california

You are currently browsing articles tagged california.

Now there are many reasons why you might want a secluded beach, and Hiking Diva isn’t here to judge your illegal or illicit activities. After all, “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it” is kind of like, “if something happens on a secluded beach and no on is there to see it”. However, there are plenty of reasons why you might want a little privacy in a beautiful surrounding, such as a proposal, and in that case, Andrew Molera State Park delivers.

Located in Big Sur, near Carmel, the area has jaw-dropping, photo opportunities, especially with the fog rolling in. It’s beautiful to look at, but it’s not so fun to hike in, so go in the months of September or October. Avoid the summer as that is high fog season. Hike early and plan other activities away from the coast starting in the late afternoon.

When you arrive at Andrew Molera State Park, you’ll cross the parking lot and start your hike by trekking through a creek. We took off our shoes and walked through the creek in our flip-flops. The chill of the water sure wakes you up. We walked along the Big Sur River and through a meadow before reaching the ocean.

After a quick stop at the beach which will had tons of people (and horses), we took the Bluff Trail to the more secluded beach. Along the way, we enjoyed the views from up high.

In October, when we went, the vegetation was drier. I’m sure the area is equally beautiful, if not more so, in the spring with all the wildflowers.

The “secluded” beach isn’t actually secluded or private. It’s just hard to get there so people who were lazier than us didn’t make the trek. It’s farther away from the parking lot, and then we had to climb over all these fallen trees in order to get there.

We did see one other couple on this beach having a picnic, but that was it. We found a little cave ourselves and set up our fancy picnic. We had brought red wine (I know, I know, you shouldn’t drink on a hike…but it was a special occasion), roast beef and gorgonzola sandwiches, and caprese salad. We even brought a little travel guitar, and after lunch, Closet Granola sang a song he wrote and in his song, he proposed! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you want a little more privacy on a hike.

After many tears, we headed back to celebrate. The moon was already visible in the sky.

Where’s the diva-ish part, you ask? Throw in a night at Ventana Inn (my favorite hotel in the world) and not just any room…get the suite with a private ocean view deck. Don’t forget dinner at the Post Ranch Inn. The next day, grab a late lunch at Nepenthe where the food is decent and the view is spectacular before heading back home.

View from Ventana

View from Ventana

Nepenthe

Nepenthe

Oh, and Closet Granola and Hiking Diva lived happily ever after…

Overall rating: Pumas

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

A short windy drive from the hectic college-life of University Avenue in Palo Alto lies the Monte Bello Open Preserve, perfect for a quick shop-and-hike. A couple weeks ago, Closet Granola and I visited Palo Alto to do a bit of pre-vacation shopping and some organic California lunch dining, but still wanted to squeeze in a quick hike. The solution: Monte Bello Open Preserve.

Since it was summer, the area was a bit warm for my taste…Hiking Diva does not like to sweat…it’s rather unbecoming. We were determined to power through it given that it was the most exercise we were likely to get. We squeezed in 6.4 miles in less than 2 hours. Parking in a lot off Page Mill Road, we walked 3.2 miles out on the Canyon Trail and then turned around and headed back. We didn’t have much of a plan, so an out-and-back hike was perfect.

The trail was about 50-50 exposed vs. shade, so the temperature was pretty comfortable in the shade and too hot in the sun. In the shaded areas, we were constantly harassed by bugs that I could have sworn were mosquitos. Closet Granola thought they were gnats or flies, and I didn’t end up getting any bites, but just to be safe, I would recommend Off or another bug spray. The mosquitos, my constant nemesis, were the least of my problems. On the way back, a huge tarantula-looking spider crossed the trail. It was hairy and ugly and creepy. And just when we thought there couldn’t be more pests and vermin, we stumbled upon a snake. Of course, I freaked out again, but thankfully there was no crying. Just lots of yelling, and back-pedaling as the snake slithered away. Mosquitos, spiders and snakes…I would rather have seen lions, tigers and bears.

I know I’ve been spoiled by Point Reyes and Yosemite, so take my review with a grain of salt. I just did not enjoy Monte Bello Open Preserve. There were no fabulous views of the ocean or waterfalls to picnic by. There were no cute deer or other wildlife to catch a glimpse of. There was just open space.

One of my summer interns is from Indiana and he thinks California is beautiful. When I asked him how California is different from Indiana, he said that California has hills while in Indiana, it’s just flat. Monte Bello does have some nice views of rolling hills, but to this California girl, it’s just not enough. Monte Bello Open Preserve (at least in the summer when it’s dry and there are no wildflowers) is a good alternative to working out in a gym, but it’s nothing to drive out for or write home about…unless your home happens to be in Indiana.

Overall Rating: Pumas

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip #1: Grab lunch or dinner in Palo Alto downtown. If you live in the city, you’ll appreciate being able to eat outdoors in the summer.

