Friday, February 1, 2013

Epic Road Trip: Days 5 and 6 - Northern California Coast and Santa Cruz

When we first arrived on the northern California coast, it was quite foggy. White fog, the kind you know will eventually pass, but since we'd already visited here before, we didn't bother waiting around. You can see a little bit of the fog in the pic on the left. The pic on the right was a mere 100 yards away from an area completely blanketed in fog. We decided to just check in to our KOA in Eureka, relax, and take advantage of their internet service. The problem with using internet at campsites is sharing bandwidth with people who've brought their RV's and are streaming videos to their TV's. Some of us just need a little bandwidth to check our emails and such, but the RV people suck it all up.

It was still terrible weather in the morning, which was pretty concerning since we'd planned to drive down the coast that day. We started driving down highway 101, and fortunately the weather had cleared up by the time we reached the junction with highway 1. 

Here we are at Stinson Beach north of San Francisco. Lovely!

Technically the pics below are not in any sort of order. I thought I'd uploaded them according to how we drove, but I just looked it up and saw that Stinson Beach is further south than the hike we did at the end of this day, so I know I'm out of order. It's hard to keep track of everything when you're using 4 different cameras (2 small ones for hikes and zooming in and Oscar and my tablets for anything we can drive to). Since I have no idea what these pictures are besides "pretty coastal views," feel free to post in the comments where these places are if you recognize any of them.

I love this pic below with the bird soaring in the top left corner.

And finally we made it to Point Reyes National Seashore where we'd planned a hike to Alamere Falls. Oscar and I hadn't thought we'd want to do an 8 and 1/2 mile hike immediately following a 7 hour drive, but by the time we arrived, we realized we were still up for it. We had barely enough daylight, though. It was getting dark by the last couple miles of our return trip. But look at the coastal view we had on our way there!

You hike 4 miles on the trail before a side trial veers off to take you down to the ocean. Alamere Falls has several small drops like these before it's final cascade that drops directly into the ocean. Getting down is a bit scary though. The picture on the left below isn't just Oscar showing off in the middle of the rocks. That's actually how you have to go in order to get down to the coast. I managed to get down first and take the picture of him. The trip back up was much less scary since you were less likely to slip.

Though it meant coming back partly in the dark, I was happy with this lovely view at the bottom. The sun was in the perfect place for these pictures.

I can't say the waterfall was terribly impressive in size and intensity, which may simply be due to California having an especially dry 2012. But it was still enjoyable to see such a unique ocean waterfall, and it's worth the hike if only for the gorgeous views you get on the way there. 

You'll pass two pretty lakes on the way in. I love the midnight blue color against the crisp green of the one in the left.
We got back after dark and learned that in the tiny town of Bolinas, everything closes early. We were desperate for something to eat, but there was no restaurant/market/gas station or anything open. We continued driving south and after searching multiple places, we finally found a little restaurant that was closed up except for the bar. Technically they don't sell food after that point, but the chef said he still had some macaroni and cheese left, and we gobbled it up. At least it was delicious!

Unfortunately I have to say a word about our terrible accommodations that night. Since state park camping was only a few bucks less, we opted for privately owned Olema Beach campground that put us a few miles closer to the hike, had internet access, and had showers. I really wish we'd just driven further after the hike and paid for a cheap hotel in San Francisco (particularly since we drove halfway there just trying to find somewhere to eat), but we hadn't expected to do the hike that day and had already prepaid $44 for a tent site. The nearby hotels are all $200+ a night expensive resorts, so we opted to camp, even if it was pricey. $44 for a tent site is outrageous in and of itself, plus the internet service didn't work for us at all (due again to too many people taking up all the bandwidth streaming video), and the showers were horrible! The flow was incredibly weak, and they were on a short timer (mine was about 25 seconds and Oscar's was even shorter), which meant you had to keep turning it back on and getting really cold while you waited for it to start up again. I would have rather given my money to the state of California than to this horrible campground. 
The next day we drove down to Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. I spent a lot of vacations here growing up, so it holds a lot of nostalgia for me. We mini-golfed and went on the roller coaster before driving to the lighthouse to take some pretty pictures. We wanted to get more pictures of the coast in this area, but unfortunately, everything in this area is a frigging state beach! California State parks/beaches don't just charge a lot for camping, they also charge $10 just to enter them. Since all we wanted to do was take some pictures, we didn't think it was worth it, so we continued driving. 

That evening we stayed at a $60 a night hotel in Seaside, CA. I never thought a 1 star hotel would feel like a palace. But after the previous night, having a warm bed and a functional shower was absolutely joyous! We stayed the next few days at Oscar's grandparents house and then spent another day at a hotel before we camped again. It totally spoiled us. It made camping feel so much less pleasant, particularly in Zion National Park where we struggled to sleep due to the heat and then again in Yellowstone where we struggled to sleep due to the cold. Next time we go for a long trip, I'm going to have to take into account how quickly I tire of camping.

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