Travel Tuesday- The Point Reyes National Seashore 

I was inspired by An Historian’s post on the Aran Islands, and by my continual wanderlust to write about my recent trip to the Point Reyes National Seashore in California. 

Now, it’s not Ireland or anywhere near as exotic as Croatia (read The Wandering Flamingo’s post about her holiday on Šipan Island), but if you’re on the west coast of the United States, and anywhere near San Francisco, it’s a must-do! 

My good friend, Holly and I had originally wanted to drive a piece of the Oregon Coast during our summer vacation girls’ getaway. When we realized that our busy schedules and dwindling teacher bank accounts wouldn’t support such a venture, we looked into checking out the redwoods. I’ve been through the Redwood National Park a couple of times, but not Holly. But, again, we were faced with time constraints. 

Before packing it in, and putting off our trip for another time (Don’t do this, ya’ll. Time is fleeting, and you never know if you’ll get around to seeing everything you want to in one lifetime), Holly suggested we head just north of the Bay Area to the Point Reyes National Seashore. 

Being in Reno means quick access to the San Francisco Bay Area. On a good day, with minimal traffic, one can find themselves perusing the funky shops in Chinatown in 3.5 hours. 

Finding our way to the Point Reyes National Seashore took about the same amount of time, and bonus: no crazy city traffic and hobo street sprinters.

Our first stop along the national seashore was the famous shipwreck in Inverness, California. (I loved being in Inverness *again*!) Often described as “Instagrammable”, it was a fun place to stop and take pictures we, of course, posted on Insta. 

Everything looks better after filters. Amiright?

The strange shipwreck was cool to see, but what was most beautiful was the drastic drop in temperature. It was so nice to leave the 100-degree temperatures behind, even if the humidity gave me an insta-perm. 

The first major stop we made was to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. If you plan on checking out the lighthouse, make sure you visit the National Park Service website for operating hours, as the lighthouse is closed after 4 PM Monday through Friday. Also, if the wind is too strong, the steps leading to the lighthouse will be closed.


It’s important to be aware that the climb to and from the lighthouse is incredibly challenging. Not only will you be climbing the equivalence of 30 floors, the wind is intense. On more than one occasion I felt like I could easily be carried off the cliff by the wind.

Read more about my epic climb in my Trail Fails post. 


Be prepared with extra water, walking shoes, wet wipes and a full tank of gas, as amenities are lacking. Speaking of amenities, the bathrooms are not fabulous and there is no running water to wash your hands. 

All that said, the views of the shoreline, surrounding landscape, and ocean are breathtaking. 



After nearly being blown clear off the coast at the lighthouse, we continued along the seashore. As we drove winding roads that cut through tall fields of grasses being whipped around by the relentless wind, the contrast between the wheat-colored grass and the ever-changing aegean and teal blue water was striking. 


I don’t know why, but this view evoked an Eastern European or Middle Eastern feeling in me. I’ve never been to either, so…I dunno?
 

After a brisk hike along an expanse of the seashore that seemed entirely untouched, we continued on to another location that was eerily desolate. 



Maybe it was because it was late in the afternoon, or it was due to the fact that there was no one else around, but the Marconi radio facilities building felt so incredibly creepy to me. I think, maybe, it was also the long, tree-canopied lane that leads to the decades-old building. I envisioned myself alone in that building, at night, watching as my untimely demise came slowly, but assuredly down the road. 

*shudders*


On the second day of our girl getaway we hung out in some huge trees:


Ate a picnic lunch on Stinson Beach:

 


And, got a killer view of San Francisco from reeeeeally far away:


I’ve seen the otherworldly Scottish Highlands, the impossible green that is Ireland, and the patchwork perfection that is the English countryside, but the Point Reyes National Seashore is another kind of beautiful. 
Really, there is no comparing one beautiful place with another. There are so many kinds of beautiful, that no matter how hard you try, you’ll never see them all in one lifetime. 

Point Reyes is a rugged kind of beautiful, and despite the tourists, remains, somehow, wild and untouched. 

