List 44: Camp at the Pinnacles National Park (#30)

I can’t believe it’s been months since I last updated this blog. Vacation and school got in the way but hopefully I’ll be back on a regular schedule now. Anyway, back in February 2015 Nate and I headed to Pinnacles National Park for an overnight trip. If you haven’t been to the Pinnacles before get in your car  and head there now. But not in the summer , it’s much too hot. Don’t forget a headlamp also because the caves are a welcoming break from the heat but they are very dark and the headlamps will help you find your way.

When I put this on my list it wasn’t necessarily because the campsite was so fabulous that I *needed* to camp there,  instead it was on my list as a means of getting as much hiking in as we could at the Pinnacles. The campground ended up being really nice though. Part of the campsites are open area sites, with numerous campsites set up and then the other half are single sites along the drive, with some hidden among trees. I heard a rumor that there was a pool also, but we didn’t get that far with our inquiries. We were there for the hiking not the pool. We quickly set up our tent (right by a small creek which was nice but in the summer I’m betting the creek is just a breeding ground for mosquitoes) and headed out on our first hike. The only downside to the campground I can see is that you do have to drive to get to the closest trail head. There is a trail but it adds another mile or so, one way, to an already full day of hiking. We parked in the Bear Gulch parking lot and headed out on the Condor Gulch Trail. This is a pretty easy trail, it’s only about 1.7 miles (one way) and the Condor Gulch Overlook is only a mile into the hike. On our way to the top of this trail we ran into one of the volunteers that help with the condors and we stopped to ask him some questions. We (sadly) didn’t see any condors on our weekend there but we’re told they are out there. I was feeling pretty good on the hike so I told Nate we should go ahead and attempt the High Peaks trail. Let me tell you that I would not have suggested this trail, had I known what the trail was like. Part of this trail is literally some holes cut into the Pinnacles rock with just a handrail to hang onto. IMG_1942I am so afraid of heights. I would never have chosen this hike…but I made it with only a little bit of crying on my end. (yes, seriously…it was some scary shit) It’s not a long stretch of hike that takes you over the top of this peak but it was long enough for me. I couldn’t wait to get this portion done with. The views are breathtaking though and I would recommend the hike to anyone despite the questionable hiking terrain in some parts.

This is a 5.3 mile loop and it’s pretty moderate difficulty level with the exception of the climb over the peaks. I saw kids doing this hike so I can assume they just aren’t afraid of heights like me so you know it is do-able by most people. It does have a 1300 foot elevation climb so it’s not one for those that like their hikes flat and easy.

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The views from the top can’t be beat.














It was a great 3 hour hike (maybe a little more with stopping to take photos) and you get to see both sides of the park on this trail. We opted not to add the Rim Trail that takes you about a mile more around the park and includes the Bear Gulch Cave trail. It was getting late and we wanted to get back to the campground.

Funny story: As I have gotten older I don’t like sleeping on the ground. It hurts my back and its cold. So we started taking a air mattress, that was self pumping, on our camping trips. Due to a “cat claw” issue though we had to purchase another one last minute before this trip. Nate ordered it and when we got it, it was much larger then we had expected. It is also the most comfortable sleep I’ve ever had. I prefer it to my own mattress at home! But…like I said it was much larger then we expected and this is how it fit in the tent. If you are wondering how we closed the tent…we didn’t. Not all the way. It wouldn’t close. The mattress was too big. It was crazy.

