A day in Point Reyes National Seashore

Magical, stunning, full of life – a day trip to Point Reyes National Seashore was one of the highlights on my recent trip to San Francisco. If you are a nature lover this park is sure to thrill – before you enter stop by the Point Reyes Shipwreck [12781 Sir Francis Drake Blvd Inverness, CA 94937] on the side of the road. It’s located right behind a convenience store very easy to access, and you can grab any supplies you may need for the day from the market. The boat is magnificent standing upright proudly on the shore.

You can go inside, but be very wary there are nails sticking out of some boards, glass, and it is generally trashed.

But still really cool if you’re cautious. Continuing on into the park we popped into the Visitors Center where we saw a bunch of California Quail and got a map. Our warm up trail was the Point Reyes Lighthouse, .8 mile round trip with some decent elevation gain. Before we even left the parking lot area we saw deer, coyote, birds, flowers, and lots of poison oak. It is everywhere in the park.

The early morning fog was blanketing the rugged coast, but it began to lift during the stroll.

More wildlife in the sunshine, a buck, a slug, and burnt orange algae – so many fantastic colors.

And then below you’ll see the lovely little lighthouse, down the stairs is a cakewalk, be prepared to climb back up them!

Head inside to get a closer look, then head back the way you came. Next up was our big hike of the day, the Estero Trail. A 9.4 mile roundtrip hike through the rolling hills of grassland amongst the grazing cattle and their cowpies. Once you get through the woods, over the bridge, and gain some height, you’re in for an incredible vista of the spiraling estero.

Along the way the fauna is varied. You’ll see plenty of birds up in the hills, scrub jay, heron, egret. We had an encounter with a curious coyote, if you see one be sure not to get too close.

Wave your hands and yell if you feel uncomfortable, it will run away. From the elevation we gained a vantage point to see elephant seal down below basking in the sun on a sandbar.

Eventually descending for the last time on the hike out to the beach and it was an eerie fog filled scene.

Many new shore birds appeared including white pelican, loon, plover.

Walking along the shore was gorgeous to be sure, but slippery – so step with care.

Also, be careful not to step on any crabs while exploring the tide pools and excellent rock formations.

It was a wonderful diverse and challenging hike, but very rewarding. Bring lots of water, snacks, wear good shoes, and beware of the copious amounts of poison oak on the trail – and enjoy!

+Next time? I’d love to hike the Alamere Falls trail, a tidefall which plunges right into the ocean. A park ranger told me it was down to a mere trickle during my visit – so check in or go after a decent rainfall to get the best show.

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Play Pinball in San Francisco

Free Gold Watch, 1767 Waller St, San Francisco, CA 94117

Pure pinball. Dozens of machines in a relaxed setting steps away from Golden Gate Park. You’ll find great games including Walking dead, Metallica, X-Men, the Hobbit, and Super Mario Bros.

Plan accordingly because the latest nights the shop is open are Wednesday and Thursday till 8PM. There aren’t any watches but the shops other enterprise is custom screen-printed apparel.

Musée Mécanique, 45 Pier D7, San Francisco, CA 94133

This place is an old school, and I’m not talking 90s, arcade. Vintage penny arcade games from the early 1900s. There are oddities such as laughing sal whose giggles are frighteningly contagious.

Nostalgic and fascinating mechanical wonders, dancing marionette characters, a piano that plays itself, fortune tellers, and even a machine where the Egyptian mummy of Ramesses will answer your question.

Most only cost a quarter or fifty cents and only last a few moments, but it’s pure entertainment. Oh, but you’re here for pinball right? They have a few machines, including a Pirates of the Caribbean which was a favorite.

A short walk from Pier 39, don’t miss this blissfully bizarre gem after you view the sea lions.

Gestalt, 3159 16th St, San Francisco, CA 94103

Specialty sandwiches, craft beer, and…wait for it…pinball! This is a really upbeat hang out with a good variety of machines including Medieval Madness, Dracula, Game of Thrones, Ghostbusters, and one of my personal favorites – Fish Tales!

Located in the bustling Mission District the shop is not far from wonderful Tartine Bakery and Dolores Park.

+Stay tuned for pinball in the East Bay!

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San Francisco on my mind…

It’s a real busy weekend (Psst, I’m in the Everglades), but San Francisco is on my mind! Stay tuned this week to learn more about my favorite spots. Here are some of my beautiful postcard memories until tomorrow…

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San Francisco 101: Your first time around!

