The hunt for the elusive John Muir National Historic Site
04.09.2011 - 04.09.2011 20 °C
Still in slight shock from the previous night’s driving ordeal facing labour day traffic and sold out motels everywhere, the first thing we did after getting up was firing up the laptop and booking a room in SF for the night. To our surprise there was some choice, so we picked a place close to the Fisherman’s wharf to make it easier the following day when we had an Alcatraz trip booked. With the destination for the night fixed, we set out on our first task of the day – drive to the Rustridge winery in Napa Valley and pick up my jacket and passport that I forgot there almost 2 weeks earlier when we started our California trip.
M got another compliment on her hair at breakfast. I have lost count how many people just came up to marvel at and comment on her beautiful copper hair during our holiday. The drive to Rustridge was pretty uneventful and after a couple of hours we reached the ranch and picked up my stuff. Sadly there was no sight of the owners Susan and Jim, so we left a message with some guests and headed on to the coastal highway #1. By now we had agreed on three itinerary items for the day: John Muir House (or John Muir National Historic Site), Muir Woods and Sausalito, where I failed to stop a couple of weeks earlier (to M’s annoyance at the time).
We swapped drivers and with M at the helm, we should not miss a turn this time. Well, maybe one. We did do a little ad hoc detour towards Sonoma town, but after quickly consulting our trusted travel guide we decided to stick to the original plan and continue on to the coast without stopping.Closer to SF traffic got busy again, but we were in high spirits as the travel guide suggested we were not far from our first scheduled stop, the John Muir house. Unfortunately everybody else also seemed to have the same idea of driving up the highway #1, and courtesy of the Labour Day weekend it was bumper to bumper for quite a while.
Our mood slowly deteriorated, because a) our friend Fred the coastal cloud was hanging out all along the serpentine road and b) we passed a sign to Muir Woods parking but no signs anywhere that suggested we were approaching the John Muir house. Eventually after a long and tiring drive it got sunny and we reached the Point Reyes National Seashore Park – nice but it meant that we were way too far. My navigation and sign spotting skills were challenged by M and my defence seemed weak. However, we decided not to turn around, but instead make the best of it and explore the area a bit now that we were there.
In the visitor centre we made a last attempt and asked the park staff for directions to the John Muir house. The first guy had never heard of it, but directed us to a colleague. This one too was so nice to direct us to a further colleague and eventually we were talking to the longest serving member of staff, who actually did know about the Muir house and pointed it out on a map on the counter. To our surprise, he didn’t use a local area map but a map of the wider SF bay area. It turned out a that the elusive place was a few miles west of Oakland, maybe 15miles from where we started in the morning, but a mere 3h drive from where we were now. With my credibility as navigator restored, we firmly put all the blame on the travel guide. It also seemed to explain a few fruitless detours trying to find sites along the way in the previous days ….
But hey, the sun was out and we decided to do a couple of short walks. The first was the Earthquake trail, a 1km circular walk across the St Andreas fault line.The key attraction of the walk was a fence that was ripped apart by the 1906 earthquake, with one half of the fence having moved several meters to the side! The second walk we did was the Kule Loklo trail, slightly longer and taking us via a number of replica buildings of the indigenous coastal Mivok people. Whilst interesting and a great backdrop to plenty of photos, the highlight of the walk was a bobcat! It was too far to get a good photo, but clearly visible as it slowly wandered through a field. Spotting it was greatly helped by the other hikers staring at it from the field’s fence.
There is plenty more to explore at Point Reyes, but having spend so much time driving to get there we decided to head on. It was already quarter to 5 when we hit the road. The first thing we saw was a massive queue of cars going back highway #1. So we followed some detour signs and for a change enjoyed an empty road and even passed through woodlands full of redwood trees. If it weren’t so late we would have definitely stopped for a walk, but so we just pressed on to Sausalito. Back in civilisation, Labour Day curse struck again: the Sausalito art festival was on which again meant lots of traffic and expensive parking.
Not fully ready for the crowds, we turned around, parked at the harbour and took a walk along the waterfront which is full of houseboats and houses on stilts. We even spotted a couple of water-planes parked outside houses, an interesting way of parking up on the driveway. The whole area had nice feel to it, but the wind picked up, Fred was coming down the coastal hills towards the SF bay and it started to get cold. So we headed back to Sausalito and found ourselves a restaurant, Paradise Bay, for dinner. Unfortunately the interior, service and food did not match the hefty price tags and the outside appearance; overall it was a fairly disappointing eating experience.
Back outside, it was now pretty chilly and the sun was almost gone. So we skipped Muir Woods and headed toward our hotel.Thanks to super busy traffic again, it was dark by the time we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. M navigated us through dark streets straight to our Travelodge. Once checked in, we decided to head out for a short walk to the Fisherman’s Warf area and go for a drink or two. By this time it was freezing and after one drink in an Italian bar / restaurant where we stopped to warm up, we ended up in an Irish pub with Karaoke. Not that we are fans of it, it was just too cold to wander around looking for alternatives. After listening to lots of very confident, but average at best, singers, we decided to stop suffering and headed back to our room to get some rest before the last day of our holiday.