12-steps For Summer
A series of 12 short trips that can reclaim the joys of summers when you had a real vacation.
Thursday, June 11, 1998
Remember when summer vacation meant three months off? When the last day of school was filled with the promise of lazy days and hanging out with friends, and adventure was just around the corner? When the renewed responsibilites of September were only an ugly rumor?
But now, you''re all grown up and it''s tough to take a week off, let alone the whole summer. Maybe we can help.
While we can''t convince your boss to excuse you for the next three months, we can suggest a 12-step program full of day-and weekend-trips that will take the sting out of the work week. These trips of limited duration require a minimum of planning and offer a maximum of revitalization.
Here are 12 suggestions (one for each weekend between now and Labor Day) for day and weekend trips that''ll make your summer seem like it was a full vacation.
Hike and Soak
SYKES HOT SPRINGS
The dawn of summer in Monterey County doesn''t always conjure up images of lazy, languid days spent frolicking on a sun-drenched beach. On the contrary, many of us imagine shivering in foggy dampness on the Peninsula or scorching under the Valley sun. Even more terrifying are the endless hoards of tourists clogging up the streets, shops and restaurants. How do you beat the summertime blues without running too far?
Now that Highway 1 has reopened, the Ventana Wilderness offers some excellent opportunities to get away from it all. All you need to do is strap on a backpack and head into the wilderness, into a land far away from the highway where few tourists dare tread. One popular backpacking destination is Sykes Camp and the adjacent hot springs, reachable via the Pine Ridge Trail, which begins in Pfeiffer State Park.
My backpacking partner and I chose Sykes because, well, all the locals have been to Sykes. Any free-living, granola-eating, tree-hugging Central Coast Californian worth his or her sea salt has been to Sykes. I imagined a mystical place where decadent, dripping, naked hippies walked around in slow motion while discussing Terence McKenna and performance art, and every sentence ends with, "You understand where I''m coming from, man?" A place deep in the back country where people hiked in 10 miles to take off their clothes and sit in hot water, well, somehow seemed so California. (I mean, really, in Ohio wouldn''t people just jump in a Jacuzzi?) So, we packed up the green tea and incense and headed out.
The journey to Sykes begins at the Big Sur Forest Service Station in Pfeiffer State Park, about a 45 minute drive from Carmel traveling south on Highway 1. Overnight hikers must check in at the ranger station for a back country pass and pay $2 for parking .
The Pine Ridge trail head is conveniently located at the end of the parking lot. This well-worn, well-maintained trail would lead us the entire 10 miles to our destination. The trail begins steadily rising through a thick forest of coastal redwood, pine and live oak, and winds around a large campground. After about two miles of steady climbing we came to the top of a ridge that provided our last view of RV and rental car laden Highway 1, and of the limitless Pacific Ocean beyond. From here, we turned due east and headed out of the state park and into the Ventana Wilderness. The trail twisted and undulated, rising and falling hundreds of times, climbing high onto arid, sun drenched ridges and then down into cool mini-canyons housing the crystal clear Big Sur River.
After five hours of grueling but invigorating hiking, we reached Sykes Camp. Nestled in a steep canyon, the campsites at Sykes are amply spaced along the Big Sur River. Each campsite consists of a crude stone fire ring and a tent space. The deluxe sites come complete with their own emerald-green swimming hole. While selecting a camp site, we had passed several other campers. But once settled, we felt amazingly isolated, alone in our own little pristine garden of Eden.
Hot and bloated from the hike, we shed our packs and headed down the short path to our own little swimming hole. We stripped off sweaty socks, shirts and shorts and dove into the frigid water. About 10 seconds was all I needed to fully rejuvenate. After a dip, we sunned ourselves like lizards atop sun-baked boulders, watching tiny trout dart about in the stream and listening to the soothing babble of the water.
After setting up camp, we headed upstream on a crude trail that led to the hot springs. Dripping from the granite wall above, the natural sulfur hot springs feed five hand-built hot tubs crudely constructed of river rock and sandbags. Being a popular backpacking destination, we were not alone. Two other couples and one single man were enjoying the hot tubs. Everyone seemed friendly, but quiet and respectful. And everyone was naked. I stripped down, too, and slipped into our private tub.