IMG_1936After a comfortable night of sleeping we got up early to do the Old Pinnacles Trail over to the Balconies Cave and then back. We were worried it was going to rain and we wanted to get the loop done before a downpour started. We were excited about this trail because we were going to the Balconies Cave which was one of our favorite parts of a past hike here. You could see the effects of the drought already along this trail. When we did the same hike a few years back there was a creek we had to traverse to get back on the trail in numerous spots. Now they were dried up creek beds. As far as the Old Pinnacle Trail is concerned it’s pretty mundane. The Pinnacles around you are gorgeous but the hike offers nothing exciting until you get to the Balconies Cave Trail. Make sure you have a headlamp for this one because you need your hands to maneuver around. the caves. This one in particular is wet and you have to climb and twist your body to get around some areas. IMG_2014

We passed a park ranger on our way out of the cave that asked us if we were trying to get to the Balconies Trail, which we thought we were already on, and so he pointed us in the direction of the loop that goes above the cave and around. This ended up being my favorite part of the hike. The views from this hike were fantastic, especially with the storm clouds moving in. The first photo in this blog entry was taken on that portion of the hike. As was this one:IMG_2020


The total miles on this trail is 5.3 also. This one isn’t as difficult as the High Peak Trail but the views are just as spectacular.

We made it back to our car just as the rain was starting. Could not have planned it any better:)

Hike 1:

Condor Gulch to High Peaks Loop
5.3 miles round trip, 3 to 5 hours
Elevation: 1,300 feet

Walk through the heart of the Pinnacles rock formations, particularly along the Steep and Narrow section of the High Peaks trail. Add the Rim and Moses Spring trails to extend the loop to 6.1 miles.

Hike 2:

Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies Cave
5.3 miles round trip, 3 to 5 hours
Elevation: none

This sunny hike to Balconies Cave also leads to towering rock formations: Machete Ridge and the Balconies Cliffs. Begin at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead. Flashlight required in the cave.


Thanks for reading.


*Every year I make a list, correlating to my age, of goal/things I want to do that year. The original list can be seen here: List 44. I am currently working my way through my List 45.



Hiking adventures: Tanbark and Tin House Trail- Big Sur, Ca.


For Valentine’s Day I planned a day of hiking for us down in Big Sur. I’ve never really been into the whole commercial part of this holiday…this isn’t to say that I don’t like receiving flowers or going to dinner but I never expect anything on Valentine’s Day because I already know that my husband loves me all year long. Anyway, this is a hike I’ve wanted to do for a while but doubted I could do it. Because I decided that this year is the year I stop being afraid of putting myself out there, try new things and push myself more to get out of my comfort zone I made plans for this big hike. It’s not big in terms of length but it’s ALL uphill to the Tin House. This trail starts out across from the unmarked Partington Cove trail head (a neat, very short trail that takes you to a small cove that, during prohibition ,was rumored to be a favorite spot for alcohol smugglers). The Tanbark Trail is also unmarked and is located across the street. At first glance, it’s an unassuming trail but very quickly you are in a redwood canyon  filled with ferns and big boulders while heading inland. This only lasts about half a mile and then you begin your upward climb.


This photo is a perfect depiction of the upward trajectory that the trail takes for 2-3 miles. It evens out a bit but it’s still pretty upward until you get to the Tin House.

Midway through the hike we stopped and had lunch on some fallen trees. It was a pretty spectacular view for a Valentine’s Day lunch. Sun streaming through the trees, total quiet other than the small brook running though the valley and moss covered trees to sit on. It was a nice reprieve from the uphill climb we had been enduring. This may not be a very long hike but you definitely need to be in shape to get up these hills.


The trail tops out at the junction to the Tin House. The trail actually ends at a fire road but off to the left is the trail that takes you out to the Tin House. Some info about the Tin House from this website “The house has an interesting history and was built in 1944 by Lathrop Brown, a former Congressman from New York, who also built the home above McWay Falls that was finally removed in 1965. The tin sheeting and parts came from two old gas stations, and the house was fully finished inside with rich blue walls in the living room.

The story goes that when the house was completed, the Browns spent one night there and soon discovered that the tin structure made a lot of noise as it expanded and shrank with the temperature changes. They never returned.”

At this point the house is in pretty bad conditions due to weather and vandals. Nate was up there about 1 or 2 years ago and I guess it’s become even more damaged than when he saw it then. When you walk around to the ocean side of it though the views are spectacular of the coast and Partington Cove area. Standing there enjoying the view I could imagine the lawn parties they may have had here had they stayed here more than the one night. I wish I had seen the house when it was not falling apart and crumbling. I bet it was a pretty awesome sight.

