We stopped off for the night at a MacKerricher State Park – two miles north of Fort Bragg, California. I was intrigued by promise of a glass beach. We were delighted to discover that camp was so close to the beach and not only that, but there was a paved boardwalk from one to the other. Its been hard to convince Anna to get on the bikes, but she was pressuring me to go before I even had the jacks down on the camper. Eager to encourage her enthusiasm, I obliged and we got the bikes down and set off. I cant really say enough about how delightful that ride was. We had the Pacific Ocean on our right, the weather was perfect and my 12 year old was racing to make sure I never got in front of her. We got to the “beach” in no time and only slightly winded. The coastline was beautiful but oh-so-strange. You see, Fort Bragg’s infamous beach is there because the town used to dump all its trash into the ocean, which I guess wasn’t all that uncommon back in the day. They didn’t just dump glass though, they dumped EVERYTHING – and over time, the pressure, waves and junk formed these really strange formations in the rocks. The rocks in the ocean and cliff walls are covered with “junk”- just like if you’d found a rock with seashells embedded in it – this place had rocks with pieces of plates and metal, and still the occasional seashell. It was completely fascinating. Yes – we did have fun combing the sand for pieces of glass but it was the wealth of other other fascinating history I left compelled with.
MaKerricher was one of our shortest stays on the trip – but one of my favorite stops. I left there content. I felt like we’d done just enough with our time, which is a comfort not often found along the way. I’ve struggled at each place with the decisions of what to see and what to put on the “next time list”. I am certain there was more to do in Fort Bragg – but I didn’t feel like I’d left anything behind.
“Time is like money, If I had it, I would spend it”
Onward to San Fran – I think, I neglected to mention we had been driving Highway 1 the whole time, which, with the camper in tow, was quite a feat. My stress levels were at an all time high, big city – big camper – TRAFFIC!!! Fortunately, we got to our new temp-home at Samuel P Taylor State Park with only slightly white knuckles – camp was nestled about 20 miles North of the Bay in the redwoods. It was a precarious campground on the side of a very steep hill side. The sites were super close together and privacy and peace and quiet were not on the menu – It was quite alright though, as we were only there two nights and spent most of our time in the area in the City.
We arrived in the late afternoon and decided to venture out to see if we could see this bridge everyone had been talking about – I found a rout that took us passed Meir Woods and we attempted to make a stop, but (like many spots along the way) it was over run with people. Parking was impossible and I had no intention of trying to find tranquility among the masses. We instead continued south and quickly drove into “Civilization” – We eventually met back up with 101 and promptly missed our turn. Now, we’re small time South Dakota girls, the concept of Tollbooths goes completely over our heads. I knew I had no cash though, and so attempting the bridge was out of the question, even though it was quickly becoming the only option – I tossed the phone (with GPS) to Anna and said, “Find us an exit!” she said “Turn Here!” which I did and we found ourselves winding down one of the most ridiculously steep, windy, narrow roads ever. At one point we encountered another car going the other direction and I had to back into a driveway just to let it pass, meanwhile we were surrounded by fancy houses stuck to the side of the slope like sardines, presumably, with toothpicks. The road eventually dumped out onto something more “manageable”. A couple twists and turns more and there it was. The Golden Gate Bridge – I later had a conversation with my mom about that bridge – and why it was so incredible. There’s just something about it – and I still cant put my finger on it. Maybe because its really red and not gold… who knows.
After our Golden Gate encounter it was back to camp – via highway 1 again. We drove as the sun set over the ocean, this time to our left – the infamous San Francisco fog began to roll in, capping the tops of the golden cliffs. It was nothing short of magical.
The next morning, my dear friend Elissa picked us up at camp and we set of to see San Francisco. This time, we took the plunge and drove across the bridge. I felt the same huge feeling again. still without being able to understand it. Something about driving across an Icon…. we then headed to Ghirardelli Square and quickly found ourselves at Hyde St Peer which was surrounded by old ships It was actually a National Park. Before we left on this trip I purchased the Annual Pass for all National Parks – so we were in! It was profoundly interesting, although, my favorite part was when I noticed a heron doing its best Popeye impression.
We wondered around on boats for a while, before my desire to learn about the life at sea was over taken by my tummy’s need for food, so we wondered on in search of grub. We were quickly side tracked by the double-decker buses and a slick sales guy- and be for we knew it, the kids were begging and we’d bought ourselves 4 tickets for the Downtown San Francisco tour – which, even tough it was outrageously tourist and kind of expensive, actually turned out to be a pretty cool way to see the city on a very strict time budget. I was able to take note of the places I want to come back to.
The tour wrapped up and left us just enough time to grab a real deal Ghirardelli Chocolate cupcake before returning to the car and driving over to the Cliff House. I think I was maybe 12 or 13 the first time I heard my Aunt talk about the Camera Obscura that has called the Cliff House its home for decades. I was instantly captivated and since then, it has been of my bucket list of “Must See’s” … right up there with Lucy the Elephant, which I was able to cross off my list a few years ago. We knew it closed at 5:00 and I believe it was 4:45 when we got there. I’m not sure Elissa had even finished pulling into the spot by the time I was out the door running down to the “camera of legends” – It certainly didn’t disappoint, and actually was able to captivate not only the adults but the 12 and 9 year old we had with us. We stayed in there until they kicked us out and then we wondered down to the ruins of the old Bath Houses. The kids had a ball climbing around on things they probably shouldn’t have been climbing on and only complained about the smell a little. We made our way back up to the Cliff House and had a lovely dinner before deciding to call it a night – Elissa drove us back to camp, which was remarkable, because I found out the next day exactly how far away she lived and how far she had to drive home. I’m so glad she decided to join us though. One of the coolest parts of this trip has been getting to see old friends. Our time with her and her family was far from over though, because we were about to pull up steaks and head south to Big Sur – via Monterrey……