We spent almost three weeks in California traipsing across the countryside hiking and enjoying the sights. We’ve been to California a few times in the past and always had a lot of fun so we figured we’d switch it up a bit and spend some time in other parts of the state we’ve never visited, like: LA, Highway 101/Big Sur, the Eastern Sierras, and San Diego. There were a couple of stops like Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Park that we’ve visited in the past and we still found a lot of fun during this visit.
This is our first big trip since we’ve returned to the US. We thought for a long time about where to go on holiday – back to South Africa, Japan, Eastern Europe, etc.? Ultimately, it came down to the fact that we really like California, we hadn’t been there for a while, we would get to do some incredible hikes, and we were reasonably sure the weather would be good. It’s one thing to go to new and exotic places and it’s an entirely different thing to show up when the weather is good, and be rested, and healthy. We knew it was unlikely we’d get food poisoning in California and it’s only two hours different from our time zone so we figured we had all our bases covered. It ended up being a great choice!
We had our breathe taken away by the shear beauty of the Eastern Sierras. We stayed near Crowley Lake, south of Mammoth Lakes, and had an amazing time hiking to various lakes and lookouts while immersing ourselves in stunning mountain scenery. Unlike the Western Sierras, the eastern side had far fewer hikers and were just as stunning. We were very fortunate to see the beautiful mountain flowers too, we thought we missed the flowers but we had amazing displays on many different hikes. It wasn’t just the hiking: we found a very neat bakery, Shea Schat’s Bakery, and our little town near Crowley Lake had a gas station that made delicious pizza! All-in-all, our time in the Eastern Sierras was the highlight of the trip. In the past when people asked me where I would life if I could live anywhere in the world and I would always say that I would live in the Pacific Northwest, of course. Well, I’m not too sure about that now, and it’d be hard to choose!
We had no idea there were so many things to do around Mammoth Lakes. On top of hiking: the cones, the springs, the pumice, the view points, etc.
We had a very fun time in San Diego and think highly of the city. The compactness and quirkiness make for easy travel and fun experiences. It was awesome to get authentic cuisines in San Diego, food we only wish for in Minnesota, all while having perfect weather every single day. We stayed with family in San Diego and learned a ton about the area and the recent history. While the food and weather are pretty much perfect it’s pretty hard to swallow the insane cost of housing. I think San Diego will remain a fun place to visit :). We look forward to returning and seeing some more of the sights and surrounding areas including Juarez, Mexico.
I’ve mentioned it a few times but we managed to find some amazing food in California. Bronx Pizza in San Diego, Red’s Donuts in Monterey, OB Noodles in San Diego, Christy’s Donuts in San Diego, Schat’s Bakery in Mammoth Lakes and Independence, the pizza place in Yosemite Valley, the great food in LA’s farmer’s market, fresh mangos, and the delicious Thai food from Thai Patio in LA. We were VERY lucky to have fantastic food throughout the entire trip and it was great to have authentic food. It’s hard to get good asian food in Minnesota and, surprisingly, there aren’t many good donut places in Minnesota which is amazing considering all the other incredibly unhealthy food we’re so proficient at making!
That said, I’m not sure about the hype over Highway 101. It’s a road that follows the coast and, sure, it’s pretty, but that’s about it. We drove the highway over two days and had a moderate amount of fun. Hearst Castle was neat and so were some of the other sights on the route. We made a stop in the strange Danish town of Solvang. It’s a lot like Leavenworth, a strange German town in Washington. We thought the ‘pancakes’ from Olsen’s Danish Village Bakery were OK and didn’t really find much else interesting. I think my opinion is deeply formed by my experiences growing up in a tourist town / area and I don’t think I’d ever do it again or recommend the drive to anyone. A notable event did occur during our drive on Highway 101: we continued our streak of seeing / being near disasters while being completely unaffected. The Soberanes Fire started close to the highway so we stopped to watch some planes drop fire retardant and then we carried on. It was the next day or so that the fire became very serious; the highway was closed, people’s homes burned, and people died. As of today, seven weeks later, the fire is still going. During our travels we had tragedies like this occur where we escaped unscathed: the human stampede in Shanghai, earthquake in Santiago, bank shutdown in Greece, landslide in Nepal, volcano in Iceland and so on. I’m happy we’re both OK but I would love it if these tragedies stopped occurring during our travels. Harbinger of death and/or disaster is not a title I enjoy.
Enjoy the photos!