The fire road that takes you back out to the highway is pretty steep but after you come out of the trees the views of the coast are amazing. The only downside of the hike is that when you take this exit out you have to walk the 1/2 a mile back to the car right on Highway 1. With all the turns and narrow road this can be a bit of an adventure. We had to cross and re-cross to keep on the bigger part of the shoulder so that we were safe.

When we got back to the car we decided to head down to Partington Cove because we hadn’t done this short hike in a couple of years. We spent a little bit of time sitting on the bench watching the waves and resting for a bit.We probably should have spent a bit more time hanging out there because by the time we got to the Point Lobos area of Highway 1 the traffic was at a standstill and stayed that way for almost an hour (just to go 5 miles) due to numerous events happening in the area. It took so long that we just stopped by Chipotle’s and picked up dinner so that we could just stay home the rest of the evening and watch movies. Happy Valentine’s Day to us!

Hike length: 5.6 miles (plus another mile for the Partington Cove trail) Elevation Gain:1600 ft.  Trail condition: Excellent and very well maintained. Trail is unmarked but obvious.

Thanks for reading!




List 44: camp at Big Basin in Santa Cruz (#36)

IMG_3605IMG_3281 Big Basin has been on my radar for years. We did an impromptu day trip there one year but it was so busy that we couldn’t even find parking. Thankfully Nate forgot about that detail when I told him I’d reserved a campsite there for our anniversary weekend. He remembered  it as we pulled up to check in at the park but at that point it was too late;)

This is a busy, BUSY park. Fortunately the weekend we went the weather was predicting rain (which happened) and so I think this deterred some people from keeping their camping reservation and so the first night (Friday night) was very quiet. We knew we had a long hike the following morning so we didn’t want to have a late night anyway. You can’t tell by the photo but the tent we took was HUGE. Like for 8-10 people and it was just the two of us…Nate had recenlty found the tent at a second hand store and this was our first weekend trying it out. It fits our air mattress (no judging) with plenty of room for a few other people. The only thing it didn’t come with was a rain flap so Nate fashioned one out of a large tarp. He did an amazing job but unfortunately, even though the prediction was for light rain for a couple of hours, it rained from 10pm until 6am the next morning with almost no break. So the tent flooded a little bit. We were dry and we had the foresight to put all our stuff in garbage bags so overall we were good. But a cold damp tent is not what you want to wake up to. We had a long hike ahead of us though so being cold ended up being a good thing as it forced us to get up and head out as soon as possible.

One of the reasons I waited so long to plan this outing was because I wanted to be able to do the Berry Falls loop which is almost 11 miles. Last year at this time I could barely walk a mile because of my Plantar Fasciitis issues. My podiatrist had me limiting my walking to about a mile only each day. That was a tough time for me. Thankfully I healed up pretty quick (by following his advice) and a year later I am doing 11-12 miles with no pain at all. I guess giving up a couple months of my life for healing was worth it!



Anyway…the Berry Loop Falls Trail. It’s a must. It is one one of the most enchanting hikes I’ve ever been on. The amount of lushness and growth in this little valley is mind boggling. Redwoods and ferns and creeks running through it. I love the fact that when trees fall down the park just leaves them down and just cuts out enough of an area so you can walk the path. This loop features a couple of really impressive waterfalls that run year round. We took the Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail and hiked uphill to the falls (usually people do the trail the opposite way) and then out to park headquarters on the Sunset trail. I think that the way we did the hike worked out better than if we had followed the directions most websitse give. All the tough hiking (ascending and descending numerous times through a gorge in the redwoods) was in the beginning so by the time I was tired, we were on Sunset trail which is pretty much a descent all the way down to the main park entrance.

