September is a really special month for me. I started dating my husband (Scuba Steve as he will be known henceforth) in September, we got engaged in September, and then finally, we got married in September. When you don’t have kids, September isn’t a new year, it’s an extension of summer. So what does this have to do with California? Well, this is the story of our engagement trip.
I’ve mentioned this before, but air travel wasn’t something I spent a lot of time doing growing up. We explored the area around us with road trips and long weekends, but that was it. I used to sit in the back seat surrounded by luggage, art supplies, travel games and coloring books, and as an only child I’d like to think I was so entertained by myself that I rarely asked “are we there yet?” Since I grew up and still live in the Northeast, prior to September of 2012 I had not completed my manifest destiny, something at the time was very much on my bucket list. Chicago was as far west as it got, so when I told Scuba Steve I wanted to go to California, San Francisco and Wine Country to be exact, he added in the Redwoods and we were off to the races.
We tag teamed the planning on this one, and since I barely had any points at this time, hotels and flights were straight cash, a foreign concept to us these days. We were intent on hitting the Redwoods National Park up north, about a 5-6 hour drive from San Francisco. After a lot of research, we settled on the Turtle Rocks Oceanfront Inn in Trinidad, CA. A place we would love to return to someday. Each room had its own balcony overlooking the ocean where you could watch and certainly listen to the seals barking in the evening. Since the fog was so heavy we could not figure out what that soundtrack was to the first half of our trip and finally, when the fog lifted, at least 30 seals were barking away on a rock outside. The locals do not find this cute, but Scube and I were quite taken with it, I mean you don’t exactly hear barking seals in Philadelphia everyday.
Back to the B&B, the owners are the sweetest people, serving a delicious breakfast at around 9am (we were surprised, as normally breakfast starts so early!), and opened their kitchen to guests with beverages and snacks throughout the day. Additionally, they were quick to provide itineraries that matched the length of ones stay, as well as excellent dinner recommendations. Staying a few days, we opted for the lengthier itinerary, but upon arrival, we were beat, crashed and then naturally woke up ready to greet the world at 4am California time. Kitchen closed.
On our first morning, Scuba Steve had the worst cold, and we were plying him with a cocktail of Dayquil, Sudafed, and the like in the hopes he would be able to enjoy the day. At around 6am, we grabbed a granola bar and an apple and headed toward Patrick’s Point. Our morning hike consisted of Wedding Rock, and if you haven’t figured it out yet, our engagement! Scuba Steve had asked me to grab a map which if you know me, is hilarious. I cannot read a map to save my life, after rummaging through our stuff, I turned around and there he was, down on one knee. To this day, I have no idea what Scube said to me, I blacked out into a puddle of the happiest of tears. After composing ourselves (okay fine, myself), we tried to get through to our families and friends with what little cell service there was, and continued to explore Patrick’s Point. Nothing says excitement and disappointment like, “OMG we got en-…” to get cut off each time.
The area of Patrick’s Point was beautiful, as thick fog would slowly burn off as the sun would escape through small slats in the pine trees up above. After about an hour of exploration we headed back to the Inn for some much deserved breakfast of pastries, eggs, juices, the works. I mean we had been up since 4, a granola and an apple wasn’t going to cut it.
After breakfast, our itinerary for the day focused on the Redwoods National Park, and we hoped to spend a lot of time getting lost in the forest. After checking in with the National Park Visitors Center for a map (of course, Scube needs his maps) and a few trail ideas, we headed first to Lady Bird Johnson Grove and Tall Trees Grove. None of these were long or tedious hikes, but the pay offs were incredible. In typical fashion was tried to hug the trees and our outstretched arms didn’t even come close to completing a full on hug. I have an incredible fear of snakes, and one of my Scube’s favorite moments from the hike down into the Trall Trees Grove was when I asked “you don’t think we’ll see any snakes here?” as I unknowingly stepped right over one. So yes, there is a possibility that you could see snakes (ugh).
Even though this was a few years ago, California was fairly dry, and Redwood Creek near the Tall Trees Grove was almost completely dried up. We walked through the creek bed and headed the 2 miles back up to the car. When not hiking, the look out points on the main roadway to the points were stunning, and we were constantly stopping to take in the view and try our hand at some pretty bad selfies, but we didn’t care. The drive back to the Inn was incredibly beautiful. You end up driving down a hill where there’s the ocean on the right and a lagoon on the left. The beach was made of dark sand with small little caves and inlets we explored during our stay.
With some lingering jet lag, we decided it was time to relax for a bit before heading to dinner at Moonstone Grill to toast to our engagement. Moonstone Grill overlooks the ocean, and the scenery at the restaurant was fantastic. I have no recollection of the food, and that might be because upon leaving the restaurant we realized we were driving on a flat tire. Driving about 100 yards, we had destroyed the tire and turned back around, Steve went inside to call AAA, and I enlisted an elderly man to help me change the tire. Knowing that our spare would only last for 50 or so miles (my dad or Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny may have mentioned that), we unfortunately spent the next morning in a tire shop getting a new tire on our rental car. Since Trinidad was not all that close to a major city, this seemed to be the best course of action, despite the unexpected bill.
Once the tire had been replaced, we decided to visit Fern Canyon, where Jurassic Park 2 was filmed. The drive into the canyon was a single lane road, where lead cars are required to chaperon cars to and from the parking lot. The drive into the canyon was so incredibly cool. Wet ferns and foliage crawled up both sides of your car, as the dirt road seemed to narrow before your eyes. We truly felt like we were in the movie, though a bit hesitant considering there was some light off-roading through rocky streams involved. Nothing like replacing a flat tire and then holding your breath while the bars on your cellphone disappear faster than a vampire in sunlight as your car is rocking back and forth on rocks, in creeks, etc. But we made it. The hike into the canyon was damp, beautiful, lush and green. It involved climbing over massive tree trunks, getting your sneaks wet, and getting a little lost. Beyond the canyon, we walked along a beach in what was a gray day, and looked back upon the cliffs hiding the canyon from which we came. We saw hikers who had been hiking for months on the Pacific Crest Trail, large animal carcasses, and circling gulls, truly at peace with nature (something so new to me). After walking along the beach, we headed back to the car, waited for our lead car, and decided to head out to Elk Point, where Elk’s (luckily for us) were incredibly abundant. Elk’s were everywhere, and we kept a safe distance though definitely snapped a few photos. Our Elk detour only lasted a few minutes, and we decided to check out the town of Trinidad itself.
The town is very much a quaint fishing village, reminiscent of towns in Maine. With a stunning white and red light house, a beautiful cove/marina and a hike cliff walk, the town had a lot to offer, even if we only had a few hours to spare. That night we had dinner at Larrupin Cafe. The meal was out of this world, and we were not expecting that for such a small town. They bring a charcuterie board to start, and while I don’t remember exactly what we ordered, I remember we were both in culinary heaven. Fortunately, our car did not have a flat tire upon leaving so we certainly called this day a win.
We were hoping to kayak the next morning, but since the conditions were rough, the company cancelled our tour, so we decided to spend more time exploring Trinidad on our last day before heading down to wine country.
Trinidad was such an unexpected bright spot, and that excludes the excitement of our first morning. It was so diverse and offered and so many different outdoorsy activities coupled with really great food. It was such a great start to my very first time in the Golden State.
Off to wine country, next!