Sunday, December 13, 2015

A Nor-Cal weekend Part 2 : Pinnacles National Park + Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Sitting on one of the sandstone formations in Point Lobos!
            When it comes to vacation, Mr. Lovey and I are park people. I imagine it's because we've had our share of city living. Between the two of us, NYC, Chicago, Boston, and SF have been home at some point! Lucky for us, California has an amazing selection of National Parks, and natural wonders. Hence for part 2 of my NorCal weekend (you can read part 1 here), I have a few park pictures to share with you today!

            With a weekend trip, time is of the essence. Initially, I had hoped to re-visit Yosemite, as it's a quintessential National Park, however at this time of year, it's largely closed. Instead, Mr. Lovey and I decided to focus in on Pinnacles National Park (the newest NP!), as well as make a quick morning stop and Point Lobos State Park in Monterey.

The coastline here was absolutely gorgeous! That and you'll get to spot the occasional sea lion or sea otter.
1. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve - is a beautiful park within Monterey county. (You've probably heard of Monterey Bay as being one of the most beautiful pieces of California shoreline. The park has a gorgeous shoreline trail that makes for a nice morning stroll (or run), as well as a cover for scuba divers.

         Along the shoreline, you can soak in all the breathtaking hues of marine blue. It's a great spot for wildlife as well. At the little cove above, we heard the barks of sea lions, and even a couple basking in the sun and swimming in the surf. The park is said to have sea otters as well (sea otters are the cutest!), though I didn't personally see any that day. I'd recommend bringing binoculars, if you have a pair. We didn't think to bring them, but we noticed a number of people who'd brought them for a better view of the wildlife.

The shores are lined with pretty, variegated sandstone formations!
          As a side note, I actually hadn't planned on a hike, so I ended up walking the trail in my suede J.Crew flats. It probably wasn't the best choice of footwear, but other than collecting some dust and pebbles, they worked out reasonably well!

2. Pinnacles National Park - is the newest national park in the U.S.. Previously it had been a National Monument, but was upgraded in 2013! The park's variegated terrain formed as a result of multiple volcanic eruptions that occurred some 23 million years ago.

        The park itself has convenient proximity to the more urban San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. Interestingly, unlike most other National Parks, it's most popular in the cooler months (as summer temperatures can be extreme), making it perfect for my December trip!

It's a good idea to wear a helmet, in case rocks rain down from above! (Incidentally, they don't protect your face, as I found out the hard way...)
          As Pinnacles National Park (given its name) is a great climbing destination, we decided to enlist the help of a guide through Outdoor Adventure Club! We ended up having a fantastic time; our guide Eric set up a number of top-roped routes for us to try, in addition to a 100 ft (or so) rappel down a cliff. From a climbing perspective, the conglomerate rock can be a bit hard on the hands, but it makes for some pretty fun features.

        I'd definitely recommend a climb here if you have time. A lot of local climbers enjoy the spot in winter, as other popular destination like Yosemite are less available. With a guide, it's accessible to outdoor  beginners as well. For non-climbers, there are a lot of hiking trails throughout the park, including a couple cave routes!

As you can see, a lot of great potential climbs in Bear Gulch! 
         Both Pinnacles National Park and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve were unexpectedly gorgeous stops on my weekend trip to NorCal (see part 1 in San Francisco here). Both are beautiful stops for a winter weekend trip! There's so much to do in the region, I'd love to visit again. I'd definitely love to trek up Half Dome in Yosemite, as well as visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, amongst other things!

        Thanks for reading! What parks have you visited recently? Which would you recommend?

Love, Dovey.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Nor-Cal weekend Part 1 : San Francisco

Roaming the halls of the Legion of Honor
        Happy Friday! Today I'm excited to share snaps from my recent weekend trip to Nor-Cal! Mr. Lovey's been living in San Francisco for the past several months, finishing up a fellowship. With my current job, vacations and full weekends are few and far between --- last weekend, I finally had a chance to head out west! We spent some time touring the region, enjoying some of the usual and more unusual sites. I thought it would be fun to share my experiences with you on Cute and Mundane today!

