Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Hike In Huddart Park And Breakfast At Bucks - Woodside, California

My husband and I hiked through redwood trees, ferns and falls on an easy trail in Huddert Park in Woodside, California. Though we were in the heart of Silicon Valley, we felt far removed from the traffic and noise. Woodside will do that to you; people here pay a lot of money to live in a town that looks a lot like a country village. But the good news is, except for a six dollar parking fee, the hiking is free.

Within the 974 acres, there are several parking lots, picnic areas, restrooms and playgrounds. There are hiking and equestrian trails, and group campgrounds available for reservation.

We drove in from the Woodside Road exit, drove through the main entrance and parked near the Madrone picnic area and Peninsula AIDS Memorial Grove. Then we walked the Dean Trail to the Crystal Springs Trail, toward the Toyon Group camp and Toyon road, back to the Crystal Trail and our parking spot - a little over four miles.

We could hear the Crystal Springs bubbling and it wasn't long till we came up next to it. It seemed strange that the water was running so freely (hey, someone left the tap on!), after experiencing our California drought, but of course we loved it.

We were hungry after our hike so we drove back into the town of Woodside and stopped at Buck's restaurant. Buck’s is located near Sandhill Road, the venture capital Capitol of Silicon Valley. Buck’s is well known as a restaurant where many tech deals are born. In the past, celebrities such as Robin Williams and Sting have visited as well.

It's not much to look at on the outside . .

But inside, every square inch is decorated with some crazy or wonderful kind of thing. Many of the things were personal items belonging to the restaurant’s owners, Jamis and Margaret MacNiven. Other items came from auctions or gifts from friends and strangers.

You could come back again and again to Buck's and discover new things every time. The back of the kids menu has a treasure hunt where kids can try to find items like a plastic dog named Glenn or a surfing alligator or a sword stuck through the door. One of my favorites is the flying astronaut.

The prices are in line with most Silicon Valley restaurants; that is, not cheap but not too expensive either. Service is good and the food is delicious. And there is great reading material on the front and back of the menu.

If you go: here's a link for directions to Huddart Park
                and here's one for directions and opening hours for Buck's Restaurant in Woodside.

Hiking Reminders: bring water, dress in layers and wear shoes with good treads.
Huddart Park Website

Monday, January 18, 2016

At Last, Lands End! A San Francisco Classic . .

View Of The Golden Gate Bridge From The Land's End Trail

Twice before I have attempted walking the Lands End Trail in San Francisco and for various reasons, have failed to complete it (see blog). But "third time's the charm" they say, and with my husband, I was able to walk the whole trail. Not that it's that long - only about 3.5 miles round trip. It's flat, easy and has spectacular views.

Cloudy Or Sunny, It's Always Beautiful
We began at the Point Lobos end of the trail. There's a large free parking lot, restrooms, a nice Visitor's Museum and the Sutro Baths. I highly recommend exploring the remains of the Sutro Baths while you are there (see blog). This trail is one big photo opportunity with wonderful views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Photo Op Of My Hubby!
At the end of the trail, we continued walking down the street El Camino Del Mar in the Sea Cliff neighborhood. We passed some beautiful homes.

 Several GPS guided GoCars zipped by us while we were walking. I guess you get to listen to an audio tour based on your GPS location. Looks like a future day trip/blog for me!

The Neighborhood Had A Sign That Said ,"No Van Tours Allowed," But The GoCars Were Able To Zip On Through.

El Camino Del Mar became Sea Cliff Avenue. We turned right on that, then left on 25th Avenue, and walked down the public access stairs to Bakers Beach. This beach is definitely worth visiting. Swimming is not recommended due to rough waters and occasional high bacteria levels. And toward the north end of the beach by the bridge, there are sometimes nude sunbathers, so I've been told.

After we enjoyed a snack on the beach, we headed back through the neighborhood and joined up again with the Lands End Trail. Then we walked back along it to the Point Lobos end and our car.

If you go: there are a couple of worthwhile side trips off of the trail, such as the path to the USS San Francisco Memorial, and stairs down to Mile Rock beach. Also, when you reach the end of the trail, instead of going right Down El Camino Del Mar, you can walk left till you get to 34th Ave., and visit the Legion of Honor Art Museum. I haven't been there myself, looks like I need to plan another day trip!

Directions: 680 Point Lobos Ave, San Francisco (just map Lands End, San Francisco).

