Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Weekend Fun: Part 2, Pinnacles National Park

View from the High Peaks
On Sunday, we woke up in our awesome hotel and packed up quickly.  We were off to Pinnacles National Park for an awesome day of being outside and hiking!  We hadn't brought climbing gear but we thought it would still be a pretty good day.

Before we left Monterey, we stopped at Caffe Trieste for breakfast.  It was pretty good.  The portions were huge, though.  I like getting my money's worth but I hate wasting food.  It's hard to combine safe food handling and doggy bags when traveling so there were a lot of breakfast potatoes that went into the trash!
On Juniper Canyon Trail
Pinnacles was a little over an hour away and we drove to the West entrance.  We stopped at the Visitor's Center where I got an annual park pass for free, courtesy of the military discount.  Score!  I looked around the small center for a bit but SMS and I were getting a little antsy.  We drove into the Chaparral parking lot and decided to hike the 8.4 mile High Peaks to Balconies Cave Loop.  We set off along the Juniper Canyon loop which took us to the beginning of the High Peaks trail.  We took the "Steep and Narrow" trail since that one was reported to have better views.
About to enter the cave!
The rock formations were pretty epic.  They were so large and the rocks were starkly outlined against the bright blue sky.  It was a gorgeous day.  We spoke with a guy near the top of the Peaks who was holding an antenna that looked like it belonged on the roof of a house for an old TV.  He was tracking condors as a volunteer.  Apparently, there are just over 400 condors in existence, ~200 in the wild and ~200 in a captivity breed and release program.  This is up from a low of 22 in the early 1980s.  There are about 70 condors between Pinnacles and Big Sur.  We didn't see any but it was cool to hear about the condors and conservation efforts from someone actively involved.  I also learned about the differences between California condors and turkey vultures in flight but that knowledge also went unused since we didn't see any turkey vultures either.

Outside of the Cave
After traipsing through the High Peaks, we walked along the Old Pinnacles trail, which was about as wild as a gravel bike path.  This took us to the Balconies caves, which were pretty awesome.  It starts out in a slot canyon and then we actually climbed through a short cave system that had some vertical climb and a few really dark places.  Flashlights were definitely required.

I am strong like a rock climber too!
After the caves, we saw some climbers, which made SMS very happy.  It looked like the climbing was better than the reputation of the place gave credit for.  It may be too hard for me but I suspect SMS will be back!  The climbing was only 0.6 miles away from the parking lot so it would be a great place for a day trip.

After the hike, we got in the car and started driving home.  I was really hungry so we stopped in Gilroy for burgers.  I had the most delicious burger and sweet potato fries at Cafe 152.  I got the burger in a lettuce wrap and even though that's one of the saddest ways to eat a burger, it was still amazing.  If you're in Gilroy (outlets anyone?), a stop at Cafe 152 would be well worth it.

Then it was time to hit the road and head home.  I was so tired that night after such a great, active day!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Weekend Fun: Part 1, Santa Cruz and Monterey

Mural in Monterey
It had been a few weekends since SMS and I went on a local day trip so I decided that this weekend, we would explore the South of us.  I love the area North of San Francisco, but sometime the traffic through the city can be a real pain.  High on my list is to enjoy Stinson beach again, Bodega Bay, Sonoma and, on a more extended trip, the Lost Coast and Humboldt.

Regardless, I knew that there were beautiful places to the South so I made a reservation at the NGIS on the Monterey Naval Base and we headed out on Saturday morning after my 15 mile long run with J.  By the way, our average pace was 8:34 and for the first 11 miles, we were 8:14-8:36. Yeah!  By the end of training, I'm hoping to be able to cruise at about 8:20 and with our training plan, I think that's a  reasonable target.

SMS and I hit the road.  Our first stop was Santa Cruz since shortly after we started driving, SMS said, "We should start thinking about lunch soon."  I'm working on my wife skills (level: advanced beginner) and I now know that this means, "We need to eat.  Preferably now.  Maybe soon but this is not preferred."
Cafe Brasil
So, with the aid of my trusty iPhone, I found Cafe Brasil in Santa Cruz.  It's a small, bright green building with yellow trim house that serves up delicious breakfast and lunch items.  I got an omelet- a little boring but hey, there's always next time.  When I go back, I think I will order the beef a cavalo, which looked amazing.  In addition, the acai bowls seemed awesome, albeit huge!  SMS got a fresh cherry-orange juice, which was so refreshing.  I definitely recommend this place and it was pretty popular.  We had a short wait and then had great seats on their patio in the warm sun.
NGIS, Monterey
NGIS/Hotel Del Monte Ballroom
After lunch, we went straight to the NGIS.  It ended up being super cool because it's in the old Del Monte Hotel, the first resort in Monterey and, possibly, the West Coast.  It was a grand building with super high, ornately carved ceilings, a huge receiving room and an enormous ballroom.  It was absolutely beautiful and such a treat to have such a cool place to stay.  I had no idea when I booked it.  The room was quite nice with high ceilings, a large window with a beautiful view and a comfortable bed.  I highly recommend this place!
Old Sardine Factory

