Birthday Weekend, Part 3: Napa, Mt Tam, Muir Woods

Cloudy start to our estate tour! The dog is Jasper, annihilator of sticks.

Sunday started off with another round of Bouchon pastries (for the win!), coffee and juice.  We all went out to pick our favorite(s) and then ate back at the house.  We walked around the estate and saw the horse exerciser- a rotating soft gate that apparently makes the horse move along at different paces in the ring.  The horse we saw could pass for a unicorn, sans horn, and didn’t seem to mind nor was it breaking a sweat.

Sunny by noon!

Around 11, Mom’s cousin came over and it was really nice to catch up with him.  The day started off cloudy but by the time we all left at noon, it was another gorgeous sunny day.  I decided to enjoy the beauty of Marin County by going to Mt. Tam and Dad really wanted to see Muir Woods.

Top left is my favorite piece in the Hess, “The Metamorphosis;” Barrel Room and more art.

First, we went to Hess winery to check out the art museum and tasting room.  The tasting room is very cool and we went into their barrel room after the guy noticed us looking through the window and told us we could go in.    The modern art collection is varied and interesting even if some of the works make me feel like I can do it too (I probably can’t.  Probably).

Close up of my birthday flowers 🙂 and Oxbow Market

Afterward, we ate lunch at Oxbow Market.  Dad was craving pizza so we shared three pies from Ca ‘Momi.   It was excellent and such a good call!  Mom and Dad really liked walking around the market as we waited for our pizzas.  We sat outside at a table for four and really had a nice time.  Mom got her glass of wine comped by the guy taking our order inside, which just shows she still has it!

The road to the Mt Tam Peak is long but nice in that it eliminates that long walking part that some people don’t like about hiking.  There’s a 0.7 mile loop trail that gets a person to the summit so we all went on that.  There were some grumblings at the top about why the lookout tower wasn’t open (grumble, grumble) but the views were magnificent and I think overall, we were pretty happy we went for the hike.  Someone did point out that the views from the parking lot were about the same as the ones from the top though (One gues- Dad!).

Then we headed back down the mountain to Muir Woods.  My National Park Pass got us in for free (yay!) and we went on the 1 mile boardwalk loop that took us past three distinct groves and several other Sequoia sempervirens.  It’s pretty amazing and I’m glad we went to Muir Woods on the way back rather than add more time by going to Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve.  The trees in Armstrong are larger and the area is slightly less tamed (aka, no boardwalk) but sometimes, it’s nice to avoid too much car time.

Mt Tam and the Golden Gate!

Then, it was time to head home.  We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and took the 280 back.  I had plans to make food at home but people were hungry and hungry now so we went to the best taco truck, Super Tacos El Conrro!  It’s a converted ambulance with four people inside making the most delicious tacos.  If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend.

We were all pretty tired when we got home but we splurged on dessert and shared some Dolce wine before going to bed.  It was the perfect end to a day!

Mini Road Trip: Bodega Bay, Stinson Beach and Mt. Tam

Breakfast in bed!

On the third day of our mini-NorCal road trip, SMS and I awoke a little on the early side and packed up.  Our delicious Boon breakfast came at 8:30.  We had biscuits with honey butter, yogurt with berries and granola and French press coffee.  It was really nice and we got to have breakfast in bed!

The three main towns on the Bohemian Highway

We took off down the 116 and then made a left onto the Bohemian Highway.  It’s about 10 miles long and goes through three main towns: Monte Rio, Occidental and Freestone.  The road mostly cuts through the forest but by Freestone, there is lovely rolling hills and pasture land.  Occidental seemed like a nice place to stay and I’d love to stop in Freestone to go to the bakery and creamery in the future but since it was early and New Year’s Eve, everything was closed.

Bodega Bay on the left and Jenner by the Sea on the right
We made our way to Bodega Bay and walked on the beach for a little while.  The surf was pretty intense and there were a lot of surfers out there.  Salmon Creek meets the Pacific at that area and I wanted to see the entrance of the Russian River to the Pacific so we drove up to Jenner by the Sea.  The view was beautiful and I read that depending on the tides and time of year, the meeting of the two can be very impressive.  While it was very pretty, there was no great clash between the bodies of water and the river gently dwindled in size and entered into a little cove.  We saw two seals swimming in there.  The spot is probably great for whale watching so maybe later in the Spring, we’ll check it out again.
Old friends and new!

We drove through Petaluma and stopped at Lagunitas brewery for lunch.  It was awesome!  Super laid-back vibe and lots of heat lamps and sun.  We sat outside and shared nachos and cream of mushroom soup.  Not a soup I’d normally order but I was told it was delicious and that was a fact!  We had a sampler there and I really wanted some more of the sour wheat with mango and passionfruit (citrus-y without sweetness like a Sour Patch kid), but they didn’t put any of the limited releases in growlers so I will just have the little sampler memory!  At Lagunitas, we also saw the saddest looking dog we’ve ever seen under the keyboard.  I wanted to adopt him, but I think he’s probably the brewery’s mascot.

Amazing View!

