S-Rad had 5 days off this past week/weekend and my workload was light, so we took off in the truck with Carloso for some exploring. We headed west out of Fresno towards our first night’s destination, an area known as the Wagon Caves. It’s about 3 hours from our place which includes a drive through Fort Hunter Liggett. Really neat area of the Los Padres National Forest to drive through!
We arrived to the area and hiked around to inspect the rock structures making up the Wagon Caves climbing area. It’s always so amazing to me when I first view these sorts of places to imagine how they came to be or were created. And then a feeling of gratitude for our country’s decisions to protect these areas and yet keep them mostly accessible for responsible, courteous citizens. While California is a huge, bustling place with large cities covering a good portion of land, there are a multitude of natural treasures available in nearly every region you may explore. With that in mind, Fresno really isn’t too bad of a place to be for a period of time considering the diversity of nature within reasonable distance from us here. After all, it is the very central point of the state of CA itself.
Carlos shares our love of forest service camping, particularly the freedoms that come along with it. We found a really cool, private spot within a mile of the parking area for the Wagon Caves. Given the terrain and temps in the area, we weren’t too concerned with any large animal risks that must be considered when camping in the mountains.
The next day we set out hiking around the large outcropping of sandstone formations to a spot called The Beach. I am still fending off fears and crying spells when it comes to outdoor climbing, though with each trip, my confidence is building and my fears are becoming more controllable. S-Rad successfully convinced me to rappel from the top of this formation. I’m so thankful for his patience and determination with my rock climbing journey. It is clear I have some deep-founded fears of edges and falling. Is it weird that my maiden name is Moro, as in the Moro Reflex? Am I perpetually doomed to have this fear because of this odd coincidence of a reflex (natural instinct?) and my husband’s love for climbing?
After spending the morning on the west side of the formation, we were sun-baked and ready for some grub. We hiked back to the truck, fed ourselves, cleaned up, watered the dog and got back on the road. We were now headed towards Pacific Coast highway and up to the Big Sur area. Back through Hunter Liggett and over 25 miles of winding, one-lane mountainside roads we emerged at the coast. What a stunning view! And the coast highway has been repaired from the 2017/2018 mudslides, with a recent full reopening so we had the green light north.
We ended up in Carmel by the Sea and explored a bit of the windy, quaint residential areas before deciding to head out to Laguna Seca Recreation Area. There was limited camping available anywhere in Carmel/Monterey area (according to iOverlander and google), so we decided to give this place a try despite it’s proximity to civilization.
We were very pleasantly surprised! It’s a large campground with RV, tent and group sites sitting atop sprawling, rolling hills in the Monterey/Salinas valley area. Part of campground contains the Fort Ord National Monument with trail access to BLM open space and biking trails. Aside from the hot showers, the star feature here is the proximity to the raceway. My love for fast cars and racing was fed, and I also captured some great footage for my nephew, SiMo.
Our next destination was brunch in Monterey, somewhere with a dog-friendly patio. We ended up as this lovely little cafe called Toasties: https://toasties-cafe-american-restaurant.business.site/
We met a very nice couple and enjoyed conversation over brunch with them. Then we got back in the truck and over to a friend’s place in the Marina area. We arrived early afternoon and took the four-leggers for a long beach walk. It was a spectacular day in Monterey Bay, and we enjoyed a lovely evening with our friends to top off the weekend.
Monday morning we hit the road to Santa Cruz, since we were so close and S-Rad had never been. We cruised Cliff Dr. and then grabbed brunch from a yummy cafe called Cafe Brasil: http://cafebrasil.us/
S-Rad then suggested we head back to the coastline to eat with a view. He nailed it on that one! We had no problem finding parking, and were able to easily access a private cliff ledge just above the wave break on the tidepools. The pacific ocean never ceases to amaze me with it’s beauty and vastness.
Back into the truck and onto the road heading home. We arrived home about 3 hours later, so again, this Fresno central location really is growing up on me!!