long hair the way they do in California. The one across from me provided much to look at. He had a mustache and pony tail, crisp blue eyes behind tanned skin, and rings on every finger. A twisted walking stick leaned on the table nearby.
We spent the last hours of light wandering around the magical redwood forest – again. This time, with less harsh light.
I remember being slap happy and becoming suspicious that the same blue bird had followed us around all day, giving us the side eye. Chris hadn’t noticed.
It was our last sleep in the woods. Chris made a small bonfire and I admired my agates.
As morning came, we laid there eyes open listening to the sound of tiny bits of the canopy falling on the tent. It was a night full of crazy dreams. Chris had conjured up a Packer’s football scene where his anger for brother Craig grew into rage, turning Craig into Saltine crackers. Chris then crinkled him up and threw him in the ocean. So, anyways…
We drove off to new territory that morning, south all the way to Point Reyes, CA. We passed sand dunes, ocean waves and eventually wide mountain passes turned away from the ocean. We arrived in Eureka, CA and stopped first thing for cheap coffee and the biggest apple fritter of my life. We bickered. We laughed.
We took the Avenue of Giants detour, like tourists do. The mid-morning light was blinding through the windshield, ironically keeping us from enjoying the view! “Stop laughing!” Chris said to me. I don’t know what I was laughing at, but likely not our viewing issues. Across the river and through the woods we literally went, passing tiny towns with Bigfoot cafes and agate shops with smiley, bearded mountain men, until we reached an arid scene of sandy colored mountains and dried up riverbeds. Hawks soared overhead, swooping high and low above the canyons.
Once through the mountains, the scene turned green as we passed fresh strawberry fields, wineries, and palm trees. Of course, California. Spire trees lined soft hills and paved roads in the distance, reminiscent of Italy. Civilization came into view and we were so damn happy to find a shaded patio with a brimming Chipotle lunch in front of us.
Our final stretch of driving took us through Petaluma and it’s rolling countryside. It was totally unexpected and beautiful, like watching a European countryside unfold around us.
We soon arrived to our AirBnb in Point Reyes Station, a small town tucked in the natural haven that is Point Reyes. We stayed in a secluded room off the side of an older woman’s home, surrounded by gardens of wild flowers and neighbors with horses. As we rolled our things into our room from our private patio, we were greeted by a friendly cat (Toby, 18 years old), a little grey dog, and our host, Dino, a retired woman who golfs once a week. We chatted briefly before settling into a glorious nap.
That evening we found a wood fire pizza dinner at a gorgeous place in town. It was very California – which I can’t explain at this point but if you know, then you know. Golden light filled the new-old construction of the open space. We were so happy. I got drunk (ish) on red wine as we dined in gluttony. As we rolled out of the restaurant, we asked the owner for suggestions of what to see and do in the area, and he scratched us a note. After a bit of back and forth about our trip, he ended with asking, “Why didn’t you golf in Bend??”
On top of the pizza, the light of the evening gave us even more life. Chris drove the country side, since I needed to find the cows.
The day ended with a dip in the hot tub. “We are fuckers,” we agreed.
I felt like I was walking through the scene of a Blake Lively movie. The morning was calm. We strolled through the small strip of galleries, boutique shops, historic Saloons, and markets, until we found a hole in the wall coffee shop inside an old, converted feed barn. We tinkered around the old store amongst the nicknacks, listening to the locals call each other by name. Across the street, we spotted a strange sight in an old garage. Oh, deer.
The cheeseheads that we are, we spent the next hour gawking over and struggling to pick out the cheeses we wanted at Cowgirl Creamery. We eventually made our choices, grabbed a sandwich to go and drove off to find a beach.
The narrow, single lane roads of Point Reyes snake around wooded lagoons and private homes and climb up to high ground where cattle and sheep and historic ranches sprawl over the land, the ocean in the background. We tried stopping once for a photo but the smell of cow shit was so strong we quickly retreated and continued on. It took too long for the stank to go away…
We were on our way to McClures beach, where the restaurant owner had suggested we visit. At the end of the road, we pulled into Pierce Point Ranch and walked along a rocky trail lined with wild flowers and bumblebees until the ocean came into view.
We sat on drift wood and ate our Cowgirl Creamery sandwiches, watching the waves.
Chris led us to the far side of the beach across massive boulders to another cove, where we carefully ventured along rocky platforms exposed by the low tide. Tiny crabs swam in pools left behind by the tide.
In good time, we hiked back up the rocky trail to our car, thankful for the ocean breeze cooling our backs. We then drove off towards the other part of the peninsula to see more of the same wide open spaces and bumpy roads. We explored a bit to stake out a spot for evening photos and then returned to town by mid-afternoon.
