Road Trip 2

Monterey and Yuba County

February 2018

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After having successfully completed a 6 day, 1,000 mile road trip with Brie in 2017, I decided it was time to obtain more experience points and level up! We stayed in a hotel on the last road trip. This time I wanted to try camping. Neither I nor Brie were experienced campers, so it was definitely going to be interesting! This road trip ended up being about 1,300 miles of driving in 8 days and around $900.

Day 1 – Driving to Saddle Mountain Ranch in Carmel-By-The-Sea

The drive this time around was easier than before. Brie was super comfy with lots of pillows, blankies, and toys! I was listening to a suspenseful James Patterson murder mystery audiobook, 4th of July, which was ironically set in the San Francisco Bay Area where I was headed.

Saddle Mountain Ranch is a cozy campground with RV and tent sites as well as log cabins. It was not crowded during our stay; we practically had the whole place to ourselves! The trail behind my tent was about 3-5 miles long and led to multiple scenic views over the valley. I explored it a little, added that hike to my to-do list, and settled in with Brie for the evening, falling asleep to the “hoo-hoo-hooooo” of owls.

Day 2 – Exploring Monterey

One thing I was not prepared for was the frigid cold weather! I live in San Diego, where the temperature is almost always a comfortable 70 degrees F. But here I was waking up at 1:00a.m. freezing my butt off in 30 F! I took out all the backup blankets and snuggled close with my big, fluffy, warm heater Brie. Our first night camping = complete!

In the morning we did a short hike up the trail behind our tent to explore the wedding ceremony area at Saddle Mountain Ranch. I enjoy our quiet morning walks so much! Then we ate a yummy breakfast at dog friendly Crema then headed to Brie’s favorite dog park, Rip Van Winkle Open Space in Pacific Grove. We had such fun listening to the woodpeckers and playing with all the other doggos. Brie certainly has a nose for adventure!

After lunch we drove through famous 17 Mile Drive! The coast here is lovely! Brie had a blast simply smelling the ocean air. I took my time driving through, enjoyed the sights, and stopped for a few pictures.

The weather started to quickly turn sour. Before dinner, I stopped by Stone’s Pet Shop – Mid Valley for a dog sweater for Brie. Many stores don’t carry doggie clothes for large, 60 pound dogs. I was relieved to find that Stone’s Pet Shop had exactly what I needed. Brie, however, was not so delighted haha!

Day 3 – Exploring The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park and Monterey

Come morning Brie was totally in love with her warm blue sweater! She was prancing about and happy as anything. The wonderful people at Saddle Mountain Ranch let me move my tent to underneath an unoccupied gazebo at a different campsite. The weather report predicted an incoming thunderstorm with strong winds, hail and rain. I wanted to be prepared!

The Forest of Nisene Marks State is my favorite State Park of all time. As you drive down the hill to the park entrance, it feels like you are passing through a wormhole to arrive in the prehistoric era of the dinosaurs! Dense forests with second- and third-growth redwoods and large canopies block out the sky. It reminded me of the jungles from the original Jurassic Park movie. I half expected a velociraptor or T-Rex to saunter by! 

Which, side note, the original Jurassic Park movie was mostly filmed in Kauai, Hawaii. I’m a big fan and was thrilled to go there to see Jurassic Falls, the original Jurassic Park sign, and drive an ATV in the same spot where the “They’re Flocking This Way” scene was filmed!

Dogs are only allowed on Aptos Creek Fire Road and the four single-track trails below the steel bridge. Dogs are prohibited beyond the gate at the Porter picnic area parking lot. Even so, Aptos Creek Fire Road was more than enough to enjoy for me and Brie.

We stopped by dog friendly Swanton Berry Farm in Davenport for some of the best cider, coffee, pies, and other treats! Armed with blackberry pies and cider, we drove back to our campsite and settled in for the incoming storm.

Day 4 – Exploring Garland Ranch Regional Park

Breakfast was blackberry pies and toasted pecan coffee. Off we then went to explore Garland Ranch Regional Park. This is an extensive, dog friendly park in Carmel Valley. It’s a great spot for both light and extraneous hikes. I enjoy coming here for the vast views of the valley, flora, and fauna. Brie saw her first family of deer here! She was curious about these new animals but cautiously stayed in front to guard me. Brie is a funny dog on the trails. Her job is to keep me safe and she takes it very seriously!

In lieu of the second incoming storm, I went back to Stone’s Pet Shop and bought Brie another, thicker jacket to lay over her sweater. She liked this one a lot. She was now ready for even 20F weather! (Which it did not end up being very cold this time).

Day 5 – Rain rain go away, come again some other day

It rained like cats and dogs all day! We stayed in as much as possible. Brie snored while I tried unsuccessfully to stop our tent from flooding. See all that mud on the side of our tent!? I've since learned my lesson and now make sure to first lay a large tarp down inside the tent to create a bathtub tent floor that keeps us dry. Home Depot sells affordable, durable tarps for this purpose. Good thing this was our trial camping road trip!

Day 6 – Hiking to the top of the mountain at Saddle Mountain Ranch

We woke in the early morning to the earthy smells of a rain soaked world. The ground was covered with a light dew and the trees were a dark, saturated color. I was so excited to start the hike on the trail behind our tent. The world feels so mysterious yet alive after a good rain. We even saw a rainbow!

Day 7 – Driving to Yuba County

Some family/friends in Yuba County happened to be having a small get together and asked if I wanted to join. I decided to extend our trip by a day and 400 miles since Brie was doing so well. We had a wonderful time and made lots of friends.

Day 8 - Driving home, final thoughts

This was a road trip to test our resolve when camping. Would we be running for a hotel the first chance we got? Could I even fit all the stuff required in my car!? What do I do if my tent floods (which it did)?!?? Despite my camping inexperience, overall we did well in handling the unexpected. It turns out that both Brie and I enjoy camping very much. With all the road trip and camping tests out of the way, it was time to start planning an even bigger road trip to Arizona, Utah, and Nevada!