Highway 1: Part 4 (Santa Cruz to San Francisco)

And so begins the final chapter of our California roadtrip. Waking up among the Redwoods in Big Sur we cooked breakfast a little breakfast and hit the road. Our next stop for the night was just a short drive up the coast, Santa Cruz but we had a few things we wanted to see along the way. The first thing we came to almost immediately after leaving our site was the picturesque Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed spots along this part of Highway 1.

Continuing north we made out next stop at Point Lobos State Natural Park. A place I was pretty determined to see but wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. We parked outside the park along the road and followed a path in to avoid the fee and traffic lined up at the entry gate.

The park was stunning with sea lions strung out on the cliffs below and hundreds of pelicans scattered all around the numerous rocky coves. With endless views of the Pacific Ocean the park is a must-see if you are ever in the Carmel Highlands.

We were able to pick up a map and navigate our way around most the coastal trail that runs throughout the park. Plenty of view to check out and some good exercise as a bonus.

We pulled into the small town of Carmel for a couple hours to check it out. Paige had been before and insisted we walk the quaint streets. We grabbed a coffee and some snacks before leaving a headed on towards Santa Cruz.

Santa Cruz was exactly what we’d imagined and heard it described as. A slow-paced, true California surf town. I was immediate captured by that attitude and as we drove into town from the North and along the cliffs that drop down to a few renown surf breaks. School was just getting out and there were kids everywhere skating with surfboards, biking with them, all with wetsuits ready to paddle out. The same was the case for the older crowd, clearly long-time locals in no rush to do just about anything. It was a great vibe so we backed the van into a spot along. I was starving so I immediately opened up the truck and fired up our Coleman two-burner stove. I whipped up a couple of delicious grilled cheeses and we grabbed our cameras to go check out the action.

Again just as imagined, the lineup was full of surfers and apparently even more crowded due to not only good waves, but unseasonably warm water. After watching for atleast an hour and half we drove into town to see what was going on but since Labor Day had just passed, many of the summer attractions were closed. We made our way up to our campsite just a few miles outside of town and were exhausted by the time we got there.

The next morning we awoke to an empty campground, much as it was the night before and slowly packed up our gear. A nice fire to eat breakfast beside sent us along our way towards San Francisco and Stinson Beach. Our final day of driving on the trip was ahead of us and we both were starting to tire.

On our way out of Santa Cruz a local as well as a colleague of mine had told us about a spot called 4 Mile. Not sure exactly where, we set the odometer as soon as we passed the city limit sign. We parked among the dozen other cars and headed across the train tracks and down a wide trail towards the beach. As soon as the surf was in view, it was apparent this was the spot. A very local spot with only a handful of guys out this morning. The waves were very consistent and a few double-overheads rolled in while we watched. It was definitely worth the walk down to watch for a half hour.

4 Mile, Just north of Santa Cruz

San Francisco was great and it was fun driving into the city from the South and watching the hills grow bigger and bigger as we made our way into the Bay Area. We planned to return our van to the rental company, grab some food, and then head out to Alcatraz, all set on an aggressive hour-or-so timeframe once we arrived in the city.

Downtown San Francisco seen from Alcatraz Island

We managed to make our pre-arranged boarding for the boat out to “The Rock” and explore the prison now converted into a National Park. Heading back to the city after spending most of our day on the island we went for dinner and drinks before catching a ride to our final destination of the trip, Stinson Beach. We had a wedding to attend that weekend and it capped off our California trip perfectly.

See you again in August, Cali!

Originally published at Adam Johnson | Graphic Designer.