The coast at Malibu

We refer to this trip as the beach hopping trip from Malibu, California to Brookings, Oregon. We are traveling light with just the truck and camper for this adventure since we will be sticking to the winding coast highway. We set off on September 10, 2007, first stop is Leo Carrillo State Park in Malibu, California. This is a bit of nostalgia , since we stayed here when we bought this camper seven years ago. It is a nice place with big trees and a walkway to the beach under the Coast Highway. We have Mattie with us, no dogs allowed on the beach, but we walked on the bluff over looking the beach and enjoyed watching the wind surfers and the small boards with sails. Don’t know what this sport is called but looks like fun, they seem to get more rides than the usual surfer.

The next day we headed up to Santa Barbara to see the mission. This mission, opened in 1820, and is considered the Queen of the mission group in California. There are missions located every 30 miles up the coast, affording travelers of the day a degree of safety while they moved through the area. The mission was very nice and the weather was cool so we could leave Mattie in the camper while we walked the grounds and enjoyed the mission. Santa Barbara is a lovely old town with narrow streets, really a charming community. A dually truck with camper isn’t the best vehicle to maneuver around the streets but at least we didn’t have a tow vehicle to manage.

Santa Barbara Mission

We stayed away from the main highway and headed toward the smaller line on the map thru the back country of Santa Barbara County. While traveling thru swaying grass land sprinkled with oak trees, we spotted a sign for County Beach Park 14 miles toward the shore line. We decided it might be worth a look see in the hopes it wouldn’t be very crowded and we could take Mattie to the beach. Much to our surprise the campground was crowded with trailers, 5th wheels and tents. Many of the rigs look like they are parked for the season. We were able to squeeze into a spot on the sand and we were good. Dogs were welcome on the beach and that is all we asked. Again the weather was beautiful and the beach was a long stretch of unblemished coastline, it was a real treat. Mattie met two golden retrievers she liked.

We left in the morning and headed for San Simeon to see Hearst Castle. We loved traveling thru this area of California and found a campsite in the San Simeon State Park. It was just a short walk to the beach and dogs were welcome. Not a big expanse of beach but it was nice anyway and Mattie had a good time.

We went into the little town of Caberia and enjoyed lunch on an outdoor patio.We took a walk and looked in the shops along the way. In one of the shops a photographer had a display of photos taken in National Parks. We have been to many of the same spots on our trips, of course our photos don’t look quite like his, but it was fun to see how many of the Parks we have enjoyed.

Santa Barbara County Beach

The trip to Hearst Castle was a bit of nostalgia, again. Both Monty and I had been there previously, but it was back in the 1960’s We opted to repeat the ‘first timer tour’ and it was everything we remembered and more. We had an entertaining guide that made the tour fun as well as informative. What a marvelous place, opened in 1919, with one hundred and twenty-seven rooms on forty-five acres. It’s easy to picture the people taking a dip in the pool and you can almost hear the music from the 1920’s and see the fancy cars in the driveway.

Just up the highway was the local seal lion hang out. We stopped for the inevitable Kodak moment and weren’t disappointed. There must have been about fifty of the big guys sun bathing on the beach and rocks. I’m not sure, but I don’t think the memo on portion control has made it to the sea lions. Goodness they look well fed.

Next stop on the tour, Big Sur. There is just no coastline like Northern California, the rugged cliffs, and rocky beaches are spectacular. We found a great state park right off Highway 101, with beautiful green grass, huge trees and across the highway was the ocean. We’ve never found a more stunning setting.

From here we are headed up toward the Monterey Peninsula. This is a bit of nostalgia for me since Bob and I spent about two years in this area. Bob and I married in December of 1960 and he was drafted into the Army in November 1961. He was sent to Ft. Ord, California for training and was ultimately stationed, as a cook, a few miles to the South at the Presidio of Monterey, Language School. It was a pretty sweet assignment but since we were homesick kids it was hard to appreciate it at the time . Our son, Greg, was born at Fort Ord in the summer of 1963. Tricia was born in Tucson in the summer of 1965.

Indoor Pool at Hearst Castle


Outdoor Pool at Hearst Castle

Can you say Jenny Craig?

This Monterey visit is to see cannery row and the Monterey aquarium This aquarium is nothing like Sea World with animals shows, fish feeding, or jumping whales, but more of an educational/research facility. The most memorable part of this aquarium is the beautiful jelly fish. We could have watched them for hours. Huge tanks of jelly fish all different sizes and colors, they were spectacular. We also loved the otters from around the world. We enjoyed lunch at an outdoor restaurant on cannery row, we had both been to cannery row in the 60’s and it has changed a bit. Up scale shops and restaurants now, give a place fifty years or so and all types of buildings spring up! The big deal in the 60’s was a warehouse, set up like a speakeasy, with the entry in a phone booth, you had to step into the booth and dial the phone to get entrance into the bar. REALLY a dial phone !!!! But you expected Al Capone to show up anytime. It was pretty cool.

That night we hoped to stay in a nearby state park but it was full, we were concerned that we wouldn’t find any vacancy in a state park so opted for an RV park. That is always our last choice but sometimes you just have to cowboy up and do it. The place was interesting, lots of really huge trees, located in Felton, CA. As with many of the RV parks they are geared to the local, permanent residents but carve out a few spots for the travelers. The local fella next door had three huge mastiffs, we were afraid they’d get loose and we’d be lunch!

