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Saturday saw an early start. My intention was to be amongst the Redwoods for Sunrise. This was possible only because I am three hours outside of my time zone in my favor. Still, I didn’t go to bed early, so it wasn’t exactly a fun awakening when the alarm went off.

Was supposed to meet Aaron and June here at the hotel so far as I know, but I waited half an hour past our planned meet time and had neither call nor sight of them. With no idea how to get them since they were also on the move, I went ahead and went off on my own. Hours later as I emerged from the Redwoods, I got a voicemail. I’m not sure when it was, but it sounded like they had overslept. I’m guessing, but I’m sure I’ll find out later. Hated missing them, but hopefully will get the chance to catch up with them in the future.

Didn’t make it to the Redwoods for sunrise. I managed to stop at a scenic overlook for that. It was beautiful, not breath-taking, but nice. The sky was really overcast, the valleys below filled with fog.

I dont think I would have made it to the Redwoods even if I had left on time. The road in was winding, but I’ll get back to that. It also was moot. As one of the rangers said that the fog and clouds were pretty normal and don’t burn off until 11am or so. So, the sunrise I was looking for probably didn’t exist anyway.

Ah, the winding roads. I’ve now taken three “scenic routes” in as many states, and I definitely believe they should be subtitled.

Scenic Routes
You Could Die!

If you’re bracing yourself for some horror story, there isn’t one. There’s just a lot of switchback roads going up and down mountainsides. The compass in the car becomes meaningless. You may be heading west, but now you’re heading southeast. Now you’re heading north, now you’re heading west. Nope, back to the south. It’s pretty bad when they get so tired of doing signs for these loops that they just throw up a picture of a snakey road and says “next 6 miles” under it. It’s beautiful, I expect, if you’re a passenger who doesn’t get car sick easily. But as the driver, it’s just a pain.

Oh, did I mention in the case of the winding road going into Big Basin, it’s one lane wide? Oh yes, it is, but it’s still a two way road. So, as you creep around the curves, you pray anyone you’re meeting is creeping as well. Luckily I was so early I never met anyone anyway.

Hitting bottom, I paid my $6 for a day of parking. And grabbing my camera gear, I walked into the redwood forest, home of the tallest living things on earth. They are, no question, impressive. Beautiful. Gigantic! But after a couple of hours, you stop looking up everytime you hit a giant. Or at least I do. I started down another trail network and after half an hour, I hit a wall, a metaphorical one anyway. I hadn’t had breakfast, and the energy level just fell out. I checked one of the posts to see what was ahead. There were a few different directions to go. The most interesting one was a waterfall. It was nearly 4 miles away. Okay, that’s a bit over an hour for me at my best speed. So, two hours round trip. And I was starving. I decided I could see waterfalls at home. I also decided that I had seen enough of the great redwoods. See them yourself if in the area. Totally worth it, but if, like me, you can only hike among them so long, take solace that there is more to do.

So, I went back to the main area and got a sandwich and chips in the store there. As I refilled my own gas tank, I contemplated what was next on the agenda. And I decided I was definitely heading on.

The road in continued out and south, so that was my direction. Eventually I go on state road 9 and continued south through more winding roads, packed with mountain bikers. I do mean packed, too. There would be sections of the road with probably two dozen or more cars with empty bike racks parked in little dirt areas on the edge. The road also winded through some charming little towns. Some reminded me a bit of home in flavor if not terrain.

Finally hit Santa Cruz where I was planning to take state road 1 up the coast. In Santa Cruz, however, I found a beautiful beach and spent a couple of hours there wandering the rocky coast. I totally lost track of time. The rhymic pounding of the waves seemed to seep in and for awhile, I was just sort of there. I guess somewhere in there, I’m a sea person and I didn’t realize it. But as I sat there and thought about the places I remembered fondly, they generally involved the ocean. The roads even seem non death-like there.

