A Day Trip To Point Reyes

About an hour and 15 minutes from Walnut Creek is Point Reyes. You take a winding road through Lucas Valley, a redwood grove, and a little town called Nicasio with a photogenic church and a local cheese stop. Eventually, you will weave your way to Point Reyes Station.

This is a great stopping point to explore the town of 500 with no free WIFI. Check out the Palace Market for picnic items or their swirl gelato ice cream cones. Before standing in line at the back of the meat counter, go to the cash register to pay for your ice cream, then get in line.

From there, head over to Point Reyes Peninsula, which is separated from the mainland by a narrow linear valley that includes Tomales Bay. This valley lies directly on the San Andreas Fault and the Peninsula rides on the eastern edge of the Pacific Plate. This area is what cause the 1906 Earthquake when the peninsula lurched 20 feet northwestward in less than a minute, compared to the average rate of yearly movement of about two inches.

Just past Inverness, we stopped by Tomales Bay State Park (no charge) and had a picnic on the beach while watching small sailboats in a regatta. Tomales Bay is a warmer and less windy spot to enjoy a warm day versus the wind, potential fog, and open face of the Pacific Ocean. Another beach on the bay is Heart’s Desire Beach, however, there are many to explore (some you drive to and some you walk in).

The next stop was the southwest end of the Peninsula, where you can find the lighthouse and visitor’s center. After parking, you get a breathtaking view of the 11 miles of Point Reyes Beach (also known as Great Beach). We even spied some blacktail deer eating along the hillside.

On this particular day, the fog swirled in and then slightly retreated. What would the Bay Area be without its famous fog? We took a leisurely stroll past cypress trees toward the visitor’s center. The lighthouse is then another 300 steps down. The observation platform gives you expansive views toward Stinson Beach and the Farallon Islands (unless, of course, there is fog – and then the foghorn will blare its warning).

The California Gold Rush transformed San Francisco, but navigating the currents, foggy conditions, jagged cliffs, and off-shore rocks of the California coastline for arriving ships was a daunting proposition. In 1853, the first lighthouse was constructed on Alcatraz Island. After the gold rush, Point Reyes became the chief supplier of dairy products and hogs to San Francisco, carried by schooners that sailed to the city from Tomales Bay and Drakes Estero.

As the importance of Point Reyes came to light, it still took more than 20 years and $100,000 to build this lighthouse, which began operation on December 1, 1870. During this time, about $1 million of shipping losses were sustained in the waters offshore of Point Reyes. It remained in operation until it was decommissioned in 1975 and was replaced by an automated beacon located in a separate building below the lighthouse, which was working loudly as a warning signal the day we explored the area.

The history and area are fascinating. I have been there three times now and there is still so much more to explore. There is a Tule Elk Reserve on the north side of the peninsula, Chimney Rock, where elephant seals breed and give birth in the winter, Abbott’s Lagoon, Bear Valley Visitor Center, hiking trails, and more hiking trails; not to mention Hog Island Oysters (see previous post), and the Cheese Trail.

Time To Take A Moment

Time to take a moment and experience something new! Take a trip, go somewhere new, or just see the old in a new light. The Sierras got dumped with snow the week of December 13th and continues to get pounded with new storms.

That first huge drop of snow came just in time for a white Christmas. This is my New Year’s Wish: try something new, get outside (even in the snow), and spend it with people you love. Look to an even better 2022.

Initially, everything looked great with an early snow dump before it all melted. I watched the forecast and Mt. Rose webcams for weeks with a dread setting in for an El Nino year. Then, 100 inches (or more than 8 feet!) of snow settled into the Sierras two weeks before Christmas.

I chose to run to the mountains and get my first ski runs in for the season. Carpe diem. It was a beautiful day with an inversion in Reno. Mt. Rose was actually warmer than Reno, and I spent the day with good friends who share my love of skiing. I took a few moments to snap pictures that make me feel graced with contentment.

A snipped of Tahoe, a sweeping view of Reno from the highest peak, friends heading for a run down Northwest, icicles in downtown Truckee, and, finally, an old red truck upon my return to Walnut Creek decorated with the Christmas spirit. Be bold, be present, be authentic! Onto 2022 to an amazing, adventurous year.

