July 16- I am sitting on a beach in Trinidad, California, sipping a tasty beverage and waiting on the sunset, while the children defy all known laws of thermodynamics to frolic in the water and sand (I am wearing long pants and a fleece hoodie, btw). Despite the chill in the air, I gotta say, this is the life.
We've spent the past couple days working our way up the California Coast. After we left San Fran, we explored the Golden Gate National Recreation area and then got a pleasant but seriously overpriced campsite just outside of Point Reyes. We later learned the campground was square in the San Andreas Fault; perhaps we paid extra for the thrill of danger.
We got a late start yesterday, as we had a hard time waking the kids. I think Elena ended up sleeping about 13 hours; I guess we've worn them out. It's a long drive out to the Point through the National Seashore, past a series of historic cattle ranches that are apparently grandfathered in. The sky was perfect azure when we left camp, but the farther out we drove, the closer we drew to the fog. The fog is really interesting, it comes from the cold water upwelling from the Pacific (Alaskan) current meeting the warm air coming off the land. So it doesn't extend very far in shore, but right along the coast, it is cold, and windy, and you can just watch the fog blow by in sheets. And if you happen to step under a grove of cypress trees (as one must do on the walk up to the lighthouse), you suddenly get rained on, as the trees catch the fog and precipitate it out. So the area has an interesting mix of xeric-tolerant grasses and succulent vegetation (since the soil is sandy and I don't think it actually rains there much), and mosses and ferns under and even on the cypress trees.
The lighthouse itself is a singularly lonely spot, amid fog and icy wind, along a precipice down a 310-step decline (incline on the way back) from the visitors' center. It has a foghorn, which was in full use when we were there (once it blared for nine days straight). Despite the fog, you could see down to the water, and we managed two life-birds, common murre and pigeon guillemot, both of which are pretty obvious at a distance.
After the lighthouse, we drove around to Drake's Beach, which is located on the bay formed by the Point. Sir Francis Drake did drop anchor here (1579 I believe), and claimed it for England. The beach is ringed with pale sandstone cliffs, which reputedly reminded Drake of Dover, and he named the area Nova Albion (New England).
We left Point Reyes by early afternoon so we decided to work our way inland for a bit - in part to warm up, and in part because just inland lies Sonoma, i.e., wine country. (The plan worked; it was 94 in Sonoma.) Where do Celts with a taste for red zinfandel go when faced (due to time constraints) with the choice of a single winery in Sonoma? Ravenswood, of course. We had a lovely tasting with several excellent Zins, as well as some stuff that you don't normally associate with that winery, Gewurztrameiner, Merlot, Cab, and even a dessert wine. Of course we got a couple bottles, and then headed back to the coast, and back into the full force of the fog. It is amazing to pass through so many climate and life zones so quickly—welcome to California, I guess. We did see our first redwoods on the trip back toward the coast. We got a campsite on a little beach just north of Mendocino, bought more local zinfandel in the camp office, and even got to do a night excursion out to said little beach.
We got breakfast in Mendocino and wandered around the town for a bit. I had been a little worried about the fact that the kids' birthdays are coming up at the end of, and right after, the trip, and we hadn't done any shopping. Thank goodness for hippie towns with quality toy stores.
It was a fairly slow trip up the coast—we stopped at yet another beach, let the kids play in the surf some more, and got yet another life-bird (Heerman's gull). Then about two miles later we passed another winery that just kind of looked interesting, happily there was a vista point right after and we made the executive decision to turn around. We ended up spending a while there - and a bunch more money (wine country is a dangerous place)—since by the time we were done with the tasting it was time for lunch. The winery, called Pacific Star, is on a fractured little headland right along the coast, which was recently discovered (by a group of oenophile geologists) to be an add-on to the San Andreas Fault system. Among their wide variety of wines is a Rhone-type blend called "It's My Fault." Yes, we bought some. Yes, I am keeping the bottle.
We finally go on the road in earnest and got up here north of Arcata. We are going to get up early tomorrow to go to Redwoods, then drive late in order to see Lassen the following day.