Have you ever been somewhere that reminded you of someplace else, even if you’ve never been to that someplace else? Ever been to a beautiful place that feels undiscovered and wild? Let me know in the comments! 

WTF, Google?! 

Last week, my boyfriend and I went on a quickie road trip up through Portland and on to Mount Saint Helens (I almost typed “Mount Rushmore”, and that’s where I said we went when the gas station attendant asked us where we were off to the morning we left. It’s a wonder I can even function). 

Mount Saint Helens is an active stratovolcano located in Washington state, about 50 miles northeast of Portland (thanks, Wikipedia). It last erupted in 2008, but it’s most famous eruption was on May 18, 1980. Growing up, I heard stories of how the ash from the 1980 eruption found its way nearly 400 miles to the deck at my grandparent’s cabin on Coeur d’ Alene Lake in Idaho. My mother said the ash blocked out the sun and it looked like the end of days. 

Since I always heard the stories of the eruption growing up, and I teach my students every year about the cause and effect of volcanos, it was decided that it would be our summer destination. 

We left Reno around 7:30 AM, stopped in Klamath Falls for some Taco Time lunch and a Dutch Bros. coffee, and arrived in the Portland area around 5:30 PM. It was a long day of straight driving, but it was the start of our vacation, so there was no bloodshed yet. 

We stayed with my aunt, who was gracious enough to host us. She had her pool ready and raring to go, so we definitely took advantage of that luxury. Our TBs (tired butts) were very grateful. 


The next morning, we were up early and excited to see Mount Rush..Mount Saint Helens (See? There’s something wrong with my head). 

We stopped at Tom’s Pancake House to fill up, as we planned on doing some hiking (to be honest, I was really hoping there’d be less hiking and more sitting in a scenic spot, eating the “hiking” snacks we packed). When I saw that Tom’s had an option to top your waffle with Oregon marionberries, it was an easy choice! I’m not really sure what a marionberry is, but since we don’t usually see them in Nevada, I had to try them. 

Mmmm…this was so good! I can’t really describe the flavor of the marionberry. The flavor is just “berry”.

When we got back into the car, we used Google to get the directions to the mountain. 

Before we had left Reno, we did a small amount of research and knew that there was an observatory and plenty of hiking trails to choose from on and around the mountain (I liked the sound of the 1.5 mile one and the one that had no incline). 

So, back to Google. Via maps, we were given the directions to Cougar, WA. So, we merrily made our way to where we’d hoped to find a spunky grandma who’d take a picture by the town sign.

After we wound our way through a quaint rural community, the road became very twisty and turny (yes, that’s a word) underneath a thick blanket of trees. We were climbing a mountain, just not the mountain we had come to see. 

The landscape was not at all what I had expected. We also saw not one sign indicating we were headed toward the mountain, an information center, or the observatory. In fact, there were some signs, but they were stangely covered up. 

There was so much green- nothing like the pictures we saw online!

Eventually, we made our way to the first hiking spot. We were hoping there would be further information at the trail head that would help us glean where the heck we were. But, no such luck. 

Also, the hike was an eight-miler, so that was a no-go.

‘Thumbs up’ to not hiking eight miles!

We got back into the car and continued up the mountain. Not long after, we got sight of Mt. Saint Helens and it was glorious, but, worryingly, still pretty far away. 

While we were admiring the volcano with our 10x magnifying binoculars, a friendly German couple came up to talk to us. 

They remarked on the beauty of it all, and we asked them if they were headed to the observatory. The woman said the road to the observatory was closed due to a late winter. 

(The jury is still out on that).

We felt pretty defeated and downright lost, as we had zero service on our phones and no paper maps to help guide our way. 

We decided to get back into the car and continue further. Almost at the very end of the road was another spot to hike. We decided it would have to work.

I’m sure by now you’re realizing that we were lost or just completely mixed up. Well, right you are! 

It wasn’t until we headed back down the mountain and to Ape Cave did we come across an information kiosk/gift shop where people with factual information could be found. 