In town, we found a local gal, a photographer, with black and white photos of Point Reyes. I bought some prints of the Milkyway. After exploring a few other shops, we meandered through the local grocer for some beers, dinner snacks, and breakfast.
We rested that evening — writing, uploading and scratching tony’s head with our toes until the sun was just right. That night we drove to a small, quiet parking lot and hiked through tall golden grasses to Chimney Rock, one of the far points overlooking the ocean. It was a magical night, similar to our time at Indian Sands, where we frolicked around catching sights of timid wildlife and admiring our solitude atop that glowing, grassy point.
Our time in Point Reyes had been far too brief, so it goes with road trips. We swept up all evidence of us being there and quietly drove away from Dino’s around 5am. The sky was starting to glow as we drove through sleepy Point Reyes Station one last time.
The map took us in a new direction, albeit a similar narrow road, through emerald green pastures dotted with the growing silhouettes of silos and grazing cattle. The road suddenly entered a tree tunnel, a patch of redwood forest made mystic from the gentle haze of the morning.
We were on our way up Mount Tamalpais for views over the Bay area. Chris drove us up and around on switch back after switch back, each getting less exciting than the last as I grew car sick. I was, however, very excited to see what was awaiting us at the top. And then we reached a fork in the road with our route gated off. I whined endlessly as Chris hesitantly continued on the other road.
Instead of reaching the top, our map wound us east, past a foggy, dammed lake. Eventually we reached a peak that gave me a sliver of the view I was looking for–layers and light.
We zoomed past a mountain side neighborhood, witnessing more and more civilization until we were literally crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. It was so cool, we did it twice!
We found our hotel downtown, checked in early, and capitalized on free continental breakfast and a mid-morning nap. Once rested, we ventured out on foot to Fisherman’s Warf and Pier 39, which are basically dirty, seaside versions of Disney, crawling with tourists and seagulls (at least during June).
The weather was worth staying out for, so we got an Uber to a brewery, Magnolia, near Golden Gate Park. We found a table on the sidewalk and slowed ourselves down with some beer and french toast, watching the strange ecosystem that is San Francisco. Both the homeless and the rad trotted by, at times not clearly distinct from one another. Three naked men in speedos passed with the word “Trump” written across their asscheeks. Rude? I’d say it’s quite the homage.
We wandered towards the park, passing vintage shops, bars, pizza parlors, tattoo shops – you name it. Once we reached the park, we paid to enter a sad botanical garden and left soon after.
Instead, we continued through the park until we found a spot to sit on the manicured lawn of the conservatory. It was too late to enter, so we sat in peace, spying on the young, flirting hipsters. We returned to the busy street for a picnic dinner from Whole Foods, and promptly returned to our spot on the lawn for more of the same. After growing tired right as the light of the day seared gorgeous shadows around us, we Ubered back home, this time fully experiencing the roller coaster that is driving down San Francisco hills. I couldn’t look at the road ahead of us and closed my eyes.
On our last day of the trip, we slept in. Daylight tried creeping past the cracks of the heavy hotel blinds. It took us a while to pack, deliberately finding space, even the smallest, in our bags for the long trip home. I left a lone onion in the room, one Bridget had gifted us when we had parted during our first stretch of the trip (link).
Despite being our last hooray, I was excited. I had big plans. It was a breezy day as we parked and walked back through the park, tracing our footsteps. I knew as we entered the conservatory that I was in trouble. It was eye candy, right from the beginning.
I have little to say besides that I was bombarded with all my favorite things, and I was dripping in sweat for it. Chris sensed my pace and escaped the humidity of the tropic greenery, “See ya” he said. I twirled in place, looking frantically in all directions, trying to find bits of gold to capture before I melted away.
My favorite room was the potted plant room. I found Chris resting on a bench near the exit, and apologized when I took his lens to do it all over again. When I finally had filled my cup to the absolute brim, I left to find Chris outside in the cool breeze, sitting on the steps looking out over the lawn we had rested on the day before.
Again, we got a cheapish lunch at Whole Foods and then did a very touristy thing and drove past the infamous row houses of Full House before driving out of the city. It was only mid-day, but we were too tired for any more tourism. And I had only taken one photo of the actual city.
I was too early for the airport. We found a coffee shop on the map in south San Francisco, an area where more than half of people speak another language besides English. We relished the last of our tour, sipping iced coffees and journaling about the last drops of our west coast road trip. It had been a long stretch, and weirdly a trip where I had not felt home sick.
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