A Smoky Escape to Reno

A couple of weekends ago, I headed up to Reno with big plans to see my son, play pickleball, hang out at Tahoe, and see Shakespeare at Sand Harbor. Well, all those plans came crashing down when the Air Quality Index (AQI) from all the smoke was reading in the mid-300s for Reno and over 500 for Tahoe.

So, we pivoted. We went to a couple of movies and out to eat at some restaurants and bars. If you ever find yourself in Reno looking for something cool to do, Midtown is the place to be! Centro, at 236 California Ave., is defined as a Bar + Kitchen. They serve small plates and interesting cocktails, with a happy hour from Thursday-Saturday (3-6 p.m.). Here in California, happy hours are usually Monday-Thursday.

Centro has a cool brick vibe with a large bar and about 12 tables, colorful artwork, and garage door windows that open to a front patio. We ordered fig old-fashioned, heirloom tomatoes (with apricots, smoked feta, salsa rosa, EVOO, pistachios, chili flake brittle, and lemon basil!), gnocchi with sweet corn, rabbit, black truffle, chive, and Aleppo chili. We also had my favorite: tacos al pastor.

Their menu changes seasonally at Centro, and is more of a tapa kind of place, so keep that in mind when visiting! The second restaurant we tried was RSL (short for Rum Sugar Lime), another brick and wood stylized bar in Midtown at 1039 South Virginia. RSL is strictly a bar and has a tropical theme and drink menu. They occasionally have music, from vinyl and drums to jazz and cocktails. This is my kind of place!

We tried something different – we ordered the Maelstrom, which is their version of a dark and stormy, which was in-your-face gingery. We also tried the Pain Killer, a house favorite that originated in the Caribbean, and the Lomomo, a fruit-forward twist on a classic negroni. They have postcards at RSL that you can write on and send to a friend. The funny thing is their postcards remind me of the new HBO show White Lotus and the background/wallpaper they use in the intro.

Overall, both places were a great escape from the smoke and very relaxing to indulge in some good food and drinks.

Angora Lakes, worth the visit, but please don’t go!

If you get the chance this summer, I’d highly recommend trekking up to Lake Tahoe to do some hiking and swimming. If you’ve read my blog, you know how much I love visiting the area; well, I found a new favorite spot!

Angora Lakes is a popular hiking destination that is, unfortunately, best known for a devastating fire about 15 years ago that burned a large swath of land and homes. But the lake area was untouched, and the upper and lower Angora Lakes remain.

It is right above Fallen Leaf Lake, which you can see above, last picture on the right of the six grouped together. This is the entrance to Desolation Wilderness, and lots of people enjoy jumping off the 24-foot rocks around the lakes. Right now, be aware: there are warnings because the lake is low!

The upper Angora Lake has a few cabins, a snack bar and rent canoes and kayaks, but it books out a year in advance. It’s a very popular spot to hike, camp, and vacation – and you can see why from these pictures. It could be added to my previous blog on swimming holes.

Find A Place To Cool Off

The summer heat is unbearable on the West Coast this year and this weekend the East Bay is expected to be in the 100 + degrees again.. Luckily, we have some great places to visit where you can cool off by enjoying beautiful, refreshing swimming holes. Check out this list by 7×7, or see my recap below:

Richardson Grove Swimming Hole

Richardson Grove is in Humboldt County. You can bask in the shade of the giant redwood trees, or head toward the South Fork of the Eel River, where a few swimming holes and beaches are located.

Standish-Hickey State Recreation Area Swimming Hole

Staying on the South Fork of the Eel River, this time in Mendocino County, you can check out a large, deep swimming hole. Bring an umbrella, as there isn’t much shade!

(Aron Bosworth, via Outdoor Project)

Upper Falls, McCloud River

Though best known for being an overlook and picnic area on the McCloud River Three Falls Hike, Upper Falls also has a hidden swimming hole that even stays in the shade for parts of the day.

Middle Falls, McCloud River

Just a mile upstream from Lower Falls, this is on the Upper McCloud River just southeast of Mount Shasta. It is the largest of the three falls, and slightly less accessible than its counterparts. But it has a wonderful swimming hole you just have to visit!

