1/2018: SLC, Coastal California


Worked most of the day, some jogging. Lisa got back in the evening from freeze fest.

1/2 – 1/5

Worked and did house projects all day.


Worked and tidied up the house to get ready to leave.


Left Salt Lake in the morning and drove through Nevada, over Donner Pass, and camped on forest land a little bit west of the pass. Good weather for driving, other than some thick fog in the morning.


Drove to Santa Cruz through constant, sometimes heavy rain. We arrived in the early afternoon, bought some surfing gear, then drove up the coast to the campground at Half Moon Bay.


Fun day on the coast. We drove down to Pigeon Point, did some walking around, then I tried surfing in the lee of the point. The spot I picked was too protected and waves too intermittent and I did not get any rides, but it was fun to be out on the water again. Several birds of prey around, and once I spotted an oystercatcher. Afterwards we drove to Ano Nuevo and did the guided walk with the elephant seals. Owing to snarly weather it was just the two of us plus the guide, and the elephant seals were pretty active since they weren’t overheating. Lots of sparring between younger males, pups nursing, seals sliding around on the sand, just a generally busy scene. Several bulls were near the trail and it was cool to see them up close. Back to Half Moon Bay to camp.


Stressful day in the city. We had an appointment at the French Consulate in San Francisco in the morning (the main motivation for this trip) but I misremembered the appointment time and by the time Lisa realized when the real time was we needed to scramble to get up to the city, driving through rush hour traffic, getting diesel in the city, finding parking near the consulate. We ended up 15 minutes late for our appointment but they were very nice and still admitted us. Got that sorted out, and back to the van to find that the cable securing our bikes had been cut and Lisa’s bike had been stolen. All on a busy street in downtown SF in broad daylight, good grief. We spent the rest of the day at Sean and Maya’s place, hanging out with Maya in the afternoon and then Sean when he got home from work, a nice way to decompress before driving back to Half Moon Bay in the evening.


I tried surfing in the morning at the campground but with the steep beach and large and sloppy waves conditions were too difficult and I gave up quickly. We left in mid morning to do some errands in the city, picked Maya up and headed down to Stanford to have a very nice lunch near campus and then walk around campus and meet with Alex. Heavy traffic afterwards as we drove to Brisbane and Pacifica before returning to Half Moon Bay.


Great day on the coast. After working a few hours we drove south, enjoying the sun and great views, to Gazos Creek where I surfed for a little while. Conditions were good and despite being pretty weak physically and unable to surf anything except the whitewater I was still able to get a fair number of rides, which should hopefully help me get back into shape for surfing real waves. Afterwards we walked south along the beach a ways, passing a headland and then walking past an elephant seal sleeping on the beach. Lots of plovers and gulls around, a very nice scene. In mid afternoon we drove to Waddell Creek and Lisa tried my bike out on a dirt road there while I jogged along, which went pretty well. Finally, we found a great camp among the redwoods on a quiet back road.


After a relaxing morning, drove up to meet with Sean and Maya at their apartment. We all drove up to Marin county, stopping at Muir Beach, the east peak of Mt Tamalpais, and Muir woods, and doing short hikes at each location. Had a nice dinner afterwards at San Francisco’s Chinatown, then to a hotel in Brisbane.


Met up with Sean and Maya in the morning and we drove up to Napa. We stopped at a couple wineries — Artesa, Mondavi — and a tasting room in town before getting an early dinner. Very enjoyable time. Back to the hotel in Brisbane afterwards.


