12/2019: Coastal California, Arizona


In the morning we drove south to Berkeley to see Guy and Melissa, cruising friends from French Polynesia. After a few hours with them we went to see my brother Sean and his wife Maya, having a nice dinner Maya prepared and hanging out a few hours. Stayed at a hotel near coyote point.


I went in to the Mountain View office for the first time in a long long time to see some coworkers and attend a few meetings.


We drove down to Santa Cruz in the morning and went biking at Wilder Ranch. It wasn’t raining but with all the rain lately the ground was very wet. The trail along the top of the coastal bluffs here seemed a good option because the ground is very sandy and shouldn’t get muddy. This worked out pretty well, we encountered several other bikers and lots of wildlife on the quiet trail — several large egrets close to the trail (one eating worms from the standing water in a field), hundreds of crows, a small snail crossing the trail very slowly, lots of harbor seals on one beach and the rocks nearby. The trail was in good shape for a while, but eventually we hit some muddy sections (the biggest one due to a tractor that had chewed up the trail) and turned around. Afterwards we drove to Scott creek and I went surfing. I spent some time at first trying to get onto a crest breaking off the beach, but didn’t have any luck and moved over to the reef on the west side of the beach. Surfing here was a ton of fun, the best surfing I’ve ever done in california. The wave was breaking consistently and the point-like nature of the break made it easy to get great rides along the peeling wave, the surf around head high. After finishing the ride I could paddle out a bit to get out of the range of the next waves, just a very fun and civilized experience all around without having to get past waves repeatedly crashing over me. There were some bull kelp stands nearby and I would regularly see cormorants or grebes nearby, hunting. I was out an hour and a half and got 10 rides, all in the last hour. Camped at Half Moon Bay afterwards.


In the morning we went to Waddell Creek to do some biking along the road/trail going back towards Berry Creek falls. We went about halfway along the trail, seeing 10 or so newts (very cute) and plenty of banana slugs. Afterwards I went surfing again at Scott creek. The wave was smaller than yesterday and I had to make some adjustments, but still ended up getting 8 rides in an hour and a half. I wasn’t surfing anywhere near as well as yesterday, my arms had not recovered and my popup was not working as consistently as it normally does. Oh well, still fun. We went into Santa Cruz to get online and were hoping to find a campground but the main one was 30+ minutes away due to the rush hour traffic. Camping options around Santa Cruz are pretty crappy, with such bad locations for campgrounds and no real options for boondocking. We ended up driving up to Gazos Creek road and camping at a pullout there, though camping is no longer allowed at the nice spots further up the road. Good grief.


Early in the morning we went up to one of the nice spots along the road to hang out a few hours. Afterwards we drove back to Waddell Creek and did the bike ride again, this time going all the way to the end of the bikable section, shortly before Berry Creek falls. We weren’t very interested in the falls but wanted to see more newts. Their density increased the further up the trail we went, and by the time we turned around we counted 225 of them! They are lots of fun to watch waddling around on the ground, picking some of them up to look at more closely. We had to bike slowly much of the time to avoid running them over, they blend in very well and often don’t move when approached. I did squash one on the way back, unfortunately, but there were a lot of other close calls and I’m glad we were paying such close attention to them. Really cool and memorable ride, drove north to camp at Half Moon Bay afterwards.


It was nice in the morning we went for a hike along the beach and a flat trail / bike path above the bluffs. Later on it got pretty gross and we stayed in the van the rest of the day.


It was gross all day and we stayed in the van, except for some errands.


It was sunny in the morning and we went for a bike ride along the path leading up to the jetty protecting pillar point harbor. Things looked pretty nice up there and afterwards we drove up. I went surfing while Lisa walked around and got some lunch. While the sun was nice the break was not too friendly, with a powerful swell (6-8′) frequently breaking with a lot of power in pretty shallow water. I ended up with 18 rides in 1:15 but had to work had for them, getting tossed around by the powerful surf and having it frequently grab my board and try to rip it away. I was using my not very mini mini-mal, and should have used a shortboard instead. Oh well, still fun. Afterwards we drove up to Brisbane and met up with Sean and Maya to spend some time in downtown Burlingame, before heading back to Half Moon Bay as it got dark.


We went biking in the other direction from the campground, seeing a pretty nice wild section of coast and then passing through a pretty posh golf course, also nice but very different. In the afternoon we drove to the Stanford campus to see my former adviser, Alex.