It took us a little more than 5 hours to hike the trail with a short break to eat lunch after we passed the falls. Nate also took a detour up to check out the camp sites at Sunset Camp while I opted to rest:)










































By the time we finished the hike the sun was out and the day was beautiful although the chill in the air was still quite cold. We arrived back a the camp by 3:00 and just couldn’t get warm. We didn’t want to start the fire too early and run out of wood by 7:00pm so we opted to sit in the car and read for a bit until we both started to fall asleep. After much deliberation we decided to pack it all in and we packed everything and left. Seriously. We were cold and exhausted and neither of us were looking forward to another possible cold wet night. This is not the first time we’ve packed up early. Sometimes one night is enough…LOL.


My goal was to camp at Big Basin and hike the loop and both happened even if we didn’t stay the whole weekend. We ended up getting back to Monterey in time to pick up food at our favorite tacqueria and veg-out on the couch watching movies. And we enjoyed sleeping in our warm dry bed that evening too:)

Thanks for reading!







Hiking adventures: Peralta Trail- Superstition Mountains, Arizona

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One of the adventures we had planned on this trip to Arizona was a day of hiking in the Superstition Mountains. Since we’ve always gone to Arizona in the dead of summer, hiking has never been an option. Now that dad lives out in the middle of nowhere (Queen Creek) the Superstitions are just a quick drive from his new house and so we headed out one morning to tackle the Peralta Trail. It was the perfect length (almost 5 miles or so- round trip) from the trail head to the saddle view of Weaver’s Needle. According to my dad, I’ve been on this trail before when I was younger (under 12) when I backpacked in with my dad and a group of other backpackers. I didn’t remember of course. The road to the trail head is dirt but a there is a large parking lot and bathroom facilities There is no water available though to refill your containers with so plan accordingly. I read numerous sources that said there was a parking fee but when we went the parking was free. Apparently Peralta is the most popular trail in the Superstition Wilderness and can be very busy at times . We went on a Tuesday and it seemed pretty quiet to us. We passed a few people but after hiking the Pinnacle Peak Trail  just days before, this one was so quiet and peaceful. (with the exception of the guy who was hiking while blasting his music- we let him get way ahead of us so that we didn’t also have to listen to his bad music choices).

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The views on this hike are amazing. The saddle with the view of Weaver’s Needle was awesome but I think almost every view on the hike was breathtaking. It’s so different from what we usually see on the Central Coast and it was a welcome change. It’s a pretty easy hike even with the noticeable elevation gain. It’s gradual for the most part and didn’t give me any problems at all. I think the biggest hindrance of the day was the weather. Cool weather in Arizona is like hot weather where we live and so by the end of the hike we were exhausted and had both run out of water. I can’t believe there are people who would do this hike in the dead of summer. Even in January it was almost 80 degrees midday. I would suggest doubling the amount of water you think you might need. I had also misjudged the amount of time it would take to do the hike and didn’t bring lunch food with me and so the last half an hour of the hike was pretty rough on both of us (me because I was so cranky and Nate… because I was so cranky) If you find yourself in this part of Arizona I highly recommend that you explore this trail. You don’t have to be in amazing shape to do this hike but you should be, at the least, at an average fitness level. Beginner hikers may find parts of the trail tough. There are some narrow parts and the trail is not marked in any recognizable way but is still pretty easy to maneuver. Nate is a natural with hiking and he always seems to know exactly where the trail is even when it’s not obvious to me. After we got to the top of the saddle we explored a bit around the area (adding another mile or two to our final total) as Nate was hoping to get closer to Weaver’s needle. It’s much further than you think it is though and after walking an additional mile or so we decided to turn around( due to my lack of food).

Hike length: 4.9 miles to the Fremont Saddle view (round trip)  Elevation gain: 1380  Trail condition: excellent even though it is not marked in any wayProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetIMG_3226.

Thanks for reading!


