Road Trip Day 8: Mt. Tamalpais, Muir Woods, San Francisco

Ok, first of all, I’m terrible at blogging and have taken way too long to write this final road trip post. In my defense, it’s been a stressful few weeks and I’m only now getting a chance to breathe. Enough excuses though: join me for day 8, where I kick off the final leg on Mt. Tamalpais!

As I wasn’t going to be around for sunset, I decided to wake up bright and early (well not exactly “bright” at 4:30am after getting almost no sleep in a hostel) and drive up Mt. Tamalpais for sunrise.

As it turns out the road doesn’t open until 7am, which means I only managed to get up there about 45 minutes after the sun rose. A little disappointing to not get any photos of that early morning pink sky, but pretty magnificent nonetheless.

PNW Road Trip Day 8 Mt Tamalpais California

There was hardly anyone else up there — I only passed other people twice — but the first group I passed warned me that the view was completely fogged in. Uhhh awesome? That’s kind of the whole reason I wanted to go up there! How incredible to look out across the horizon and see nothing but a blanket of fog! It was pretty trippy not having any perception of how high up I was or what was hiding underneath the fog.

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

Mt. Tamalpais was particularly beautiful with the morning light glinting off its rolling, golden hills. This was probably the only point of my solo adventure where I would’ve liked to have someone with me. Soaking in the morning sunshine high above the clouds felt like a dream and I could’ve used someone pinching me to remind me it was real life (sleep deprivation may have also been at work here.)

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

After a couple of hours up top, it was time to drive down to Muir Woods. I wanted to make sure I got there pretty early as a woman who was staying my hostel warned me that it could get very crowded.

PNW Road Trip Mt Tamalpais California

Surprise: even though I arrived before 9am it was pretty crowded. I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so I hung out around the park’s entrance for a while before venturing further, waiting for the cafe to open. The very brazen Muir Woods chipmunks were entertaining company.

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

Finally fed, I headed into the forest. I’ll admit, I was expecting something a little different after how few people there were at the Avenue of the Giants the previous day. Luckily most of my fellow visitors respected the sanctuary-like atmosphere of the park and kept pretty quiet. (Except you, group of tourists walking around blasting music out of a literal boombox.)

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

Ever seen Fern Gully? That’s what Muir Woods feels like.

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California
PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California
PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

PNW Road Trip Muir Woods California

Having woken up so early, my internal schedule was pretty wonky by this point. My flight wasn’t until the evening, so I still had plenty of time to kill before returning the rental car. So I made the pretty amazing decision to find an In-N-Out. When in California, right? #worthit

Next up was an attempt to find some Golden Gate Bridge lookout points, so I ended up at Battery Spencer. Hoo boy was it crowded. It was a good thing I had so much time before my flight, as I drove around in loops for a ridiculous amount of time waiting for parking spots to open up at each lookout point. Unfortunately for me the very fog that made my morning on Mt. Tam so incredible was now destroying my view of the bridge, and the rest of San Francisco for that matter.

PNW Road Trip Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California

PNW Road Trip Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California

PNW Road Trip Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco California

A little discouraged, I finally drove across the bridge into San Francisco. (Fun fact: it’s a toll bridge with no toll booths, and the rental car company charged me $36. For one toll. I’m not bitter, nooope.)

I had also wanted to check out the view from Marshall Beach, but the fog was showing no sign of clearing and the view was non-existent. Next I decided to see if Twin Peaks offered a better perspective. Well…I have never been in a windier spot in my life. I started climbing up one of the two hills, but I honestly thought I was going to get knocked over and sadly retreated back to the car. Microclimates strike again!

PNW Road Trip Twin Peaks San Francisco California

Since I’d already been to San Francisco a few years ago and hit up a lot of the touristy spots, I didn’t have much else planned for the day. It was only early afternoon by this point, but I’d already been awake for 9 hours. I decided it was time to head to the airport a little earlier than planned so I could catch up on a little rest, after a truly spectacular morning.

So there you have it! All 8 days of my road trip, complete. I hope these posts inspire you to explore the Pacific Northwest, or step out of your comfort zone and try out some solo travel of your own!