Nothing could have felt more natural than that moment, ten miles away from the nearest road, car or phone. I relaxed in the tub, and when it got too hot, I dipped into the ice cold river, shuddering with the physical shock of the extreme temperature change. "It makes you feel very alive," commented one bather, who was meditating in full lotus position atop a boulder above us. (Indeed, it did make me feel very alive, but it also made me feel very Californian.) The peaceful, serene feeling that comes with being in the mountains coupled with the healing power of the water overcame me. Out here, conversation hardly seemed necessary; trivial, in fact. This was a place just to be. Not to talk, not to think or even feel. Just be. Living in the moment, for the moment was easy here.
As the sunlight faded, I struggled back into my clothes, with a new revelation of how uncomfortable they can be, and shuffled back to camp. Feeling thoroughly cleansed, body and soul, I crawled into the tent and slept like a rock. My surroundings, the springs, the river, the trees, the mountains, filled me with a power and a serenity that I continued to sense weeks later.
It may only be a 20-minute drive from the Monterey Peninsula, but a daytrip to browse the numerous antique shops at Moss Landing is like a journey back in time. From the quaint and kitschy, to the rare and exquisite, there is a treasure trove of cultural memorabilia, fine furniture and historical items just waiting to be discovered.
At Manuel''s Antiques, aficionados of Western and Indian artifacts can find everything from old hats, hand-tooled cowboy boots and saddles; to arrowheads, carved ivory, handwoven baskets, Zane Gray novels and cowboy sheet music.
At Isle of Ithaka, beautifully crafted wicker furniture shares the showroom floor with old barroom mirrors, lacquer chests with South Sea island inlays, armoires and detailed model sailing ships.
What makes a visit to Moss Landing''s antique shops particularly diverting is the odd juxtaposition of items reflecting the broad range of American cultural tastes. One can find an old glossy poster print of screen icon James Dean hanging next to a machine woven tapestry of Jesus, the next best thing to the Shroud of Turin. Or how about a Pancho Villa whisky decanter standing next to a garish neon sculpture of lips, next to a pair of sinister-looking dental extractors.
Few men will be able to resist the chance to relive fond memories of both their childhood and adolescence perusing the shelves of metal wind-up toys, old sporting equipment and home chemistry sets, or the dusty stacks of old Playboy and Penthouse magazines. For serious readers and music lovers, many shops have bookshelves crammed with venerable old tomes and rare record albums from the big-band era to ''60s pop. For those with a timeless sense of fashion, one can buy old military and cowboy outfits, or prom and formal wear, and all kinds of old jewelry, from the atrociously gaudy to elegant and tasteful.
Although the hours are somewhat flexible, most shops open around11am and close between 5 and 6pm. Moss Landing also boasts quite a few places for lunch that feature modestly priced, but excellent fresh seafood and Mexican fare, making a day trip to Moss Landing a perfect way to feed body as well as soul.
Here is a perfect family overnighter that combines camping in one of Monterey County''s most beautiful and undisturbed natural settings, a visit to one of the state''s finest missions, and a bit of laid-back luxury that is a guaranteed cure for the most hellish of work weeks.
Approximately one hour south of Salinas off Highway 101, west on Jolon Road, and through the Fort Hunter Liggett Military Reservation lies The Indians, an undeveloped camping area in the heart of the Los Padres National Forest adjacent to the county''s highest mountain peak, Junipero Serra. (The Indians are clearly marked on most area road maps for more specific directions).
Set within an area of rolling terrain, sweeping vistas and lovely oak savannas, The Indians takes its name, (somewhat apocryphally), from the highly eroded rock outcroppings that rise several hundred feet above the valley floor. The rocks make for some easy climbing and provide good shelter for camping.