Tip #2: If you’re sensitive to the Deet used in Off, check out Avon SKIN-SO-SOFT Bug Guard.

Coastline

Coastline

The weather this weekend was just glorious…one of those days where you’re so happy to be living in California and not somewhere in the Northeast. Notice how quickly we attribute 80 degree weather in San Francisco in the middle of November to living in California rather than global warming. Even the hippies can’t complain when the weather is this spectacular.

To take advantage of this unprecedented state of affairs on our one and only hike in the month of November, Closet Granola surprised me by suggesting a hike in Point Reyes. Normally, I am arguing for a Point Reyes hike and he is adamantly opposed, but even he believes that the weather will be nice up there. And it is!

Bear Valley Trail

Bear Valley Trail

I’ve been bugging him to go on this trail since April, but he’s always found an excuse to go somewhere else. The Bear Valley to Arch Rock Trail is also a bike-and-hike, but we weren’t certain if my cheap commuter bike with its thin road tires could handle the trail. After hiking the entire trail, we’ve decided it would have been fine. A mountain bike would be better, but my little bike could have made it.

With bikers and hikers and strollers, the trail can get very crowded. And since this is a really easy hike with only 300 feet in elevation gain, it doesn’t scare off the weaklings (like myself). This may have been the most crowded hike I’ve been on. Luckily, the trail is very wide for passing people as well as engaging your significant other in forced conversations regarding where the relationship is going. You may be in the great outdoors, Closet Granola, but there’s nowhere to run! <<insert evil laugh>>

Meadow

Meadow

But I digress…on the trail, we passed a meadow along the way, where we stopped to eat a little snack. We wanted to save the true picnic for when we reached our destination, Arch Rock. Incidentally, there are those dreaded toilets available if you need to make a little stop, but beware the horrendous odor. You’ve been warned.

The first leg of the hike is about 3.5 miles of a mostly shaded, sometimes muddy, but very well-kept trail. At the end of the bike trail, there’s a bike rack for parking your bike (so bring your lock if you plan to make this a bike-and-hike). After that, it’s less than a mile to the destination.

Coastal views

Coastal views

Arch Rock juts out into the ocean providing beautiful views of the coastline up and down from where we were. There are a few other rocks out at sea that make the views even more picturesque. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people also picnicking, but I’m pretty sure we had the best spread - bread, smoked salmon, four types of cheese, and turkey pepperoni. The scenery makes up for the lack of privacy.

At around 3:30, we decided to call it a day. Closet Granola was not going to be tricked into a night hike like Eagle Lake, so we packed up and headed back the way we came. A little over 9 miles total and four hours including picnic time, we were ready to head back to our city life.

Arch Rock

Arch Rock

On our way back to the city, we stopped for dinner at Guaymas in Tiburon.  We drank margaritas, snacked on tortillas and salsa, ate chile poblano and arroz con mariscos on the outdoor deck with a to-die-for view of the San Francisco skyline. It was the absolutely perfect ending to the perfect day.

Overall Rating: Heels for difficulty, flip-flops for length

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip #1: A city girl’s necessity equals a hiking diva’s luxury. I’ve learned to dread hikes where the guidebooks mention pit toilets at the trailhead. Luckily, the restrooms at Bear Valley are not only clean with functional toilets and running water, but the hand dryers are Xcelerator. Nice touch! (or actually no touch!)

Tip #2: For more serious hikers, bike out to the end of the Bear Valley Trail and hike some of the more strenuous trails rather than sitting on your butt at Arch Rock like we did. When I’m back in shape, we might have to try that.

Low Loch Leven Lake

Low Loch Leven Lake

What kind of a hike a man likes says a lot about him. Today I learned that there are two very different styles of hiking (I’m sure there are more, but for now, these two are startlingly apparent). Barely having recovered from the first day of hiking, we decided to try a more difficult, but shorter hike. The hike to Loch Leven Lakes had an elevation gain of roughly 1,200 feet over 4 miles, for a total out-and-back distance of 8 miles.

Mid Loch Leven Lake

Mid Loch Leven Lake

The three lakes are named, Low, Mid and High Loch Leven, and they are approached in that order. Most of the elevation gain and mileage occurred before reaching Low Loch Leven Lake. It took a while to get there given the elevation gain, but once there, it was beautiful, but in a way that Lake Tahoe is not. Lake Tahoe, and especially Emerald Bay, is majestic and grand and overwhelming in its beauty. It’s like a beautiful woman who knows she’s hot. The Loch Leven Lakes with its granite-backed calm waters are subtler, more serene and peaceful, and more private. Even the most crowded of the Loch Leven Lakes, the Low and first one, had one tent and perhaps 15 people and 3 dogs hanging about while we ate our lunch on the rock overlooking the lake. Closet Granola would say that these lakes are more like the girl-next-door, which he has a thing for.

