Friday, November 6, 2009

Lake Quinault, how I miss you

Ok, it's not because of the hot mess that is Twilight fandom surging upon the Olympic Peninsula that I miss Lake Quinault. I promise.

I remember going there, to Lake Quinault Lodge, at Christmas 2003 for a friend's wedding. Winter was a magical time to visit this misty, foggy, snowy rainforest. Somehow when I'm there, all the snow and cold is fun-- it seems like a grand adventure instead of an icy endurance race (like it was in DC-- somehow less magical...). Happily, the friends I was with weren't particularly hardcore about the cold and enjoyed a fireplace and warm drink as much as cold weather hiking.

I've also been there in May, when there's so much deep lush green it's hard to believe it's not a fairy wonderland. There are species of fungus that are just now being discovered-- it's that packed with life.

Driving to Lake Quinault is a treat in itself. If I were in charge of naming a town, would I be so bold as to call it Humptulips? But someone in Washington was, and I love that. (Someone also named a town Forks, but maybe you already knew that...)

The beach that we stopped at was wide, wide, wide. There were people on ATVs rushing up and down the shoreline, and there was so much shoreline that I don't remember hearing them-- just seeing them.

And then turning into the Hoh National Forest, driving into that mysterious beautiful dark place, where the turnoff to Lake Quinault is a brief break in the towering trees. It's incredible, enveloping, clean, dark, lovely. Arriving at the lodge, there's a friendly feeling from the staff -- you're not alone in the wilderness.

And food-- very good. I'm coming from the Bay Area, where being a food lover is as commonplace as breathing. The fresh salmon is such a treat, but don't limit your palate-- the berries and mushrooms are so flavorful. I didn't have a bad meal when I was there, and that includes salmon burgers from the general store across the street.

I just can't wait to go back-- now with my two young daughters. It will be a different experience, but I'm hoping just as fulfilling.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Pt Reyes Seashore Lodge

There are many beautiful places on the Pacific Coast from northern to southern California. You can stop pretty much anywhere on Hwy 1 (Pacific Coast Highway), even when it veers inland a bit, and enjoy the beauty.

One particularly beautiful place is Pt. Reyes, a little ways north of San Francisco. It's a meaningful spot for Derek and me-- we didn't get officially engaged here, but Pt. Reyes is where we talked about knowing we'd be a family. We've come back every year.

Pt. Reyes is wild and wonderful. Even the historic (and still-operational) dairy ranches seem un-fenced as you pass in the car, seemingly untethered from conventional farming practices (even if they're not). You can't even smell them! Probably due to the fresh ocean breeze constantly blowing over the land.

Our family of four (with a toddler and infant) stayed at Pt. Reyes Seashore Lodge. We stayed there two years ago, too, when we just had our five month old with us. Apart from camping, this is pretty much the only option that allows children this near the Bear Valley center, which is where lots of good hiking begins.

We loved the whirlpool tub in our room, which was amply sized. Our queen bed snugly fit all four of us, though we were offered an extra bed and/or crib. Tea and coffee were almost always available, and once we were able to catch fresh baked cookies as well. The continental breakfast was better than average, and the Illy coffee is, of course, the best. Also, the Farmhouse restaurant next door is fabulous. Completely casual and perfectly delicious in that Marin way.

The only blemish to our stay was upon leaving, which is unfortunate because that's the final impression I got. The woman at the front desk kept her back to us as we departed after checking out, and could barely be bothered to offer a curt "bye" when we thanked her and said goodbye. I can't help but wonder if she was glad to see the family with the two young ones leave.

Fortunately for us, we headed a couple miles north to Pt Reyes Station and had lunch at the Cowgirl Creamery Cantina. Do not miss it if you're up this way! Pt Reyes Station is all of two or three streets, so just drive around until you find it. Then order whatever -- you won't go wrong. We had a Niman Ranch ham sandwich with Red Hawk cheese (I think), an Asian pear and persimmon salad with Pt Reyes blue cheese dressing, and a ratatouille sandwich with fromage blanc. Just gorgeous.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Poipu- more low-cost options in HI

Maybe I'm just noticing because we've booked our tickets to Hawaii this summer, but it seems like there are a lot of articles on low-cost options to visit to Islands. I'm all ears!

This lovely article from the SF Chronicle features Kauai. I love this first line:

"Rainbows are free.

