California

After the Volcanic Legacy Parks, we decided to take a National Park break and hit the winery trail in Napa.  No high heels but we did get (relatively) dressed up.  Neither of us are very savvy about wines so we chose to spend our tasting time at V. Sattui, solely based on the fact that they have a gourmet deli at the winery.  Lame, I know.  But we had such a nice time.  Did two tastings and had a picnic of apples, cheeses, bread and some awesome dipping sauce under the trees adjacent to the vineyard.  It was a very pleasant day.  There are so many wineries along highway 29 and even more on the Silverado trail that you could spend weeks visiting them all.

It was tough travel heading out of Napa because of road construction.  We got out of the road construction only to hit the NASCAR traffic at Sonoma.  We had reservations for the night in San Francisco and the Napa construction traffic that turned into NASCAR traffic turned into San Francisco Friday night traffic.  Perhaps the traffic jaded our San Francisco experience but neither Sarah nor I were interested in spending much time there.  We did see and travel across the Golden Gate bridge (one of my objectives) but didn’t stick around to do the cable car or any other sight-seeing.  Maybe we just weren’t in the mood for a city trip.  Another time.

We planned to travel a portion of Highway 1 after leaving San Francisco and we did drive the famous coastal highway from Monterrey to Cambria.  It took us twice as long as we had expected to get from San Francisco to Monterrey.  Traffic was horrible.  It wasn’t that bad on Highway 1 – just getting there was a pain.  That was exacerbated by a necessary supply stop in Mountain View, CA where we went to what must have been the world’s oldest Target and had to make four stops before we found a place that sold ice.  (such first world problems!)

The scenery along Highway 1 was very pretty – particularly the different colors of blue in the ocean.  I am glad we made the drive but guess my expectations were too high.  I think part of it is that it’s beautiful but, in most cases, inaccessible.  We drove into Carmel by the Sea where there is a public beach and the town was crazy busy.  You literally would have had to park a mile away to access the beach.  One of the best stops along our drive was this pretty waterfall, McWay Falls in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which falls directly into the ocean.

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Since we weren’t anticipating the traffic, we over-planned our day.  Our destination for the night was Pinnacles National Park near King City, CA.    We stopped in Paso Robles for dinner.  What a pretty downtown!  Pretty park with restored buildings surrounding it.  Lots of folks walking around.  We actually liked it better than our experience in downtown San Francisco.

We ended up driving the last leg of our day at dusk, arriving at Pinnacles after dark.  We were tent camping so we put up the tent in the dark – thank goodness we have an “up in a minute” tent.  Pinnacles is a dark sky park – meaning that they have very few lights in the park (none in the restrooms!) and there is virtually no light pollution from surrounding activities.  Really great for stargazing – not so great for setting up a tent.  There was also a burn ban because of extreme fire hazard so no one had campfires.  The site we reserved (one of the few open when we made the reservation) was tucked back behind some bushes and bordered by a small ravine. We didn’t know about the ravine till morning.  We got the tent up and were getting some things out of the car when a really fat raccoon walked right beside us and about scared us to death!  Neither of us slept well that night!

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We stopped in the Visitor Center the next morning to get oriented and found out that Pinnacles is a climbing and hiking only park.   You cannot see the Pinnacles without taking a fairly lengthy hike.  Poor planning on my part since we were planning on this just being a drive-through experience.  Then the Ranger told us it was going to be 105 on the trails.  Time to move on!

One other note on Pinnacles, this was the worst maintained and managed National Park campground I have experienced.  I left a comment card and plan to send my comments to the Park Service.  Of the three restroom buildings, one was closed completely and the other two had stalls which were closed.  The showers were so bad even I wouldn’t shower there and quiet hours weren’t enforced.  So – not my favorite park.  As with every park, the restrooms and store were operated by a concessionaire.  Obviously a lowest but not best bid.  Time to hit the road again!

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