        By the way, California weather always throws me off with its lack of seasonality! (I think I was the only person on the plane to Cali wearing a down parka and Uggs). I found that a combination of my favorite J.Crew cashmere boyfriend sweater and Lululemon Jet Crop Slims made for a Cali-friendly combination. I had also indulged in a Patagonia Better Sweater in Birch White, which was a great weight for San Fran weather. (As an East Coaster originally, I'm more North Face, but seems like Patagonia's the way to blend in out west...). But anyway, on to my travels...

The breathtaking view from Twin Peaks
1. Twin Peaks - What better way to start the day than with coffee and a view? Mr. Lovey lives up in the hills, so we started the day off with a bird's eye view of sky, water, and city. The view above is more residential, if you turned leftward, you'd see more of the San Francisco skyline.

(Side note: it was quite nice to enjoy an iced coffee in the middle of December...)

The Monet's at Legion of Honor have a wonderful pastel, ethereal feel.
2. Legion of Honor - I had hoped to explore a little bit of San Francisco's fine arts scene, so we decided to head to the Legion of Honor Museum. It's a smaller museum, located in the more elevated NW region of SF. (The nearby views of the Golden Gate bridge are pretty fantastic as well).

A closeup of Monet's Water Lilies 1914-1917.
       My favorite Gallery featured a few very pretty Monets (yes, even for Monets!) I especially loved the Water Lilies at Legion of Honor. I've seen a number of versions of Monet's water lilies hung elsewhere (in fact, Chicago's Art Institute has an impressive collection of Monet works), however I loved how this particular one had such an ethereal, optimistic feel.

A closeup of Monet's Waves Breaking 1881.
        I was also struck by Monet's Waves Breaking (of which you can see a partial closeup of above). I don't think I've come across a Monet like this previously. I'm intrigued by how much motion is in frame. It's so pretty, yet so different from his other watery still lifes!

It's an upward hike to Cliff House (from the beach, at least)
3. Lunch at Cliff House -  For lunch, Mr. Lovey took me to Cliff House, on Ocean Beach. (It's a fitting name, as you can probably appreciate from above!) As a Marylander at heart, I'm a blue crab proponent, however I thought I'd give Dungeness crab a try. We had Dungeness Crab crab cakes, as well as in the Cioppino below. (I'm feeling a little hungry now, reliving the photo...)

         Incidentally, I learned that Cioppino originated from San Francisco! I love Cioppino and have enjoyed it on previous occasions but had assumed it was a typical Italian dish. Regardless, it was a delicious meal, enjoyed with the accompanying wave-side views.

A closeup of our Dungeness Crab Cioppino.
           Here's a look at Ocean Beach, while headed back down the hill! To me it looks like a typical picture of white surf near the shore, until you realize the scale! The waves pound the shore with such force that all the sheets of surf appear white with froth.

Looking down on Ocean beach. To give you an idea of the wave scale, you can see all the little footprint indents to the left!
4. Dinner at the Plant Cafe - The last time I visited San Francisco, I remember stopping at the Plant Cafe. The idea of organic eats tickles the Whole Foods junkie in me. Inadvertently we ended up stopping at the exact same Plant Cafe in the Marina district. I'm kind of obsessed with their Plant Burger; it's soft and fresh, unlike your typical frozen veggie burger. I like to get the Wasabi version, which comes with sauerkraut and wasabi, and a raspberry vinaigrette side salad.

Fish tacos and a 'Plant Burger' at the Plant Cafe.
5. The Golden Gate Bridge (near Planite Granite) - The two of us love climbing, so we stopped at the San Francisco branch of Planite Granite, which is Mr. Lovey's usual. Luckily, Planite Granite is just a short walk away from a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate Bridge! It was really nice to enjoy this SF mainstay from the docks.

A near-sunset view from the docks. (On the other side, you could see Alcatraz).
         Well, that wraps up Day 1! To summarize, I'd say that Starbucks, Water Lilies, ocean surf, cioppino, and plant burgers make for a good day, any day. I'll have a few more photos from my NorCal travels to share, so look for those soon!

          Thanks for reading! What are some of your favorite things to do in SF? I'd love to hear so I can plan for the next chance I have to go back!

Love, Dovey.