After getting what I think may be some killer pics of a surfer (no time to go through the over 500 pictures I took yet), I decided to move on up the coast. I stopped at several places, but the most beautiful was this deep cove with high rocky walls and a couple of monolithic rocks jutting up in the middle of the blue pounding waves. There was a small beach and a handful of people. I wandered around the rim, taking pictures and trying to figure out how the heck they got down there. Half an hour later and I had yet to spot the path until I saw a couple heading down a spot I had previously dismissed as being possible. Having seen it, I went and put the tripod back in the car, figuring I didn’t need the additional weight. I was mainly going down because I wanted to be able to say I had put my tootsies in the Pacific ocean. The path down was winding but not trecherous. But I’m sure few people would try it which explains the dozen people down there. Down at the bottom, I sincerely wished I had brought my sandals with me, but they aren’t really worth of hiking. I pulled of my shoes and socks and tied them onto my camera bag and went out to let the sea come to me. I took photos of course, and enjoyed the relative peace and quiet down there. I could have stayed for hours, but I wanted sunset pictures and there was no way I was climbing out of there in the dark.

So back to the road. Next stop was Año Nuevo State Reserve further up the road. Discovered that you pay once per day to park at any state park! Granted, how many can you really take time to see in a day, but that was cool. There were two signs of interest when I came into the park, one saying to watch out for endangered snakes (oh, I will!) and the other instructing you not to take anything, not even shells or rocks from the reserve.  I wanted to see the elephant seal colony there. The hike in is about two miles. Normally that’s a half hour for me. But between being tired and trudgign up dry sand dunes, it was a long hike. And the joke is on the park service, I must have left with half a sand dune in my shoes!  Come and get it!  Just don’t bring the endangered snakes.

I came to a fork in the trail with two beach alternatives. I chose the further one. I was, I guess masochistic, but I figured further might be better and I could do the other one on the way back. Well, I arrived at the further one. NO elephant seals at all and I could see the people at the other beach 25 feet away from the suckers! Dang it!

So, I started back and at this point started to notice the “nice” ruddy color I’m turning. Yes, hours in the sun equals sunburn. I should be old enough to know this, but back home it’s boiling hot so I stay out of the sun period. So, this was a lovely surprise. Thank goodness I wore my hat. Just wish it was the floppy one so that my neck wasn’t burnt… I’ve had far worse, but I’m a toasty red now and a tad tender. Oh well, another souvenir.

When I got to the lower beach, they were wrapping things up, but one of the guides took me out for a quick walk to see the seals. I really appreciated as he didn’t have to do it.  I’m not sure I picked an optimal time to see them.  This is the time of the year they molt.  The beach was literally covered in chunks of skin and pelt.  The creatures themselves are amazing.  The mammoth one I saw up close weighed in the neighborhood of 2,500 pounds and he wasn’t quite an adult yet.  Adult males can weigh up to 5,000 pounds.  Zounds!

I headed back to the car and further up the beach. I was still looking for that spot for the sunset. Found another more crowded beach and went out for some shots and to scope out a possible spot for the sunset. Nothing grabbed me, but my shoes got soaked by a surprise wave… great.. So, after stripping them off and knocking out the sand, I was with damp shoes the rest of the evening and no desire to wear them. I went on until I found what I thought would be a great spot, Pescadero beach.

Sat in the car until sunset really kicked in and then wandered down to the rocks with everyone else. I got some really great shots of the sunset. I think the ones in Mexico a couple of years ago were still the best, but the sky was mostly clear and the sky turned an awesome shade of red as the sun dipped past the horizon. And for my part, I lost my lens cap in the sand somewhere. I hunted for it a bit before I decided it was a bit too much effort with no flashlight and for something that costs like $5.

So I headed up state route 1 to catch 84 back east. Enter next winding road of death. In the dark no less. This was just completely uncool, but short of going on up to close to San Francisco, the most direct route back to San Jose. It was probably 45 minutes or so of winding roads, and the only welcome sight was at the top of the acent, I could see the city stretched out on the horizon. Of course, that was just followed by more winding roads on the way down. Finally hit the freeway and headed back to my hotel area. Picked up some drive-thru and re-filled the car for today’s drive to Monterey.

Time to shower and pack again. The onlyt hing definitely on today’s agenda is getting Jackie and heading to Monterey to meet up with other co-workers for our meeting tomorrow. And Jackie and I are going on a whale watching boat trip. Let’see how much skin do I have left to burn….

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