Previously:
Day 1: Seattle and Whale Watching!
Day 2: Olympic Peninsula
Day 3: Washington to Oregon
Day 4: Cape Kiwanda and Cannon Beach
Day 5: Multnomah Falls and Portland
Day 6: Oregon Coast and Crescent City
Day 7: Avenue of the Giants, Point Reyes

Day 7: Avenue of the Giants, Point Reyes

Day 7 dawned completely fogged in, which I imagine is fairly common in Northern California. I made my way south to the Avenue of the Giants through the billowing mist.

PNW Road Trip Avenue of the Giants California

The visibility cleared up as I drove inland, and the sun was shining and bright by the time I got to the Avenue. Why don’t we have trees this big in New Jersey? They’re epic. I want one.

PNW Road Trip Avenue of the Giants California
PNW Road Trip Avenue of the Giants California

PNW Road Trip Avenue of the Giants California

(Creepin’ on strangers as per usual, but I needed someone for scale!)

PNW Road Trip Avenue of the Giants California

The Avenue of the Giants was surprisingly empty. Before arriving I had visions of sitting behind lines of cars and crowds in the forest. I almost thought I was in the wrong place when I got there and saw so few people! It made for a very relaxing drive — I actually ended up spending a little too much time here and fell pretty far behind schedule. This was going to be my longest driving day yet — 9 hours — and I still had 5 to go. So I regretfully had to tear myself away and get back on the 101.

PNW Road Trip Avenue of the Giants California

PNW Road Trip Avenue of the Giants California

When I arrived back at the coast, the fog had settled back in. I was staying at a hostel inside the Point Reyes National Seashore, but wanted to see if I could catch a glimpse of the picturesque lighthouse before settling in for the night.

Driving to the lighthouse was like driving on another planet. For about 30 minutes I was on an almost deserted road, unable to make out much of the landscape around me aside from the occasional cow. It reminded me of the Connemara in Ireland, which felt like some sort of alien moonscape.

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

The Point Reyes lighthouse area was pretty much deserted, but I came across these deer as I walked there from the parking area. How cool is this little guy, just emerging out of the fog like he’s starring in Wuthering Heights or something.

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

Sadly, the lighthouse was completely obscured by fog. But the walk there and back was perfectly moody so all was not lost!

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

I think everyone and their mother who has visited Point Reyes has taken this photo, but I had to snap one for myself as well.

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

My little deer friend greeted me once again on my walk back. After, I drove back in and out of the fog before arriving at the hostel. It’s set about 20 minutes off the main road, deep into the park. I didn’t realize there would be no cell service (or wifi!) which made for quite the off the grid experience. (That and the light wasn’t working in the bathroom for a while, so I showered by lantern which brought not entirely pleasant flashbacks of Hurricane Sandy.)

It was good to have no distractions though. The plan for the next morning was to wake up at 4:30am and drive an hour to catch sunrise on Mt. Tamalpais, so a 9pm bedtime was a good call.

PNW Road Trip Point Reyes California

PNW Road Trip Avenue of the Giants California

Up Next: Last Day! Mt. Tamalpais and a quick driveby of San Francisco

Previously:
Day 1: Seattle and Whale Watching!
Day 2: Olympic Peninsula
Day 3: Washington to Oregon
Day 4: Cape Kiwanda and Cannon Beach
Day 5: Multnomah Falls and Portland
Day 6: Oregon Coast and Crescent City

 

Road Trip Day 6: Oregon Coast and Crescent City

Despite the fact that my hotel had a pretty neat looking cafe in the lobby, I ventured out to Bunk for breakfast so I could see a bit more of Downtown Portland before leaving for California. No pictures of my breakfast sandwich because I housed that thing immediately. Road trip tip: eat a big, delicious breakfast every day. Trust me.

On this day I was heading back to the coast to drive the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor in southern Oregon, before crossing the California border and ending my day in Crescent City.

PNW Road Trip Oregon Coast

I have no idea what this beach is called. Oregon has a ton of scenic pull outs on the 101, but there’s really no signs warning you of them until you’re right on top of them and have to make a decision to pull off the highway at full speed. So yeah, unfortunately I didn’t manage to make it to many of these scenic overlooks due to the whole not wanting to careen off a cliff into the ocean thing. Luckily this one had enough warning.

PNW Road Trip Oregon Coast

I should have planned more for my trip down Samuel H Boardman, I didn’t realize there would be so many stops not visible from the road! It turns out I missed the most picturesque one (Natural Bridge, let’s cry about it together), and really an ideal time to make this drive would have been sunset, but it is what it is. Still gorgeous, though.