I visited San Francisco back in 2013, the year I caught the travel bug (you might guess that I’m still happily suffering from the virus). This was my first time in the city and also to the west coast. Everything was new and shiny. My feet’s first time in the Pacific Ocean was a special moment.

At Ocean Beach the water was chilly, green, and there were huge sand dollars everywhere – perfect for a beachcomber. You can dip your feet anywhere on the west coast and you may have already done that, let’s get to what’s specific to SF!

Quick tip, be sure to pack layers – you will be putting them on and taking them off frequently, rain gear can be helpful as well. What to eat? SF is known for sourdough bread, ghiradelli chocolate, and mission style burritos – just to name a few, but the city is overflowing with delicious eats which I’ll be raving about over the next few weeks. Where to go? Here are my top five tourist destinations:

  1. Golden Gate Bridge

No trip to the city is complete without an interaction with this iconic structure.

A walk over the bridge is a 1.7 miles hike each way,

bike over it and if you are with a buddy rent a tandem, or drive over it which I did this year – only the southbound direction heading into the city has a toll.

Read all about the engineering process (did you know? …when it was built in 1937 the bridge was the longest in the world and had the tallest towers) and history throughout the years at the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.

  1. Golden Gate Park

Expansive city park filled with walking paths, gardens, and museums. As points of interest go I had never seen a bison before and I was bent on seeing the pen, I also wanted to view the windmill and experience the Japanese garden.

  1. Haight-Ashbury

If you dig the counterculture you can’t miss a trip to where it all blossomed. Vintage stores, record shops, street art, cafés, sights and smells, just walking around the main street is an enlightening activity. If you find yourself wandering down the side streets, drop by the house where the Grateful Dead [710 Ashbury St, San Francisco, CA 94117] used to live – while there are no signs it’s worth a quick detour if you’re a fan.

  1. Pier 39 and Fisherman’s Wharf

Oooh that smell. And that noise. Yes, those are the sea lions and if you couldn’t see them use your other senses. Or follow the crowd because everyone else wants to view them too. Also in the area: get some sourdough bread and check out the Musée Mécanique (more on this later in the week). Plus there are great views of Alacatraz from this area!

  1. Ride a Cable Car

Primarily the vehicles are great for transportation (and they can take you to major destinations such as Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and Lombard Street), but really these antiques are quite fun as an attraction. Try hopping aboard at a turntable – beginning/end a route to see the cars circle around. If you find you’re really interested in the history, check out the Cable Car Museum to learn more!

What’s next for me? On my third trip to SF I’ll have to plan way in advance. I really want to take the nighttime tour of Alcatraz, but they sell out months ahead.

Looking for something a bit off the beaten path?

Try Clarion Alley, a street that is filled with colorful murals, Sutro Baths has hiking and urban exploration (more on these two later!), or visit the Castro neighborhood and go to a gay bar – try Twin Peaks Tavern. Many more hidden gems to come during the days ahead.

Want to take a day trip?

+See the Redwoods! Less than an hour north is Muir Woods National Monument, which I have yet to visit – but I can absolutely vouch for Big Basin Redwoods State Park just under two hours south of the city.

+Head to the South Bay. Back on my first visit this is where I stayed with a friend who was living out there at the time. She took us around the area and I remember loving the Santa Cruz Farmers Market where I tried farm fresh California produce, shopping and dining on Main St in Campbell, and sailing out of Half Moon Bay.

+Visit the East Bay. This is where I stayed on my latest visit and I explored the area thoroughly, more to come so stay tuned!

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A quick visit to Sacramento, California

On the long drive from Lassen Volcanic National Park to San Francisco, Sacramento was a perfect place to stop off and stretch our legs. We grabbed some chow and libations at Karma Brew [1530 16th St, Sacramento, CA 95814], but the best part about this eclectic bar was the incredible vibe. You can sit outside which I normally love to do in warm weather, but the décor within was so funky I was drawn to the odd chairs and awesome artwork. Plus, they were playing The Wall so that added to my enjoyment. After refueling we swung by the regal Capitol Building [1315 10th St, Sacramento, CA 95814]. The structure also serves as a museum, if you are around during the day time to learn about history and witness the making of history!