We arrived in San Francisco, and drove thru Monty’s old stomping ground where he hung out when he went to dental school at the University of California. Luckily it was a Saturday so the traffic wasn’t too bad, it was crowded on the Golden Gate Bridge naturally, with lots of tourists stopping on both sides of the bridge. The fog rolled in just in time to get some good pictures, otherwise it was another sunny beautiful day.

Coastline at Big Sur

The coast highway north of the city is very narrow and twisting. On Saturday we had to share the road with all the bicycle riders out for the weekend, so it made for some close driving. Monty did a great job and we enjoyed the trip. He’d tell you there wasn’t five inches of room between the white line on the left and the shoulder on the right. So trying to avoid the bicycles also made it a real challenge. We actually brushed the bushes on the right side several times.

Since we managed to hit this area on a weekend we found the campgrounds were pretty full. At one campground we stopped and the ranger offered a suggestion to try Salt Point, up the road a bit, and ask for the Gletzer overflow area. Turned out to be some of the best advice we ever got, it was perfect, not very crowded and the overflow sits right on a large flat spot and looks right out on the ocean. The actual campground was back in the trees so this beach camp was perfect. One of the campers said they stay there all the time, since the view is better than the actual state park. We walked down to the tide pools and even saw some large star fish in the pools.We loved watching the seals nearby. Part of the area is considered protected and there were several divers outside the area picking up abalone and some strange looking fish. There were walks all around the bluff and sandstone rocks down to the water. We are used to seeing sandstone in the canyon country in Utah but not at the beach. So this was different, we really enjoyed it there.

We moved up the highway and stopped at MacKerricher State Park. It was very nice, in that, our campsite was just a block walk to the ocean. There is a long ‘frontage road’ to use and if you walk down far enough to get off the park property you can turn the dog loose on the beach. That Mattie girl, she just loved the beach, almost as much as snow! She just ran and let the water chase her up on the beach and she spun around doing 360’s just happy as could be. This was another nice park.

The next park was really large, Patrick’s State Park but the beach was down stairs and then a zig zag path with a sign that said no dogs, so that was a bummer. We walked in the park and there were trails in the woods and also an old Indian village. We met a strange lady from Alaska who appeared to be regular fixture in the park. She told us how poodles were used to run in the Iditarod years ago. They performed great. But the people with actual ‘sled dogs’ weren’t happy about the interlopers.

Love these Jellyfish


Monterey Aquarium

The little towns we are passing through on this trip are lovely. Many of them have moved upscale with bed and breakfasts and fancy shops, but some are just old fishing towns, a nice variety and certainly makes the trip interesting.

Golden Gate Bridge in Fog

We stopped in Eureka to look over the town and discovered a downtown area that is really being spruced up. The buildings are all painted bright colors and look so fresh and clean. The first time we came thru here the little restaurant we saw was closed but we came back through on our way inland and had our fish and chips. They had good food and we enjoyed the lunch.

We continued up the coast highway past the town of Brookings and stopped at Harris Beach State Park. It is a lovely park with lots of sites, some small for older style camping and a few large ones for the big rigs. We picked a site next to the trail that led right out our camp site and down a long a winding path through the woods to the beach. The beach here is beautiful, some large rocks that add interest and the opportunity to climb around and also enjoy the sand and surf. Mattie loved the beaches, she ran at the edge of the water and burned 360’s in the sand. We spent a lot of time just sitting on the drift wood and enjoying the view.

Reluctantly we left the coast and started inland over the mountains heading south. We don’t remember how we selected the mountain road but it turned out to be more winding and twisty than the coastline. What we thought would take a few hours ended up taking all day, in fact we finally just stopped and spent the night in a small campground.

We were looking forward to seeing Yosemite National Park, we entered the park from the west and it was a surprisingly long drive thru farm and grassland to the park entrance. I don’t know what I expected from this park but it wasn’t anything like what I anticipated. It seemed much smaller and closed in, but I think it is mainly a hiking destination. Traffic was a real problem, we finally found a place to park and walked around, the visitor center was small but nice. Luckily, everything was close so walking wasn’t a problem. The tent camping area was a sea of colorful domes. It looked like a beach with hundreds of beach umbrellas. Most National parks don’t allow dogs on the trails so it curtails the hiking experience. Traveling with a dog is wonderful for meeting people and enjoying the journey but it does have a few drawbacks.

Next we headed east out of the park and actually got into some snow. We were looking forward to seeing the ghost town of Bodie. Bodie is interesting because it is a mostly intact old mining town with about sixty buildings. The buildings are laid out in town fashion and many of them have the original interiors in tact. We enjoyed peeking in the windows to see the pool table in the saloon, dry goods in bins in the General Store, and the old organ in the church. Caretakers live here year round to help protect the town and watch over things. It might be pleasant in the summer but winters can get down to 20 below zero. The day we were there in the fall it was really cold and windy.

We remember this trip as one of our favorites, what’s not to like about beach hopping. We’ve never met a beach we didn’t like.

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