THE CALIFORNIA ROAD TRIP EDITION (Budget-Style)

(A Rough Draft)

June 3-17

The Plan. (Clearly we did none of this due to CoVid. C’est la vie.)

Lofoten. Puglia. Volcanoes of Iceland. The Haiku Stairs. The Canary Islands. Porto. The Azores. Mount Kilimanjaro. Mount Whitney. California. Planning explorations is a passion, whether we actually embark upon them or not. Along with running, it helps me to stay somewhat grounded and channel my excess energy. The world is massive, and varyingly beautiful, and the vast majority of people are not, in fact, awful. Seeing, experiencing, learning, wondering is life 🙂

However, this dream is becoming reality this summer! Teaching is mentally and emotionally draining, but you a) remember you are making an impact (albeit often intangible), and b) have very concrete, long vacation times to refresh your mindset and ideals. Here comes our (well, my…I’m the far superior planner here, let’s be honest) very exciting, hopefully amazing itinerary for the epic, must-do-in-your-lifetime Californian road trip! Please be sure to comment at the end if you have been and have any recommendations, please!

Recommendation to myself: have a whole month and also explore Oregon and Washington, but anyhow, since the husband has the limited vacation times….here are the plans for the:

14 Day California Road Trip

The itinerary:

  • Fly into Los Angeles and explore a day
  • Up the coast to Santa Barbara via Malibu
  • Explore Santa Barbara to San Simeon
  • Big Sur sights to Monterey, 2 days + whales!
  • San Francisco 2 days
  • To Yosemite! (3 days, snow dependent)
  • Mono Lake and down to Bishop/Big Pine/Owens Valley
  • Death Valley and the Mojave
  • Joshua Tree
  • Creep our way back to L.A. and reality
The more detailed plan sketches:

Los Angeles:

  • Venice Beach and the mosaic house
  • Manhattan or Hermosa Beaches
  • Many ideas to sift through still! Why is this city so large?!
  • Griffith Park for the sunset

First night: El Segundo to be near both the beaches and the airport.

Second night: Hollywood to be close to more action and walk around a smidge!

Photo by Martin Adams on Unsplash

En route to Santa Barbara:

  • Los Leones Trailhead to Parker Mesa Overlook?
  • Topanga Beach
  • Malibu
  • Solstice Canyon with beautiful waterfall
  • Point Dume
  • I would like to note, for the record, that I wanted to add another day to hike the San Gorgonio. But, I’m the mountain girl who, while she could hike every day of her life, promised her husband the first week would be the coast. I don’t rest my case.

Overnight in Santa Barbara: Orange Tree Inn

Malibu, Point Dume, Photo by Austin Neill on Unsplash

Santa Barbara to San Simeon: it’s beginning to get more topographically intriguing!

Montana de Oro, Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash
  • Santa Barbara and Gaviota investigations
  • Pismo beach and butterflies
  • San Luis Obispo
  • Montana de Oro State Park
  • Harmony State Park
  • Exploring San Simeon

Overnight slightly south of San Simeon: the Silver Surf Motel, and see some seals/sea creature cuteness in the morning!

Pismo Beach, Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

San Simeon to Monterey via the incredible Pfeiffer Big Sur area and Highway 1. As you can see, one could potentially spend a week here and still want to remain on the craggy beaches and gorgeous cliffs forever. Because of the many lovely outdoors activities and sights, I built room into our schedule for a second day here if we’d like. (We’d like.)

  • Elephant seals!
  • Baby hike down to Jade Cove
  • Sand Dollar Beach
  • Pacific Valley Bluff Trail
  • The Iconic Big Creek Cove and Bridge
  • Hike down to McWay Cove and Falls
  • Hike in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
  • Hike Lookout Trail
  • Sea Otter Refuge
  • Pfeiffer Beach
  • Andrew Molera Beach and surfers
  • Beach Trail, Bluffs Trail
  • Andrew Molera State Park and Andrew Molera Point
  • Garrapata Beach
  • Soberanes Point
  • Point Lobos

^^By no means a total list of all there is to do and see! Most likely, we will just pull over every time something looks amazing and explore. So, every ten minutes or so. This post will be updated once we actually enjoy our travels.

