Friday, December 16, 2011

Last Stop: The Bay Area

Though I've visited my last national park, my travels aren't quite over. I've spent the week alternately camping, couch-surfing, hotel-ing, and hanging out in the greater Bay Area, and it's been a great time. First, I spent a weekend in Tahoe with my friends Kim and Steve, who I met in the Grand Canyon. Though there wasn't snow for skiing/boarding, I still saw the amazing scenery of Lake Tahoe and hung out in their beautiful house with their awesome dog, Charlie. (He's a St. Bernard. He likes to do the lean-on-you-when-you-pet-him thing. Which means it's like having an large man lean on you.)

In SF, I landed in the Marin Headlands, just across the Golden Gate Bridge, where there was a lovely camping spot about a 30 minute drive from the middle of the city. Plus, this was my view:

Toldja I'd find my camera charger.
The first night I was there, most of my Bay Area friends had plans, so I had a nice dinner on the hilltop overlooking the bridge and the city. When I got back to my campsite, a raccoon had torn a hole in the door of my tent. He was trundling away, having rifled through my day pack (which apparently still smelled like food I spilled in there like two weeks ago.)

You guys, raccoons are assholes.

I suppose it isn't that big a deal--these are my last few days camping, and California is mosquito-free this time of year. Luckily, the rain fly was untouched. I'll just have to get the door repaired when I'm home.

I spent that weekend in and around the city, meeting up with my friends Andrew and Cara; Megan Dean, a friend of ours from high school who we hadn't seen in years; and some college friends. I ate a lot of pastry. I drank microbrews. I got a little bit of culture shock, having not been in a crowded room in about six months.

Then, I spent a day hanging out in Berkeley with my awesome friend Liz and her fiancee, Alexis. It was a warm and refreshing bit of domesticity; they generously let me stay at their apartment, where we Skyped with various babies, wrapped Christmas presents, ate dinner in front of their enormous and beautiful tree, and watched a fluffy romantic comedy. The next night was also a little slice of home when Megan generously let me crash on her futon. I met her fiancee Rashid and his very entertaining children, Adan and Yasmine, and we ate warm and spicy soup and creme brulee cheesecake. Now that I know there is such a thing as creme brulee cheesecake, I can never un-know it.

For the past two days, I took one last swing away from city life. I drove north along Highway 1, finding a campground directly on the beach in Sonoma County. The first day, I just bummed around the shore. The second, I went on a little mini-tour of Sonoma County wine country. While I generally find California overdeveloped and hard to stomach, I have a feeling these beach pictures will make future-me (and maybe present-you) very jealous. Just try to remember that it was chilly and damp.

I don't know what the trees were, but they had tiny white flowers and purple berries.

I spent about half an hour and 60 shots trying to capture the clear green of the water.
One of these birds is actually the moon.

Tiny pebbles, or huge sand?
Wild aloe growing on the cliff trail

Right now I'm at a seaside hotel in Santa Cruz, updating to the very appropriate sounds of the surf coming into the bay. Tomorrow I'll visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium before heading back into the city for one last meetup with friends. Then, it is a very long drive home.

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