Tag Archives: NorCal

Finding the Lost Coast

The Lost Coast… the name itself was enough to convince me I wanted to go there.   This section of the northern California Coast has remained relatively isolated over the years because the geography makes road building kind of hard.  When Highway 1 was built they put this section in the too hard basket, and I’m glad they did.

The drive in from Ferndale to Petrolia was one of the most beautiful afternoons we’ve had so far.  It’s hard to capture the mood, but the sun was just right and it illuminated the rolling ranchlands and coastline perfectly. IMG_7203 IMG_7212

Those who make the effort are rewarded with a beautiful section of coastline to explore.  This place is no big secret, but it kind of feels that way.IMG_7232 IMG_7236 DSC05118

We’d heard about another great beach further down the coast, accessed from the south by 6 or so miles of rough unmaintained dirt road.  We came it from the other end, and after about 15 miles of slowly crawling up steep climbs and down steeper descents, through washouts and hairpin turns we were wondering if we might have to turn back. But when we caught a glimpse of the ocean just around the bend, we knew we were close.  And it was well worth it. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_7314 IMG_7280 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_7340

The short drive back out to the paved highway was much easier.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA IMG_7368 IMG_7360

Sonoma – Wine and Winding Roads

It took us forever to get out of San Fran, mostly due to the long weekend traffic and a shopping spree at REI that lasted a few hours.  The drive from San Francisco to Sonoma is supposed to take about an hour… at our pace we took about two days. That’s just the way we roll right now.

A bunch of vineyards and cellars have their tasting rooms right in the middle of Sonoma, surrounding the pretty little town square.  We parked the van in the plaza and headed for a really great tasting at Highway 12, followed by a few glasses at a little wine bar down the street and then headed off to find a campsite for the night.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We got lucky and found a spot at a nearby campground just in time for ‘Funky Fridays’, featuring Sonoma County’s best rock n roll cover band.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The next day we chose a couple of wineries to check out. First stop VJB Cellars. I would highly recommend this place if you are visiting the area.  The wines were great of course, but the best part about it was the little piazza they have created.  It was the perfect spot to enjoy their wines along with a selection from their deli and some really good wood fired pizza while being serenaded by the live opera singers. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We chose a really nice Zinfandel from VJB and after settling on our favourite chardonnay at Sonoma-Cutrer, we were ready for the road again.

We once again chose the coast road and found ourselves winding our way north along Highway 1 up above the fog that rolled in from the Pacific ocean.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As we passed through the Sea Ranch area we pulled off to check out the Sea Ranch Chapel.  A really interesting little spot recommended to me by the author of my favourite book ‘Handmade Houses: A Century of Earth-Friendly Home Design’. It’s designed and built by local people using local materials and is just there for anyone who cares to use it for a bit of quiet time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Continuing north we were disappointed to find that every single camp spot was taken, it being the last long weekend of the summer.  But it was really a blessing in disguise as we settled for a great little spot right near the Point Arena lighthouse.  Perched right on the edge of the cliffs we could hear the ocean but couldn’t see it through the fog. It was cold and windy outside, a perfect excuse to get cozy in the van and have a movie night. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Heading South to Big Sur

From San Fran we headed down the coast to Big Sur, with lots of stops along the way. It was nice to take our time and give Oscar a bit of a break.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Marky also finally had some time to do a few repairs.

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Our love affair with California had well and truly begun.  Our friend Chris found a couple of outdated California guidebooks in an Oregon campground. They have now become some of our most prized possessions. One we use one almost daily – California Camping by Tom Stienstra (2005).

Brounie will forever be our California Girl. Not only have we been living the high life by splitting our costs three ways, we have also shared some amazing experiences and tight living quarters for over a month. She can pack Oscar like nobody’s business! Now that it has been confirmed that she was bitten by poison oak and not bed bugs, she can come and stay anytime.

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Anyway…back to Big Sur. One of my favourite things about driving down this part of the coast has to be all the amazing fresh food. I don’t think I’ve tasted berries this good since my childhood.  Not only was the produce delicious, it was so cheap! We were eating way too well to be unemployed.


The coastline around the area is beautiful, as are the rustic redwood buildings.

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Mark bought a book while were in Edmonton, titled Handmade Houses.  A number of the houses featured are from around the Big Sur area. Mark emailed the author who kindly recommended that we check out Nepenthe, a local restaurant. Although the food was average, the view was amazing. The building itself was simple and rustic.


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We like taking Oscar off the beaten path, so we headed to the back roads of Big Sur. Oscar handled the Old Coast Road with ease and we were rewarded with some awesome views.


While heading north again, we followed a random road hoping that our trusty camping book would lead us to a campsite at the end. The road ran through a community of rustic and fancy cabins. Some of them you could just glimpse through the trees and had elaborate walkways leading up to the front door.  This was what I imagined Big Sur to be like, away from all the tourists.


After a bit of a mission of a drive, we found a cheap campsite with amazing views. A winning combination!

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On the way back to San Fran we also stopped to check out the old Spanish mission town, San Juan Bautista.

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