List 44: Attend the SF Chinese New Year Parade/ Hike Mt. Sutro (#4 and #20)

IMG_2626 Some of the items on my yearly lists come from pretty random sources:

Hike Mt. Sutro #20

In the case of Mt. Sutro, I saw an Instagram photo by a photographer I follow, that instantly had me making a note about it in my planner (even in this big world of technology driven apps and calendars  I will still choose paper over everything else). When I finally went back and checked out the trails and photos online for Mt. Sutro I was sold. It’s like a little forest oasis in the middle of San Francisco. And on some days it looks magical even. The photo I saw on Instagram and what I read on this site had me hoping for a foggy day for this hike but leave it to me to pick a wonderfully sunny day to visit San Francisco (just kidding…who doesn’t love a clear beautiful day in SF). We had some difficulty finding a spot to park initially. If you are looking to hike this park and try to follow Google’s map directions,  it will take you to the heart of the park and there is no parking there. And most of the parking around the park is for UCSF students. The website I linked to has better options for finding parking than the way we did it. We lucked out with a spot right off of Parnassus Ave, just steps away from the park. We cut through the back of the school, up quite a few wooden stairs, winding around different school buildings until we located a trail. The trails themselves are very easy to navigate. After some of the hikes we’ve been doing lately this trail was almost too easy. We did the whole park in just about an hour and a half (3.45 miles).IMG_2611

IMG_2608If you find yourself in the city and want an easy, short hike this definitely fits the bill. This is a good one if you want to take your kids on a hike too. I can see this being a reprieve, of sorts, from the city life. When traffic and people are just too much, you can just take a quick break and hike these trails. Even though it’s right in the middle of the city the trails are quiet and it’s hard to believe there is a whole big city surrounding it.

**We had some time between the hike and the start of the parade so I looked up what  other “must see” place was close by and the Painted Ladies popped up. All the times I’ve been to San Francisco I still hadn’t made it over to see these iconic houses. So on our way to Chinatown we made a quick stop to check them out. Beautiful weather in San Francisco means there are tons of people out and on this day the park was packed with people. One area of the park was so busy you couldn’t walk on that portion of the grass. I’ve never seen anything like it. Nate and I talked about how this was not something you would see in our area. Monterey, for all it’s beauty, is lacking any kind of an interesting social scene that other, bigger cities and towns seem to have. It was cool to finally see these houses in person and I’m happy I can cross that off my list of things to do in San Francisco.

Attend the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco #4


My (year of the) dragon guy next to a cool dragon

I added this to my list when I turned on the news one evening in 2014. The 2014 parade had happened that day and the news was showing video of the it and I thought it looked like it would be really fun. What I learned from this activity was that I hate parades. I think its funny that I just realized this though, having been in numerous parades back in my marching band days. And I can remember liking them as a child but maybe I was just easily excited by things as a child. 90% of this parade was b o r i n g. I loved the different costumes and the excitement of being in a crowd and all the fireworks and poppers being set off. I loved the long, colorful dragons they carry along the parade.  I loved being in the middle of all that chaos and being near all the other people enjoying the parade. The boring part, the politicians and other folks driving by in cars or walking by is what I discovered is not really my thing. having never been to Chinatown before we wandered around for a bit before the parade started. I was looking for a little trinket to pick up inChinatown and we tracked down the fortune cookie factory for Nate. They make them right in front of you and when you buy a bag they also give you a handful of the unfolded ones, right off the “press”. Warm and buttery and so crisp (I didn’t actually eat any of these but that’s how these smelled). Nate was in cookie heaven! We left a little early from the parade so we would hopefully (ha!) beat the traffic and we learned later that we missed the big, really long dragon that makes an appearance towards the end of the parade.Kind of  a letdown to find that out. Despite that disappointment we both felt it was a fun day.IMG_2652The thing about San Francisco is that even if you spend a day sightseeing there is still SO much more to do up there. I’ve lived here almost 22 years and I still haven’t seen half of what this city has to offer. Looking forward to some more SF adventures this year. There are at least 3 or 4 on my #45list!