Sunset, Picture Idea from SMS
We headed into downtown for dinner.  First, we drove to the Presidio to try and find a nice viewpoint, without much success.  We walked along the Cannery Row waterfront as the sun was setting, which was scenic.  Then, even though it was early, we went to Hula's Island Grill, which was awesome!  We walked by it, it looked good and there was a happy hour special!  We got several appetizers to share, including a delicious ceviche.  I'm not sure if the white fish was tilapia but I didn't want to know since I've been a little grossed out every since watching a report on farmed tilapia.  My main takeaway point from the report was that they live in over-crowded poop water.  Blech.  Anyway, sorry for that, but just to let you know, ignorance was bliss at Hula's because the ceviche was good.

The menu was extensive and looked amazing.  Other people's food also looked amazing so I think this restaurant is a pretty solid choice if you're ever in Monterey.  We also passed a French Bistro that I would like to try in the future but at least on a Saturday, reservations are a must.

Afterwards, we headed back to the hotel.  We thought about seeing the Hunger Games movie, but I haven't seen Mockingjay, Part I yet so that was out.  It was a really relaxing evening and we decided that the next day, we were going to head out to Pinnacles National Park for a hike!

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sporty weekend!

Last weekend, I was a little bit more sporty than usual.  On Saturday, I went to the Mountain View Running club meet-up, which is always a lot of fun.  It's an easy 5K with a nice Starbucks hangout time at the end.

I cut it a little bit short because SMS and I went to the Old Pro in Palo Alto to watch the Williams vs. Amherst football game.  I met some new alums and saw a classmate of mine.  It was one of the better alumni events I've been to.

Afterwards, SMS wanted to go for a walk to bask in the sun.  We ended up walking over to Menlo Park and back, exploring the neighborhood and enjoying the day.  We also stopped into a running store and tried out the different fascial release/self-massage devices.  They were awesome, especially this one.

On Sunday, I met up with J to do our 13 mile long run.  It felt ok.  I need to eat more carbs and drink more water.  After Thanksgiving, my Whole 30 will be over and I can start eating more grains and runner friendly carbs.   I'm doing some reading on long runs and trying to strike a balance between getting the miles in, not pushing too hard and trying to up our pace a little bit so that we meet our pacing goals next March.

After my run, SMS and I went to the rock climbing gym because his plans were rained out by an early morning downpour.  I'm enjoying rock-climbing even though I was better when we were in San Diego.  I'm ok with being an amateur dabbler in that sport though!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

San Jose Veteran's Run Half Marathon and Spectre

On Sunday, I ran in the San Jose National Veterans Day Run.  I signed up for the half marathon because I wanted to get a baseline before my marathon training kicks into high intensity.  Oh, wait, I'm doing a marathon?  Yes!  In the Spring, I signed up a marathon with my new training partner J.  I'm really excited b/c we have a great training plan and it's going to be fun to see how well we can do.

Anyway, back to Sunday.  It was a chilly morning and the race started out well.  Honestly, maybe a little too well.  I felt like I was going out a little too fast and I felt a significant slowdown around the 3 mile mark.  Um, that's a little early for a half marathon!  It ended up being a slight slog of a long run- I almost refuse to call it a race based on my personal results.  But it was useful to learn a few long-forgotten lessons about race nutrition and hydration.  I've been doing a Whole 30 this month and I had inadvertently eaten really low-carb the day before so that was unhelpful.  I also was dehydrated from the start which again, not ideal.  I'm happy I learned these lessons in a low-key, pretty inexpensive race and now it's time to start figuring out what works for me during longer training runs so that I'm good to go next year.
Participation Medal!
I hung out at the finish for a bit with J&A, then we decided to head to Chromatic Coffee.  I got a cup of Keynote, which was pretty acidic and I couldn't finish it although part of that was due to post-race stomach, I think.  Unfortunately, J had a vasovagal event away from A and I so we had no idea that she was feeling poorly until the paramedics arrived!  Someone in the bathroom line had called 911 for J.  I had no idea since I was playing with their son outside- we were actually admiring the ambulance and fire truck.  It was slightly frustrating for me since I feel I could have done something if I had known what was going on.  The important thing though was that J was ok and she got excellent care.

