Grace and I take little weekend getaways pretty often. We try to go camping or get out of town about once a month. When we can, we take longer trips, too. Today I want to recap my top five favorite road trips we've taken so far. I had a hard time limiting myself to just five, so I hope to share some details about other past trips in a different post later on! I could go on and on about these adventures, so grab a glass of wine or a hot mug of tea because this post is l-o-n-g. Without further ado, here are my top five (in no particular order):
1. Our weeklong road trip from Sonoma to San Diego (and a lot of places in between) in Summer 2015
Even though I just said these trips were listed in no particular order, this one is my favorite overall. We started the trip in Berkeley, California, where I lived at the time. From there, we went to Sonoma and enjoyed a private wine tasting on a hilltop (with Casper!) at Kamen Wines. That night, we camped in nearby Santa Rosa, California.
If you're in Big Sur with a pup (or just on your own), don't miss Pfeiffer Beach (pictured in the last couple of photos above). It's stunningly beautiful and was mostly empty on a weekday even in summer. It's perfect for us because it's dog friendly, but it's not an off-leash dog beach--due to Casper's issues with other dogs, any environment where a dog can run up to him unexpectedly is a no-go for us. It's rare to find a beach that allows dogs but requires them to stay on leash, much less one as gorgeous as Pfeiffer.
After waking up in beautiful Big Sur, we drove further down Highway 1 to spend the night in Pismo Beach. Before we got there, we stopped for a picnic lunch on the charming pebble beach of Cayucos. Pismo was a random choice for us to spend the night (having never heard of it previously), but it ended up being probably our favorite campground of the trip. We stayed at North Beach Campground. The sunset from that night, shown below, is the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen in my life, and I still think about it all the time.
The next day we drove to Ojai and stayed at the lovely Ojai Valley Inn and Spa. It's pet friendly! Casper was treated like royalty. This was our one "splurge" night of the trip, and as you'll see from the photos below, it was so worth it. One of our favorite touches: at check in, there is a sign telling the exact time of that night's sunset (the "pink moment" sign in the photo below). We planned our dinner that night around that time, choosing to eat at one of the on-site restaurants, Olivella, which had just opened that week!
Our last two stops of the trip were a night in Joshua Tree at this Airbnb and then a final night in San Diego at Grace's aunt's condo before returning to Grace's house in LA. This was our first big trip with Casper, and I'm still so thankful for how smoothly it went and what an unforgettable time we had.
2. Yosemite National Park, Spring 2016
Looking back, it's amazing to me that this trip happened. We went to Yosemite for the first time during my final spring break of law school, and we only had about a week in advance to plan it, find a place to stay (with an 80-pound dog in tow), etc. The reason for the last-minute chaos was because I had originally been planning to go to Turkey for my spring break as part of a delegation of students from Berkeley. I studied abroad in Turkey during undergrad, so it was the perfect opportunity for me to go back. However, the trip was cancelled at the last minute because of a string of bombings in Istanbul and Ankara. I digress--but it's relevant to the extent that if you're attempting to plan a Yosemite trip with only one week's notice, it IS possible!
We spent two days in the park, staying a short drive outside the gates in this dog-friendly Airbnb. I cherish the memories of our visit, and I can confidently tell you that we did Yosemite RIGHT. Our strategy primarily involved waking up early and beating the crowds. Simple as that. I plan on writing a separate post just on Yosemite tips (even in the low season, it is an extremely popular destination and the amount of crowds can make or break your experience--especially with a dog). Since I'll go into detail about Yosemite later, I'll just leave you with a few photos of our time there for now :)
3. Pinoeertown Cabin, Memorial Day 2015
Probably the most life-changing trip we've taken so far was to an off-the-grid cabin near Pioneertown, California, which is sort of in the Palm Desert/Twentynine Palms area. Grace planned this trip as a surprise getaway for us and Casper. The reason it was such a meaningful trip was because of the profoundness of the silence and alone time there. Getting to the cabin involved driving five miles down a dirt road, and the cabin itself runs totally off well water and generator electricity. It is quite literally "off the grid." There is no cell phone service or internet. We spent the weekend star gazing, making fires and roasting marshmallows in the little wood-burning stove, cooking amazing meals (with all ingredients brought in with us--there's no grocery store or other people for miles and miles), playing Scrabble, Grace playing guitar, napping, talking about things that matter, and taking little hikes from right outside our front door. Everything about it felt like pure magic. It's from this trip that our love of quiet, wild getaways really grew. The vastness of the frontier surrounding our cabin and the way it made us feel even partially inspired one of Grace's tattoos.