So, of course, are blazing red sunsets, plumeria-scented trade breezes, golden sand, sensuously warm water and nodding coconut palms."

It's a simple but important point, I think. As I've been searching for lodging options, I've noticed that the glitzy places can be really distracting. They offer a lot of things that sound good in the moment, but then I realize that the breathtaking ocean views, the sound of the wind and waves, the sunsets are not just for those who lease a penthouse or get the presidential suite at a hotel. They're for everyone.

Just reading about the garlicky shrimp truck, the fragrant coconut desserts and all the other amazing roadside treats made my mouth water. We're bringing a toddler on this trip, so the fancy restaurants can be enjoyed at home with the grandparents babysitting.

(Very fortunately, we live in the Bay Area, so fancy restaurants are everywhere. Even the boring old suburbs are starting to realize they need to get classy to satisfy the desires of those driven out of the city by high prices but still want a taste of their old city life. But that's for another post.)

This article is great because it describes how you can enjoy Hawaii (Kauai in particular) in high style and low key. We are definitely interested in both! Bring on the mai tais AND the gorgeous trails. We'll be there.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hawaii on a dime, according to the NYT

The NYT has an enticing article about Hawai'i-- "enticing" because it makes visiting the Islands sound like a reasonable, possible proposition.

Even frugal.

D bought us tickets to HI for Christmas. No lodging or rental car, just the plane tickets that were on a good sale. We are thrilled- it's the first time for both of us. (Which I feel a little shame for, having lived in CA for most of my life. But still! Better now than later, or never.)

But we've been pondering the best way to stay-- big oceanfront resort, charming B&B? Camping? (We're bringing the toddler with us, so I'm not *really* considering camping for a week. Maybe a night, but would it be worth it to lug all our stuff or rent it there? Nahhh.)

The article mentions a fabulous sounding B&B that's affordable and provides snorkeling gear with the room. And all the fruit you can eat hanging off the trees-- it sounds like you could feel right at home quickly. I'm realizing that this vision of Hawaii is the most appealing one to me-- close to the land. The big box resorts offer a kind of luxury, and sometimes that appeals, but in a place like Hawaii, I think I lean toward a more intimate kind of beauty. (If I were going to Las Vegas, I'd probably lean the other way.)

Friday, January 25, 2008


My friend Hannah posted and it reminded me that I should mention the accessibility of these sites. I'll include that info to the best of my ability in future posts.

For Salt Point, south of Mendocino- this particular tiny beach is not accessible beyond its medium sized parking lot. There's a narrow, sandy, rocky path between the lot and the beach. But of course, the good news is you're on the one and only Pacific Coast Highway, and Salt Point is hardly your only stopping option. There are incredibly beautiful places to park and marvel all along your journey, including just by the side of the road.

Mendocino itself, as a very small town, has accessibility challenges -- broken and some steep sidewalks. But there are plenty of small streets and charming mom and pop stores that seem better designed for wheel traffic, strollers and chairs alike.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lake Del Valle

The lovely Lake Del Valle is in Livermore, and it's gorgeous. You drive past wineries and family farms to get there. We stopped at Concannon Winery on our way back, which was the perfect way to cap off a day at the regional park. Even on the day we went, which was rainy and gray, we had a great time.

As you can see, from this entrance the lake isn't particularly accessible to wheels. The edge of the lake is gravelly. And from the EB Parks website: "All bathroom buildings and many water fountains are wheelchair accessible. There is one wheelchair accessible camp site within the park. There are many paved paths such as West shore trail and Portion of the East shore trail throughout the park but very few flat trails."

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

where'd everyone go? Mendocino?

I've renamed this blog WordyDoodles! Come on over, y'hear?

I'm holding onto PacificMod though, because there are special things about living in the West, near the Pacific, with a love of mod style, that will make their way here.

What kinds of things, you sagely ask. Well, I will tell you.

Let's start with the Pacific part.

Here's a photo from one of the many gorgeous, tiny inlets along the Mendocino coast. We're just a short way south of the town of Mendocino, where you will find the hottest mustard and the freshest berries, and not half bad wines. :)

If you've never taken a drive up the coast of Northern CA, it is well worth it. You enjoy the sweeping ocean vistas reminiscent of SoCal, but the road takes you through the redwoods as well. There's a bit more wildness here. If you need to stop for gas, it will probably be in a small, one gas pump kind of town. This is a trip to take with all your senses.