After the excitement at the coffee shop, I headed home and had a really mellow afternoon.  That evening, SMS and I headed to the comfy seats of the Shoreline Theater and watched Spectre.  It was pretty entertaining.  My favorite part was the helicopter acrobatic flying.  It seemed to defy physics at times!  I also really like Christoph Waltz.  I do feel badly though that I only know him as a bad guy character, both in this movie and Inglorious Bastards.  I will try to watch him in a good guy role although after quickly reading through his Wikipedia profile, it may be hard to find one!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Glen Canyon, Tiled Steps, Sunset Beach

Sunset Beach!
SMS and I had an awesome Saturday together!  After I came back from my weekly running group, I was feeling a little uninspired in the planning department.  I'm usually the one who plans our adventures but yesterday, SMS took the lead and we ended up having the best time.
Giant Boulders!
We got ready to go and were dressed in our sporty gear because our first stop was Glen Canyon, a preserve and excellent bouldering site.  We parked on Crags Ct (auspicious name!) and hiked into the canyon.  It was awesome.  There were a lot of hikers and it had a nice neighborly feel.  We went over to the boulders where SMS found a lot of awesome routes, most of which had not been written about online.

The rock was very feature-y and a lot of fun to climb.  The rocks were on the large side and I was leary of bouldering that high (aka, no rope since that's what bouldering is) so I mostly lain out in the sun, which felt amazing.  There were a few other climbers there and it was really a fantastic spot.

After we hiked out of the canyon, we headed back to the car and drove over to the Golden Gate Heights neighborhood.  Our destination was the 16th Ave Tiled Steps, a community art project spanning 163 steps.  It was absolutely beautiful and a stunning example of how much San Francisco has to offer, most of which I'm not even aware of!  The steps are quite popular and attracted local and foreign tourists.  What's even better about the steps is that they lead to Grand View Park, a tiny clearing on the top of a hill next to Twin Peaks that has an absolutely phenomenal view of the city.  We also had the best weather yesterday so it was really fantastic.
Grand View Park's Grand View

We walked towards Inner Sunset to see another set of 148 tiled steps, The Hidden Garden Steps.  They were also beautiful and no one else was there.  Not that I expect a tourist destination to be completely devoid of people, but it is fun when I get to experience something as if it's a hidden treasure!  We actually looked at the steps more on the way back up but first, we stopped at a completely delightful coffee shop Hollow.
Hollow brews Ritual Coffee and has a spare, beach-y feeling aesthetic inside.  There are old-fashioned light bulbs, a beautiful bar and a backroom with a small collection of beautiful things for sale, mainly toiletries, perfumes and expensive chocolates.  I loved it and wished it was closer to Mountain View.  It would be my go-to spot!

On the way back to the car, we walked up the Hidden Garden Steps and thought the tilework was really beautiful- maybe slightly prettier than the 16th St Steps but it's hard to decide!

At this point, it was about 45 minutes to sunset.  I suggested watching from Grand View Park but SMS downvoted that idea because he was "done climbing steps."  This seemed pretty wise and we decided to head to Outer Sunset and watch the sunset from there.

We walked along the dunes because there were paths through them that SMS, earth and dunes protector deemed dune-friendly.  I was very happy because last time, we didn't see any and SMS thwarted my sand dune sledding/running plans.  I didn't want to be known as the destroyer of dunes and I realized he was right but this time, through the dune paths we went!

The sunset was really pretty and again, the visibility was fantastic.  We saw all the way out to Farallon Islands, which we later researched and found hilarious Google+ reviews about it.  For the record, it's closed to public access and is a wildlife preserve, mostly used by migrating birds.
Clearly, no one likes William

We drove back towards home and stopped in Los Altos for dinner.  We went to a Greek restaurant that was pretty good, but the feel of the town is sort of old-people touristy in the manner of La Jolla cove or Orange St in Coronado.  Wherever there's a Chico's...

After dinner, we watched an episode of Archer, a not new cartoon spoof of a retro-modern spy agency.  It's ridiculously not-PC but it's also pretty funny and one of the few shows that we can watch together and both be entertained.  Now I need to carve out some time to watch Season 3 of House of Cards since that's not interesting to SMS at all.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Local Hiking- Mission Peak

From the summit, looking at the "Mission Peeker" summit pole
Happy we're at the top!
On Sunday, SMS and I met up with two of our friends for another hike.  I was pretty excited to meet up with A and J since I really want to have couple friends for SMS and I.  Maybe that's cheesy but hey, the heart wants what the heart wants (<-- this is the first and last time a Selena Gomez song will be quoted on my blog!).

New friend!
We had a later than normal start but the weather was perfect so even though it was a mostly sunny trail, the temperature was pretty perfect.  We headed over to Fremont and hiked Mission Peak.  We parked at Ohlone College and took the Peak Trail to the top.  Parts of it were through cow pasture land and we walked past several cows and calfs.  Awesome!

It was a beautiful hike and the westward views towards Silicon Valley were a nice change from our normal vantage points in the Santa Cruz mountains and Saratoga wineries.  SMS and I hung in pretty well for our second straight day of hiking, although the winner of the day was A who carried a baby on his back the whole way up.