Hiking adventures: Pinnacle Peaks Trail- Scottsdale, Arizona


Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset Now that we’ve pretty much stopped drinking we find that we are often filling that time with hiking. (Actually, friends have also noticed this and pointed it out to us too , which is pretty funny) When I plan trips now, I no longer look for breweries or drinking establishments, I look for hiking spots. It’s our new favorite way to spend time together. There is no doubt, in either of our minds, that this is a much better way to spend our time together. I feel so much better and being outdoors and active is so much better for us as a couple. Traveling has changed a bit because of this lifestyle change though. We normally make it out to Arizona at least once a year to see my family but in the past it’s always been in the summer ,mostly because of Alex and school, and because my dad had a pool. Not a fancy pool by any means but a pool that I have enjoyed on and off for the past 25+ years of my life. He sold that house though and opted for a new house, in a new housing community, where the pool is a community pool. Now, I don’t have anything against community pools per se but the convenience of rolling out of bed, donning my swimsuit and jumping into the pool by 9:00am is gone. I am a little heartbroken about this still, btw. Anyway, because of his residence change, we opted to travel to Arizona in January this time. This worked out better with our current lifestyle too. IMG_1613In the past we would spend our time in Arizona visiting breweries and hanging at the pool because in Arizona, in the dead of summer, there isn’t much else to do. We stayed with my sister in Scottsdale for the first few days (my dad moved out to the middle of nowhere) so that meant our first hike needed to be near or around Scottsdale. Nate had already done Camelback Mountain years ago so I was looking for a hike neither of us had done before. Pinnacle Peak seemed like the perfect hike to start with. Not too long. Not to far from my sister’s house. (Nate hates how spread out everything is in Arizona). I read a few things about the hike and it seemed like it would work for us. Even though the weather in Arizona this time of year is wonderful it’s still 10 degrees more than we are used to. IMG_1632I had read that this hike was busy on weekends but I was not prepared for this kind of busy. It was almost like a conveyor belt of people. There was always someone right behind you or right in front of you. The hike itself was great. It’s been referred to as the “stairmaster” hike and that name fits it. It’s a steady climb up to the peak (1300 ft elevation gain) and the trail itself is only 3.5 miles round trip but the views of the Valley are great. The houses out there are amazing too. We spent some of our time discussing which house we would live in if we had that kind of money. It’s a fun  hike but if you are looking for a one without tons of other hikers, this is not the trail for you.  Can’t beat the view though. Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetAs I’ve grown older I’ve begun to appreciate the landscape of Arizona much more than when I was younger. I disliked everything about the desert when I was growing up here and couldn’t wait to leave it. Looking back now though I’m sure it was just that I was looking for a change. Looking at the familiar landscape now just makes me feel nostalgic and I appreciate the beauty of the desert. Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

We invited our friend Ian along for the hike and it is always fun to hang out with him. He and Nate have been friends since elementary school and I’ve always appreciated that when we’re in Arizona that Nate has someone he can also connect up with. Arizona trips are often filled with seeing my high school friends so it can be a bit boring for Nate when I’m off having lunch or shopping with girlfriends. Or dragging him to happy hour reunions filled with people he doesn’t know. Neither of us are good in new social situations so I can understand his anxiety when I drag him places like that. I appreciated that Ian came out and hiked with us. His wife and kids were out of town and he had a BBQ to go to but still he made time for us. We were rewarded with a special treat at the end of the hike too. One of the animal rehab organizations (Wild at Heart) had brought out a variety of birds/raptors for people to see. They had a Great Horned Owl, a Red Tailed Hawk, a Peregrine Falcon and an amazing Bald Eagle. I’ve never seen an eagle up close like this. It was a wonderful way to end our morning of hiking.Even though I wasn’t allowed to hug(or even touch) the hawk like I wanted to;)


Hike length: 1.75 miles each way. (3.5 total)  Elevation gain: 1300ft   Trail condition: excellent