There are no facilities at this informal campsite, so bring plenty of water and supplies. (At the Indians guard station farther north, there is a formal campground with water, toilets and emergency phones). Fires may or may not be permitted depending on the fire danger, and a good tent is recommended. The Indians is especially beautiful at night, and particularly so with a full moon casting ethereal shadows from the rocks and oak trees onto the valley floor. It is not uncommon to hear the howling of coyotes at night, as well as the rustling of wilderness creatures foraging for food.
Several miles before The Indians is Mission San Antonio, founded by Father Junipero Serra and the Franciscan order in 1771. This is one of Califonia''s largest and best preserved missions with a beautiful garden and chapel, historical exhibits and massive stone walls and porticos that invite quiet contemplation. The mission can be visited prior to camping at The Indians or on the way back out from the campsite.
For the return trip to the Peninsula, the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road winds west over the Santa Lucia Range and drops down to the Big Sur coast at Kirk Creek. Heading north, Nepenthe provides the perfect stop for a late brunch at Cafe Keva or early lunch at the upstairs restaurant. There is no finer view of the Big Sur coast than the one from Nepenthe, and the restaurant''s food and ambience is the perfect reminder of why Big Sur is heaven on earth.
For a fun diversion before the final return home, Pfeiffer Beach off Sycamore Canyon Road provides a spectacular setting to enjoy some sand and sun, but be prepared for the howling winds that often blow along this stretch of coastline.
VISITING A CEMETERY
There''s powerful comfort, and warning, in the passage from Ecclesiastes, "To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; A time to be born, and a time to die..."
As we get wrapped up in all our day-to-day worries and cares, it''s all too easy to forget that we''re not here, in the flesh and bone, forever. We forget to smell the flowers, try to ignore the pain, and, generally, lose track of the beauty of our mortality.
Walking through a cemetery can be a great restorative. There, spread out across a field are endless stories of countless people. Between the dates marking births and deaths you''ll find tales of tears, laughter, suffering, joy; all those things that distinguish life from death. But, graven in cold stone, is the obvious and immutable fact that regardless of whatever else happens; we''re all walking this world with an expiration date stamped somewhere on our soul.
The two cemeteries in Monterey are the best ones I''ve found in the area for reflective exploration. Graves date back to the mid 1800s, and run from nearly unmarked paupers'' graves to the elaborate crypts of the wealthy. As you stroll, the stories reveal themselves: beloved mothers, military veterans, infants, octogenarians, husbands and wives, men generally dead younger than women.
It''s also easy to see the personality of a city revealed in its cemetery. There''s a certain orderly tidiness at the El Carmelo cemetery in Pacific Grove, befitting its Methodist heritage; sun setting in the west at the Moss Landing cemetery, with light filtering through the cypresses, underscores the community''s relationship with the ocean; the number of flags flying in Mission Memorial Park in Seaside are a visual reminder of that city''s early relationship to neighboring Fort Ord.
But most important of all, is the constant reminder that our time on earth is limited, that we need to make the most of it. An hour or two in local cemeteries can put you in a great state of mind to enjoy and appreciate anything else that you choose to do.
Here''s the first confession: I am a Bay Area snob who grew up in the ''60s and ''70s when San Jose was nothing but a big urban joke. Even as an adult, when the late Herb Caen declared that San Jose would never be anything but the next 17 exit signs off the freeway, I clinked my coffee cup and concurred. Now, here''s the second confession: I was wrong. San Jose (at least parts of it) are hip and happening; a cool destination for a pair of adults in search of museums (a quilt museum, an art museum, and, of course, the Tech Museum), ballet, repertory theater and decent dining. Or--as was the case for us--San Jose can also be a great destination for adults with a small child, a place where two grown-ups can travel with a 2-year-old and even have a reasonably good time.
We decided to make our trip an overnight (although San Jose is certainly close enough to make it a day-trip destination). Our big mistake was starting out late in the day (nap time inhibited progress). Still, even an hour and a half was ample time to get to know Happy Hollow Park & Zoo, an enchanting, undiscovered gem for tots and elementary schoolers located in San Jose''s Kelley Park. Happy Hollow includes a small zoo comprised of miniature and baby animals, and a petting zoo area featuring goats, miniature horses and even a burro. The "park" portion includes two merry-go-rounds, a dragon train and other rides, a maze, and a cool assortment of slides--all for the original admission price of $4/per person (under 2 free).
