Category: California

14 Nov

Seven days in Northern CA: lighthouses, albatrosses and artichoke soup

California 1 Comment by Christina Cooke


To celebrate my 33rd birthday last week, my mother, sister and I convened in the region where my my mother was born and raised and my sister and I spent many summers growing up. The northern California coast, from San Francisco south to Monterey, kept us happily busy for a week straight: We kayaked in an estuary among pelicans and sea otters, walked along a beach littered with elephant seals and made intense eye contact with an albatross. We ate artichoke soup at Duarte’s Tavern in the tiny town of Pescadero, scallops at Passion Fish restaurant in Pacific Grove and Spanish tapas at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the Mission District of San Francisco. We slept in a redwood forest one night and soaked in a hot tub on a cliff above crashing waves the next. It’s good to be 33.

Some photos:


Pigeon Point

At 115 feet tall, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, 50 miles south of San Francisco near the town of Pescadero, is the tallest lighthouse on the West Coast. It’s still responsible for keeping ships from crashing into the shore.

LIghthouseWe stayed in hostel located in former Coast Guard buildings at the base of the lighthouse (above, to the right). $75-85 a night for a shared kitchen and bathroom and private room. We were the only ones in our house.


My sister Laura was stoked to be there. Here, she’s headed out to take in the view from the deck overlooking the water.

Lighthouse glassThe Frensel Lens, a 10-foot-tall beehive design comprised of 1,008 glass panes, once projected light 24 miles out to sea. Now, it’s awaiting the lighthouse’s restoration in one of the outbuildings (a friendly ranger invited us in to see).


A major hostel perk: the outdoor hot tub on a deck overlooking the Pacific. In after dark, we could hear the waves crashing and see the lighthouse beam periodically scanning the water.


Pescadero beach with gull

Ano Nuevo beach from up highThe last time I visited Año Nuevo State Park, I was 7 years old and cranky (i.e. I didn’t want to walk and my mom ended up having to carry me on the hike. Fun times for her!). I had a much better attitude this visit. 


Though elephant seals look blobular on land, they’re forces to be reckoned with in water. They swim with power and finesse — and log more than 20,000 miles through the ocean every year.

Stuck elephant seal

When you’re shaped like a cigar, lugging your body up a 6-inch shelf in the sand is an almost insurmountable challenge. After much maneuvering, this juvenile male made it up and joined his friends in just lying there.

Two seal cigars

The alphas will eventually develop giant elephant-like noses and grow to the weight of Chevy Suburbans. But for now, they rest.

Seal cigar

Some very neatly. (more…)

15 Jul

Finding clarity on Pescadero Beach

California No Comments by Christina Cooke

The paper fortune teller I found beside a sandcastle on Pescadero Beach along the coast of California is a quick way to find out whether “you will make a thing cool!!!” “you will catch a fish” or “you will have a bad drim.”

Though whether you’ll be “rich” or “helthe” or “not have solnting you licke” is up to chance, as you stroll along the mile-long stretch of sand and sea along Highway One 15 miles south of Half Moon Bay, a few things are sure: you’ll see rocky outcroppings, vibrant tide pools, skittering sandpipers and rolling fog, you’ll appreciate that relatively undeveloped places like this still exist, and you’ll want to build an elaborate driftwood fort — or move into one already made that suits your style, like this one:

After your stroll, become master of your own destiny. “Travel to a place that you [will] like” and “have nice things”: head four miles down the road to Duarte’s Tavern (pronounced Doo-arts), a family-run resaurant that’s been around since 1894 in the seaside town of Pescadero. I recommend the thick, creamy artichoke soup and the sweet, flaky olallieberry pie (pronounced oh-lah-leh-berry). Their fresh seafood is tasty too.

Meri Chritmas! I hope you mak a new frend.