Lower Falls, McCloud River

Lower Falls is the most heavily trafficked of these three swimming holes, but is really good for jumping from the surrounding rocks. There is a day-use picnic area if you want to make a full day out of it!

Potem Falls

This is a hidden gem in the Redding area in Shasta County. It is a swimming hole at the bottom of a 70-foot waterfall, complete with a rope swing and jumping rocks.

Lake Anza

Let’s keep this one local: Lake Anza is a man-made freshwater lake in Tilden Regional Park, so you can easily do a half-day trip from Walnut Creek! It’s supervised swimming and there’s a sandy beach here in the Berkeley Hills.

Oregon Creek Day Use Area

Down Highway 49, you can find the Oregon Creek Day Use Area, where a confluence of the Oregon Creek tributary and the Middle Yuba River create a great and lesser-known swimming hole.

Highway 49 Crossing

This is a popular one. On the South Yuba River, you can find huge boulders and a few lovely swimming holes. It’s easily accessible from the highway and cuts through California’s Gold Country.

(Aron Bosworth, via Outdoor Project)

North Fork Falls

Located on the North Fork of the American River, this one is nicely secluded under evergreen trees. Enjoy several pools and a cascading waterfall. You can also enjoy jumps of up to 25 feet from the surrounding cliffs!

D.L. Bliss State Park

Now we’re getting into my favorite place: Tahoe. Just North of Emerald Bay State Park, D.L. Bliss is a popular destination along Tahoe’s Southwest shoreline. Beaches, clear water, and a boat launch make this a great place for a family.

Emerald Bay State Park

Emerald Bay is in the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe, and, odds are, you’ve been here if you are a California native. Between the swimming, boating, and hiking, you really can’t beat Emerald Bay.

Meeks Bay Beach

Finally, Meeks Bay Beach has a white, sandy beach on Tahoe’s West Shore. You can camp, swim, and enjoy a day at the beach here. You can also easily launch SUP boards, kayaks, and more.

Reminder: Be safe!

Swimming holes and cliff jumping can be dangerous and unpredicatble. Water levels change, hidden rocks exist, and currents shift. Please scout the areas you’re planning to jump into and understand the risks involved before swimming!

Fun Things To Do In Tahoe

Summer is nearly upon us (and if last week’s weather is any indication, it’s here early!). We’re blessed to live in a place with outdoor opportunities aplenty, and one of my favorite places in the world to visit is the Reno-Tahoe area. There are so many great things to do there, including what 7×7 lists here.

I had a few items to change and add, so here are my two cents:

  1. Play Disc Golf at Tahoe Vista Disc Golf Course – very high rankings and a very tough course (I personally know!)
  2. See Shakespeare in Sand Harbor – always a treat; it doesn’t get much better than theater under the stars with a glass of wine
  3. Hike the Flume Trail (then hike or ride to Marlet Lake and back) – you can also start at Spooner Lake, hike down, and, in the summer take a van back (or just get two cars and park one at the old Bonanza parking lot, which is now the entrance to the Flume Trail)
  4. Rent paddleboards at San Harbor boat dock
  5. Take the trail from Emerald Bay to DL Bliss State Park
  6. See the salmon spawn at Taylor Creek
  7. Hike to Eagle Falls

Among the ideas listed in the 7×7 article, I am interested in their recommendations of getting ice cream at Treats in Nevada City, ordering a Snowmelt cocktail in an igloo at Fumo in Incline Village, and trying an overnight kayaking trip on the Tahoe Water Trail. It sounds like a great road trip and I already know this summer is going to be packed. People are vaccinated and it is hard to book flights and rooms, travel prices are up with the increased demand, so book now if it isn’t already too late.

You really can’t go wrong in Tahoe. The combination of jaw-dropping natural beauty and a lively food, drink, and crafts scene in all of the little towns around the lake are unbeatable. Enjoy your visit!

A quick trip to the beach

I recently took a day trip to Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz with my son, Jackson, who was visiting from Reno. It was a beautiful day and we explored some excellent tide pools at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz – it was nice to get out and get some fresh air for a day after being cooped up for so many months.

