Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cruising the Northern California Coast

     Trade in some sunshine for a little more peace and quiet on the Northern California Coast. 

     By the time you hit Monterey you’ll notice a change in the landscape.  There is more fog and the hills are greener.  The rivers and streams seem more abundant.

     Pigeon Point Lighthouse is a hauntingly beautiful sight, located near Pescadero.  Its unkempt appearance adds to its charm.  We came upon it on a stormy morning in July.  It’s surrounded by a chain link fence and a hostel.

     These sea otters were playing in the shallow waters of the Salinas River near Manressa State Beach.  I have never seen so many sea otters in the wild before.  There were at least 40 of them.  I captured these guys with my 300mm telephoto lens.

     A beautiful white egret wading next to the Salinas River:

     Me wandering down a chilly and windy beach:

     Point Reyes National Seashore is a gorgeous undeveloped area just North of San Francisco.  This is a view from the very edge of the steep bluffs that line the seashore.  Being July, it was incredibly foggy.  This view clears up in September and October.

     Things move a little slower on the Nor Cal Coast, especially once you’re heading away from San Francisco.  I had to stop and get a few photos of this devastated old house, sitting lonely right off the side of Highway 1.

     The Mendacino Headlands is a perfect spot for watching a river meet the ocean.  

     Just north of Russian Gulch State Park is a gorgeous, well preserved lighthouse standing all alone in a field of tall grass.  It overlooks rocky bluffs and an endless expanse of the Pacific.  You’ll walk an easy mile down a maintained trail to get to it.

     There is a campground located in a picturesque cove in Westport Beach, where you’re allowed to set up a tent right in the sand.  Just stay behind the high-tide line.

     It was one of the best camping experiences I have ever had, leaving my tent unzipped to views of the ocean.

     This is just a small piece of what makes up California’s 800 miles of coastline.  It doesn’t get as much fame as the sunny South, but it’s full of its own unique beauty and stunning scenery.  

     Watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean... I can think of few better ways to end a day.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Kirby Cove, San Francisco's Best Kept Secret

     Kirby Cove is one of California’s best kept secrets, one of those hidden gems that seems almost too good to be true.  Are you wishing for some place quiet and peaceful near San Francisco to set up your tent and relax?  Do you want to gaze at the city, the Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge away from bustling tourist attractions and crowds?  

     How does a beautiful, private beach with a secluded campsite only yards away sound?  Perfect, right?  Well that is Kirby Cove!

     The one true downside to Kirby Cove is that unless you get extremely lucky, you have to plan far in advance to be able to stay there.  But this can be said about many prime campsites across the US.  Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Yellowstone... you won’t get a spot unless you reserve your site months ahead of time.  The only difference between these popular parks and Kirby Cove is whereas they have hundreds of people coming in and out of them every day, Kirby has only four campsites, which means you are guaranteed solitude.  Yes, it is a bit of extra work.  But trust me, it's worth it!

     The government website lets you reserve 6 months in advance.  My suggestion is to get on the website exactly 6 months before the day you plan to arrive.  Get on early in the morning, as early as possible.  These sites fill up FAST.  The website lets you choose your campsite.  Site 1 is closest to the ocean.  Site 2 and 3 are the biggest.  Site 4 is the most secluded.  We chose 2 because it has a view of the Bay and of the Golden Gate Bridge.  It was amazing!  

     I was so preoccupied taking photos down by the water that I really didn’t get many of the campground.  But they are beautiful sites, all of them guarded by towering California Oaks.

     Here is the Cove in the middle of the day.  It was a typical foggy July when we were there and like the famous saying goes: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.”  

     I liked this piece of old dock that washed up onto the shore.  I thought it looked like a treasure chest at first.

     The sites are 14 dollars a night and you can stay for up to 2 weeks.  You will get a code that lets you into the gate at the top of the famous overlook on the West side of the Bridge in Sausalito.  It was funny to see the curious stares of tourists as they watch you lock the gate back up and wonder where in the world you are going.  Beyond the gate you drive down a steep gravel road that takes you into a protected grove of old growth trees.  Inside this grove is where the campsites lie.  The tree line breaks, opens up to a small bluff, and there is a small but gorgeous beach.  The beach belongs to you and whoever else is camping down at Kirby Cove.  We had it completely to ourselves each night we were there.  

     Though there are so many sites to see and things to do in the city, we made sure to be back at our camp every evening to watch twilight settle in over the Bay.  We brought blankets and sat tucked behind the mountainside to stay out of the wind.  Few man-made things are more beautiful than watching San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge light up from within the fog.

     The colors constantly change with the impending darkness and the clouds.  Giant boats stir up waves along the shore as they pass under the Bridge.  As we sat there enjoying the stunning scenery it occurred to me that people pay hundreds of dollars a night to stay in fancy hotels in the city- for rooms with lovely views.  But no amount of money could get you anything better than just sitting on a blanket at the Kirby Cove beach.  

     If you are a traveler looking for a less expensive, unconventional experience while visiting San Francisco, or if you’re a seasoned camper who is looking for a place to connect with nature while enjoying the benefits of the big city... Kirby Cove is your answer!  Just don’t forget to plan ahead.

     These were some of the best nights of my life.


Thursday, January 16, 2014

San Francisco

   San Francisco, California is my favorite city.  It’s colorful, liberal, artistic and is located on one of the most aesthetic pieces of land in the United States.  

     I don’t spend much time in cities during my travels.  Since I am so fond of the Parks and nature and have limited time on the road, I usually avoid them.  But San Francisco is different.  It’s just a beautiful, beautiful city.   You could live there your whole life and still never run out of things to see and do.

     Point Bonita Lighthouse is located on the edge of the Golden Gate.  It will give you stunning vistas of the Bay and of the city from afar.

     Fisherman’s Wharf:

     Alcatraz from the end of Pier 39:

     The whole city is dotted with old Volkswagon Beetles.  

     Strolling around North Beach and admiring the architecture:

     City Lights Bookstore, an old hangout of some of the Beat Generation’s most prominent artists:


     The Poet’s Chair:

     I’ve always loved this green building:



     You can’t miss the Haight/Ashbury.

     Legion of Honor:

     Golden Gate Park and the Rose Garden:

     The Painted Ladies at Alamo Square:

     The Palace of the Arts:

     This is just a small taste of what San Francisco has to offer.  There are countless other sights to explore... museums, restaurants, parks, bridges.  These are just a few photos from the 2 days I spent leisurely walking around the city.  

     My hope is to one day live in or near San Francisco.  There is no other place like it.