Day three…I woke up early, unable to sleep from excitement for the day ahead, which would take me to one of my favorite cities on earth…San Francisco. I’ve lived in San Francisco, but on this trip I would be exploring off the beaten path and visiting some places around SF that I had never been to before. I hopped on a plane and off to Cali I went…
I arrived early and had a full day to explore before checking in to my hotel. The first thing I did was hop in my rental car and head over the Golden Gate bridge to Marin County. This piece of land north of San Francisco is one of the most beautiful places on earth. There are so many different types of landscapes, from misty harbors filled with houseboats to rocky cliffs battered by the ocean, to redwood forests nestled in the crevices of the hills. My first stop was Sausalito, the town just over the Golden Gate bridge known for its community of houseboats. Stepping on to one of the docks, you immediately understand why people have made homes here and never left, and why Otis Redding was inspired by this place to write his famous tune “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.” Boats drift in the peaceful marina singing songs as they gently rock and creak, a layer of fog floats serenely overhead, and you get the sense that this is one of those places where things may change, but everything really does remain the same.
After wandering around Sausalito for a bit I got back in the car to make my journey to the beaches of Marin. A windy road will take you there, creeping precariously through the hills where Muir Woods lies to your right and to your left you catch glimpses of turquoise that is the Pacific Ocean. I made a pit stop at Muir Beach Overlook to check out the view, and found a walkway that takes you to a point on the cliffs that feels like the edge of the earth. I was the only one out there, and I stood there for several minutes, just breathing and feeling so appreciative for where I was. Traveling can be very “go go go,” always rushing to catch planes, battling the clock, and places like this make you stop everything for a moment and just breathe.
On to Stinson Beach. I’m surprised that I never made it to Stinson when I lived in SF, because I had a lot of friends who went regularly to surf. It’s such a sweet little beach town, and though the beach can get crowded, the town hasn’t lost its old school charm. While I was there the sun started to burn through the fog and suddenly it was a beautiful day with people flocking to the beach. I didn’t stay long in Stinson because I was on a mission to find Bolinas.
Bolinas…I’ve never been anywhere like it. The residents here are famously reclusive, and known to turn around road signs so that people can’t find the town. Bolinas lies just north of Stinson, but whether it was a result of hiding street signs or not, I didn’t see a single sign indicating that I was on the right path. But I found it, and I instantly fell in love. Blink and you’d miss this little town, where things like parking meters don’t exist, boats drift lazily in the harbor, and the beach is lined with graffiti-covered stone walls. It’s an artsy community and even the graffiti adds to the charm of this town. Surfers pull their cars up to the beach and change into wetsuits, picking their way through rocks out to where the waves crash, and locals greet you with a nod and a smile. I felt like I was in a little peaceful bubble in Bolinas, where the real world feels a million miles away.
By now it was the afternoon and I decided to make my way back to San Francisco. I drove back across the bridge and decided to check out Land’s End, a park within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area where you can hike down numerous trails for stunning views of the bridge and bay. I was looking for one trail in particular, the one that takes you to the Eagle Point Labyrinth. The labyrinth, created by a local artist, sits on a rocky cliff that can be reached by a wooden staircase that winds down through the wild growth, and has messages strewn on the pieces of wood by people who have walked this path before. You’re almost unsure if you’re even going in the right direction but then, there it is, and the Golden Gate is in the distance, giving you the most breathtaking view. The Pacific Ocean in the Northwest is the most beautiful shade of blue that almost doesn’t even look real.
By the time I reached my hotel, the Hotel Monaco in downtown San Francisco, I was completely exhausted. The staff at this hotel was so welcoming – they even left me a “key to the city” which was such a thoughtful gesture! Not to mention, my room had the biggest bathroom I’ve ever seen.
Day three was one of my favorite days from my adventures. I fell in love with Bolinas and I felt so in awe of the beauty of Northern California. It’s amazing how many stunning places and views lie around almost every corner here, and how even when you live in a place you can miss so many incredible towns and hidden gems. It reminded me of the Roald Dahl quote, which I’ll end with today:
“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”
Check back tomorrow to see where I go next — and be sure to enter our Off the Beaten Path Sweeps!