Dinner was in a brew pub--a perfect place for kids to nibble on finger food, adults to sample adult fare and beverages and everyone to make a lot of noise without anyone really noticing. We opted for Rock Bottom Brewery in Campbell, but there''s also Gordon Biersch and Tied House in San Jose proper--just to name a few. After a lovely night in the refurbished Hyatt St. Claire near the San Jose Convention Center, we were up and ready to hit the town by 10am. Alas, nothing was open, so we spent a few pleasant hours riding around on light rail and getting a feel for San Jose''s many neighborhoods. We spent the afternoon at the world-famous Children''s Museum on Woz Way, where kids from pre-schoolers to junior-high aged kids can push buttons, study bugs, climb on real fire trucks, paint their faces, or just sit quietly and play with clay.
We returned to Monterey County fully cured of our original prejudices.
PARAISO HOT SPRINGS
Slipping into the 90 degree mineral waters of Paraiso Hot Spring''s small outdoor pool, you might wonder why people enjoy sitting in hot water during a hot summer afternoon near Soledad. After a few minutes, you feel nothing but warmth soaking into your weary bones and a tingling from the enriched water, which was used by the priests from nearby Soledad Mission as a healing treatment in the early 1800s. You no longer question the wisdom of decades as you emerge from the steam, warm, clean and refreshed.
There are two ways to get to Paraiso; the fast way along Highway 101: if you really need to get there and relax; and a route along River Road (G-17) off Highway 68 if you''re more in the mood to laze along and enjoy the scenic hills and fields of lettuce. Either way, after exiting Highway 101 in Soledad or River Road, head west on Arroyo Seco Road, then take a right on Paraiso Road. The land was originally owned by the Spanish founders of the mission, but at the turn-of-the-century, it was sold and a luxury resort was built. Visitors traveled by train and stagecoach to enjoy the peaceful pools. Unfortunately, Paraiso was damaged by fire twice before 1954, although some original cabins remain to rent (along with modern cabins, and RV and tent camping).
The pools at Paraiso Hot Springs Resort are fed by natural hot mineral water 24 hours a day. Palm trees surround the area and lawns are open to sunbathe and picnic. The 1,400-ft. elevation gives you a chance to take in views of Pinnacles National Park and the Salinas Valley from either the Olympic sized outdoor pool (generally 70-80 degrees), the smaller pool, or three enclosed hot baths (around 100 degrees, but adjustable by the bather with hot and cold faucets). Before you feel the heat, you may notice a slightly sulfuric smell. Don''t worry, nothing is rotting, it''s simply the minerals in the water, the very natural elements flowing from subterranean sources which make you glow with health.
The Old Bathhouse is part of the original resort, with two tiled tubs from the 1800s. Another indoor bath is for adults only...little ones are welcome with parents in all other areas. In fact, many families come for the picnic spot alone. Also a dozen cabins and a few mobile homes are open to families to stay up to a month (if you need a really long soak). Day use: $25, plus $5 for use of the enclosed mineral baths, per person. Camping: $30. Resort lodging: $110-285. Cash or local checks only. Summer hours: 8am-dusk, baths and pools open 9am-6pm. 678-2882.
On the Water
LAKE SAN ANTONIO/NACIMIENTO
We all love swimming in the summer, especially when the temps in Salinas get up to 105 degrees or when you''re still sweating under a redwood in Big Sur. Of course, there''s the ocean, but then it comes with all the sticky salt and itchy sand. You want cool, clean, peaceful water. You don''t want an eight-hour drive to Tahoe with thousands of other Bay Area vacationers. Lucky for you, there are two lakes a mere two hours south of Monterey.