I had never been there before so I was excited to explore a new area. I loved the natural bridge and tide pools. And in November, this is where the monarch butterflies come and nest. We packed a picnic with my homemade sourdough bread, and, of course, Jackson (who just turned 25) was enjoying his beer…I drove!

There was a side cove on the other side of the bridge that we had to walk through the tide to get to. High tide was coming in quickly so the beach was getting smaller and smaller, but it had some cool rock formations (pictured below). I would have preferred to hang out there, but Jackson was fine on the crowded beach.

At the end of the day, we chose to take a leisurely drive up Highway 1 back through San Francisco. We stopped and got some vegan soup and strawberry shortcake, at Swanton Berry Stand – there was even an honor till system. I just loved the drive as the fog started to roll in off the ocean. There were so many cars parked along the side of the road to explore the various beaches and a large number of kite surfers at Waddle Beach – a sight to be seen. As road trips are becoming the norm for vacations in this year, you might consider exploring our own backyard.

Road Trips: The Cinderella Classic

This week, I’m blogging about a yet-to-be done Road Trip! It’s all about the Valley Spokesmen Bicycle Club and Cinderella Classic & Challenge, an annual bike ride for women and girls only that I plan on taking part in this year. It is on March 28th, and costs no more than $75 to register, and that’s for non-members doing the longest course and registering the day of!

Image result for riding a bike

A little bit about the routes: the short route is a flat, 31-mile route starting at Las Positas College in Livermore. The classic route is 65 miles or 105k which sounds so much more, with some moderate hills. This route takes you through the base of Mt. Diablo and through Danville, Pleasanton, and the vineyards of Livermore. The challenge route is a tough 100 miles with about 2,300 feet of climbing and even includes a portion of the Altamont Pass!

I did the 65-mile route back in my 30s, but I am motivated this year to get some biking into my workout schedule because I am doing a 10-day bike trip in Italy this September. This year, I am doing it with a few women who will also be on the Italy trip with me. If you want to sign up, give it a look here! The ride begins at 9 a.m. and is monitored the whole way through, and if you can’t make it to the end, they do have pick-up vans.

Road Trips: Truckee!

A couple of weekends ago, I celebrated my birthday with a ski trip to Squaw and stayed at the Welk Resorts at Northstar. I went up a day early with a friend and on the drive up spent the afternoon in Truckee! Anytime you head up to ski or go to Tahoe it should be on your list to stop and have lunch and meander into all the cute stores. I had such a great time, I wonder why I don’t make the time more often. We had lunch at 50-50 Brewery (which I’ve written about before) and watched a playoff game and drank a beer.

We also browsed many of the local stores, which included my favorite shop (Riverside Studios). Truckee just has some really cool, fun places to shop and we took full advantage of it!

I ended up buying a few items on sale at Dressed and loved all the home items especially focused on dogs at Mountain Home Collection. There is even some cool artwork. One of the big surprises was, when looking for a bathing suit forgotten at home, everyone re-directed to Ace Hardware. This is not in the Old Town part of Truckee, but only a few miles away by a Hwy 89 off-ramp. Ace also had tons of home decor, artwork, and Tahoe/cabin stuff all at a very reasonable price. I will be stopping there next fall for Christmas gift ideas!

Road Trips: MoMa

I love going to the museums in San Francisco, and recently I went to the Museum of Modern Art (better known as the MoMa) for a new exhibit with a couple of girlfriends. It was the opening event for members only and they allow you to invite a couple of friends. Entrance was free, but the food and cocktails were not – average price for each was about $12, but they also had a DJ, and of course a cool place to explore.

The nice thing about the member-only events is that you can browse the entire museum while also taking part in the festivities. I didn’t really like the featured exhibit, “Soft Power.” It didn’t leave a very big impression on me and I thought the art was too “out there.” There were a few pieces that I liked – primarily the ones I took pictures of and that are shown here was what I liked. Overall, it was dark and not really my thing.

There is an ongoing exhibit called “The Chronicles of SF,” which had me mesmerized as we watched it move in their big hall with seating. I also like the Yves Klein painting of a blue color he created. It was great to hang out with some friends and what seeing what MoMa does with all their opening exhibits makes me want to become a member.