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Tag: California

When in Cali: Sutro Baths

I’m in town for the Google I/O 2016 conference, and by in town, I mean I am gloriously close to the kind of nature you just can’t find in Philly….

I’m in town for the Google I/O 2016 conference, and by in town, I mean I am gloriously close to the kind of nature you just can’t find in Philly. The kind of nature you have to fly 3,000 miles across the U.S. to see. Despite my jam-packed schedule over the next few days, I knew I had to squeeze in something good in my off-hours. Some people go to bars. I opted for hiking.

After we landed and picked up our conference packets, my travel buddy and I rented a car and explored an hour outside of Mountain View. We had two items on our simple agenda: hiking, and Mission burritos.

Tell you what, spending nine hours on two planes for a journey that began at 3 AM made our first glimpse of the coastline all the more magical. It wasn’t just the soothing scenery of endless crashing waves and blue skies — the whole vibe of Western San Francisco was totally active and fit. Our car was surrounded by joggers, hikers, and dog walkers, making their way to the beach. We were delighted to see surfers push off to catch their final waves, and, a little further out, a whale blasting mist into the air.

Parking was not an issue. I read on the NPS website that there was decent parking in Lands End. Despite our Uber driver’s warning this morning, parking attempts in Lands End and San Francisco were indeed free.

The sight, however, was worth a million bucks.

And the burrito was $12.

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Northern California, And How!

In October, we touched down in San Francisco to start a road trip — my first time in Northern California! We were in the area to visit family and friends,…

In October, we touched down in San Francisco to start a road trip — my first time in Northern California! We were in the area to visit family and friends, exploring touristy spots to get my toes wet, then hiking of course, and in the process, actually getting my toes a little wet, literally, because it did indeed rain.

From San Francisco to Mendocino, here are my more notable spots to check out.

Blog Posts
Murder-She-Wrote-Tourism N’ More: Mendocino, CA
We’ll Always Have the Redwoods

Where to?

GoodLife Cafe & Bakery: 10483 Lansing Street | Mendocino, CA 95460

Glass Beach: Elm St & Old Haul Road | Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Jughandle State Natural Reserve: Highway One, one mile north of Caspar

Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve: 15825 Orr Springs Road | Ukiah, CA 95482

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We’ll Always Have the Redwoods

When I was a kid, it seemed as if every family except for mine completed the must-see road trip classics, such as the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, and of…

When I was a kid, it seemed as if every family except for mine completed the must-see road trip classics, such as the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, and of course: the Redwoods. Like every raging adult nerd robbed of childhood summers crammed in a hot car with no AC (OK, we had that part, but it was mostly to Philly for the Asian grocery stores), as a big, fancy grown-up I can now smugly check off the above-mentioned three, and then some. My favorite, by far: THE REDWOODS!

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It’s not entirely because of the whole Endor/Ewok thing, it’s simply hands-down the most majestic, otherworldly place I’ve ever visited — followed closely by, in regards to fantastical scenery, Watkins Glen in New York. When we arrived at the Montgomery Woods State Natural Reserve, it was startlingly quiet. Every so often you’d hear some group chatter in the distance, but otherwise it was almost as if Michael and I had the forest to ourselves. It was like a giant playground, running up and down the uneven roots, climbing tipped over trunks. At one point, even through the canopy of trees we felt steady raindrops, so we took shelter in a hollow tree, munched on trailmix and breathed in our blessings.

Such magic! There’s just something about finally seeing a place you’ve only read about in school, or watched in a documentary. Seeing the redwoods made me feel like I had reached the big leagues, circa #kindergartengoals.

Who am I kidding, it’s still big leagues for me today.

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Murder She Wrote-Tourism N’ More: Mendocino, Ca

Mendocino isn’t only known for being the filming site of Murder She Wrote, the hit TV mystery religiously followed by my drama-loving mama and sassy sleuthing-types across the U.S., but I’ll be…

Mendocino isn’t only known for being the filming site of Murder She Wrote, the hit TV mystery religiously followed by my drama-loving mama and sassy sleuthing-types across the U.S., but I’ll be damned if that factoid didn’t intrigue me enough for an overnight pilgrimage while on the west coast. Hats off to the location scout who put on the map this peaceful artist town, an idyllic replica of life on the east coast.

A morning stroll among the misty small town was straight-up charming, perfected with slabs of quiche and hot lattes at the tightly-packed breakfast spot, Goodlife Cafe & Bakery. Surrounded in the daytime by young blondes in Hunter boots and fashionable outdoors gear built for comfort rather than function, you’d be doubly impressed that the night before, the town center was a-bustling with men, women, and children in elaborate Halloween costumes, loud music and entertainment blaring from the speakers.

A short drive on the edge of town is the crown jewel, in my opinion: a breathtaking view of crashing waves rolling out to the Pacific Ocean (pictured above.) Michael stopped to record some waves, and I just basked in my mix of post-breakfast carb crash/blissful haze.

The air was getting thicker; I could see clouds rolling in and misty droplets settled on my face. We quickly zipped out of town to Jughandle State Natural Reserve, where I almost leaned against a horrifying moving wall of sea cockroaches, and got soaked by a tumbling wave while trying to snap a photo of the famous bridge. It started to rain, I was drenched and cold, but hey, at least we had the view to ourselves.