These lakes offer summer fun for everybody, from camping and water-skiing to nature hikes and swimming. Drive south on Highway 101 and exit just before King City on G-14 road. This 16-mile road takes you through rolling hills, painted with wildflowers and dotted with oaks and cattle. At Lockwood, you have two choices: Go straight to Lake San Antonio''s north shore, with excellent camping on the water; or turn left for the south shore, with more sophisticated campsites and boating facilities. The north (along Jolon Road for 15 miles) is perfect for picnics and camping on its flat beaches, with easy access for small boats and kids. The south (about 22 miles along the Interlake Road) has steeper roads down to its marina, the site of the popular Wildflower Triathlon, and larger campsites both near the water (Lynch and Harris Creek) and in the trees (Redonda Vista) above the lake. This side seems noisier due to the boats and jet skis, but for those who want a quiet vacation, travel all the way to the southern end of the lake to Basham Point, and boat up the small finger that is slightly isolated from the power boaters racing around the main route. The drive along the ridge-top Interlake Road to Lake Nacimiento Drive, which leads to the main Lake Nacimiento entrance, is beautiful, with views of the valley to your left and the lake below to your right.
Lake Nacimiento is also well-equipped for camping and boating, with at least five campgrounds close to the south shore entrance. The north shore, which is open for day use, is accessed from the gate just across the dam from the south shore. The north is slightly less wooded and it''s easier to launch boats. The roads at the south shore resort are narrow and wooded, making it hard for RVs to maneuver. The best camping sites on the beach or near water at Nacimiento are at Pine Knoll. If you want a little more isolation to pitch your tent, try Quails Roost or Eagles Ridge.
As evidenced by the number of trucks with boats on the road, both lakes are great for fishing, stocked with three types of bass, catfish and bluegill. Lake San Antonio has a nature trail and, in the winter, the parks department offers tours to see golden and bald eagles.
San Antonio: Reservations, 888-588-CAMP or 755-4899. Day use: $6. Campsite: $18-22. Dogs: $1. Boats: $5 daily. Lodging and boat rentals available. Nacimiento: Reservations, 805-238-3256 or 800-323-3839. Boats: same as above, no houseboats. Day use: $7-10. Camping: $22-27.
KAYAKING ELKHORN SLOUGH
You''ve passed it a thousand times, speeding north on Highway 1 en route to Santa Cruz or beyond. You know, Elkhorn Slough, that gray, swampy waterway behind the power plant that stretches under the bridge across from Moss Landing. It doesn''t look like much from the road. Is it really worth taking a closer look? Absolutely.
The Elkhorn Slough Reserve is arguably one of Monterey County''s most underrated natural treasures. One of the most pristine wetlands left in California and a national estuarian reserve, the slough is a naturalist''s and bird watcher''s paradise. The second largest coastal wetland in the state, the Elkhorn Slough encompasses 2,500 acres of delicate ecosystem and is an important rest stop for migratory birds: More than a 100 bird species have been spotted there in one day. The slough is also home to a population of about 80 otters, and is a resting and birthing place for hundreds of harbor seals.
A good way to experience the slough is on a kayaking tour with Monterey Bay Kayaks. In a kayak, you''re on eye level with the marine mammals and water fowl. Moreover, a kayak is quiet, making it possible to observe animals from a short distance without interfering with their behavior. However, both the sea otters and harbor seals are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and it is important to give them their space.
On a recent tour, I had the unique vantage point of observing a sea otter as he dove into the water and then surfaced with a clam, broke open the shellfish with his favorite rock, which he kept balanced on his chest for easy access, and blissfully dined while floating on his back. I also witnessed a flock of brown pelicans swoop from the sky with breathtaking grace, and skim the surface of the slough, one right behind the other, in search of a seafood dinner. With the help of my guide, Pete, I also spotted a pterodactyl-looking blue heron, several snow-white great egrets, common loons, sandpipers, terns and godwits, just to name a few. Pete, like all MBK guides, is an educated naturalist and was able to identify various animals and plants, allowing me to experience the broad range of wildlife that I might otherwise have missed.
Wildlife aside, kayaking the slough is also an invigorating way to enjoy a nice day. Tours are presently offered on weekends, times vary according to the tides. However, MBK is expecting to open a new facility in Moss Landing by next month, and more tours will be added at that time.