When I asked how we could get to the observatory, the young man working the gift shop said it was some three hours away, but we could still make it, as they didn’t close until six. 

Three hours away. 

We were on the complete opposite side of the mountain. 

We had spent our entire day, dedicated to seeing Mount Saint Helens, like total dopes on the wrong side of the mountain.

So, how did two college-educated individuals mess up so royally? 

It’s all Google’s fault. Yes, just like a tattletale seven-year-old, I’m blaming it on someone/something else.

When you Google, “Johnston Ridge Observatory”, Google has you go to Cougar, WA. 

Notice how, in the first website under the egregious misinformation, it says, “Toutle, WA”? Yeah, that’s (closer to) where the observatory is. 

Our trip wasn’t all in vain, however. The hike we took was through utterly stunning terrain (honestly, I think it was way prettier on the wrong side of the mountain). We also went in Ape Cave, and I crossed a suspension bride just like the one in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It was just like that one (don’t listen to my boyfriend. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about). 

Paul Bunyan strength

This raging river, cutting through volcanic rock, had pools with beautiful Caribbean-blue water.
Huge volcanic rock formations
This was truly one of the scariest things I’ve ever done!
My boyfriend took this while he was crossing the bridge. I kept yelling for him to not drop my phone. I was totally concerned for his safety, too.

We didn’t have enough layers on to do the whole cave. It was FRIGID!

We decided against driving another three hours (one way) to see the observatory, so we drove back into downtown Portland for some sightseeing.

We hit up the world-renowned Voodoo Donut and the Deschutes Brewery. 

Donuts and beer totally made up for not getting to the observatory. 

It was 93 degrees out. The sun beat down on us as we stood next to a glittery brick wall that was radiating heat. It took 20 minutes to get to the front. TOTALLY WORTH IT.
Utterly, insanely gluttonous
My favorite was The Neapolitan.
I’d like to spend some more time in Portland when it’s not melt-your-face-off hot. I DID NOT get the true Portland experience.

So, kids, learn from Aunt Fatty. Do not rely on Google, it’s not all-knowing. Go to the actual website for the location/landmark/attraction you are going to visit. Do some damn research before you go, and don’t rely on your phone for everything-you might not have service where you’re going! 

Know before you go:

Johnston Ridge Observatory, last stop on HWY 504, 52 miles from Castle Rock. NOT in Cougar, WA. 


Source
References: 

Wikipedia

Camping Capers 

I went camping for the 4th of July weekend. As with everything that I get myself into, it was definitely not uneventful. Oh, no. 

I’m going to surprise you all by saying I’m not a real tough-cowgirl-up kind of chick.

Shocking, I know. 

First, I really hate to be dirty. Especially my feet. OMG. My feet. During the summer, when flip flops and sandals are standard, I soak, scrub, pumice, and moisturize my feet to the point of obsession. 

I can’t get in bed knowing my feet have God-knows-what on them, and so help me if even the tiniest speck of dry skin catches on the sheets. 

Ya’ll might as well commit me now. 

I couldn’t even. It took everything in me to pretend this wasn’t bothersome!

Next, I positively hate being hot and sweaty. If I can avoid ever being overheated during the summer, I’ll do whatever needs to be done. If that means blasting my AC and having a fan directed at me 24/7, so be it. I’ll pay an exorbitant electric bill for the sake of comfort any day.

Eventually, though, I do have to venture outside and away from my comfortable 68 degrees. When this happens, swamp ass and underboob sweat is just inevitable. At some point during the summer, I just resign myself to the reality that I’m going to sweat from every crack and orifice, and I just have to deal. 

Also, if I know getting to the bathroom is going to be a pain (i.e. needing to get dressed first, finding shoes in the dark, walking half a mile to the campsite toilet, etc.), I’ll have to go the bathroom precisely eight times in the night. 

Lastly, I’m a germaphobe. If there isn’t running water wherever I find myself to wash my hands precisely every hour on the hour, forget it.

As I mentioned before, this past weekend we went camping. It was at a gorgeous campsite in California. 


