Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: western New York State
while you were working (or whatever) part 8
Trip C (continued) January 15th to Jan 25th, 2012 8767 to 9522 trip miles
remember: <wow> = fill in your own superlative, we’ve run out : )
“Do You Know The Way To San Jose?”: We pretended that we didn’t, ‘cause we don’t need to see Silicon Valley. Instead, we left San Francisco and headed south again on Route 1, along the coast. The rest of the peninsula along the ocean is gorgeous (what’s new?). Made it to the Santa Cruz area; nice and much more down-to-earth than further north. Many nice things here, including the Natural Bridges State Park (?; we only saw one), which also has a nice butterfly sanctuary; unfortunately, those cute little guys were on strike. Then on down to Monterey/Marina: like Santa Clara, much more down to earth then further north, and as we would learn shortly, further south.
“If only I’d been born rich instead of handsome”: We drove through the fabled “pay-per-view” ($9.50) “17 Mile Drive” in Pebble Beach; lots of gated multi-million dollar mansions, manicured golf courses, and beautiful ocean; other than the latter item, we didn’t have much interest. Then there’s Carmel (and/or Carmel-By-The-Sea), which was also a bit too upscale and snooty for our tastes. We headed south, and camped on the side of the road once we got far enough down that there weren’t “no parking” signs at all the pull offs.
Point Lobos State Park <wow> a little gem, a “must-see”, just down the coast a bit from Carmel. The sign says no motorhomes or trailers: on those occasions, we become “just a van, ma’am” (not that anyone questioned it anyway). Many places on the west coast have volunteers, generally called Docent’s that answer questions, lead tours, etc. We had a “Decent Docent”, Marie, who led us on an insightful hour-and-a-half tour, from which we learned much. Fantastic rock formations, plants, marine mammals, birds; now I’m going to have to get more books and learn about all these fascinating topics too.
Good news and bad news: we went to Pinnacles National Monument, a mostly unknown place. Here’s the bad news, item 1: it is difficult to get to, being between what I’ll call the first and second valleys over from the sea. While it is possible to get to the west entrance from US 101 in “the first valley”, the road to it is reputed to be very difficult, and not recommended for RV’s. We didn’t take it anyway because this road doesn’t go through the park, nor connect to the east entrance in any way (except by foot), nor is there any camping there. So we went to the east entrance by way of “the second valley”. Route 25 runs down this valley, which seems to be dotted mostly with not-so-prosperous-looking cattle farms, and a few very-prosperous-looking vineyards; and it is a long run down this valley. Then there is the bad news item 2: you can’t see anything from the roads when you get into the park; you have to hike in. I had caught a cold, and wasn’t up to my usual “climb Mt. Everest” self, so we chose a 1.6 mile “moderate” hike from the many listed in the brochure (called “Moses Spring - Bear Gulch Cave Trail - Rim Trail Loop”). Moderate is a relative term, and this particular moderate was fairly difficult, going through some narrow caves; being short/small would have been a definite advantage. The caves aren’t like the normal ones we think of, i.e., hollowed out of rock. Instead they are called talus: “the openings between rocks that have fallen down into a pile, often at the bases of cliffs”. Why is this, you might ask? Well the park is located “a stone’s throw” from the San Andreas Fault. After this difficult section, we were on the loop to return to the van. We missed a signpost somewhere (the trails are poorly marked) and ended up on a much longer trail called “strenuous” in the brochure. Indeed! Sections of this trail were very, very narrow, and very, very steep, sometimes having steps carved out of the rocks; the kind of steps where there is one just wide enough for your left foot, and the next one, offset and much higher, and just wide enough for your right foot, etc. Fortunately, we don’t have very big feet. These sections were tough enough going up, but no fun at all going down. It took us about 4 hours to finish a total of 6.2 miles of hiking, and there were times I was trying to remember my Boy Scout training of long, long ago, in case we had to make fire and shelter for the night, because it was getting late in the afternoon and rain was in the forecast (fortunately it held off until just after “we got out”). Why am I telling you all this? Because it was fun, and the sights we saw were amazing and probably unlike any other place! If you’re fit and adventurous, try it. Bring supplies with you though, and start earlier than we did! Fortunately we had some water, granola bars, and a flashlight for the caves, but really could have used more food and water, plus a compass, knife, first aid kit (just in case), etc. The hike we took would be “Moses Spring Trail – Bear Gulch Cave Trail – Rim Trail – High Peaks Trail – Condor Gulch Trail”. Oh yes, the park is a mecca for birders, and we did see California Condors and Peregrine Falcons, along with the fantastic rock formations. This hike made the previous seven mile trek through the rain forest in the Pacific Northwest seem like “a walk in the park”. We stayed two nights at the park, and perhaps should have stayed another day and hiked some more.
