City Spotlight: San Francisco

This is the first in a new series where we share favorite cities that we love and hope you plan to visit and enjoy them too!

The City by the Bay is a beautiful city to visit. It’s one of my favorite places and has a ton of things to do. Here is just a sampling:

  • Rent a bike and cycle across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, you can take the ferry back.
  • Wander Chinatown and eat here at least once.
  • Coit Tower, climb to the top and watch the sunset.
  • Fisherman’s Wharf. Despite all the tourists, it’s worth visiting to see all the sea lions and enjoy Dungeness crab. It’s also the departure point to Alcatraz (which must be booked well in advance if you want to go there).
  • The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is beautiful.
  • Full House fans must make a pilgrimage to the house featured in the TV show.
  • The San Francisco Wave Organ is an under the radar attraction, plus it’s free. Go at high tide.
  • The Palace of Fine Arts is a great spot for your instagram selfie.
  • Ghirardelli Square, I like their hot fudge sundae!
  • There are some great sushi bars here, I like the ones with the revolving boats.
  • The Tonga Room, I love a good tiki bar and this is a great one!

Some other things to know about San Francisco.

  • Sadly, the homeless situation here is pretty bad. Avoid the Tenderloin district where it seems the worst. Don’t leave any bags visible in your car or you have a great chance of having your window bashed in. I have always felt safe here so don’t let this discourage you.
  • Some great nearby attractions are Napa and Sonoma Valley, Muir Woods, and Point Reyes National Seashore.

Have a great time on your visit and please comment on some of your favorites. Thanks rk

The Palace of Fine Arts

Coit Tower

Sea Lions at Fisherman’s Wharf

Picture of the Day: General Sherman Tree

This is a picture of the worlds largest living thing (not including fungus) and a few of his friends! Look at the people in the bottom left corner for a scale on how huge these trees really are!

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Cap Rock Nature Trail

The Cap Rock Nature Trail is a .3 mile loop trail in Joshua Tree National Park. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that I love these short nature trails and Joshua Tree is full of them. This particular one is located at the junction of Park Boulevard and Keys View Road in the centerish of the park.

This trail is perfect for kids and adults who want to learn more about the plants around them. There are many signs that talk about the various plants along this trail from the New Mexico Thistle to the park’s namesake Joshua Tree and how each plant affects and contributes to the desert environment around it.

The trail is short and flat with picnic tables and a vault toilet at the trailhead making it a great place to stop off to eat lunch in the middle of a hot Joshua Tree day. There are also plenty of the classic Joshua Tree boulders in this area that could entertain a rock climber all day.

I would recommend that everyone who visits Joshua Tree takes the time to hike this short trail and take in the flat land of Joshua Trees surrounding them!

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Waterfall and Lime Kiln Trails in Big Sur

Josh and I camped at the delightful Limekiln State Park in Big Sur back in April. This was a great campground right off the Pacific Coast Highway with campsites right on the beach and others nestled in the redwood trees.

There are three trails in the back of the campground each about 3/4 of a mile in length. They share a trailhead and branch out from there. Josh and I tackled the Waterfall Trail first. We had fun hopping on rocks and branches crossing the stream multiple times.

We arrived at the fan shaped waterfall quickly. After taking a few pictures, we hopped across the creeks again to where the Lime Kiln Trail split off.

It was a quick and easy flat hike to the Lime Kilns. These were much larger than I thought and I found them fascinating. Before this area became protected, the lime kilns were used in the production of cement.

We decided to skip the Hare Creek Trail and walk through the campground to the beach. The stream flows right into the surf and it was an idyllic setting.

I really enjoyed this campground and it’s hiking trails. I highly recommend it when you visit Big Sur. Thanks for reading! rk

Sunday Hikes: The Trillium Falls Trail

This is a fun hike right off of Hwy 101 in Redwoods country in Northern California. The trailhead is at the site of a former sawmill. Near the bathrooms there are signs showing what the area looked like when the area was being deforested and the difference to today is astounding.

After leaving the parking area, you will follow a gravel road until you come to the trailhead on your right. If you miss it, the looped trail comes back around to the gravel road a short distance away.

The Trillium Trail is a 2.8 mile loop that goes through a stand of old growth Redwoods that somehow missed the slaughter by the nearby sawmill. The trail inclines into the wooded hills and quickly comes to the namesake, Trillium Falls. This is a small 10 foot cascade where we filled our Lifestraw’s.

As the trail winds through the forest you can imagine scenes from movies shot in the area like Return of the Jedi and Jurassic Park 2. The giant trees are fabulous and make for a quick and enjoyable hike. One of the notable things about this hike is that each grove is sponsored by a family, often in memory of a loved one. It brings a nice personal touch to the hike.

As we came back around to the trailhead area we looked around for elk that we heard hung out in this area. We didn’t spot any here, but just a short distance down the 101 we spotted a herd lounging around with their young ones. One of the elk only had one antler so of course he was our favorite.

