For the Thanksgiving holiday we traveled back to our home state of California, this time pulling our new home on wheels! Traveling south from OR, we made sure to budget enough time to stop at a few of our favorite places: Calistoga, Pacifica, Monterey, Big Sur, Paso Robles and Joshua Tree National Park.
Calistoga is home to delicious wine and beautiful scenery. Their tagline... "Relax, you are in Calistoga." Only two lane roads lead in and out of main street and fast food restaurants are banned by law making this little town in Northern Napa Valley one of our favorite stops in wine country.
Camp: Bothe-Napa Valley SP: $35/night, no hook ups but very close to town, hikes and wonderful wineries.
Hike: Oat Mine Trail: Trailhead starts at the edge of town and travels up for about 3 miles before leveling off. Continue to the top for great views of the valley below. Total hike is about 8miles RT. **Due to the fires in October this trail is closed until 2018.
Wine Taste: Brian Arden Wines + Twomey Cellars: Brian Arden has a beautiful tasting room (and yummy wood fired pizza) with even better traditional California Whites and Reds. Think crisp Sauvignon Blancs, balanced Chardonnays, flavorful Zinfandels and deep bold Cabernet Sauvignons. Twomey is a must stop, they put the yMMM back in Merlots. Make sure to taste their Soda Canyon Rancho Merlot, one of the few single vineyard Merlot left in California.
Our home of eight years, San Francisco is a city that is never to be missed. The crowds and expense drove us out of town but we always love an opportunity for a trip down memory lane. Pacifica, CA was our homebase during our week back in The Bay (SF doesn't exactly have many options for travel trailer parking :). The coastal town of Pacifica is scenic and quaint yet only about 15 miles south of SF. It is a small, city escape community with proximity to wonderful hiking trails and crashing Pacific Ocean waves.
Camp: San Francisco RV Resort: $75-100/night, full hook ups right near the Pacific Ocean.
Hike: Mori Point: This 3mi loop hike runs along the hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Best at sunset but great any time of the day.
Beach it: Bean Hollow State Beach: This is near the small town of Pescadero. Two options: You can park just north of the beach and enjoy a short 1 mile hike along the coast to the beach or pull up right to the Bean Hollow SB parking lot. Hungry? Grab a sandwich or a loaf of their fresh baked artichoke sourdough bread at Norm's Market. If you are looking for a tasty sit down spot, try Duarte's. Both are located in downtown Pescadero.
Monterey is San Francisco's quintessential get away town. Only about a 2 hour drive south of The Bay and you are in a traffic free, peaceful, stunning beach town situated right on California's rugged central coast. John Steinbeck even uses Monterey as inspiration in several of his novels including East of Eden, Tortilla Flat, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday. Dylan and I have been there many times but if this is your first visit do not miss: Monterey Bay Aquarium, 17-mile drive (stop for a picture on the 18th hole at Pebble Beach Golf Course) and Fisherman's Wharf. Oh and if you are in to artichokes, Monterey is a must visit in June 2018 when they host their 58th annual Artichoke Festival, ymmmm!
Camp: Veterans Memorial Park: $25/night, no hook ups but minutes from Downtown.
Hike: Monterey Bay Coastal Rec Trail: Nice 6.5mi RT out and back walk along the coast offers unbeatable Monterey scenery.
Yoga: Union Yoga: Wonderful owner, peaceful small studio in downtown Monterey.
Big Sur is one of our (or should I say everyone's) favorite places on EARTH. And you really have to experience it to understand the emotion that takes place when you travel along windy Hwy 1 with nearly 90 miles of rugged, misty and dramatic seaside cliffs. In the early 1900s, watercolourist Francis McComas proclaimed Big Sur's coastline “the greatest meeting of land and water in the world.” Unfortunately during our eight years in San Francisco when were not able to sneak down to Big Sur as often as we would have liked. Either work got in the way or other people who were vacationing got in the way (meaning the area can get extremely congested). However, earlier this year Big Sur experienced horrible storms which led to one of the largest landslides the area has seen causing Hwy 1 to be closed for several months. The good news...half of the Hwy is back open! The closure has had a huge impact on local businesses which you can feel when traveling to the area. (Make sure to stock up on water and food before traveling too far south). This magical place which usually sees 4+ million people per year has turned into a cul-de-sac, accessible only from the north and east. And true for most cul-de-sacs... there are pros and cons, but for us the closure brought back a remoteness to the area that we have only read about it books.
Camp: Kirk Creek Campground: I have wanted to camp at this campground since my first cross country drive out to California nine years ago. We finally made it happen and we wish we could have stayed forever! Spacious sites on the coastal side of Hwy 1, $35/night, no hook ups. They take reservations online which will fill up 5+ months in advance... we landed one of their four walk up sites. Woohoo!
Hike: Vicente Flat Trail: If you stay at Kirk Creek the trailhead is directly across the street and will take you 6 miles up the hills along the coast of Big Sur. Views are unbeatable.
Beach it: Sand Dollar Beach: Travel a few miles south of camp and watch the surfers at this protected Big Sur beach.
Eat: Wild Coast Sushi Bar at Treebones Resort: This sushi bar is our favorite restaurant in California. The wooden bar overlooks the Pacific Ocean and holds max 14 people so arrive early (and hungry). Opens at 4:30pm.
We spent the Thanksgiving holiday in the lesser known Cali wine region of Paso Robles (locals pronounce it pass-o-robe-els). Set inland about 40 minutes from the coast, Paso Robles is another one of our favorite places... think warmer weather plus a cowtown feel mixed with delicious wine (and beer... Firestone Walker headquarters in Paso). The wine options are endless, we love Gluntz for their wine (clearly) and for Jenga, their winery pup. Looking for adventure? Hike the Cerro Alto Trail 30 minutes south for a great workout and view or bike the Salinas River Trail in town.
Joshua Tree NP
Southern California's Joshua Tree National Park has some of the best sunsets in the country. Their crazy rock formations, dark skies and well, Joshua Trees make this NP in the desert worth every trip. And did I mention it is in Southernnnn Cali making Winter a great season to explore. **nights will still be chilly... you are in the desert after all.
Hike: Barker Dam Trail for a shorter loop to see water in the desert and hike up to Ryan Mountain for breathtaking park views. Looking for a longer loop, head out on the Lost Horse Mine Trail.
Sunset: Head to the Hall of Horrors... don't worry, it is more beautiful than scary...especially as the sun sets (as long as you have a headlamp ;).