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A day in Lassen Volcanic National Park

A lesser known park, but nonetheless extraordinary – Lassen Volcanic National Park is located in northern California and it is filled bubbling mud pots, lava rocks, and out of this world hydrothermal sites.

Upon visiting just after an October storm, the main park road was closed – but not all was lost. The more remote Warner Valley section of the park was still open and it has all of the interesting elements of the park in a neat package, if you’re up for a good hike.

First stop: Devils Kitchen, this is the second largest hydrothermal area in the park. The hike there was every changing, a scenic meadow,

Boardwalks over a hot spring,

and a forest filled with towering trees. Then you get to your destination, and you’ll smell it before you see it. A little loop filled with eerie wonder. Milky gurgling pots,

steam vents,

and boiling bursts of water. It’s absolutely incredible. From there retrace your steps and head towards Boiling Springs Lake. Things here are possibly even crazier, the ground turns pink and the water is mint green.

The steam vents are underneath the lake, creating a temperature of 125 degrees and you can see the steam settling atop the water.

The mud bubbles along the shore. From here you can head to Terminal Geyser, which actually isn’t a geyser at all. There are no geysers in the park. It’s a fumarole, caused by a cold stream flowing over a steam vent. We had the massive plume all to ourselves in this secluded section of the park.

Take the Pacific Crest trail back to see a different side of the park. A forest filled with trees covered in electric green moss.

All of the sudden we came to a spot where the bird action was intense, saw for the first time what I believe was a black-backed woodpecker.

All in all, combing these three destinations will equal approximately 9 miles of hiking filled with wondrous unique sights. Lassen is an amazing destination, well worth a trip out into the middle of nowhere!

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Hiking around Lake Tahoe

Did you know Lake Tahoe…?

*is the second deepest lake in America, approximately 1600 feet deep!

*has only one outlet, the Truckee River which flows into Pyramid Lake!

*is so clear that objects can be seen clearly 67 feet below the surface!

The lake is mesmerizing in its beauty with a dizzying amount of outdoor activities available! It borders two states: Nevada and California, and the drive around the circumference can take over two hours. There are many intense peaks to summit around Lake Tahoe, but with just a short time to enjoy the scenery I wanted to pick a few different hikes to gather multiple perspectives of the landscape. Coming from Reno our first destination would be on the Nevada side to check out Bonsai Rock. The rock got its name because of the tiny trees growing atop it, which look similar to the Japanese tradition.

There is no parking lot or sign, just head into one of the pull offs. You can see the rock from the road and then find a herd path down to get a closer look. The trail is short (approx .25), but very steep so use caution and wear adequate shoes! The next stop was Chimney Beach, just a few minutes down the road. The trail starts behind the gate to the right of the dumpster, it is about 2.5 miles of hiking round trip. Heading down the hill you’ll meet a sign which in one direction points to Chimney Beach and the other to Secret Cove. If you make the detour to S.C., it is a stunning spot. On a cool fall day not another soul was there, but beware on hot summer visit, this is a well known nudist beach! Back in the other direction when you reach the water you will be sure to marvel at the sparkling crystal clear water.

Follow the coast until you reach the unmistakable Chimney Beach complete with a perfect stretch of sand. After hiking back out we continued driving towards the state line, to the Van Sickle Bi-State Park which spans over both states where there are many options. You can take a short walk under one mile (roundtrip) to a scenic overlook with expansive views of the lake in the distance and the casinos below come into view. You may catch a glimpse of a raptor or some prey.Keep going and you’ll reach a little waterfall with a two mile (roundtrip) hike, be prepared for an uphill climb.

Keep going and eventually you will reach the Tahoe Rim trail, to continue from there is quite a bit more of a commitment. Our final stop of the day now on the California side of the lake was at Inspiration Point. There is a large parking with a fantastic view of the only island on Lake Tahoe.

On the island is a Scandinavian castle called Vikingsholm, a summer home built in the 1920s. Directly across the street past the campground is the trailhead to Cascade Falls. A two mile roundtrip hike gives views glorious of Emerald Bay, and Tahoe peeking out behind.

The scenery is terrific the entire way, you’ll soon see the waterfall pop out from between the trees.

The trail will take you all the way beside the falls, be careful in this area drop offs are steep.

Driving back from the lake as the sunsets turned the mountains pink and purple, a most compelling sight.

Lake Tahoe is an amazing area with so much to do and see, other than hiking try skiing in winter, swimming in summer, and any number of mountain biking trails.

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