I was going to use this space to talk about the signs of Spring in New York City but alas, Spring has not yet sprung…It’s cold and damp. So instead I’ll tell you about one of the best day trip ideas ever. I’ve already gushed about San Fran but what makes that part of the world so great are the surrounding areas accessible with just a short car ride.
Crossing over San Francisco’s bodies of water is part of the fun and no matter which exit point you take you’ll be treated to some amazing views. Driving over the towering Golden Gate Bridge for the first time is one of those great travel experiences you’ll always remember.
As we headed to the Muir Woods National Monument we passed another famous Landmark – the San Quentin State Prison, where Johnny Cash once played a show for inmates. “What a nice place for a prison” my ever-optimistic travel companion remarked. Do the inmates get to see the bay?”, we wondered? Often the bridge and surround bay is covered in a shroud of fog, adding to the romance of the place, a spectacle we were treated to on the way back. The route there is along Highway One, a coast-hugging road that offers distractingly beautiful views (note to drivers – keep your eyes on the road!)
What I noticed about California is the fact that you always feel like you’ve been there before, even when you haven’t. That’s because so many of the places you visit have been immortalized on TV shows and in movies (the week I got back I saw Humphrey Bogart complete the same car ride I had in an old film noir).
A stone’s throw from Muir Woods is Stinson Beach , an idyllic little seaside town that’s a perfect place to stop after driving along the twisting and turning road. On the beach we chatted with a cool dad surfer and spent a good half hour looking at seashells with his son and trying to decipher whether a beached jellyfish was dead or just resting. Good times. From there Muir Woods is accessible via the picturesque town of Mill Valley (the same town BJ Honeycutt of M*A*S*H* hailed from for you TV geeks). After a pleasantly steep climb through a landscape that goes from rural to suburban and back again while maintaining its charm, eventually you’ll find Muir Wood, home of the big redwoods. Seeing them in photos is one thing but confronted with their massive reality you’ll do what everyone else does and just stand there mouth wide open saying ‘wow’.
The well-marked trails and info explains clearly the mysteries of the big trees and why they’ve survived so long. It was also the site of the inaugural United Nations meeting back in 1945 and the inspiration for a scene in Vertigo, even though they filmed it somewhere else. Eventually it’s time to go back home and leave the big towering trees behind but not before you check out the inevitable cross-cut section of trunk showing you that some of them have been there since before your great-great-great grandparents were born. Pretty amazing.
All photos by Jason Bogdaneris