Thursday, November 24, 2011
One of my favorite things about traveling home to California is the abundance of outdoor activities on offer. From hikes in the Santa Cruz Mountains to walks in Northern California’s coastal regions, from big wave surfing at Mavericks to kite surfing in San Francisco Bay, there is no shortage of things to do.
Whenever I come home from London, my first priority is to get outside. My current trip has been no exception. As soon as my mother, brother, and I woke up on Monday morning, we were off to Pescadero to enjoy the gorgeous November sun and explore the beaches along Highway 1. But we didn’t stop there.
Our day trip from Silicon Valley to the coast also took us 14 miles north of Pescadero to Half Moon Bay. The city is famous for several things: surfing, the Ritz Carlton, and the famous Halloween pumpkin patch that backs up traffic from the Pacific Ocean all the way to Highway 280 every weekend in October.
Half Moon Bay is also famous for its beaches. My family pulled off Highway 1 and drove down Poplar Street to a stretch of sand called Poplar Beach. There we came upon a film crew that was shooting an upcoming surf movie called Of Men and Mavericks starring Gerard Butler (funny that a crew was also filming the new Spiderman movie in New York City down the street from my hotel last week). Seems we weren’t the only ones out to enjoy the day.
Eager to bask in the outdoors, we walked along the Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail. It was a several mile walk that ran along the top of the cliffs above Poplar Beach and Half Moon Bay State Beach. The fresh ocean air and the gorgeous sunset were enough to make us want to stay all night.
But there was dinner to think about. If I were back in the UK, there would be a convenient pub along the trail where I could get some food and drink. This being the USA, there was not. But there was something better: a farm stand.
Out in the open between Pescadero and Half Moon Bay we stumbled upon Bob’s Farm Fresh Vegetables. There we were surrounded by local produce like artichokes from Giusti Farms, ripe green apples, bright red tomatoes, golden onions, Brussels sprouts, pumpkins, and greens.
We bought everything we needed for a proper California dinner of steamed artichokes and fresh salad. On the way home we picked up some local Dungeness crab to celebrate the recent start of the crab season, and washed it all down with wine from Bella Vineyards in Sonoma County’s Dry Creek Valley.
With so much good food, we needed another walk. This one took place a bit closer to home. We woke up on Tuesday itching to get outdoors again, and looked no further than our own neighborhood. Despite being from Silicon Valley, I grew up in a town with more horses than people and I was spoiled with miles of hiking trails in the hills.
Our giant 102-pound dog in tow, we set off on another walk in Northern California. For the next hour, we passed through valleys full of oak trees, dry creeks, deer-filled meadows, and the occasional rope swing.
We came upon clearings with stunning views of the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west and open space preserves to the east. Closer in, we passed delicate maidenhair ferns and yellow mushrooms that looked like sea creatures.
Despite the warnings, we did not cross paths with any coyotes or mountain lions, but we did see a flock of wild turkeys run by. That’s to say nothing of all of the deer that call the area home.
The scenery was gorgeous and the walk pleasant, and of course it left us hungry afterwards. We decided to go to Northern California’s version of a country pub for lunch. This came in the form of a dive bar on the outskirts of my town that I haven’t been to since 1987. I remember the date because the kitchen burned our food so badly that I started crying, and my mother vowed never to take us back.
I’m not sure if it was the temptation of a sunny afternoon in the bar’s beer garden or if it was just a case of enough time passing, but we decided to give the place another chance. I’m glad we did.
The afternoon was perfect for sandwiches and beer at the outdoor picnic tables, and although my mother got yelled at for asking for whole wheat bread (“We only have one kind of bread!” the old lady at the counter barked), the food was much improved from our last tearful trip.
After eating our fill we once again felt the need for another walk in Northern California. I could tell that a virtuous cycle of exercising and eating had begun, and I couldn’t wait to perpetuate it. Now to find some country pubs I can walk to when I get back to London.