One of the many benefits to having our son in college at UC Santa Cruz, is we now have an excuse to explore the surrounding area. A Spring getaway to Monterey and Carmel was an opportunity to take in the natural, historical and seafood bounty of California’s Central Coast.

A plan to hike in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve was quickly shifted to Garrapata State Park when traffic and hordes of flip-flop wearing non-hikers seemed to be swarming the entrance. I hope to go back to Point Lobos, but Garrapata was divine and much less crowded. Right on the coast, the trail takes you out to a point where tidepooling is fun. The wildflowers were stunning and on a sunny day the views can’t be beat.

When I posted pictures of our little walk, a Spanish speaking friend of Uruguayan descent said the name of the park meant ‘tick’– this seemed unusual and slightly off-putting given the epidemic of Lyme Disease.

A little more research found the term ‘Garrapata’ might also be a term in Spanish slang– in certain countries– for bohemian, or hippie or ‘long-haired one’ — which would make sense given the proximity to Big Sur and Esalen Institute and Hot Springs. Maybe it really is just ‘Tick State Park’. Either way, we did do full body checks after the hike.

We booked an overnight in a Monterey hotel in the center of town and decided to roam on foot. We agreed not to go to the famed aquarium this time, and instead hoofed it to the Pacific House; an adobe structure with exhibits telling the story of Monterey when it was the capital of Spanish and Mexican California. The small museum was enchanting and kept two teens and their parents all interested. Small, interactive and free, the collection was a nice combination of native, natural and socio/ cultural history of the area. A walk to the wharf followed and and a chance to take in some of the coastal gifts.

A drive up the coast to one of our favorite –albeit touristy– restaurants (Phil’s Fish Market) and a seafood smorgasbord, left us feeling as full as a tick after a feast. Another hike was hastily organized to walk off the meal and check out The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. Located outside Aptos in the Santa Cruz Mountains, with 40 miles of hiking trails, this park is off the beaten coastal path. The park’s name honors Nisene Marks, the nature-loving matriarch of a Salinas farm family. The family purchased the land in the 1950s and her children donated the nearly 10,000 acres to the state in 1963 with the provision that the land never be developed. Today, the park showcases a forest in recovery and remnants of its once-bustling railroad and logging industry.

A grove of ancient old-growth redwood trees welcomes picnickers, hikers and cyclists. Interestingly, and a little scary, the epicenter of the Loma Prieta earthquake on October 17, 1989 was in this park. We took a brisk walk as I had hoped to hide some chocolate eggs I had lovingly brought back from my favorite chocolate shop in NYC. My teens were not with that program, so we just ate the chocolate on our hike.

We returned the college student to his dorm and made our way up Highway 1, bellies still full and happy to have spent time together in nature. There is so much to see and do between San Francisco and Carmel. Every pull-out on the Pacific Coast Highway is worthy of a photo op and plenty of cyclists and motorcyclists enjoy the route, particularly on weekends.

Filed Under Cycling, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Fishing, Hike/Backpack, Monterey, Northern California, Restaurants, Santa Cruz, Tide Pools, wildlife


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