Northern California holds a special place in our hearts. When Johnnie and I first started seeing each other 3 years ago in June of 2015, he was a month away from moving to California and we weren't really sure what we were doing or why we were getting involved with each other when we weren't going to be in the same city much longer. But the universe ALWAYS has other plans....so fast forward to November of that year and I'm getting on a plane to Sacramento.
I'd like to say I'm done being cheesy in this post but I'm not...so if you're rolling your eyes you might want to stop reading. (ha!)
This first trip for me sealed our fate. We both had one of the best and biggest laughs we'd ever experienced with another. We got stuck on the wrong side of the Golden Gate Bridge, rode in the back of a cop car, chased down a city bus together. It was everything romantic comedies are made of. All that being said, naturally the first place we wanted to go after 3 really busy, really trying years was Northern California. It was semi irresponsible timing, but at some point you just have to say f*ck it and go somewhere else. (Not to mention 2 of our best friends are there and we can never see them too much).
So here are the details - the places we saw, the food we ate, the things we want to go back to. Forgive the lengthiness.
Started in Yosemite. And it is everything they say it is. Every corner we turned was jaw dropping. There is no way to truly capture the majesty of this land. We stayed in a place called Housekeeping Camp. It is an H shaped cinder block structure with canvas curtain closure and roof. We were steps from a bridge that crossed over the Merced River with a view of Little Yosemite Falls. There was a little grocer within the campsite and we had a little cement patio, a fire pit area, and electricity. As far as hiking goes we did the Valley Loop Trail to Bridalveil Falls, Cooks Valley Trail, The Mist Trail to Vernal & Nevada Falls (SERIOUS uphill and stairs but incredibly worth it), Mirror Lake Loop, Lower Yosemite Falls, and walked all around to get to the Majestic Yosemite Lodge and the Yosemite Valley Lodge where we treated ourselves to a cocktail and nachos after 14 miles of hiking. Some roads and trails were still closed for the season so I recommend doing your research on when things open up. I loved being there in May-before the summer craziness but still warmer during the day. Definitely try to spend 3 or more days here. I could've stayed for a week.
Then came a pit stop in Marina, CA. where we stayed in an Airbnb for 2 nights. Marina was 20 minutes outside of Monterey so we did the tourist thing - Pacific Grove to Lover's Point, Holly's Lighthouse Cafe, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fisherman's Wharf, the whole shebang. Something I did not know about the Monterey Bay area - succulents and plants grow wild there. The last photo of the coast is a field of straight succulents. It was so beautiful. Side note - we went to a bar in Marina called the Otter's Den. It is clearly their local dive and we met the nicest people and had a fantastic bartender.
We took Hwy 1 down to Big Sur (but not before stopping at a Diners, Drive In, & Dives spot -From Scratch- in Carmel Valley. All my people who hate to love Guy Fieri raise your hand.) As to be expected Hwy 1 was just as beautiful as it was mind boggling. Every house we saw on a tiny peninsula on the Pacific Coast bred the same reaction "what the hell do they do for a living and how do we do that!?". We tent camped Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, right next to a creek that ran into the Big Sur River. We hiked through the Redwoods, went to a little restaurant bar off of Hwy 1 and had a very interesting experience with a disgruntled bartender. But we've worked in the service industry, we get it, so our understanding got us a few free drinks. No complaints there. Most of the trails were closed for maintenance or because of unsafe conditions due to the fires that ripped through that part of California a couple of years ago so we didn't get to do quite as much exploring. But we did see the iconic McWay Falls and drive on the same roads that every great car commercial is filmed on...only at about 35 mph though.
Fast forward through driving up the 1 where we stopped in Santa Cruz and ate at Linda's Seabreeze Cafe (highly recommended) to get to Meadow Vista, CA by way of Sacramento. From Meadow Vista we did an overnight trip to Loch Leven Lakes in Tahoe National Forest. (Ashley and I got lost, Johnnie led us out, I panicked, it was a cluster, we made it out laughing.) Then on to Trinity National Forest where we stayed in a cabin near the Trinity Alps for a few days to celebrate Kyle's 30th. Eating all the food, taking hikes, hot tubbing in the rain, living a life that surely I'm not allowed to live but am wildly thankful for.
We left the Alps and headed on to our next spot : Fern Canyon, near Eureka, CA. This was a top highlight for Johnnie going in to it, but ended up being a favorite for all of us. There is a scene in Jurassic Park 2 that was filmed in Fern Canyon. If you have ever set foot in our store, you KNOW Johnnie's obsession with Jurassic Park - it was a dream come true for this man. And I was pretty enamored, I can't lie. I have a new love and appreciation for all fern species.
Moving right along to Fort Bragg, CA. We took the windy scenic route down the Hwy 1. Honestly the drives were all fantastic...if you can swing it, I'd definitely recommend driving the California coast- watching how much a state can change in 50-100 miles was impressive. We stayed in a great tiny house Airbnb in Fort Bragg in the fisherman's wharf area right on the water. It was steps away from Django's Rough Bar where we ate and drank and listened to music. I ordered crab bruschetta and I was literally watching the fishermen bring the crab in to the slew as I ate. It was one of my most charming dining experiences and I would go back to Fort Bragg any day. We woke up, went to Egghead's Restaurant for breakfast, and headed to our final destination, San Francisco.
This was now my 3rd time in San Francisco but my first time spending the night. We stayed in Union Square so we were in walking distance of so many things. We started at Rickhouse for cocktails. The walls were lined with whiskey but they made a variety of drinks. All delicious. We then moved on to Embarcadero and wandered through The Ferry Building. It houses tons of restaurants, retailers, market spaces, etc. We ate on ice cream and bought olive oils and dog collars and all the random things you squeeze in on your last day in California. From there we went on down to a San Francisco Giants game. The stadium is right on the bay and food and drinks are at every turn. We definitely went BIG on our last night but it was worth it.
Thank you for letting me relive this vacation. It was the vacation that other vacations I've had are jealous of and I am still overwhelmingly grateful. Grateful to Teddy Roosevelt for protecting Yosemite; to nature for not wrecking ALL of the coast; to Kyle and Ashley for hosting and guiding and loving us; to Casey, Leah, Hannah, Melissa, Eddie, Talaya, & Toomey for working for us; to our customers, patrons, friends (it's all one in the same for us now) for loving our space in a way that allows us to leave for a bit to see these things, but most importantly for giving us such incentive to come home. We love California but...we really love Birmingham. You are our home.
If you made it to the end of this - come in, I'll give you 20% off your purchase.
To Johnnie - I love you. Thank you.