Travelogue: Northen California Road Trip


Here is the photo collection from our trip to the Northern California coast. I'm already missing that golden state. Our trip was so fantastic, and if our dogs weren't waiting at home, I'd have a mind to stay there. Such a radical place.

Most of these photos were taken by Kurt. You can view the full-sized versions on my Flickr.

Scenes around Oakland

Day 1: We arrived in San Francisco's airport very late. First, a pit stop at In-and-Out Burger for double doubles was in order. Then we made it into Oakland where our lovely hosts, Joe and Travis, lent us an air mattress for the night. In the morning, we explored their neighborhood and had breakfast on the patio of a neighborhood sidewalk cafe. I ate something on the menu called the "french toast maniac," because you are what you eat.

On the way to Muir Woods.

Day 2: The first stop on our road trip - Muir Woods National monument in Marin County. The drive through the foggy hills was beautiful and reminded us of Monteverde in Costa Rica.

Roadside overlook on Highway 1, near Muir Woods.

Point Reyes lighthouse

We continued along Highway 1 until we came to a turn-off leading to a "surprise", spontaneously devised Kurt. He made me cover my eyes along the way whenever we approached a sign that might reveal our destination. Neither of us anticipated the stopover to lead us 30 miles off track, but the two lane road through a cattle ranch on a finger of land surrounded by ocean was amazing enough to distract us from the seemingly never-ending trip. We finally arrived at Point Reyes Lighthouse. Kurt knows I love lighthouses. We were slightly underwhelmed - it had closed only 5 minutes before we arrived, but the surprise was in the adventure, I suppose. Husband's sweet intentions made it all worth while, in retrospect.

Hi, these are my snaggle teeth. I let them peak out on celebratory occasions, when having a good time trumps vanity. One time, I threatened to have the unruly teeth put back into place, but my friends objected on grounds of their "character." This compliment was flattering enough to make me appreciate my snaggles, even kind of love them. I even love this photo, which might be the dorkiest I've ever looked, but also the happiest.

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Bates Motel

We opted not to plan this vacation, since we were uncertain how things would unfold on the road and didn't want to be tied down by an itinerary. The only time our no-plan plan failed was the first night. As it became nightfall, we were still driving along the treacherous Mendocino coast, looking for a campground or motel, but everything for miles was booked up or cost a billion dollars. We finally found the ramshackle motel in Point Arena. The reception area doubled as the foyer of someone's home, and a frazzled breastfeeding receptionist in a hippie skirt looked just as exasperated as we were. It was 11 PM, and her three screaming children were whizzing around her, ringing the bell and demanding macaroni and cheese. "Do you have any rooms?" I asked. She frowned, "Not really." That meant that she had only one room left, but it was dirty and had a broken window. I rented it for a discount of $30, and we waited in the parking lot as a blazed teenager in a Rastafarian hat vacuumed and sloppily made the bed. At some point, a pit bull wondered in the room, and we watched as our housekeeper acknowledged the dog, unfazed. Later that night, after eating tandoori takeout and squeezing into our two-person sleeping bag (I'm terribly paranoid about bed bugs, lately), there was a knock at the door. A stocky man and an tanning-bed-orange colored lady stood there looking confused, and then angry. Double booked, but it all worked out in the end. We woke up the next morning, feeling grimy and bewildered. After 15 minutes, we were already on the way to Fort Bragg, searching for coffee.

Patrick's Point and some sunsets in Humboldt County.

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Fog and pines. One of my favorites.

Richardson Grove State Park

Day 3: I couldn't wait to see a Redwood. Our nature nerdom knows no bounds. We stopped at the first park in Redwood country, and laid on the ground and just looked up at the tree tops. Those were trees older than anything else in the world! We get so used to living in a world built to our scale, so it's an eerie feeling being dwarfed by a living thing of that magnitude. A humbling reminder that the earth isn't just here for our enjoyment - that these trees have been alive and well long before we set foot in those forests.

Flint Ridge Campsite, Redwood National Park

The second night, we found the campsite of our dreams. An old Jed Clampett look-alike at a nearby RV park directed us to the Flint Ridge primitive (and free!) sites in Redwood National Park. Off of the Newton B. Drury Scenic Parkway, we found a trail leading to a handful of isolated sites in the woods, on a cliff overlooking the ocean. At sunset, we climbed down the rocky bluff, through the sticker bushes and over massive tree roots, until we reached our own private beach. We watched the sun dip into the ocean. The descent nearly killed me, but it was worth it. I'm not sure how I made it back up that trail, but Kurt's promise of candy and beer from the camp store down the road may have had something to do with it.

Top: Sunset on our very own beach. Bottom: Morning rituals.

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The Mr.

Signs in Crescent City.

Day 4: We spent the next day driving North, through Eureka and on to Crescent City. We stopped to admire the Battery Point lighthouse, then followed around the barks of seals at the harbor, hoping to see their shiny heads bobbing on the water. We found them. We met a trio of raucous, elderly navy veterans who basically told us we were idiots if we didn't try breakfast at Good Harvest Cafe. We didn't argue. I ordered pancakes and bacon and Kurt had tofu huervos rancheros with a green smoothie. Pretty tasty, Captains.

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Battery Point Lighthouse, Crescent City

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For our last night in the boonies, we camped at Gold Bluffs Beach in Prairie Creek State Park. For $35, we snagged a campsite on the beach, bordered by a gorgeous backdrop of golden tree-topped bluffs. We enjoyed the quiet deserted beach, watched the pelicans fishing on the shore and more shining seal heads peak up from the waves. At dusk, we cooked soup on the fire and roasted marshmallows as large as our fists. It was perfect. Before leaving the next morning, we hiked through the prairie, looking for the elusive elk herd that lived in the park. We spotted a couple in the distance, as well as a black bear having breakfast in the blackberry bramble.

Roasting marshmallows at our beach camp.

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My favorite campsite.


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Day 5: Our trip ended with a night in San Francisco, where we ate at delicious Umami and enjoyed the company of good friends, Hillie and Athena. Sadly, we were so exhausted that our camera never caught a glimpse of the city. For a big bustling place, San Francisco was completely enchanting. I'd love to go back there someday soon.

Hmm, feeling that moving itch. ;)

Psst: In case you missed it, we also made a little home movie of our road trip, which can be found here.


  1. Dude, nice pics! Trip looked like good times. Might have to pack up the wife and kid (when he stops crapping his pants) and do some camping!

  2. I loveeee these. They make me want to camp and hike in some woods. I would love love love to live in northern California.

  3. i'm all the way in Sydney but i want to be in california! gorgeous photos, those campsites are fantastic!


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