Traditionally, the husband and I do not celebrate Thanksgiving. We do have much to be thankful for though - the company of great friends and each other, good health, a loving family and last but not the least, a fairly comfortable and simple life. So when the opportunity of travel presents itself over long weekends like this one, we tend to choose something low key, while staying true to what we love best - nature, a little bit of hiking (I've not warmed up to this yet, though the husband really loves to hike!), photography and spending quality time with each other.
Over Thanksgiving weekend, we wanted to do something active, but didn't want to go too far away from home, so we chose to drive to the Point Lobos State Reserve. As always, we started our trip with a South Indian breakfast. YES. Since moving to the Bay Area, we have realized that there is no dearth of good south indian food in the area. We have managed to sample breakfast at so many different locations & are just thankful that on days when we don't want to go through the hassle of making dosa/idli batter from scratch, we have several good options to choose from. Our favorites so far are Madras Cafe and Komala Vilas. More on this later, but can you see the glee on the husband's face as he gobbles up mini-idlis? ;)
Post a yummy breakfast and filter coffee, we started on our 2 hour drive to Point Lobos. We chose to drive through highway 17 and then highway 1 to be closer to the scenic beauty of the Santa Cruz mountains and the pacific coast. This was probably a slightly longer (really winding) route, but it was totally worth it. There was not much traffic on the way, so we reached Point Lobos on time. Things we wish we had done on the way:
- Taken a detour on the 17 Mile Drive near Monterrey. We've heard it's beautiful to drive through and wish we had done it with this trip because we will probably not drive there as a standalone trip, unless we plan another trip to Big Sur or Monterrey. Maybe, some day.
- Stopped at an ATM to pick up some cash. YES. We forgot to carry cash to pay at the entrance of the state reserve. It's only $10 per car, but they don't accept cards and you can't enter the park with your car unless you pay the entrance fees. You can still park outside the reserve (if you can find a spot!) and walk in without paying a fee though. In a way, this ended up being a good thing for us, as it allowed us to hike the entire park vs. driving to different lookouts.
Here is a map of the reserve to keep in mind. You can ask for a map at the entrance if you'd like to have one handy while hiking.
We decided to start out with the Carmelo Meadow Trail and explore Coal Chute Point (1) and Granite Point (2) first. This area was scenic and provided some good lookouts, especially Granite point, but we personally thought that this route wasn't the best part of the reserve. It was not as crowded as other sections of the reserve, so we were able to spend some time here, doing nothing, just lounging on the benches and looking at the ocean. If you are short on time, it is best to just skip this section and head directly to Whaler's Cove.
The Whaler's Cove (3) area has interesting history. This was the site of a whaling station from 1862 to 1879. There is a Whaler's Cabin in the same area which is now a museum. We did not stop at the museum, but it looked interesting and if the history of the whaling station intrigues you, this is a great spot to take a small break!
After Whaler's Cove, we moved on to Cannery Point (4). There is a parking lot in this area, so if you don't want to walk, you can just drive up here from the entrance. This is a great place for bird watching and also has a good vista point. Post this, we just continued on the North Shore Trail all the way to the Cypress Grove Trail. The walk was great because we spotted a few harbor seals on the way and even a few black-tailed deer, who, I must say were unfazed by our presence. They continued to munch on grass and ignore us as we went shutter crazy on them :D
Now, to the BEST part of the trail. I still can't get over how amazing Cypress Grove Trail (7) was. We did the entire loop and my only wish was that I could walk it again, but we were running out of time (I walk so slow!) and had so much more to see. The trail loops around the Allan Memorial Grove, which honors A.M. Allan, who helped preserve Point Lobos from resort developers in the early 1900s. When Point Lobos became a reserve in 1933, Allan’s family gave the cypress grove to the state. This is also one of the only two cypress groves on this coast *
The vista points on this trail were simply amazing. Every ragged turn of the trail brought us to a view that took our breath away. This coupled with the fact that the sun was slowly on it's way to setting just made this one of the best trails in the park. If and when I come back here, I will be spending most of my time here :)
After reluctantly moving on from the Cypress Grove Trail, we made our way to the Sea Lion Trail (8). There is a parking lot at the head of the trail and this is a great spot to park if you only want to explore the cypress grove and sea lion trails, which are the best parts of the reserve. This area is definitely not accessible and requires some climbing of stairs and walking on stones. You are much closer to the water on this trail and the ocean is also at its tumultuous here. We heard the barking of sea lions all through our walk and finally found that the source was "sea lion rocks". I've never seen so many sea lions basking in the sun before. What a sight it was!
This area is possibly the best place to catch the sunset at Point Lobos. But remember that the park closes 30 minutes after sunset, so if you are hiking it, make sure you make your way out before the park closes! Nothing as scary as walking in wilderness in complete darkness ;)
Overall, it was about a 6 mile hike and we didn't really get too tired because of it. But make sure you carry lots of water. Also, layer up, as it gets cold and windy as evening approaches. And if time permits, Big Sur is just a few miles away! :)
I'm so glad we have such beautiful places so close to home. And can't wait to explore more locations. Do you know of more places for day trips from the Bay Area? Leave me a comment and let me know :)