After lunch, we drove to the East Peak of Mt. Tam.  We drove to the end of the road and parked near the lookout tower.  The walk is very short to the top and the views are completely stunning.  The area is an incredible contrast of preserved park land and high-density development.  We took in the views for a while before heading down to Stinson beach for a longer hike.

Another view with SMS in the foreground; L: a relief map of the area, we were on the top-right peak

Golden hour hiking

The hike started through the forest and went up into the hills overlooking the town of Stinson Beach.  It was absolutely gorgeous and I really wanted to do a complete loop hike but unfortunately, we had started too late so we turned back.  I was disappointed but we had seen so many other awesome things that day, I had to get over my pout-fest/temper tantrum that I couldn’t control nature or the sun.  (“Sun!  Stop setting!”)

The sun set.

We drove home and I made a pretty good NYE’s dinner of rack of lamb and roasted cauliflower mash accompanied by champagne!  The lamb was cooked in two stages since after the first time period was up, it was still really rare.  It was still really tender and delicious though.  Then, we watched Ex Machina, which I had heard about in the pre-Oscar nomination buzz and it was pretty good.  Although our NYE wasn’t party-heavy, it was exactly what I wanted since we were able to explore so much of the region in the last few days and to me, that’s what this “year” (July 15- July 16) is about- taking advantage of this pretty cool opportunity to live in such a vibrant, cutting-edge area.

Pt Reyes Magic

The old lighthouse, decommissioned in 1975

Pt Reyes is a gorgeous place for a road trip.  SMS and I went on a Tuesday in late June and wanted to go back on a day when the lighthouse and Cowgirl Creamery were open.  Linda and Rip had never been so we all decided to forgo the temptation of a Napa daytrip and headed northwest of San Francisco.

Do you see SMS?

I had heard about the daytrip on a NorCal lifestyle blog and it was nice to have a go-by to follow for the day.  We reached Pt Reyes by way of Lucas Valley Rd, which has beautful rolling hills and gorgeous groves of trees- redwoods, birch and eucalyptus.  There is an incredible rock with a tempting crack that SMS really wants to climb but since it’s on private property with barbed wire on the fence, I would have to stand a really good lookout if we ever decided to pursue that dream of his!

The North view on Pt Reyes

First, we stopped in Pt Reyes Station.  After a long drive marked by prolonged periods of sitting, we were all understandably hungry due to the calories expended.  We went to Bovine Bakery where we purchased a morning roll and cookies.  We also purchased baguettes for our upcoming picnic.

Our ultimate destination was Tomales Bay Foods.  Ostensibly a market but really, it’s dedicated to Cowgirl Creamery and all picnic accouterments to highlight the cheese eating experience.  The Red Hawk cheese is the only CC cheese (CCC?) made there; the rest are made at the corporate headquarters in Petaluma.   We all had a small cheese tasting consisting of Red Hawk, Mt Tam and the seasonal Pierce Pt with flowers and herbs in the rind.  They were all fantastic and we ended up with half-wheels of the Red Hawk and Pierce Pt, in addition to the Inverness, a spreadable, tangy cow’s mild cheese.  I also added honeycomb and Marcona almonds to our grocery basket!

So many people!  No reservations, no eating at TBOC!

Our last stop in Pt Reyes Station was Palace Market for some water, paper plates, olives and fruit.  Finally, we were off to our main destination, Tomales Bay Oyster Company.  We had a feeling our plans might be slightly altered when we saw so.many.cars parked on the sides of the road approaching the area.  It was crazy crowded and all of the picnic tables were pre-reserved.  We decided to grab our oysters and go.  We ordered a dozen of the “smalls” (really more medium-sized to our untrained eyes) and a dozen of the extra-smalls.

Our awesome picnic site!

We briefly stopped at the park just down the road at Millerton Point but there weren’t any picnic tables.  It would have been perfect if I had brought a large picnic blanket but since I thought we’d eat at TBOC, I hadn’t brought it.  Instead, we headed back to Pt Reyes Station and ate at one of the shaded tables on the side of Tomales Bay Food.  It was an absolutely delightful setting and our picnic was amazing.

Best in-laws!
On the stairs and still smiling!

Afterwards, we piled into the car and drove out to Pt Reyes lighthouse.  It was open and we headed down the stairs to check it out.  The day was crystal clear and we had a brief park ranger-led tour in the inside of the lighthouse.  The trek up the stairs was slightly intense but doable.

Father and Son
After the lighthouse, we headed home along the 1.  We stopped at Stinson’s beach and it’s definitely a place I’d like to go to for an extended beach day.  It was a huge beach with fine, gorgeous, clean sand. There was a nice surf and although I’d need to get pretty warm to want to go in, I think it would be a great place to spend the day.
Stinson Beach

We headed back to San Francisco along windy roads that SMS had an awesome time navigating, sometimes in Sports mode.  He was having an awesome time.  We drove through the Presidio and decided to grab dinner in the city.  I found the Bella Trattoria on yelp and after a brief wait, we were seated despite it being a busy Saturday night.  The pasta dishes were amazingly fresh and really delicious.  We were really happy to have found it and it was a great meal to cap off the day.  Despite sitting in the car, we had walked quite a bit so that meant our carb-loading was necessary.  Seriously, thank goodness we found the place, otherwise we might have been in trouble!