We drove down to Waddell Beach in the morning and went surfing. I went out at first but went and got Lisa after a bit as conditions were nice and we spent a while in the water together afterwards. Conditions were pretty nice at first with a lot of waist high waves I could catch and ride some small peeling sections. As the tide went out these mostly stopped and there were larger waves breaking suddenly on a waist deep shelf, but we continued to have fun. I got a total of 30 ridess. We spent a couple hours hanging out in the van in the redwoods afterwards, then headed to Half Moon Bay to camp.


We went biking again to the jetty in the morning, and afterwards drove down to Scott Creek, where I tried surfing. Things were bigger than either of my sessions last week and looked pretty marginal from the van. I didn’t stay out long and only got a few rides, after getting pounded by some waves and swallowing some saltwater, I wasn’t overwhelmed but didn’t feel that I was strong enough to surf well in the conditions. Since we won’t be surfing much longer it didn’t seem worth it to continue trying without much hope of reward, so I headed in. We went in to Santa Cruz to get a new wetsuit for Lisa, then camped at New Brighton state beach.


Around midday we went in to Santa Cruz and got a room right behind Cowells at the Dream Inn (very nice place, I’ve stayed here before but it’s been a while). As the tide dropped in the afternoon we went out surfing together, though there were some larger waves breaking near shore and Lisa switched to a boogie board pretty quickly. We were out a while and had lots of fun; I stayed in waist-to-chest deep water a little further from shore and got some nice peeling rides, with 21 rides in total. Lisa’s new wetsuit let her stay warm, which was really good, and it was nice to be able to head up to our room afterwards and shower.


The swell was bigger in the morning and we watched some drama from the room as surfers and a kayaker were trying to surf the large shore break and getting pounded. The wave mellowed out more in the afternoon as the tide dropped and I went out surfing by myself (well, me plus the hundred odd other people spread out along the wave) for a couple hours. I had lots of fun and got several really nice rides when I started from further out. It was hard for me to paddle very far and it seemed like the rip was taking me and others away from the break and towards shore, so a couple times I went in and walked the stairs and road to get to the next stairway closer to steamer lane, then caught a succession of great waves as I made my way back to the beach. 15 rides in total, nice dinner at the O’Neill restaurant afterwards.


We moved on to Monterey, finding a spot in the Veteran’s campground (nearly deserted despite it being a saturday) and then heading into town. We wanted to visit the aquarium but there was a ridiculous Disney-esque line to get in, so we went biking along the path in town, heading up to Lover’s Point (fun to watch the surfers there getting some nice rides) and then east to the Monterey Bay Kayaks area before turning around.


We slowly made our way down through Big Sur, stopping to hike around Soberanes point but mostly enjoying the drive. Camped at Kirk Creek campground.


We drove to Point Piedras Blancas in the morning to spend some time watching the elephant seals there, it’s nice how there are convenient viewing areas just above the seals. Afterwards we drove east and camped near Baker at an entrance to the Mojave National Preserve.


We were originally planning on heading to Red Rocks to climb, but since we haven’t been climbing lately and only have a few days it made more sense to play to our strengths and head somewhere else. We made our way east and camped a little north of Sedona.


In the morning we headed into Sedona, and in the afternoon we did a nice ~8 mile ride connecting the Mescal, Aerie, and Anaconda trails. It felt really good to be riding in the desert again, all the trails were fun but the Mescal trail is our favorite in this area.


In the afternoon I rode a loop on the Munds Wagon and Hangover trails. The Munds Wagon trail was nice, though a little loose and is best going downhill. The hangover trail was extremely nice, very technical with lots of hike-a-bike but also lots of great sections of riding. My favorite was a section after reaching a saddle and going around the back of one of the hills/rocks on the side; the trail is narrow and challenging but mostly ridable, with great views and little exposure. Later on there were some steep sections that I pretty much entirely hiked, after I had to bail from the bike at one point and bent the derailer hanger. Very cool and very challenging, an awesome trail.


In the afternoon we rode a ~7 mile loop connecting the Skywalker, Carroll Canyon, and Herkenham trails. These were all really fun to do together, new trails to us with the Skywalker trail being the most interesting with great riding and nice views.


Drive to Phoenix to spend Christmas with family.

12/22 – 12/28

Hanging out in Phoenix.


Lisa got sick after Christmas and had been resting for a few days, but we were determined to leave Phoenix and get closer to SLC. We drove to Kingman and got a hotel to rest in during the afternoon.


Convalescing in Kingman.


Drive Kingman -> SLC.

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