In the late morning we left the hotel and went out to Pacifica to do a little shopping. There was a large swell in the forecast and I was curious so walked to the nearby pier. Giant waves were rolling under the pier, some of them coming up to the base of the walkway above before breaking. I found Lisa and we checked it out together, going out onto the pier and feeling the slight shuddering as they hit. Very cool. We then drove to Pillar Point to check out the Mavericks surf break. From shore you can’t get very close due to a military installation or something on the cliffs above the break, so we watched from some other cliffs a good distance away. We could see OK, it was hazy and there was a large group of little surfer dots, some larger jet ski dots, and several boats hanging around as well. We watched for a little while, seeing several surfers getting rides on huge waves breaking in a relatively small area. Rather underwhelming from this distance. We continued down the coast, seeing more huge surf at certain spots, then had a nice lunch on the pier in Santa Cruz and met up with Paul to go hiking at the Henry Cowell park. The campground at the park was closed for the season (ridiculous) so we drove up the coast to the backwoods spot we found a few days earlier.


In the morning I tried surfing at Scott Creek. Waves were pretty huge and pushy and I tried to surf things further in but the side rip kept pushing me towards a beach break further down the beach (where I definitely did not want to be). Eventually I tried to catch a wave without luck, then rode the whitewater into the beach without much trouble. We drove into Santa Cruz, watched the surfers near the lighthouse, and after a little while I tried surfing again in the area inside Steamer Lane. Again I kept getting pushed around by the water and was too weak to effectively paddle against it. I paddled further in to the Cowell’s area and got several really good rides before tiring and returning to the van. We tried to find a campground in town and in Felton but there seemed to be no state campgrounds around and the private campgrounds were all terrible. Eventually we found a decent spot to boondock not too far from town.


We went to the parking at four mile beach in the morning to work for a while. In the late morning I went surfing at the beach. At first I was trying to stay near the pocket but kept getting pushed out by the side rip and was struggling. I made it into the beach, then went further inside and got a lot of nice little rides in the whitewater, nothing spectacular but more good practice and work building fitness. Lisa and I walked around on the road/trails on the nearby cliffs in the afternoon to see the area, then went back to the boondock spot to camp.


We went back to four mile beach in the morning. I was hoping to do some surfing before a giant swell was forecast to come in, but it came in earlier than expected and when I checked out the beach huge waves were breaking, dwarfing the 2x-3x overhead waves that were coming in yesterday. I checked this out for a bit, then we drove up the coast and watched the waves at various spots. More terrifying surf, especially near Pigeon Point, and a cove near Bean Hollow beach that had filled up with foam yet still had waves pushing through under it, some of them almost catching me when I got a little too brave. It started raining and we returned to Santa Cruz, having a nice lunch on the pier and watching some surfers at Steamer Lane before heading back to camp.


After a nice time driving around the coast a bit in the morning, we parked near Cowell’s and I went surfing. After some false starts (high tide limits options a lot) I found a decent place to surf near the beach, getting some rides but tired out by the high surf. After a couple hours I went back to the van, then we got a boogie board for Lisa and went back to the same place. The tide was lower now and the surfing was better. Lisa used the boogie board and had a lot of fun in the surf, while I tried out a new shortboard (the first shortboard I’ve ever really been able to ride) and got some good rides too. The shortboard felt pretty different and nice, especially the ease when pushing through the surf.


In late morning we did an eight mile loop hike up Fall Creek near Felton and then back via a trail closer to the ridgeline to the south. Pretty creek, huge redwoods and madrones, a nice time out. In the afternoon we spent a little time at the Natural Bridges park, very pretty but busy.


We left Santa Cruz and drove to Moss Landing, parking at the harbor and going paddling up into Elkhorn Slough on the inflatable kayak we brought in the van. Lots of otters and harbor seals swimming about, and lots of bird life: cormorants, pelicans, sandpipers, gulls, loons, grebes, and on and on. We continued on to Monterey afterwards and camped at the Veterans park.


Spent most of the day at the monterey bay aquarium, nice to be back after so long and see all the creatures with Lisa. Flamboyant cuttlefish!


Went surfing for a little while at Asilomar beach in Pacific Grove. Beautiful sunny day and a really nice beach and coastal area. Waves outside were still too large for me so I played around close to shore. While surfing I had a realization that I need to learn how to do a proper popup before I can progress much more in this sport, so I stopped and did some research on how to move past my lousy one-foot-at-a-time technique. In the afternoon I hung around and worked in the van while Lisa did some shopping in town.


