We have less than three weeks left in this assignment. Three. Ah! I feel like we could be in northern California forever and still not have enough time to see all the wonderful, beautiful, interesting things it has to offer.
So with the end in sight, we’re on a whirlwind mission to cross some things off our Pacific bucket list. First up: the redwood trees of Muir Woods (with an unexpected trip across the Golden Gate Bridge and an afternoon at Stinson Beach thrown in for good measure).
Since we’d be driving by Sausalito on our way to Muir Woods, I thought it would be a good chance to take some pictures of the bridge with San Francisco in the background (as opposed to taking pictures from the city with the Marin headlands in the background). I wrote out directions to a viewpoint near Sausalito. However, we missed a step somewhere and, before we knew it, we were here:
So we paid the $6 and drove over the Golden Gate, grinning ear to ear the whole way. I kept telling Charlie, “You are driving on the Golden Gate Bridge, like, right now!” We did finally make our way back to the viewpoint and took some pictures. We also came back to Fort Baker later in the day for a better view, further to the side of the bridge. I’m not usually one to get excited about man-made structures, but I have to admit, being this close to something so iconic was very, very cool!
By mid-morning we were walking into Muir Woods and getting lost in its gorgeous, dense forest. I thought it was really interesting how different these trees are from the sequoias we saw in Yosemite. I think I’ve previously used the words redwood and sequoia interchangeably, but they’re really unique from one another. The sequoias we saw were more fat than they were tall, and the trees at Muir Woods reached impossibly high into the sky but were somewhat thinner.
We took the longest paved loop through the woods and were blessed to escape the chatty crowds in some sections. It almost felt like the world was on pause as we walked hand in hand through the lush forest, hearing only our footsteps and the occasional birdsong.
Now, you may not think that the cafe at a national monument would serve up memorable food. However, I read somewhere that Tyler Florence chose the grilled cheese sandwich at the Muir Woods cafe (made with local Marin cheeses) on an episode of the Food Network’s “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”
All in the name of fact-checking, people. Somebody has to verify these claims, so it may as well be us.
After lunch, we hooked up with Highway 1 and drove a few miles north to Stinson Beach. We never know how to dress when we go over to the coast. We usually get a mix of wind and clouds, making it pleasant to be in jeans and a light jacket. When we took the train to the airport in mid-June, everyone was in coats because it happened to be the right mix of chilly fog and wind. However, sometimes you get completely surprised. Like when you pull up to Stinson Beach in jeans and a 3/4 length top and everyone else is soaking up the hot sun in their bikinis.
We spread out our blanket near the shore and read as long as we could stand the heat. It was so nice just to be sitting and enjoying the beach, not necessarily exploring or sightseeing, but just living at the beach. We have plans to go back next week, swimsuits in tow, just to spend a day being lazy in the sun.
Stinson Beach is also a really neat little surf town. It’s basically one short road with a bookstore, several cafes, and a little market. You can walk everywhere, and we enjoyed strolling around a little. We still had a few hours before dinner, so once we couldn’t take the heat any longer, we went off in search of the hidden town of Bolinas.
Bolinas is only three miles north of Stinson, but it’s notoriously hard to find. When the highway department puts up directional signs along Hwy 1, Bolinas residents remove them in the middle of the night. Apparently they don’t want the town turning into a tourist trap. Luckily for us, our guide book gave turn-by-turn instructions to get to this little four-road hideaway!
We drove north on Hwy 1, hugging the pretty Bolinas Lagoon the whole way. After a few left turns, we found ourselves parked on the only main street of Bolinas. And then we realized why these residents want to stay hidden. They’re all out of their minds.
The first person we see in town is an elderly lady wearing a clown hat and some crazy get-up. Then while having a snack outside of the market, where the guy immediately knew we were visitors, we see the following couple:
We did head down to Bolinas Beach where we ran into several surfers coming in from the water, but mostly we ran into a lot of ex-hippies who looked like they needed a good detox. So it was a fun little detour, and I can definitely see why they want to keep their little eccentric community to themselves.
Back in Stinson, we enjoyed dinner at the oldest restaurant in town, the Sand Dollar Cafe. I don’t think anything feels more “California” than sitting outside eating delicious fish tacos (or, in Charlie’s case, fish and chips). Mmm…yummy fish with fresh avocado and salsa fresca on a corn tortilla…
After dinner we drove back toward Sausalito and enjoyed seeing how the evening light made the landscape seem even more dramatic. You can’t get much more majestic than winding your way along the steep cliffs as the sun goes down over the Pacific. We drove into Sausalito, our first time there, and had dessert while looking across at the city. Sausalito is a neat little town where all the homes spill down the cliffs to Richardson Bay, a small cove within the San Francisco Bay. When we bike over the Golden Gate Bridge tomorrow, we’ll actually bike into Sausalito where we’ll hop a ferry back over the city. It would be a great place to live since you could enjoy all the city has to offer without having to actually navigate it everyday.
Even though it sounds like we did a lot this day, it was really one of the most laid-back little trips we’ve taken so far. I love the days when we’ve been good about not over-scheduling ourselves and just wander into a new town with no plans. The fact that Charlie is my favorite travel buddy and co-explorer ever is definitely at the top of a very long list of why I’m so grateful to be his wife! There’s no one who can make a day of doing nothing in particular more fun than him!