Road Trips: Aspen

Well, this would be a bit of a haul in a car. But luckily, flights to Colorado aren’t terribly expensive from the Bay Area, and visiting Aspen is well worth the price of admission! I visited recently for BHG’s Top Producer conference and met some agents from all over the United States and got to share in Aspen’s natural beauty!

The conference was at the St. Regis and it was one of the best hotel stays I have had. They left me a handwritten note asking if I would like coffee, tea or hot chocolate delivered to my room. I chose hot chocolate and then they asked if I wanted marshmallows – of course!

The conference held a nice dinner, with music at the T-Lazy-7 Ranch one night and then another was at the hotel with an oxygen bar, and raptor birds. The St. Regis offered free rides in and around town. Not that Aspen is that big, but it was nice to have a ride back from dinner. On Friday, at the end of the conference, it snowed and I was hoping to see the Maroon Bells. The next day was forecasted sun, so I wandered around Aspen and met up with Nina and Chris from Boise and we walked around the John Denver Sanctuary, which was serene and beautiful. Then we had dinner at Matsuhisa, a fabulous sushi restaurant.

On the ride back to the hotel, the driver asked what I was going to do tomorrow. I chimed in with the Maroon Bells, he asked how I was getting there, and I said Uber or Lyft. He looked at me and said he doesn’t think there would be one available so early (7:30 am) nor would there be reception for me to call one to pick me up (welcome to Aspen). He then suggested that the hotel has a partnership with Lexus and they have two vehicles for guests to test drive in 4-hour segments. That was perfect for a trip to the Maroon Bells to get me back in time for my 12:20 flight. I texted Nina if she and Chris wanted a ride and she asked if Sam and Q from Minnesota could come and, thus, our pictures!

BTW, the St. Regis has Kitty the Bernese as their mascot and his Instagram is a hoot! The handler is called a “fur butler.” I want that job for my retirement. Kitty was only there for a day, as the St. Regis was closing for three weeks and Kitty was on a road trip to San Francisco.

Best camping spots near San Francisco

It seems like I’m coming up with one of these blogs every Fall, and rightfully so – it’s a gorgeous time of year to get outside in the Bay Area and have a campfire, pitch a tent, and take in the beautiful nature that surrounds us.

Today, I’m re-visiting this TimeOut.com list and pulling out five campsites that I think are worth your time while the weather is still nice. Read below and let me know if I missed any!

Kirby Cove Camp – Golden Gate Recreation Area

Just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, you can settle into a very private campsite with astonishing waterfront views of the city. Bonuses: You’re walking distance to the beach and a picnic area.

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East Bay Camp – Angel Island State Park

Angel Island is a quick ferry ride from Pier 41 or from Tiburon. There are 11 sites, and they may be a bit of a hike from your landing, but nowhere else can you get 180-degree views of the East Bay hills or San Francisco.

White Gulch Beach – Tomales Bay

You can’t beat kayaking into a campsite along the shoreline of Tomales Bay. This specific site is protected from the wind as its back in a cove, and you might see a ton of wildlife!

Steep Ravine Campground – Mt. Tamalpais State Park

This is a bit less rugged, considering you can book a rustic cabin here that overlooks the Pacific. There are normal camping options, too, and you’re just steps away from the gorgeous Steep Ravine Trail.

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Sempervirens – Big Basin Redwoods State Park

There are few settings more beautiful to camp in than under the redwoods, which tower over this state park. You can pull your car right up to the highway here and enjoy modern sites with picnic tables and fire rings.

Road Trips: Whitewater rafting

I haven’t taken a ton of road trips lately, so I’m handing the mic off to one of my team members, Jeremy. He recently went on a trip down to Mariposa to raft the Merced River for a friend’s bachelor party. Take it away, Jeremy:

This winter, California got a record amount of snowfall. Hopefully all you skiers and snowboarders took advantage! A heavy winter like that has huge ramifications for the spring and summer, too. We learned that the fun way in Mariposa recently.

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The town of Mariposa itself is a quirky, charming place with a small downtown and a nice public park with live music. It’s near a Yosemite entrance, so if you were lucky enough to get camping reservations there, you can tie both trips into one!

If you’re up for some wild, fast whitewater (the guides told us the river was flowing 3-4 times faster than usual because of all the snow!), you can jump on a trip with any outfitter that does the Merced or Tuolumne Rivers in that area. We went with All-Outdoors Whitewater Rafting, which is a company based in Walnut Creek!

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You can’t beat a day of splashy waves and Class IV rapids (the highest is Class V), especially on a day like we had where the weather was perfect. If you’re in Mariposa and looking for something that’s not outdoorsy, good luck. But if you enjoy hiking, kayaking, rafting, or anything else of that nature, I’d highly recommend checking it out!

Celebrate Arbor Day tomorrow!

