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Friday, December 27, 2013

California 2013

Mallory and I planned a little trip to California like we did last year, except this year we decided to go south. First stop was Big Sur. We camped two nights at Plaskett Creek campground which was perfect, because it was right next to the beach. On the beach there were surfers and hang gliders and lots of sunning
Camping by the shore also had great sunsets.
The mountains run right down to the shore, so we took some time hiking up them and exploring the valleys. The biome seems to change in a second from a scrub shoreline, to redwoods in the damp valleys, to a sparse exposed hill top.
Our next stop on our road trip was Carmel. It's a storybook of a town, almost disturbingly so, but it's easy to sit down and relax. The first day we went to Point Lobos, which is famous for it's whaling history and author influences. We got there early and were the first people out watching the waves break. We saw sea lions, sea otters and seals. I generally just called everything sealions. Seemed to cover all the bases.
From there we went to the Carmel Mission, which was everything you'd expect from a Catholic Mission. Classic architecture, place where the pope stood, shrines to saints, and beautiful flowers.
My favorite part of Carmel is wandering in and out of the art galleries. Mallory hadn't considered that whale watching was an option and was really excited when we found out they were in season. So we booked a trip and it was pretty amazing. I was surprised at how close to shore they came. Apparently there is a canyon dividing the shelf which is where they dive down and corral the minnows and come up with big mouthfulls. I didn't realize how bad the whale breath would be, but it is just rotting fish. They were also surrounded by a group of sea lions there for the fish that got away. The motor drives were running and I think we took four or five hundred pictures. It was a lot to go through.
From Carmel, we drove up the coast heading to San Francisco. We passed through Santa Cruz and stopped at Natural Bridges State Beach to see the monarchs in the eucalyptus grove and poke through the tidal pools.
We picked up my parents and brother for a few days of family time in San Francisco. The first day we met up with our old neighborhood friends, the Dodds. It was a lot of fun to catch up over brunch, and then we went walking through Golden Gate park and the botanical gardens.

We took a bus to chinatown, which provided some funny candid shots.
Touring the city with Ben was a lot of fun because he was a tour guide for a couple years. He knew all the fun spots. One neat place we stopped by was a fortune cookie company that was apparently the last one to hand fold their fortune cookies. Then we went up to the cable car exchange where the cables are powered for cable cars to be pulled on. It was pretty neat to think of the cables traversing the city underground from this one spot.
The next day we met up and went to look at the Golden Gate bridge from the Hawks Rest. Our plan was to go up to see Muir Woods, but when we got there, it was all closed due to fire danger. We kept running into closures everywhere we went. The government furlough closed down all of the government facilities, including Alcatraz that we had tickets to visit. The SFMOMA was also closed for renovations, but they installed a few large put sculptures on Crissy Field.

The next day we toured the shoulder of the peninsula at Sutro Heights and Lands End. The weather was perfect so we were not alone with that plan. Once we found a place to park, the views were great.
That afternoon, Mallory and I met up with Matt at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. It was the inspiration for the trip, but every year it gets more and more crowded. The rest of the family wasn't interested in fighting the crowds and I couldn't blame them. I got to see Robert Earl Keen Jr. which is always a great show.
The next day it was time for the family to go home. We stopped by twin peaks on the way to the train station. It's a great end to any trip to San Francisco to replay the places we went.
Because of the government furlough, it also left Mallory and I temporarily unemployed. We decided to extend our trip a couple more days and take a tour of wine country. The first day we focused on the Sonoma valley and stopped by four vineyards that were suggested by friends. The wine was good, but each vineyard had it's own character that was the most interesting to me. We saw Emmy's, flowers, massive dogs, caves, and row after row of grapes.
The next day we switched to beer. We stayed in Santa Rosa and had a little time to kill before the Russian River Brewery opened, so we toured town. In front of the mall was this really weird hand sculpture. We also noticed that the Charles Schultz museum was in town. Unfortunately when we got there it was closed. The beer was great and worth the wait.
From there, the next stop was Lagunitas brewery which was a lot of fun. I got the bar stool that was a saddle and tried all the beers they put in front of me. The tour guide told us stories of the founding of the brewery and they had an autographed guitar of my favorite band, the Old 97's. A good stop.
After all that traveling, it was time to be home. But one last stop along the way was getting pumpkins from a patch and having some doughnuts and warm cider. Mmmmm