The Redwoods National and State Parks in Northern California are a beautiful and fun place to visit. I hope you make your way there soon. rk

Friday Favorites: Big Sur

From my first sighting of the Big Sur coast through the Santa Lucia Mountains, I was amazed by its beauty. The waterfalls gushing onto the beach and California State Route 1 practically bolted to the side of the mountains, precariously perched above the crashing waves just add to its charm. It’s one of my favorite places I’ve visited. rk

Picture of the Day: Truck in the Woods

These pictures were taken at a small picnic area off the road in Northern California at the south end of Redwood National and State Parks. Though my first redwood trees were the dying ones in Malibu Creek State Park about 600 miles south of here, these were my first big boy Redwoods! Returning home to Georgia after this felt like I lived in a land of twigs that people called trees. The Redwood forests are something that has to be experienced in person and everyone with a chance to visit should take that chance!

Thanks! – Josh

Sunday Hikes: Big Trees Loop in Humboldt Redwoods State Park

While in Northern California, Josh and I wanted to find the largest Redwood tree we could. The nearby Hyperion tree is recognized as the tallest by a few feet (and is in a remote area), but the Giant Tree is known for its circumference.

We located the Big Trees Loop trailhead, but couldn’t figure out how to cross the stream to do the hike. It turns out that they put up temporary bridges seasonally and they were not in place while we were there in April. We decided not to let that deter us and we crossed by walking across a fallen redwood. It was a lot of fun, but it would have been bad news if we had fallen in as the current was pretty fast.

The loop itself was pretty short (.6 miles) but we did go partway down the connected Johnson Camp Trail as well. The highlights on the loop are the fallen Flatiron Tree and the Giant Tree.

The Giant Tree is 53.5 ft in circumference which is hard to imagine unless you are actually there. We took some pictures and then crossed the fallen bridge tree again to go on to our next hiking adventure.

Thanks for reading. rk

Picture of the Day: Sea Lions at the Santa Cruz Wharf

I’ve wanted to visit the Santa Cruz boardwalk and wharf area for a long time. Having said that, I didn’t really know that much about the area. For one thing, I learned that the Santa Cruz wharf is the longest pier on the west coast at 2745 feet. The pier is also lined with restaurants, shops, and a fish market. But what surprised me the most was that there were sea lions everywhere. It was like a massive infestation in the water and on the support structure holding up the wharf. I hope you enjoy the pictures. rk

Sunday Hikes: Pinnacles National Park

Josh and I, on our recent trip up the Pacific Coast Highway, made a detour and spent a full day hiking in Pinnacles National Park in California. Pinnacles was made a National Monument in 1908 and then was promoted to a National Park in 2013.

Pinnacles is known for its resident California Condors as well as its distinctive mountain peaks. We visited in April on a beautiful blue sky day. We mapped out a plan to hike most of the entire park in one day.

We started out early at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead on the east side of the park. We followed the Old Pinnacles Trail for 1.3 miles to the Balconies area. We crisscrossed over creeks and watched for wildlife on the way.

Arriving in the Balconies area, we could take a detour around them or go thru them. The Balconies are a series of caves formed by landslides. We of course went thru them. We had headlamps so we could see as we scampered through the .4 miles of caves. Part of the way is completely dark so the headlamps are necessary.

We came out the other side of the Balconies and traveled .6 miles to the Chaparral picnic area. We could see large black birds flying overhead, but weren’t sure if they were California Condors or just turkey buzzards.

We then picked up the Juniper Canyon Trail for 1.6 miles, most of it was switchbacks as we picked up a lot of elevation as we ascended into the High Peaks area.

We then arrived at the junction where we had to choose to continue on Juniper Canyon or take the scenic route around the High Peaks on the .6 mile Tunnel Trail to the .7 mile Steep and Narrow Trail which then joins back to Juniper Canyon. We of course took the scenic route.

The views in this area were amazing. Both California Condors and turkey buzzards were flying all around us. The series of ladders and ledges reminded me of the fun I had hiking in Acadia National Park. The High Peaks area was so much fun I wish we had hung out in this area longer.

From here we took the 1.5 mile High Peaks trail down to the Bear Gulch area stopping along the way for lunch. This trail was all downhill taking us out of the High Peaks area. At the bottom we traveled on three small trail sections that totaled .8 miles to connect to the Condor Gulch Trail. Much of the Bear Gulch area was wooded and a different climate than the rest of where we hiked.

The Condor Gulch Trail is a 1.7 mile hike back up to the High Peaks Trail. Hiking up the mountains again wore me down and I took less pictures. About halfway is an overlook down into Bear Gulch. Once we connected with the High Peaks Trail we descended for another 2 miles until we came to the Old Pinnacles Trail for another mile back to our trailhead where we had parked.

Here is the map of the area we hiked. We covered 11.8 miles and saw most of the park. The High Peaks were gorgeous and so much fun to hike. Pinnacles is a little under the radar National Park but it is worthy and a great place to visit. rk