Cost: $55 for five-hour tour, includes instruction. Reservations: Call 373-KELP
San Juan Bautista
A DAY IN ALTA CALIFORNIA
For a step back into local history, there is no better day trip than a lazy summer afternoon in the old Mission village of San Juan Bautista. It''s a half-hour drive via Highway 1 to 156 East, but why rush? Take the Crazyhorse Road turn-off from 156, turn left at San Juan Grade, and meander slowly along the spectacular backcountry road for about 25 minutes until you run into the main street of San Juan Bautista.
Most folks spend their time perusing the antique shops lining Third Street, with maybe a quick look into the Mission itself, but the town jewel is the entire State Historic Park including the 1797 Mission church and its surrounding 19th-century adobes. If you go during the week, you may find yourself blissfully alone in the Mission cemetery with its stunning valley views, where more than 4,000 baptized Native Americans were buried a century ago.
The Mission museum, maintained by the Catholic parish, is quirky, badly lit and virtually undocumented. In one glass case, a broken corkscrew is displayed next to pieces of green glass from some kind of soft drink bottle, an ancient obsidian spearpoint and bits of unidentified rust. Weird.
The other buildings in the historic square belong to the state parks department, a more tourist-friendly operation than the Catholic Church. I like to visit the old stables with my 10-year-old nephew Nick. It contains a great collection of 19th-century carriages, and we each pick out our favorite, and imagine a day''s outing: I like the elegant French phaeton, perfect for a Provencal picnic; Nick likes the fire engine.
Next door is the Breen family adobe. The Breens came west in 1846 with the ill-fated Donner Party, whose survivors made it through a freezing winter in the Rockies by eating the flesh of their departed comrades. Look at the family portrait at the entrance to the building--their haunted eyes will give you the creeps. Check out their saddles, a horrific bear trap, and the wedding dress worn in 1869 by Isabella Breen, who died in 1935, the last survivor of the Donner Party.
Before you leave the town, eat some over-priced Mexican food in a garden restaurant, look at Native American artifacts and movie memorabilia in the antique stores, and drive home by way of Fremont Peak State Park. But check the fog forecast first (or you may see as little as I did).
Free and Dirty
BIKING IN FORT ORD
How about a summer adventure you can enjoy in even less than a day, in one of the late sun evenings after work? And free, to boot? Whether your mountain bike is thrashed from use or sits in the garage more often than you''d like to admit, the more than 50 miles of trails on the public lands at Fort Ord offer an intense, satisfying experience, guaranteed to make the daily grind--and civilization--seem far, far away.
The International Mountain Biking Association calls the Fort Ord trails some of the best mountain biking in the country--no casual compliment. And, says Bureau of Land Management Park Ranger Roberto Maceira, there''s something for everyone. "You want technical?" he asks. "We got it. You want paved, easy? We got it."
With so many well-marked trails, you can tailor your ride to both your skill level and your time. Ride for an hour, or four. Gently sloping paved and dirt roads branch off to myriad technical single-tracks. Thigh-burning, grinding uphills give way to hairball downhills, where you''ll fly over rocks, skid through loose sand, up off your seat but crouched low, fingers barely wrapped around handle bars as your bike absorbs the shocks of the terrain. It is an exhilaration like no other.
Hard-charging or cruising, you''ll be surrounded by unique scenery--the Peninsula of a century ago. Trails wind among massive, twisted oaks and tiny lakes. Fields of delicate wildflowers lend brilliant color to verdant meadows. Views at the tops of finger-like sandstone ridges stretch for miles, with soft rolling hills to the south, dense oak forests and pockets of deep green wetlands to the north. Birds fill the air with warbles, knocks, twitters. Rustlings in the brush, along with tracks in the loose sand, attest to the presence of black tail mule deer, mountain lions and bobcats, badgers and skunks. Keep your eyes peeled. You may even spot a rare legless black lizard.