Next stop, because we can’t stop won’t stop, the Glass Beach. We left the car in the parking lot, next to a drifter’s small trailer — he or she was blaring 70’s music and probably taking a snooze behind that rickety door. We followed a map to find the exact spot. Michael filmed more sounds while I poked alien-like tentacles of sea cucumbers washed ashore, and dug my hands into the round pebbles of glass, smoothed out by years of waves crashing into thoughtless litter.

By now, it’s was the early afternoon. Still time for more. Next stop: Endor.

Where to?

GoodLife Cafe & Bakery: 10483 Lansing Street | Mendocino, CA 95460

Glass Beach: Elm St & Old Haul Road | Fort Bragg, CA 95437

Jughandle State Natural Reserve: Highway One, one mile north of Caspar

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Winter Escape: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

As I write this recap, I await this year’s Snowmageddon. Instead of feeling wistful for active summer nights outdoors, I’m going to reminisce about my enamoring trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State…

As I write this recap, I await this year’s Snowmageddon. Instead of feeling wistful for active summer nights outdoors, I’m going to reminisce about my enamoring trip to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park during our San Diego wedding visit, the second week of January.

My three travel companions for the day, all from Philly, were no strangers to Anza-Borrego, but for me, it was my first visit. And lucky me; there’s no feeling to match that of when you visit an amazing place for the first time.

We left San Diego in our rental car early that morning, armed with sandwiches and snacks galore (Michael and I did a drive through Westminster’s Little Saigon the night before, which blew away my little Vietnamese noggin). Even though we all enjoyed light  breakfasts, as we drove through the winding roads, mixed with patches of lush and dried-out land, I learned that it was essential to make a stop at the Julian Pie Company in Julian, which is about an hour outside of Anza-Borrego. For Michael and our friends, they had many memories from living in San Diego years before. I was delighted to join in on the memories, but especially if it involves food.

Julian, as it turns out, is more than a pie stand in the middle of nowhere, which is what I pictured. It turned out to be a thriving little tourist town, though on a Monday morning, business was slow, which meant an expedited pie experience for us. We ordered two slices to share between the four of us — the Orginal, a classic apple pie, and a caramel apple, with a slice of cheddar smothered on top — and some hot coffees. While we were starstruck by the deliciousness and revered the spot greatly, I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of locals enjoying their orders. Like I said, it seems to be a great weekend tourist spot, complete with hipster-chic, faux-rustic appeal, but business has got to be booming mostly through online orders. I saved that link mostly for my benefit…

Onward to Anza-Borrego!

At the visitor’s center, which was tucked in a miles of desert bespeckled with cacti and the scattered surreal metal sculptures of Ricardo Breceda, we were met with an enthusiastic ranger who gave us the perfect, personalized schedule of experiences for the short day. We took his list of suggested hikes, cracked some grim jokes about dying in the desert, and went on our way.  We did three total hikes, but here are my favorites:

The Slot Trail

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Slot canyons! A relatively easy hike with a less-than 100-foot elevation drop, just about anyone can do this without feeling robbed of a challenge. The fact is, slot canyons in general are just too darn fun to pass up. It’s like navigating through a maze, one you can walk or climb through, if you feel so inclined. There were some tight squeezes, but everyone survived. Once we got through the twists and turns of the slot entrance, the trail took us to a clearing, where ridges of soft limestone walls enabled us to scramble up a few feet. We were having too much of a blast til someone pointed out we could easily burn most of our hours climbing the slots. Accepting the truth, we pulled ourselves away, and drove to our next hike.

Yaqui Well Trail

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Another moderate hike with no sudden elevation change. I would suggest that outside of cactus pins, you should wear sturdy shoes to also conquer this rocky trail. OK, now that that’s out of the way, wow! I loved this hike. In Utah, I remember all of the deserts being bare, rocky, and interesting of course, but simply void of green life. Apparently we had arrived after a small rainfall in the area, so we were treated with thousands of considerably lush cacti, even very small floral buds. I felt as if I were in a different world, surrounded by exotic and strange (Dr Seuss-like!) plants reaching out towards us and the sky. To make the experience even more surreal, there were no other humans within miles that we could see. Just the four of us Philadelphians on this alien planet, the way the good Lord intended it to be.

We enjoyed about an hour of the trail, turning back early to catch the sunset from the road home. It was our last night together before our companions headed back to Philly before us. Ending the fun-filled vacation, we (OK, maybe I) overdid it with one too many fish (two, one fried) and shrimp (one) tacos back in San Diego. Having only experienced fish tacos on the East Coast, I was looking for the best and freshest, and El Zarape totally delivered!

So there you have it. A perfect, not-so distant memory from a distance place that is not currently an ice cube. I want to be there. But stay tuned, ‘caus I just loaded the travel queue with some pretty awesome winter trips in the next few weekends.

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Where to?

Little Saigon: Bolsa Ave | Westminster, CA 92683

Julian Pie Company: 2225 Main St. | Julian, CA 92036

Ricardo Breceda’s Metal Sculptures: Borrego Springs, CA

Anza-Borrego State Park: 200 Palm Canyon Drive | Borrego Springs, CA 92004

El Zarape: 4642 Park Blvd | San Diego, CA 92116

 

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