New friend, foreground; hiking group, background
After the hike, we headed back to the house where we quickly showered and headed out to Stein's brewery.  We hung out with A's second cousin, his wife, A and J.  It was a lot of fun and a great way to spend a Sunday.

Now, SMS and I are hanging out at home, trying not to fall asleep too early thanks to a combination of a weekend of hiking and Daylight Savings Time!

Local Hiking- Purisima Creek

View on the descent!
SMS and I had a super active and healthy weekend!  What, on Halloween?!?  I know, we are very snooze-worthy in that respect but we really had a great time outside.

On Friday, we had a delicious salmon dinner after we took advantage of a sale on wild salmon at our local market.  I wanted to watch Hocus Pocus but alas, it wasn't available on Netflix.  Someday, I'll rewatch it.  I think it's been so long that when I first watched it, I was still young enough to be scared by it.  Yes, I was a big scaredy cat.  I still remember when I cried during the public library's showing of The Wizard of Oz and roamed the aisles, sobbing, looking for Mom, who had taken Ed home to change and left me because I was so enthralled with the movie.  Until those horrible roller skating monkeys came along (maybe that's why I never completely took to derby).  Actually, I was a bit of a wimp on Friday night too since SMS watched a cheesy zombie movie while I assiduously ignored the TV and read a book (or maybe internet gossip, my memory is hazy).
Another pretty, high-contrast view!
On Saturday, we decided to head out and do something fun.  I decided that a hike was in order and we headed out to the Purisima Creek Redwood Preserve.  It's closer than Muir Woods or Big Basin and I was in the mood to see some Redwoods!  The redwoods are part of second growth forest, replanted about 100 years ago after significant logging of the original forest.  We parked in the North Parking lot off of Skyline Blvd and ended up doing a ~7.5 mile loop down the Harkins Ridge Trail and up the Whittemore Gulch Trail.  There were beautiful views of the mountains, ocean and Half Moon Bay.  There were more open areas in direct sun on the way down but once we hit Purisma Creek, we were in lovely, shaded forest.  The gulch was mostly shaded with only the last mile back in the sun.  It wasn't too hot but the forest shade was appreciated both for the coolness and the beauty.

We really had a great time on the hike even though my knee was acting up a bit from my prior day's run.  I think it's better now but my knee was really achy and inflamed just above my kneecap.  I was worried about insta-PFS (patella-femoral syndrome) but don't worry, I think I'm going to live!

Daddy-o's.  This is the unnecessary caption of the post.
After our hike, we were hungry!  We ate some snacks in the parking lot to tide us over.  Then, we collapsed in the car and headed into Half Moon Bay.  We went to Daddy-o's, a converted railroad caboose on original tracks that now serves a lot of BBQ- brats, sausages, hot dogs and pulled pork.  The clam chowder is reputedly awesome and they have freshly-baked S'mores cookies.

Unfortunately, I have decided to do a stupid month-long diet but the only thing stupider than a diet is owning pants that don't fit.  I mean, I could just chuck it all and go elastic waist-style all the time but I am vain and that's not an option.  So, S'mores will have to be another time, but it did sound delicious so if you are not on a dumb diet, I recommend it!

Daddy-o's also featured a pretty creepy, stare-y kid whom I'm pretty sure was just trying to make misunderstood overtures of friendship to SMS.  I would love to include a picture but that just seems a little too mean.  Picture a tiny tot who stares.  A lot.

I know, I know, what's an RDER?
In case it's just killing you, the sign on the left says "Order here." 
Pomponio Beach.  This is just 12 miles down the coast- crazy weather shift!
After lunch, we headed down the coast to San Gregorio Beach, recommended by SMS' cousin Jeff.  It was super foggy and the beach had a ton of cool driftwood.  It was really beautiful.  I also wanted to go to the Fitzgerald Marine Preserve but that apparently is North of Half Moon Bay, a fact that eluded Google Maps and I for a little while.  So, along with S'mores cookies, Fitzgerald will have to be saved for another time.  We also went to Pomponio State Beach, which had a very cool cliff and was also shrouded in fog.

No, I will not tell you the name of my stylist!
Pomponio Beach
We took Rte 84 home which would have been a really fun road to drive if we hadn't been stuck behind a grandma driver who apparently thought she would die if she drove any faster than 10 mph under the speed limit.    She also had never been told what a turnout was for and it was really very aggravating.

Very cool (well, that may be relative) neighbor's house!
After we got home, we were pretty wiped.  We went out for dinner and walked through the neighborhood on the way, admiring people's Halloween decorations.  In particular, one Mercy St. house went all out as the "No Mercy Cemetery."    It was almost Disney Haunted Mansion level.  After dinner, we waited in vain for trick or treaters and then called it a night.  We had to get our beauty rest for the next day's hike!