Did you know Arbor Day was founded by a journalist? Or that it started in Nebraska almost 150 years ago? Neither did I! The last Friday of every April is now Arbor Day, and we should use it to spread proper tree-care knowledge. For example:

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  • Water regularly so trees don’t dry up
  • Know the prominent pests in your area, so you can protect your trees
  • If you can, talk to a licensed forester to properly plant
  • Don’t overwater! Talk to a specialist about soil analysis
  • Be careful with your trimming so trees don’t die or topple

Arbor Day is all about taking care of our planet, which could always use a clean-up effort or a new tree planted. Trees provide the very necessities of life itself. They clean our air, protect our drinking water, create healthy communities, and feed the human soul. But these life necessities are threatened around the globe.

To address this, the Arbor Day Foundation is launching an unprecedented undertaking: the Time for Trees initiative. Learn more about their efforts to plant 100 million trees in forests and communities and inspire 5 million new tree planters by 2022 — the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day.

If you know of any local Arbor Day events, please share with me so I can re-post!

Best Hikes in the Bay! (UPDATED)

I love hiking. That’s probably why, over the years, I’ve given you all countless Road Trips blogs with hiking involved. I’ve also written about the best hikes near Walnut Creek, best hikes with a bar at the end, and my own take on the best hikes in San Francisco.

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What can I say? It’s habit. So, with Spring right around the corner and the sun starting to shine on our beautiful state, I have another hiking list for you, this time courtesy of TimeOut.com. They’ve listed their 9 favorite hikes in San Francisco, and who am I to argue?

  1. Lands End
  2. Bernal Heights Summit
  3. Glen Canyon Park
  4. Marin Headlands
  5. Redwood Regional Park
  6. Muir Woods
  7. Golden Gate Bridge
  8. The Presidio
  9. Angel Island
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As you can see, they were a little bit generous describing a few of those as “San Francisco hikes.” But they are all great choices, nonetheless! If you’re venturing out that way, I’d also suggest spending half a day doing the entire Dipsea Trail or the Steep Ravine Trail from Pantoll campgrounds to Stinson! You won’t regret it!

Did you know you can get raw, affordable dog food delivered to Walnut Creek?

Okay, I have two secrets to tell you. First, this is a repeat of a blog I posted more than three years ago on this very same site. I know, I know, but it’s because I feel like this information needs to be recycled once in a while. A service this great needs to be showed off to my readers new and old!

Secret number two is the service itself! Creston Valley Meats is essentially a traveling butcher in that they come up to NorCal from the SLO area every couple of weeks with a white freezer van full of dog food deliveries, park in the Rudgear Park and Ride, and wait for clients to come to meet them!

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Creston Valley offers raw diet options for dogs and humans (with a specialty in wild game!). They post real-time delivery updates on Twitter, and they’ll call or text you about 30 minutes before arrival. It’s a really smooth, awesome service, and Bodie LOVES his Creston Valley food!

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I joke that it’s my canine drug deal, as they open the back of their van, say your name, and hand you a box in exchange for a check. It must look hilarious from an outsider’s perspective! For Bodie, I get a combo patty of chicken and banana or pork and anchovies. You can also get 20 buffalo bones for $10!

I just mix two patties with Honest Kitchen Base Mix and top it off with yogurt or cottage cheese (whole fat).  Yes, my dog eats better than me.

This last time when I went to pick up the food, I saw some very interesting “art” at Rudgear Park & Ride, some teenagers must have left behind. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? LOL!

Best spots in the Bay to pitch a tent

TimeOut.com came out with an interesting list recently, about the 12 best places to pitch your tent and go camping in the Bay Area. One of the biggest perks of living where we do is access to the beautiful outdoors in any direction. We have great camping on Mt. Diablo right in our backyard which has amazing sunset views, or we can go out on the coast or up into the mountains to get an even bigger thrill.

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I’ve taken a few of TimeOut’s suggestions and curated a list with my favorites to combine into a top-5 camping must-visit list in our area. Where are your favorite spots to camp? Add to the list!

Pantoll Campground (Mt. Tamalpais)

Pantoll Campground is a phenomenally-located area on the windy roads of Mt. Tam. There are hiking trails (including some long ones down to the beach see previous blog – great hike) and good-sized campgrounds with tables and fire pits under heavy tree cover. It’s first-come, first-served, so get there early!

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (Big Sur)

This is a hike-in campground, but you can’t beat the beauty of Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns. You can hike all around the campground, enjoy a picturesque, relaxing night under the stars listening to the ocean, and even see McWay Falls, which tumble into the Pacific. It’s truly a beautiful place to pitch your tent.

Juniper and Live Oak Campground (Mt. Diablo)

You know I had to get one on this list in our own backyard. Mt. Diablo, for all its splendor, is an even better place to hike, bike and camp. One of the best spots is Juniper and Live Oak Campground, which gives you spacious campsites and unbelievable views of all of the Bay Area.