PNW Road Trip Oregon Coast Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor

PNW Road Trip Oregon Coast Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Crescent City was my first motel of the trip. Well, they called it an “Inn” but they were kidding themselves. Crescent City was an odd little town, it may be that I was staying on the wrong end of it, but there didn’t seem to be a whole lot going on. I did manage to find an interesting restaurant nearby (Hawaiian BBQ!) and went for a walk to the ocean to catch sunset.

The walk ended up being much further than I anticipated, which was actually a blessing because it gave me ample time to photograph the sleepy streets during the best light of the day.

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset
PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

Honestly, Crescent City was the stop I was the least excited about. I only picked it because it seemed like a good midpoint between Portland and my next destination in California so I wasn’t expecting very much (the motel didn’t help).

But Crescent City surprised me with a gorgeous sunset over the ocean, so I take it back.

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

I had a long walk back but I decided to take a different route along the harbor to make the most of the purple skies. It was surprisingly peaceful — I could hear sea lions barking in the distance!

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

And here we are, back at my motel. 5 minutes later I caught my first Pikachu in Pokemon Go, it was pretty awesome.

PNW Road Trip Crescent City California Sunset

Next up: Avenue of the Giants and Point Reyes

Previously:
Day 1: Seattle and Whale Watching!
Day 2: Olympic Peninsula
Day 3: Washington to Oregon
Day 4: Cape Kiwanda and Cannon Beach
Day 5: Multnomah Falls and Portland

& go: Pacific Northwest Road Trip!

& what else: Pacific Northwest Road Trip

In a little over 24 hours I depart on one of my most ambitious trips to date–a 9-day solo road trip from Seattle to San Francisco. Am I crazy? Potentially. Am I excited? Very.

Truth is, I’ve been admiring the Pacific Northwest for some time. The majority of photographers I follow and admire on Instagram are part of a PNW community of photographers, and after seeing all of their pictures of gorgeous scenery over the past few years I’ve decided I need to head west and see it for myself. I’ve been itching to get out on a photo adventure, and as beautiful as New Jersey can be (I know this flies in the face of what most people think of NJ, but if they’d get off the turnpike they’d know what I’m talking about) I’m overdue for a trip for some new sights.

@withhearts

While I’ve been to both Seattle and San Francisco, I’ve never spent any time between the two. I’m very excited for some of the things I have in store. I used Roadtrippers.com to plan the majority of the trip. It’s an excellent resource for planning–you just input your start and end points, and then Roadtrippers populates your route with suggestions for sights to see along the way! The only drawback is that I ended up adding way too many sights to the trip and had to edit quite a few out. Some day I’d love to spend a whole month or two roadtripping out west so I can get in everything I’ll miss on this trip.


@everchanginghorizon

I’ll be whale watching for Orcas in the San Juan islands (if you knew me and the extent of my Free Willy obsession in 1st grade, then you’ll understand just how epic this is going to be), hiking in Olympic National Park, catching some (hopefully) breathtaking sunsets in La Push and Cannon Beach, driving through the Avenue of the Giants, and (also hopefully) waking up at the crack of dawn to catch sunrise on Mt. Tam. Check out my road trip Pinterest board for a taste of what’s to come!

@bethanymarieco

A lot of people are surprised I’m going by myself. Why am I going alone? Well the older I get, the busier friends become, and groups trips aren’t always possible. Especially ones like this, where time is limited and I have enough “must sees” on my list for three people. It ended up not being a very flexible trip for others to come along.

@dantom

So yes, I’m a little nervous to undertake some of the longer driving days on my own, but I moved to London for a year by myself so I think I can handle this. Plus, Oregon is the only other state aside from NJ where you don’t have to pump your own gas, so that’ll be comforting. I’ve also made an 8+ hour long playlist of all my favorite music from high school, in the hopes that nostalgia combined with scream-singing will make the time pass quickly.

I’ll be recapping each leg of the trip in blog posts (and possibly videos) when I return along with some road trip tips I pick up along the way, so get excited! I know I am. In fact I’m buying a new external hard drive especially for this trip, because something tells me my poor computer isn’t going to be able to handle all the pictures I’ll be taking. If you want to follow along with me in real-time, add me on Snapchat (jennirose28) and, of course, Instagram.