Grace found the cabin on Airbnb, but sadly, it is no longer available to rent. However, there are some similar looking places nearby that we want to check out at some point.
4. Treehouse in Ojai, California, Spring 2017
This is one of the most recent getaways we've taken, and it's a favorite for a few different reasons. We found the treehouse on Hipcamp, which is an awesome resource for private campsites and rustic cabin-type properties. We booked the place on a whim when we were craving some time outdoors, but we didn't really know what to expect. What we found is that along with the treehouse property comes an entire mountaintop near Ojai, California, covered with stunning oak trees. There is a beautiful insulated treehouse for sleeping, 40 acres of land for Casper to roam, an al fresco dining area with a grill, prep tables, etc., a fun rope swing, a hammock, badminton, frisbee golf, croquet, and even a little bathroom setup with running water. From the mountaintop, you can see the Pacific ocean and the Channel Islands if the weather is clear. It's incredibly lush and green, which is a very different environment from a lot of camping in Southern California. It's also one of the shortest drives for a getaway--only about 2 hours from LA.
One of the funniest memories from this trip is the experience of getting Casper up into the treehouse. There's a ladder that was fairly simple for Grace and me to scramble up, but for a four-legged travel companion, it was extremely tricky. What ended up happening is that Grace would sit at the top of the ladder, on the treehouse platform, while I would lift Casper up and push him into Grace's waiting arms. There was a lot of trial and error involved. But it was worth the pulled muscles to have sweet Casper up there with us. We definitely plan on going back, maybe even with a big group of friends since there's so much land for people to camp in tents in addition to the treehouse (which can sleep about 4 comfortably).
5. Our First Ever Camping Trip in Summer 2014
Last but not least, I have to mention our first ever camping trip together: the trip that started it all. Way back in Summer 2014, we didn't even have Casper yet! Summer was waning and I wanted to do something special before I had to go back to Berkeley for the school year, so I planned this trip as a surprise for Grace one weekend in July. I grew up camping with my dad, but Grace had never been. We camped at Fairview Campground in the Sequoia National Forest, about three hours north of LA. I'll never forget that evening--we cooked over an open fire, roasted marshmallows, and just as we were turning in for the night, a light warm summer rain started to fall and pitter-pattered on our tent all night. The Kern River also runs through the back of the campground, and before dinner, we sat on rocks beside it, dipped our feet in, and had some wine. It was dreamy. We've since been back to Fairview Campground with Casper and we LOVE it. It's our favorite campground in Southern California. I plan on doing a separate post just about this "home base" campground of ours and how to find your own!
While on this trip, we also hiked the nearby Trail of 100 Giants, which is a great way to see the giant redwoods in Southern California. Many people think they're only up north, but it's not true! Sequoia National Forest is a gem and not at all difficult to reach from LA.
Honorable Mention: Sausalito, January 2017
It's impossible to keep this list to just five trips. A final shout-out goes to Sausalito, where we recently spent a weekend with Casper at Grace's aunt's charming guest house (Grace has relatives in the best places. No joke, her cousin lives in The Bahamas and we are trying to figure out a way to get there, too!). The photos below from our trip speak for themselves to convince you that Sausalito is well worth the visit if you're in the Bay Area. To us, it was even worth a 6-hour drive in its own right!
It's so much fun for me to recap these trips. Thanks for reading! If you are planning a getaway to any of these places, feel free to use my Contact page to get in touch, and I'd be happy to share more tips with you.