We headed back for the Monterey area, and stayed at a campground in Marina for four nights. Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf is much smaller than San Francisco’s; perhaps they should call it Fisherman’s Dwarf? It’s really nice though, and not full of chintzy souvenir shops like those that clog the wharf area (and Chinatown) in San Francisco. We had pretty good (but not phenomenal) clam chowder at “Loulou’s Griddle in The Middle” on the wharf (it’s in the middle of the other two restaurants there). But at least we voted their bowls “the largest ever”. And we got within a couple of feet of some apparently pretty tame brown pelicans (probably well fed from the fishing boats and seafood shops on the wharf)..
We watched both football playoff games on Sunday, with Marti loudly rooting for the NY Giants in their overtime win against San Francisco. It wasn’t pretty, but on to the Super Bowl. I mentioned in a previous report that we had stayed just across the street from the stadium in San Francisco the previous week. Good thing we weren’t there in the mean time, because San Francisco received about four inches of rain a few days before this game, and the stadium parking lot was badly flooded, hence the RV park would have been flooded as well.
Meanwhile Dick’s cold improved, because he gave it to Marti, again. Unfortunately, as we’ve mentioned before, Marti’s Achilles’ Heel is in her head (which fits well with my “Foot in Mouth” disease): any sort of head cold immediately becomes a major sinus infection - ouch!.
We spent much of a day at the world class Monterey Aquarium. Amazing all the different kinds of marine life (animal and plant) they have, and as at the California Academy of Sciences in SF, a dozen or so African Penguins (i.e., warm weather ones), as well as some other birds. Also included were some cute Sea Otters, whom we learned are not related to Sea Lions and Seals, but rather to land-based Weasels. They have a very dense fur coat versus the blubber most lions and seals have. We finally resumed our southward journey down California Route 1, past Monterey, Pebble Beach, Carmel, and Point Lobos, and then stayed another night along the road.
“The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” (or at least “The Good, The Bad, and The Boring”). “The Good”: on down to Big Sur; this area lives up to its reputation for beauty, and is another “must see”. “The Bad”: another 20 miles or so down the road, just past Lucia, the road was closed. This wasn’t a total surprise, as there had been a couple of warning signs along the way, but we were hoping that they were trying to keep traffic to a minimum, and would let us through after some waiting period; once we had to wait almost two hours in King’s Canyon-Sequoia. But not this time, the road was totally closed for another week or two because of a massive rockslide caused by last week’s heavy rains.
We were heading down to Morro Bay, just another 68 miles down the coast, and were going to stop at the Hearst Castle and other scenic wonders along the way. No big problem, sez I, US 101 runs roughly parallel to CA 1, inland 15 or 20 miles: we’ll just go over there, head down below the closure, and come back. Wrong (well, partially wrong). US !01 IS over there, it’s just that “you can’t get there from here”. We had to go all the way back up to Monterey (55 miles), go east about 15 miles on CA 68, and then head down 101, and finally back over on CA 41 to Morro Bay, a total of 200 miles. We could have taken a “mountain road” back over to the coast just below Lucia, but as mentioned in “part 2” of these journals, Marti’s sinus infections and elevation changes don’t mix well, and this 45+ mile twisty road would have taken us up almost 3000 feet, and it must be so bad that I couldn’t even FORCE MapQuest to route us that way. “The Boring”: 101 runs through a relatively narrow valley (perhaps 5-10 miles wide). It’s an ancient 4-lane (perhaps the Romans built it?), and the valley is almost flat. It has mile after mile of irrigated farm land, ad nauseum. Just like the coast, there was “a new view around every corner”; sadly there wasn’t much in the way of corners. Seriously, we’re glad the farms are here (and in much of California), because they supply a lot of the country’s fruits and vegetables. But if not for all the irrigation, this would be pretty barren land, and I’m sorry but it’s boring (maybe we were spoiled after all those miles along the seashore?). Eventually, the valley narrowed like a funnel, and spit us out, but not before we gained a bit of elevation, and the fruits and vegetables gave way to some cattle ranches and more vineyards.
Anyway, we made it to Morro Bay, and the Morro Dunes RV Park, and this will give us a chance for some rest and relaxation, and to catch up on the travelogues. Eventually we’ll head back north to see the 68 miles of coastline and other sights that we missed.
Dick, Marti, & Glen RT09/10C190P “no more deadlines” Allegany NY (currently in Morro Bay CA)