After our Grand Canyon trek, we were ready for a little break from the trail. We headed down to Phoenix and enjoyed some much needed R&R, relaxing with friends and watching some Fourth of July fireworks light up the sky. Then it was back on the road as we set our course for California.
The Golden State
First off was a brief stop in San Diego. We spent some time with one of Glenna’s friends, Becca, who showed us around town. Together we hiked along the popular Sunset Cliffs, taking a path down to the ocean and exploring some shallow tide pools. The land abruptly gives way to the ocean shore, creating quite a beautiful scene. Becca also took us to several great eateries. Oscar’s Tacos is really a must for everyone! We capped off our stay by checking out Ocean Beach and taking in some live music. It was a short stay, but another relaxing couple of days.
The City of Angels
Then it was a traffic filled drive up the coast to Los Angeles, where we stayed with another of Glenna’s friends, Isaac. We hit the town with a group of people, going out for dinner before playing a couple of rounds of laser tag and visiting an arcade bar.
The next day Glenna and I played the role of tourists. We headed to Griffith Park and hiked up to the Observatory. There I caught my first sight of the famous Hollywood Sign. As helicopters flew all around, I thought of the movie Friends With Benefits and the hilarious scene where Justin Timberlake’s character has to be rescued from the top of the sign. The comedic scene really downplays the real life danger of climbing the sign. Apparently it has been the scene of at least one suicide!
We left the crowds of the park and headed into the hordes along Hollywood Boulevard. Navigating tourists, Chewbaccas, Teenage Mutant Turtles, and Minions, we strolled along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, stopping at a few of our favorites of the over 2500 stars. Of course, we also had to spend some time at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre (now the TCL), looking at the famous concrete blocks.
Nearly 200 handprints, footprints, wandprints, legprints, and autographs decorate the concrete forecourt of the theatre. According to legend, the tradition started simply by accident. Opened in 1927, the Chinese Theatre has hosted hundreds of famous premiers including the 1977 opening of Star Wars! We again found our favorites… Robert Downey Jr. for Glenna and the cast of Harry Potter for myself.
I caught up with my good college friend Ernie the following day, while Glenna took in some sun at the beach. Then we left the City of Angels, more like City of Traffic, and headed up the Pacific Coast Highway.
North of San Luis Obispo is when the views start to become epic. Every twist and turn of the narrow Highway 1 presents a new vista of sandy beaches and rocky shoreline. Much of the coastline is part of the Los Padres National Forest and therefore dispersed camping is allowed. Just north of Sand Dollar Beach we parked the car in a gravel pullout, climbed a Step Ladder over the highway fence, and camped near a cliff side over-looking the bay. It was one of the most beautiful spots I have ever set up my tent.
In the morning, our view had drastically changed. Fog had moved in and the coastline was gone! Driving onwards, we occasionally broke free and were treated to more spectacular views. Later that morning, we sipped smoothies on the terrace of a wonderful restaurant called Nepenthe. It was spectacularly perched on the cliff side and provided a glorious place to simply hang out. Farther north, we crossed the famous Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed highlights of the drive.
Lunch consisted of fresh seafood from the stalls at Fisherman’s Wharf in Monterey. Tummies full, we walked for an hour or along the old Cannery Row, though now it is mostly just T-Shirt shops. Traffic jams heavily delayed us, but eventually we made it to SFO to pick up my friend Andrea.
It was time for the highlight of the summer: The epic John Muir Trail!