While there, the worst.possible.thing that could happen to a germaphobe happened. 

My darling, one-of-kind, beloved boyfriend put the roll of toilet paper-the very roll he took into the Sani-Hut (and don’t even get me started on Porta Poops), and almost certainly set on the pee-soaked floor*- in my clothes bag. 

JUST BURN IT ALL. 

So, if you just ignore all of the above paranoias, I’m a real joy to be with out in the good ol’ outdoors. 

Really. 

I’m being serious. 

Once I procure/figure out a way to wash my hands with actual soap, and if I just accept the fact that my face will be so greasy the bright sun will reflect off it all day long, I’m actually a real camping star. 

I’m of the belief that if something unsavory (like cleaning toilets or setting up camp in 90-degree weather) needs to be done, it’s better to just do it right away and as quickly and efficiently as possible. I can set up a tent, cot, and camp stove in record time if it means I get to sit in the shade during the rest of the camping experience. 

Also, I don’t complain too much. As long as I have s’mores and a summer beer to look forward to later, you will only hear me complain about the heat and my dirty feet a minimal amount of times. 

Mmm. There ain’t anything better than a beer in the fresh mountain air!

This past weekend did not deviate from the norm. There was just a little bit of complaining, and a whole lot of loving-being-outside-of-the-city. 


The part of this camping adventure I was most looking forward to was a swim in the pond, because I bought a donut floaty, and I simply couldn’t wait to flail my gorgeous bod atop it. 


The float and swim was simply glorious. I’m a fat chick, but I also grew up going to a lake cabin every summer of my life. I can swim like a fucking majestic mermaid.

It wasn’t until exiting the water, that I questioned our decision to take a dip in a pretty questionable pond. 

The great debate is still on going, because my boyfriend positively swears that what was all over my legs were little worm things. 

No, I don’t care that he dual majored in biology and microbiology, those little effers were leeches.

After positively freaking out and making him run back over the rocks in his bare feet to inspect and remove the vile creatures that were sucking my life blood straight out of my pudgy, translucent legs, my first thought was, “Where else are they?”

Me: “Are these like ticks?”

Him: “Uh, no. These worms aren’t anything like ticks.”

Me: “No, like, would they possibly be elsewhere on my body?”

Him: “OMG. You had one worm on your leg. The other thing was a twig or some dirt!”

Me: “Are you blind?! They were all over my legs!” 

Him: *rolls eyes clear back into his skull* “OK. Sure. They were all over your legs…”

Me: “OK. So, could they possibly have found their way to other parts?”

Him: “No, babe. I highly doubt it.”

Me: “Are you sure? Because if water can go through my bathing suit, maybe tiny water monsters can go through my suit, too?”

Him: “OMFG.”

So, after I was reassured that the worms (leeches) almost certainly didn’t find themselves in my more delicate regions, I felt mentally stronger and more ready for the next camping obstacle I’d likely face (this time it was being eaten alive by mosquitos and the TP incident). 

No more worms (leeches)!

The struggle is real for an outdoors-loving germaphobe freak. 

*After making it clear my disgust with his dirty deed, he swore up and down that he nestled the TP roll in his underwear and that he most certainly did not put it on the poop-caked floor. I feel just a tiny bit better. 

These Hiking Boots Were Made For Quittin’

Recently, I decided I haven’t seen enough of the rugged Nevada countryside, nor have I been on enough hikes (the last time I went on a hike I almost died from Burst Lung Due to Lack of Use. It’s a real diagnosis. Look it up. Just kidding, but really, I almost hyperventilated at least 20 times. So…that’s probably why I haven’t been on a hike since).

So, today, I got up in enough time to make some nutritious oatmeal (don’t tell anyone it was loaded with brown sugar), filled up my dusty Nalgene, and found my running shoes that were in the deep recesses of my closet.

I dragged a friend and myself up to the Galena Creek Trail off the Mount Rose Highway.

Continue reading “These Hiking Boots Were Made For Quittin’”