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Desolation Wilderness (Lake Tahoe)

This is cheating, a little bit. Lake Tahoe is not in the vicinity of the Bay Area, but it’s close enough that you can make a last-minute trip up there. If you want to camp in the gorgeous Desolation Wilderness, among the peaks and lakes, you will have to plan ahead. Get a permit, prepare to hike, and bring some snacks. You won’t regret it.  This is one my favorites as I love Tahoe and the surrounding area.

Redwood Regional (Oakland)

I’ll be honest – I knew about Redwood Regional near Oakland, but I had no idea it was a prime camping spot. This is a good place to go if you want something different from Mt. Diablo, don’t want to tangle with dozens of other campers for a spot, and don’t want to drive hours to get somewhere. California is famous for its redwoods, so hang a hammock here and enjoy the soothing sounds of nature.

Road Trips: Albany Bulb

With this installation of Road Trips, we’re taking a bit more of a bohemian angle. Fittingly, we’ll be going just to the fringe of Berkeley, to the little town of Albany. It’s not for a park, or a theater, or anything like that. I’m actually recommending a visit to a landfill with a wild history and a ton of unique art.

In the late 1930’s, the creation of the Albany “Bulb” began. Land was leveled and moved around and pushed into the Albany peninsula for the creation of the racetrack at Golden Gate Fields. Over time, the land was protected by Save The Bay, and became somewhat of a lost project. For many years, the peninsula served as an occasional hiking and dog-walking spot, as well as being home to many local species of plants and animals.

Eventually, the Bulb became a homeless haven, with as many as 60 squatters living there before being evicted (some forcibly) by local authorities. While that population was on the Bulb, they created sculptures, and paintings, and even a makeshift library that has since been burned to the ground. But, today, it is still a sight to see: views of the Bay, art everywhere, unique traces of generations past.

For those who aren’t into the graffiti, wooden art or macabre feel (kinda feels like a scene from The Walking Dead), there is a beach nearby that dogs can be on without a leash. The Albany Bulb is a weird, exciting, confusing display of East Bay history.

You can easily spend half a day wandering its pathways and finding strange art from decades ago. Try going out there on a nice day, and you can always go back into Berkeley for a nice lunch or dinner on your way home!

Enjoy some gorgeous hikes before summer ends!

With the warm summer weather starting to tail off a bit, all you hikers will want to get out there and hit these last few trails before the season changes completely. Here are four great hike ideas close to San Francisco, from Time Out San Francisco.

  1. Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve: a more remote, forested getaway in the Oakland hills with stunning views of the Bay in every direction!
  2. Angel Island: 360-degree views of the Bay Area from the highest point, and just a cool getaway for some nature and history.
  3. Alamere Falls: If you’re brave enough, you can sneak close to the edge of the 40-foot falls that drop into the ocean.
  4. Lands End: An oldie, but a goodie – you can’t beat this classic hike, which can take you through the Sutro Baths, along the coastline, and towards breathtaking Golden Gate views.

Obviously, there are plenty of local hikes in the East Bay to explore, too. Mt. Diablo and The Open Space are always fun, as are the views from the Berkeley Hills and Grizzly Peak. If you want something easy to take a stroller or a couple dogs on, try the Lafayette Reservoir!

We are very blessed to live in an area that has temperate weather even in the winter, but the beauty of the trails (and the lack of mud!) disappears as fall converges on the summer.

It’s supposed to stick in the low 90’s for the rest of this work week, and then start the decline into the 80’s and 70’s in the weeks to come. Take advantage now before you hole up next to the fireplace for the winter!

Time for this summer to get in-tents!

Hah, get it? It’s officially summer in the Bay Area (if you couldn’t tell by the triple-digit heat…), which means it’s time for you to plan some fun camping trips!

Luckily, we live in one of the most serene, nature-filled parts of the country and dozens of great campgrounds are just a short drive away. That brings me to this list of local campgrounds provided by Placer Title Company.

Some you’ve probably heard of, some you haven’t, but either way you can’t beat the Northern California summer. Some of my favorite areas are Tahoe (of course) and the Redwoods.

On this list, I can’t recommend the Tahoe State Recreation Area, Big Basin or Tuolumne Meadows (Yosemite, so get reservations like…yesterday!) enough. I’ve also found that Desolation Wilderness near Tahoe is an amazing, remote spot for hike-in camping.

If you have kids, Angel Island is a simple ferry ride (also fun for the kiddos!) and close enough to home that you can do an easy one-nighter. Obviously, if you want to be extremely close to home in the East Bay, hit up Mt. Diablo. They have pretty great campgrounds and almost every single one has a great view of the entire East Bay.

I love camping, whether it be in a car or a tent, in the warm NorCal summers. Check out that list, pack your car, and take a weekend off to enjoy the beautiful outdoors. Our natural surroundings are some of the best parts about living in California, so take advantage of it soon!