Easy-to-follow trail maps are available at each of several access points along Highway 68 and Reservation Road, including the Laguna Seca Recreation Area, where you can add camping to your outdoor adventure. Farther east along 68 is a popular access point across from the Toro Place Cafe. "Locals call it the big parking lot," says Maceira. "There are always lots of cars lined up there." He also recommends the Creekside entrance, across from the CHP building, where Portola Road dead-ends. Two more trail heads take off from Reservation Road, on the left, headed towards Marina. You can also call the BLM at 394-8314 and they''ll send you a map for free.
Sweat it a little this summer. Get dirty while you''re having fun. Remember why you bought that mountain bike. And remember, cool kids always wear their helmets.
Renew your over-worked soul with the ultimate in the mini-vacation--a trip to Point Lobos.
You can experience this getaway with an automobile, but for the full benefit, we recommend a bicycle-and-foot journey. First, you''ll have to get up early, leave your car near Rio Road and Highway 1 in Carmel, and enjoy the leisurely three-mile ride south to Point Lobos State Reserve. Don''t panic: The uphill stretch you encounter just past the artichoke fields is the hardest part, and even that''s quite rideable. Don''t go too fast to appreciate Monastery Beach.
The idea is to arrive precisely when the park opens at 9am; bike riders enter free of charge. The rewards of a morning pedal and stroll around this magical coastline are twofold: 1. You don''t have to share (much) with other visitors. 2. After a few hours, you''ll still have plenty of light and plenty of enthusiasm to continue your holiday.
The presence of fog, should you encounter it, only adds to the enchantment. You''ll still be able to hear the music of the great horned owl, and perhaps witness another favorite local resident, the red tail hawk. Point Lobos is an unofficial bird sanctuary, so enjoy.
Described as "the greatest meeting of land and water in the world" by landscape artist Francis McComas, Point Lobos is a stunning playground of unique geology, rich flora and precious wildlife. Venture off-trail through forests that wind their way to stunning views of Carmel Point and Big Sur, or descend to the beach. Look for gray whales that migrate remarkably close to the cliffs.
You''ll wonder aloud why you don''t do this more often. A visit to Point Lobos has more rejuventating power than a week on the couch--yours or your therapist''s.
Open 365 days a year at 9am, with closing time posted at the entrance.
Bed and Breakfast
COUNTRY ROSE INN
Just north of Gilroy, the tiny farming community of San Martin doesn''t exactly scream "relaxing vacation getaway spot." Even turning down the unremarkable rural road and driving past the fields of row crops, you''re not much more than a day away from home.
Then you turn in the gates of the Country Rose Bed and Breakfast, rolling up the drive, past the lush greenery and aging farm tools placed to reinforce the agrarian oasis feel, and park your car in the meadow.
Proprietress Rose Hernandez stops fussing over her rose bushes to greet the new guests and show them the beautiful two-story country farmhouse she bought in 1987, when she began her transformation from school teacher to innkeeper.
We peek inside the bedroom at the base of the stairs, one of Rose''s favorites among the five bedrooms. Elegant yet homey, with a picture of Rose''s parents over the fireplace mantle, ringed by a conversation area of a loveseat and two comfy chairs. The large bed has an ornately carved headboard with two built-in reading lamps. But this isn''t our room--we''re going to the top, to the honeymoon suite.
Walking into our room for the night, our cares are left in the hall, as the self-pampering begins immediately. The huge Jacuzzi tub washes off any residual anxieties, roaming the huge room on thick carpeting settles the carefree sensation into our bones, and an evening of reading in front of a crackling fire in the adjacent sitting room covers us in a veil of serenity and rejuvenation.
The "bed" was big and comfortable, and the "breakfast" of this namesake combo is a sendoff that will leave you feeling fat and happy. Even if you''re not a big breakfast eater, Rose''s apple pancakes will have you begging her for the recipe.
After a night of pampered pleasure in this wonderfully bucolic setting, you''ll marvel at how someplace so close can take you so far away.
Take Highway 101 north to the Masten Ave. off-ramp. Head west, a half-mile past Monterey Road, turn right on a private lane, and then turn right into the inn after four-tenths of a mile. Call 842-0441 for reservations. Room rates are $189 for the suite or $129 for the other bedrooms.
-- Steven T. Jones