We had a full day to explore San Francisco with no set plans which meant we were in no real rush to get going in the morning. Driving in to the city the previous day Viv noticed signs for an exhibition by Eyvind Earle, an amazing artist who had previously worked at Disney. So we walked down to the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio and marvelled at his work for a couple of hours.
After seeing the exhibition, we spent the rest of the day doing all the things that one needs to do when visiting San Francisco for the first time; wandering through the Presidio and dropping by the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, visiting Pier 39 and enjoying some clam chowder for lunch at Boudin Bakery.
We also spent a good deal of time in the afternoon in Chinatown hunting down the best egg tarts ever from a bakery that opens whenever they feel like it. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time as the bakery was open and you could spot it easily based on the queue stretching down the road. There were a lot of people wanting to get these egg tarts!
Later in the day we wandered around the fancy end of town gawking at the gorgeous (and expensive) houses as the sun set over the city.
The following day we took a wine tour bus to the Nappa Valley. It was nice having a day where we weren’t driving! Visiting a few wineries with a lunch stop at one of them, we got to learn all about the wines of the region as well as the crazy laws and regulations in place forbidding wineries to serve food and all the different state laws that come in to play when shipping wine.
We tasted some nice drops and particularly liked of some wines from Hess Winery. We did, however, find a lot of the whites were too sweet for our tastes.
Catching the ferry back from Vallejo to the main ferry terminal in San Francisco made for a nice end to the day.
It would have been nice to have more time in San Francisco as there is a lot to see, so we will definitely be back again.
Leaving the city the next day we thought we would go for a quick walk in Muir woods just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Here’s a tip; Don’t go for a walk in Muir woods on a Sunday in Summer! It was so busy we couldn’t find a park even after driving a mile down the road, so we just called it quits and headed on our way.
Further up the coast we stopped at Bodega Bay where we had a healthy lunch of deep fried oysters and fries.
Late in the day we arrived in Mendocino, a quaint little costal community. The coastline in Northern California was gradually changing from the long sandy beaches further south to a much more ragged, rocky and dramatic landscape. We took this all in at a walk at sunset out to Point Kelli.
The route to our next stop would take us through the Avenue of the Giants – a 50km (30mi) scenic roadway that forks off the main 101 highway and takes you through some of the gorgeous redwood forests in Humboldt Redwood State Park. We were heading in to deep redwood territory now and the landscape was quickly becoming more lush; quite a contrast to the hills around LA where we were only a week or so before.
After a quick visit to the visitor centre and a chat with the staff, we decided to have a wander around Founders Grove – a short and easy meandering trail through some beautiful redwoods.
Further along the highway we stopped by Rockefeller Forest, a slightly longer loop trail and much quieter than Founders Grove.
We arrived in Trinidad in the afternoon. Our last port of call in California, Trinidad was another cozy seaside town with an even more dramatic coastline than Mendocino.
At sunset we made our way down to Patricks Point State Park where there is a dramatic outcrop called Wedding Rock from which you can watch the sun dip in to the Pacific Ocean.
The following day was going to be a big day of walking so we were up early and on the road. I had done some research and thought that a trail up in Jedediah Smith State Park looked promising. It was a bit of a long drive at 90 minutes, so imagine our disappointment when we get to the turnoff only to find that the road was closed! (It appears that summer is the time when California decides to fix all its roads at once). We turned around and headed back the way we came aiming for the Prairie Creek State park, a whole 30 minutes from where we were staying.
The visitor centre was incredibly busy by the time we arrived and we had a quick chat with some of the staff about possible trails and they were incredibly helpful. Actually, all the National Park people we spoke to on the trip were really nice and helpful with lots of good advice.
We decided to walk the James Irvine trail down to Fern Canyon. Once again, walking more than a few hundred meters from the visitors centre and the crowds vanished, and we pretty much had the forest to ourselves.
It’s a long walk at around 15km (9.5mi) return, but well worth the effort. The redwoods make you feel so tiny, it’s hard to convey the scale of the trees in pictures. You have to see them to appreciate their immense scale.
It was busy at Fern Canyon with the nearby carpark thronging with RVs. We wandered up the canyon a little ways and managed to snap a few photos, but we didn’t hang around long before walking back.
As the afternoon wore on the light in the forest got prettier and prettier.
That would end our time in California. The next day we would be heading over the border in to Oregon for our next stop, Portland.