Speedo Man

Speedo Man

After our picnic lunch, we headed towards Mid Loch Leven Lake, only about 0.5 miles away from the first one. This lake was prettier than the first and had fewer people. Unfortunately, it had one particular person we didn’t need to see…Speedo Man. Our comedy show of the day consisted of watching him jump off a rock, in his Speedos, while his friends tried to get the perfect picture of his less-than-acrobatic-moves. I’m not sure what was funnier, the way he looked or the fact that he wanted a picture of it. We tried to ignore him while we sat on our blanket and read our books. This lake has a lot of nooks and crannies that allow for a little privacy…not enough to do anything scandalous, but enough to feel like you’re not surrounded by people.

High Loch Leven Sign

High Loch Leven Sign

Once our annoyance threshold had reached potentially-dangerous levels, we left and hiked the rest of the way to High Loch Leven Lake, about another 1 mile away. Each lake was prettier and less crowded than the previous and this one was no exception. There was not a single soul up there other than us and we took our time taking pictures of the granite rocks and trees and their reflections in the clear blue of the lake.

After the climax of the hike, it was 4 miles back out to the parking area and almost all downhill. Our poor knees and shins were begging for mercy by the time we got back.

High Loch Leven Lake

High Loch Leven Lake

After the hike, I asked Closet Granola which hike he preferred, Emerald Bay or Loch Leven. Being the complete opposites that we are, I preferred Emerald Bay and he preferred Loch Leven. I loved the constant beauty of the Rubicon Trail and how at every turn, it was the same thing but you saw a different side to it. I didn’t like that you had to climb over so many rocks with just an ugly view of the highway and nothing pretty to look at or photograph. Not until the end, did you get to see something that made the hike worthwhile. I guess this is the difference between men and women…we prefer the constancy of one wonderful thing because we see it in different ways all the time, while men prefer the chase and the exciting climactic ending.

Overall rating: Pumas

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip #1: Don’t wear Speedos to jump into the lake. One, no one is hot enough to wear Speedos…not even Michael Phelps. And two, the laughter you hear is really at your expense.

Tip #2: This is a great hike for water pooches. There were many dogs swimming in the lake chasing after balls and many dogs hiking down the trail all wet…and yes, they looked less ridiculous than that man in a Speedo.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

Point Reyes National Seashore is fast becoming a city girl’s favorite out-of-the-city spot. The views on the Tomales Point hike are stunning and the difficulty won’t kill you, so it’s a good value for your feet. This 10.5 mile out-and-back hike exposes you to full sun (wear sunscreen lest you look 40 when you’re 25), fly-me-away-Mary-Poppins winds, and a trek through sand to reach your final destination.

A bit further north than the the Alamere Falls hikes, the Tomales Point hike may be

Coastal views

Coastal views

even easier if longer. Like it’s sister hike, it has sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and rolling hills rather than steep climbs, and a very climactic ending that makes the first couple hours worthwhile.

Elk Preserve

Elk Preserve

In order to get to Tomales Point, we hiked through an elk preserve and saw many herds of elk along the way. They were grazing, sleeping, resting, running, and playing. We saw two young males standing on their hind legs as they tried to show each other who was boss; we saw another two using their antlers to initiate play; and we saw an elk prancing around in front of another like dogs do when they want to play/attack. It was all very cute and Nature channel-y.

Tomales Point

Tomales Point

Towards the end of the first section, the dirt trail becomes sand, which was much more difficult to walk around in and slowed our progress. But we persevered and continued out to the very end of the point, where we had views of the ocean on one side, views of the bay on the other, seagulls and pelicans overhead, and wildflowers at our feet. We were the only two people out there (probably because we always get a late start) and we marveled at how wonderful it is to be able to leave the city after noon and be in such an idyllic location.

Point Reyes

Point Reyes

It took us 5 hours to complete the hike with a half-hour stop for a late lunch picnic that we picked up at my favorite place, Cowgirl Creamery.

Overall rating: Flip-flops for difficulty, Pumas for duration (hiking boots if you don’t want sand in your shoes)

Rating system:

  • Heels: So easy you can hike it in heels
  • Flip-flops: Too long or hard to hike in heels, but flat flip-flops would work
  • Pumas: A nice stroll not much harder than walking in the city
  • Trailblazers: If you want to be nice to your feet on this hike, they’ll need some more serious protection and support.
  • Hiking boots: Pull out the ugly shoes and summon your closet granola. This hike is going to kick your ass.

Tip: On the way back to San Francisco, stop at Sorella Cafe in Fairfax, where the locals dine delicious, home-style Italian dishes, snack on bread with chunks of Parmesan cheese, listen to the pianist, and chat with the hostess. As much as I love the anonymity of the city, sometimes it’s nice to be at a place where everyone knows your name…not that they know my name yet, but one day.

« Older entries

Backcountry.com Gift Guide