Don't forget water, sunscreen, a jacket and maybe a hat.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Dolphins, Whales, And A Glorious Day With The Monterey Bay Whale Watch Company

A Long-Beaked Common Dolphin Racing Our Boat
For some of you, perhaps the first thing that comes to mind when you think of a whale watching trip is, seasickness. I know that's what my husband and son were thinking, so they stayed home while my daughter and I braved the seas. Actually it was a beautiful day with a light breeze so there wasn't much to brave. I gave my daughter half a dramamine pill ( I didn't want her to get too sleepy) and I took nothing. We stayed in the front of the ship with the wind in our face - my daughter felt fine and I only had a few moments of slight queasiness. We were so glad we took the risk!

Warm And Happy!
Whale watching trips are not "budget trips," but you can choose a trip that gives you the best value for your money. I chose the Monterey Bay Whale Watch Company and definitely felt I got good value. The company is owned and led by marine biologists. Our guide was very informative - speaking through a microphone to tell us many interesting facts about the Monterey Bay and its’ marine inhabitants. But he also knew when to be quiet and just let us enjoy the show. To tell you the truth, I didn't pay close attention because I was too busy taking in the sights and sea air.

The Whale Watch Center Is Located In Fisherman's Wharf On Del Monte Avenue
Their Comfortable, 65 Foot Catamaran - The Blackfin
We saw so many animals. Right off the bat - or should I say boat - we saw sea otters and brown pelicans. Cruising by the jetty, we saw thousands of sea lions basking in the sun. The boat paused there, giving us plenty of time to take pictures.

The Coast Guard Breakwater - "One Of The Main Haul-Out Sites For Sea Lions"
"Sea Lion Numbers Peak Off Monterey From Fall Through Spring"
Two Females (?) Enjoying The Sun
Then, just past the breakwater, we came upon a huge school of Long-beaked Common Dolphins. We were on them and they were on us (they love boats) in a minute - hundreds of dolphins ahead of us, to the sides, behind and underneath, racing our boat. The captain slowed down to practically nothing and we got to enjoy the show for a long time (I have no idea how long, but it was perfect). The lady next to me was so excited, she kept saying, "I love you! I love you!" to each dolphin that passed beneath. We were all excited.

These photos don't do the dolphins justice; luckily my daughter took some video. Here's a little glimpse of what it was like to be surrounded by dolphins.


Then we were on to the whales - gray whales migrating over 12,000 miles from the Bering Sea to Baja California. According to the naturalists on board, we saw 16 gray whales! Usually, they swam in groups of two. We got close enough to see well, but not as close as I would have liked. But I understand, the captain was keeping a respectful distance from the whales so they wouldn't be disturbed. I had trouble getting a good photo, but enjoyed it all the same.

Once They Sound (Dive) They're Down For 2 To 7 Minutes
Heading back in, we came upon another school of dolphins close to the harbor. They were Risso’s Dolphins, about 80 of them.

The Naturalist Said Risso's Dolphins Are Like "Gangsters Of The Sea - Proud Of Their Scars."
The whole cruise was about three hours. It was wonderful; my daughter and I would definitely do it again. In fact, in the spring they have another longer trip to view humpback whales, orcas, and blue whales! I can't wait!

The End To A Beautiful Morning

If you go: The 3 hour Gray Whale and Dolphin tours run from Dec 12 - March 31st.
                 Adults $40, Children 4 to 12 $27, Children 3 and under $15.
                 There is a 20% discount for members of the Monterey Aquarium

Sea-sickness  You can take dramamine, but be aware that it can make you very sleepy. That is why I skipped it. If you are sensitive like I am, I recommend only taking half, or even a quarter, of a dose. Regardless of whether you take dramamine or not, it's really important to stay hydrated, starting the day before. The day of, make sure you have a solid meal and stay hydrated. I brought food and water on the boat. In the beginning, I felt a little queasy but I also noticed I was a little hungry. I ate a snack bar, drank some water and felt much better. Just listen to your body.  I also recommend taking a morning cruise; they are usually calmer. Also, I waited till one day before the trip before making my reservation so I could check the weather - you want a light breeze. Speaking of breezes, avoid the cabin and stay in the front or sides of the boat (on the main level, not up high), and avoid the diesel fumes in the back. If you do all this, I think you will have a good chance of avoiding seasickness. Good luck.

What to wear: dress in layers and definitely bring warm clothing. I wore two shirts, a down jacket, a baseball hat and light gloves. I also brought a windbreaker that I took on and off depending on how fast the boat was going. No matter how sunny it is, the wind on the ocean will make you cold. Also, don't forget sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, water and snacks.

Photography: definitely bring your camera, But if you are having trouble getting good shots, put it away and just enjoy the sights and the wonderful smell of the ocean. You won't forget it.