In the morning we bought some snorkeling gear and went out at South Monastery after seeing how nice and relatively calm the water there looked. We got in pretty easily but the water was extremely cold. We saw a lot of small lemon peel nudibranchs, some fish — senoritas, a kelp greenling — and some other invertebrate life. Didn’t stay in long, but had a fun time. Afterwards we spent some time at Point Lobos, pretty views and a fair amount of marine life but the park is incredibly controlling and I was glad to leave. We drove south to the town of Big Sur and along the way despite the beauty I was upset that the good trails I’d remembered were closed for no apparent reason, no overnight parking and private property signs everywhere. Maybe this will change in the coming days but I feel like I’ve moved on from Monterey and have mixed feelings about being back. Camped at the pfeiffer big sur campground, quiet and a nice spot in the redwoods.


After working in the morning we went to Andrew Molera SP, walking a mile to the beach together. I went surfing while Lisa enjoyed the beach and relaxed. I focused on my popup technique with a little success, and had a lot of fun in the smaller waves than we’ve been having lately. Nice walk on the beach afterwards.


Went to Pfeiffer beach in the morning for a beautiful walk, this is a great beach with colorful red sand deposits, sea caves, oystercatchers, and so forth. In the afternoon we drove back to Santa Cruz and looked for a new bike for Lisa.


In the morning we went biking at Wilder Ranch, doing the eucalyptus loop and a mix of doubletrack and some great singletrack in open and treed areas. Great to be back on the bike and riding with Lisa after a long break. Drove to Gazos creek to camp in the evening.


Surfed at Gazos creek in the morning, practicing popups in the whitewater. Made improvements from the last time surfing a few days ago, and was able to somewhat consistently get up in one motion if I focused. Afterwards we went into town for ice cream, then we both went out at Cowell’s. Surf was in the knee-waist high range and we stayed near shore, Lisa using a long foamie and having fun catching waves and riding in the rest of the way. I practiced my popup more and found things to be a good deal easier when catching waves that haven’t broken yet.


Surfed at Scott Creek in the morning. There was a nice little peak inside of the main point which I got several great rides on, waist high surf and the best surfing I’ve done since coming to the area a few weeks ago. Unfortunately the tide or swell or something shifted after that, and the rideable waves stopped coming; I stayed out a while hoping for more but kept getting skunked. Oh well.


Surfed at Gazos Creek in the morning. Despite the low swell there were still pretty good sized, messy waves coming into the beach, and it was high tide, which changed the character to be more of a beach break. I was having difficulty getting good rides and didn’t stay out long. I realized that I need to focus more on surfing waves that are, well, fun and appropriate, which will be a better way to improve my skills anyways. In the afternoon we picked up Lisa’s new bike and then biked the shoreline bluff trail at Wilder Ranch, out and back from four mile beach. Had a very hedonistic time, with beautiful scenery, fun and easy riding, and lots of animals — bunnies, hawks, sea birds, a good sized seal colony.


Left camp a little after five in the morning to head to the coast and see the lunar eclipse. Saw the blood moon first and then the lit up moon slowly coming back into view as the sun rose. Worked a while and did errands, then in the afternoon went to Cowell’s to surf. At first I went out by myself, no one else at all on the break and not many waves. As the tide dropped the riding got better and better, with more people steadily joining in (probably a hundred people by 5pm). I got several great rides, with one especially good one taking me all the way in to the beach from the outer part of the lineup. While this was going on Lisa rented a board and met me at the beach. We stayed there for a couple hours, with Lisa riding in flat on the board and me practicing popups in the waist high surf. We both had a lot of fun; Lisa figured out how to consistently get rides, and I was really happy with my popups — I was trying a variation on the technique where I swung my legs down as I pushed up with my arms, making the motion feel a lot easier and smoother than it has in the past. We wrapped up the day by parking on west cliff drive and watching the sunset and moonrise.

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