Though our trip to the Monterey area did not go quite as planned (as was predicted by some), I think it was actually so much more enjoyable this way, not to mention beautiful and completely unforgettable.
The drive there was quick and easy – no hairpin mountain switch-backs like on our recent trip to Shaver Lake. The closer we got to the ocean, the more fog we encountered. It was a sleepy, cool seaside kind of fog and reminded me of childhood trips into Michigan. We found Garrapata fairly easily even though it was not as well marked as larger parks (which made it less busy as well). Right away we noticed a sign stating that the back half of the loop connecting Soberanes Canyon to Rocky Ridge was closed due to extreme terrain. We decided to head right at the trail head toward the canyon to see some of the Redwoods.
The canyon was arid and filled with scrub and even cactus at the beginning. After about 1.5 miles we began to enter into a Redwood forest where the trail followed a stream bordered by big lush ferns. The contrast between the canyon and the forest was pretty incredible. The fresh, herbaceous cool in the wood was completely intoxicating (not to wax poetic, but it was just absolutely amazing).
The trail started to get steep pretty quickly. We hiked about another mile or so in, rested and turned back. We hiked about 4 miles and spent about two hours on this trail total. Then we refueled and walked across the highway toward the ocean to explore the Soberanes Point trail. This trail lead through more wildflower scrub and overlooked the rocky Pacific coastline. We spent another hour or so out here, climbing down onto the rocky outcroppings and snatching a few pictures (and some succulents) for home.
As you can see, the views were pretty overwhelming. I am so excited to be living in such a gorgeous and variable landscape! It was between 65-70 degrees in this area. We could hear some sea lions off on one of the farther rocks, but couldn’t see them. Whales are often spotted in this area between January and February and it was easy to imagine viewing them here. The best time to come to Garrapata is supposedly April, when the wildflowers are most vivid. We might go back then and attempt the whole loop!
Since we didn’t hike nearly as far here, we left around 12:30 – two hours earlier than we planned. We drove another 40 minutes south to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and picnicked once we arrived. Per Dan’s request, we had pasta salad (I have a recipe that’s a family favorite), cheese & crackers, veggies & dip, roast beef + smoked gouda sandwiches and Scotcheroos for desert. It was so tasty that we didn’t even mind fighting off the puff-chested jay that was stalking our picnic table. Fortified, we set off on the .5 mile trail to the Overlook at McWay Falls. McWay Falls is the only waterfall that flows directly into the Pacific. It is located in this beautiful cove surrounded by huge evergreens.
This was a super accessible park and great for families with little ones due to the well-constructed trails and perfect photo opps. We toured the park for another hour or so, but by this point we were both somewhat “hiked out”. Hopefully we will have more stamina next time, but we got a huge reward for the effort that we put in!
We drove back to Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is exactly as quaint and picturesque as it sounds (even though it was only 60 degrees and completely overcast). At Carmel Beach we dipped our toes into the Pacific, snuggled to keep warm, lost and searched for my sunglasses (tragedy!). From there we drove into Monterey, which is was not nearly as cute, and walked onto Fisherman’s Wharf, where we dined at the Old Fisherman’s Grotto (delish!) We left the area around 6:30 and I managed to stay awake the whole way home, entertaining Danny with variations of “Name the Category” and that game where you have a post-it on your head with a famous person’s name and you have to ask yes/no questions to identify yourself (minus the post-its). Long car rides are typically dreaming/planning sessions for us since our conversations don’t typically last as long in our day-to-day life, but it was fun to goof around as best friends.
He has a lot to do with my pink-tinged perspective. 🙂