Saturday, July 18, 2015

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Bay Area Fun!

When an Australian friend says that they are coming to be with you on the 4th of July, you gotta think big.  Which means that I was leaving my small, happy beach town of Santa Cruz on the morning of the 4th and heading north to San Francisco, which people in my area simply call The City.  Got to whoop it up American style right?

Playing tourist around SF is awesome.  It's packed full of things to do in a 7 x 7 mile radius, and we saw tons.  From eating clam chowder bread bowls by Fisherman's Wharf, to exploring Chinatown, to BBQ food, we got in a ton.  The fireworks show, right off of Pier 39, was a bit on the foggy side, which gave it a spooky feel, with often just thick clouds of smoke being lit up as if we were in a battle. 

We road the cable car, ate Lengua (tongue) tacos in the Mission, and with a rented Smart car, drove down Lombard St:

After a couple days in the big city, we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, north to Napa, land of fine food and wine.  Some of the top chefs are up there and we checked out the restaurants and ate at Bouchon Bakery (pretty much the only place to have top chef endorsed food without a reservation).  Hands down, one of the best bakeries I've been to, and my brown sugar encrusted bacon cheddar scone was amazing.

We stayed with a high school buddy of mine, catching up and barbequing up a feast from the local Mexican market.  My Aussie friend was shocked by the prices, especially as bottled Mexican Coke sells for over $6 in Oz and here was just over $1.

We explored a few wineries, met some descendents of the original winemakers at some family vineyards and had wine referred to as "good with an In N Out burger", "fit for a cowboy, like yourself (me)", and "packs a punch".  Some good ones, some mediocre ones, but all from the Napa Valley, which makes them all fairly famous around the world.

Mumm Napa, Champagne!
V Sattui Winery

And for two days, I was driving around a Smart Car.  With handicapped plates.  Not sure which one got more smiles and waves from people.  We were popular, and could park anywhere.  Apart from bouncing as if it had no shocks, and not shifting into a higher gear a couple times, it felt pretty roomy on the inside.  Two people with one suitcase fit just fine.  Kinda feels like a normal car inside and then when you get out, and see room for one more Smart Car in your parking space, you realize, it is tiny!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Sykes Hot Springs

Backpacking time!  Not around the world as I normally do, but rather out in nature in Big Sur.  After going to Big Sur a few weeks ago, I became hooked on that area.  So amazing, so refreshing, so beautiful. Myself, with my housemate Cara and her brother Doug planned the overnight trip to Sykes Hot Springs, a 10mile hike up to some hot springs along the river, way out in the wilderness along the Pine Ridge Trail.  Before the hike, I heard everything from 9-12 miles for the hike.  The sign marking the start said 10 miles, and yet Cara's iPhone said 11.8 miles each way, so who really knows.  Either way, it took just over 5 hours each way.

Open Sykes Hot Springs Photos in New Window

While the hot springs are way up in elevation, the trail wasn't all straight uphill.  There were ups and downs along the way, as we skirted around hills, working our way up the canyon, following the river below.  We crossed the river twice, crossing on fallen logs:

We had an early start and lucked out with the sun going in.  After setting up our camp, we hit the hot springs which were amazing.  The springs were on a rock face above the river, and people had built a wall from river rocks along the bottom of the rock face to create a pool.  This is perhaps the best method of a hot spring in my opinion, as it does not have a man-made feel to it, and does not retain a muddy, dirty feel to it.  Quite relaxing to put the feet up after a long hike:
 Being right on the river you could hop from hot to cold in seconds, relaxing the body after the hike.  Magical!
Doug and I chilling in the river below the hot spring
Loving the hot springs after the hike

That night, we had a little fire to keep the insects away and played 3 hand cribbage, of which I won.  Pretty fun, especially with our tired bodies and brains, combined with a mellowness from the hot springs messing up our counting.  Once it got dark and we had an epic moon rise, it was time to hit the sack, literally, a sleeping sack.  Felt good to be out camping again, and I am thankful to my family camping a ton growing up.

After more hot springs and river time in the morning, we hiked out through a much hotter day, mostly in the sun.  Quite the sweater, this hike, although it was nice to have less water and food on the way back.  We were using Doug's filter pump to get water from the river along the way and I cut out on one water bottle going back to save weight.  30+ pounds on your back is enough without an extra liter of water with the river crossings along the way.
Hot and sweaty on the way back to the parking lot

We extended our stay in Big Sur, went to a legit campground and
then hiked to a gorge for some swimming and jumping off rocks.  Had to get clean after the dusty, hot hike back out.  The following morning, was a hike to a waterfall, a coffee at the Big Sur Lodge, and then a drive back to Santa Cruz, so I could go to work.  Busy, fun life!  Living it up out in nature and I'm loving it!