Reality check note: Big Sur tourism is supposedly out-of-the-world awful, to the point where Fodor‘s has included the area on their do-not-travel list. I’ve wanted to visit for over a decade, but am not sure how worth it it will be. Example: I hated Venice due to the over-crowding. I suppose we just wake up before dawn and try anyway!

Overnight in Monterey: the Bayside Inn Motel

Driving Big Sur, Photo by Thomas Ciszewski on Unsplash

Because Monterey is less than an hour up Highway 1 from Big Sur, we either head down for another day along the craggy blue ocean or up to wander the redwoods near Santa Cruz…or both!

Monterey to Santa Cruz area:

  • Moss Landing if it is whale time? Or otters?
  • Big Basin Redwoods State Park–the oldest state park in California.
  • Henry Cowell Redwoods, because we could really spend hours with the tree giants

Overnight in Santa Cruz: The Islander Motel, because it’s the most affordable thing! And, they have a neat striped fish atop their sign.

Sequoias by USA-Reiseblogger from Pixabay

Then, after many marvelous nature days, we have….San Francisco! One of my best friends is from Berkeley, and any time anyone mentions San Fran or the Bay Area or California, he’ll say: Gordo’s. Apparently we have no other choice but to eat there! Anyhow, there are 5 million things to do in the Bay Area. Decision making is tough; thus, here is a long list of ideas that will not all come to fruition:

  • Golden Gate Park
  • Haight-Ashbury (my husband loves when music was good)
  • some of the many delicious-looking coffee and bakery places
  • Presidio of San Francisco
    • The Palace of Fine Arts
    • Lover’s Lane
    • Batteries to Bluffs Trail
      • and Marshall’s Beach
    • Fort Point National Historic Site
  • Cross the Golden Gate Bridge, hopefully on bicycle!
    • Renting from Haight-Ashbury San Francisco Bicycle Rentals 🙂 Sweet online deals.
      • We can return either by biking back over the bridge, or taking a ferry!
  • Battery Spencer
  • Slackers Hill
  • Point Bonita Light House
Golden Gate Bridge Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Possibly we will do all of the above the first day? Then, here we have a more random conglomeration for the second!

  • the Wave Organ
  • Sutro Baths
  • Chinatown
  • Telegraph Hill
  • Take a trolley and also a ferry
  • Alcatraz
  • Muir Beach and the gorgeous stair walk
  • Point Reyes National Seashore (<- strong maybe, as San Francisco is looking more interesting than I had expected)
  • And many other options! I’m sure this list will still grow and change.

Overnight in San Francisco: The Casa Loma Hotel (five stars to them for refunding us all of our non-refundable payment during CoVid-19!)

Pier 14 in San Francisco Image by David Mark from Pixabay

After city-ing, the time has come….for Yosemite!! Happily, I have convinced my husband to camp not one, but three nights–twice in Yosemite, and again in Joshua Tree. While I love sleeping outside, he’s more for the basic amenities of mattresses and Wi-Fi…but it will be great! (Do we own a tent? Sleeping bags? Sleep pads? Nope. Still working on this whole concept, but it will, indeed, work.) Anyhow, hiking is my favorite thing in the whole world. Here are some of our basic ideas, made for flexibility based on snowfall in the Sierra Nevadas and weather!

Disclaimer: this will also be a wake up at the pre-sunrise case, as the crowds are tremendous!

I cannot reiterate enough times: PLAN FAR IN ADVANCE. We are over 5 months out, and I am already having difficulty gaining wilderness permits for camping at particular trailheads inside Yosemite, as well as finding any sort of affordable hotel option in near proximity.

Also, bears: for foods, if camping overnight, there are apparently bear canisters for rent at about 5$ per week.

  • Leaving early in the am from San Francisco (approx. 3 hour and 20 minute drive)
  • Off 120: Hike to Cloud’s Rest, camp a night
  • One day for hiking Half Dome, if we win the lottery!
  • Hike Upper Yosemite falls
  • Wander up to Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome
  • If we had more time, this Yosemite Falls to Snow Creek Loop looks amazing!
  • Perhaps a trip down to the Sierra National Forest and the Mono Hot Springs
  • Other gorgeous Yosemite hiking trails for now or in the far future!
  • Many maps are available on the National Parks site!

Overnight: Two nights camping in various backpacking sites in Yosemite, then an adventure into Owen’s Valley (2-3 nights in the Yosemite area). Many options and a lack of decision making thus far, but I need to figure this out ASAP. Some options book out a year in advance! All necessary camping resources << there are many rules! A fantastic Yosemite camping map here. Swimming in lakes = bathing.

Now that I have investigated hotels in the area, am extra glad we decided to camp–anything affordable and available is ages outside the park! If finances allowed, I would stay at the adorable Cub Inn B&B. Biscuits and gravy for breakfast before hiking sound incredible.

Yosemite and Half Dome by David Mark from Pixabay

Highway 395!

Snow permitting, we will see both the highest and lowest points on the contiguous United States, via highway 395 down the eastern ridge of the Sierra Nevadas!

  • Mono Lake
  • Devils Postpile
  • Alabama Hills
  • But, most importantly, the 14 mile Big Pine Lakes Trail Loop!
  • Any other scenic spots we stumble upon!

Overnight: First, a splurge night after camping at the Austria Hof in Mammoth Lakes, then the Bristlecone Motel in Big Pine

Mono Lake in the nighttime by Cedric Letsch on Unsplash
Beautiful Big Pine Lakes Photos here.

The Desert Day

Death Valley and the Mojave! Continuing southward from Big Pine, we also pass Mount Whitney on our right–must climb one day, although I believe there will be too much snow this time of year for us. That is, if it is actually snowing anyplace this winter. Then, through Panamint Springs and into Death Valley! From higher elevations down to sea level we go. The Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes apparently have sand boarding, which is very intriguing? Constantly, we are amazed by the vast variety of landscape in California.

  • Father Crowley Overlook
  • Darwin Falls
  • Ubehebe Crater and Peak
  • Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
  • Zabriskie Point
  • Pyramid and Schwaub Peaks
  • Kelso Dunes Trail in the Mojave (May skip the Mojave, depending on how much driving we want to do in one day. This being the day with the most driving, by far!

Overnight: I cannot wait to camp in Joshua Tree! Clouds, stay out the way of our stars, if you’d please!

Death Valley by Photo by Abby Kihano from Pexels

Joshua Tree day

An early morning adventure and then midday nap? Oh yes. I’m a heat baby if there ever was one! After hopefully having seen a bunch of stars and the Milky Way overnight and an early wake up, here are some ideas for wanderings:

  • Top Ten Hikes for ideas!
  • Climbing some rocks and such
    • Arch Rock
    • Hidden Valley Loop
  • Hike to an oasis and an old mining site
  • Ryan Mountain
  • Split Rock Loop
  • Fortyninepalms Oasis
  • Barker Dam Trail
  • With over 300 miles of hikings, there are many options!

Overnight: zoop over to a hotel motel just outside Joshua Tree National Park! Originally, I had wanted to camp this night, but I suppose it’s better for everyone else in the airplanes if we shower…the next morning, we wake up, and slowly drive the 2 1/2 hours back to L.A.! By overnighting here, I also mean midday napping here. Sure, it’s dry heat, but it’s still heat.

Joshua Tree by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Be sure to comment below if you have any ideas or suggestions to enhance the trip! I’m super begeistert!

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