Day Five & Six – The Princess Diaries

Hills. Hills. Hills. And yes, more hills. That’s San Francisco for ya. We climbed the equivalent of forty-one flights of stairs as we explored nearly every neighborhood in this wonderfully gorgeous, wildly steep city. Hannah’s fancy app tracker recorded 19,961 steps over the course of 6.7 miles… suffice to say, San Francisco was breathtaking.

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San Fran highlights included picnicking in front of the famous “Painted Ladies” that were once featured on the television show Full House.

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We also visited Pier 39. Here’s an attempted selfie in front of the whale mural. We were unable to see the Golden Gate Bridge due to fog, so this was our substitute backdrop.

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Alcatraz was particularly ominous this afternoon. Eliza accidentally took this picture as she was putting her phone down, which is why it has a magical swoop effect.

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It should be noted that this day started off with clear skies and promising temperatures, but quickly plummeted to the mid-50s when the fog rolled in. Cindy, a sweet shop owner in Ashbury, explained that San Francisco’s coldest months are July and August. As such, the saying goes: “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” This, she explained, is the result of the Bay’s microclimate.

We decided to head back to our hotel for an early night in instead of watching the fireworks. We had been on our feet for hours and were ready to crash into our beds. We purchased It’s Its – a local San Fran dessert (vanilla ice cream sandwiched between two oatmeal cookies dipped in chocolate) on our way to the hotel and ate those before bed. They were messy and delicious and a true 10 out of 10.

The next morning we were up early for some last minute touring. The Princess Diaries (a true cinematic masterpiece) was, of course, set and filmed in San Francisco. We visited “Grove High School” and the home of Mia Thermopolis before leaving the city.


We continued south on Hwy 1, stopping to visit the Pigeon Point lighthouse. Here we saw a pod of dolphins and some whales in the distance. It was incredible.

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After whale watching, we got hopped back in the car and started our drive through California’s wine country. Many references were made to the 1998 version of The Parent Trap. We stopped at Folktale Winery and Vineyards in Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA and each enjoyed a glass of wine on the patio. It was peaceful and a nice change of pace from the rush of San Francisco.

Two hours later, we were back on Hwy 1 driving through Big Sur. Due to the recent landslides, we were only able to drive about 25 miles before we were forced to turn around and retrace our steps (an event we had planned for in advance). Consequently, we stayed overnight in Salinas, CA. This town was reminiscent of the one depicted in Napoleon Dynamite, i.e. it was charming, but not the most happening place. We stopped at Target and Sam purchased a copy of The Princess Diaries, which we watched that night at our hotel. It was the perfect way to end the day.


Day Four – One Hour From San Fran

“5.5” Hours to San Fran – Redwood National Park

Our morning began with campfire scramble courtesy of Sammie. We packed up our tent and hit the road at 7:30 a.m., ready to experience the wonders of Redwood National Park. It was cool and foggy with periodic sprinkles, but the weather quickly cleared as we moved inland. We reached the Avenue of the Giants at 10 o’clock.


The Avenue of the Giants surpassed all expectations. We visited the park on the eve of July 4th, so it was busy but not overwhelming. We took a slight detour through Rockefeller Forest; this side venture required another laborious, slow drive along a second precarious, pothole-ridden road, but it was absolutely worth it.

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Here in Rockefeller Forest, you can hike to “The Giant Tree” and “The Tall Tree” – which we did, in reverse order. The Tall Tree stands at 359.3 feet with the circumference of 42 feet; it was measured in February 1957. The Giant Tree stands at 363 feet with a circumference of 53.2 feet; it was measured in November 1991.

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We enjoyed the park for several hours, leaving at around 1 o’clock. We said goodbye to Hwy 101 in Leggett, CA, marking our official start on the Pacific Coast Highway as we turned onto Hwy 1. It took all of our Lookout Mountain training to avoid getting carsick during this stretch of our journey. We’ve attempted to find an aerial shot of the road to illustrate just how twisted this mountainous pass truly is. Unfortunately, no satisfactory images have surfaced, so you will have to use your imagination.

“3.5” Hours to San Fran – Fort Bragg, CA

We descended the mountain an hour later, only to have our breath stolen by this view.

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This is when Eliza captured this iconic image of Hannah capturing trip footage for the trip vid (standby for this video – it will be stunning).

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We continued driving south, enjoying a series of vista points along the way. It was impossible to pass by without pausing to take in the view.

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We stopped for lunch in Fort Bragg, eating fish tacos at a local Mexican restaurant before heading across the street to Glass Beach. This beach was once a landfill, but is now a beautiful state park known for its impressive collection of sea glass formed from discarded beer bottles. It wasn’t as grand as its reputation suggested (the sea glass has been picked over by tens of thousands of tourists), but it still boasted more sea glass than any other beach the three of us have visited.

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We made sure to visit Cowlick’s Creamery before leaving town. This ice cream is made from the happy cows of California, and it was delightful. We left Fort Bragg around 6 p.m. excited to cross the Golden Gate Bridge at sundown.

“3” Hours to San Fran – Elk, CA

By this point in the trip, we were convinced that we were an hour away from San Francisco. This, of course, was not accurate. But we believed it nonetheless. We stopped at a lighthouse where the temperature/wind chill was nearly unbearable. We also visited a series of beaches and vista points. Before we knew it, it was 8 p.m. Here’s a picture of Sam celebrating the Pacific Ocean, unaware of the hours and hours and hours of driving we still had left ahead of us. It was a moment of bliss.

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This is a shot of California “sand” also known as pebbles on the east coast.

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“1.5” Hours to San Fran – Valley Ford, CA

If there was any point during this day when we should have gone another way, it would have been at the 1/101 crossroads in Valley Ford, CA. Though it was already dark – the time was 10 p.m. – we chose to continue our coastal route instead of meeting Hwy 101. This was a mistake. This route was plagued with construction and ended with a massive detour on Mt. Tamalpais. Thankfully, one of our best trip moments was born from this mess.

– – – The Story of Norman – – –
We were exhausted and Sam was convinced she saw an owl sitting in the road (yes, just sitting there). Hannah and Eliza did not see said owl, so Sam prayed that the Lord would, “show them the animals” and the next thing we knew, Norman, the fox crossed the road directly in front of us. Relentless laughter ensued (we are still laughing five days later as we discuss the “exact” details of Sam’s spiritual experience). It should also be noted that all three of us screamed at deafening pitches when we rounded the bend and saw Norman staring back at us. Suffice to say, God has a sense of humor.

San Francisco, California – Arrival time – 11:30 p.m.

This was the day when we were “an hour away from San Fran” for a good six hours. According to Hannah’s app, we drove a total of 11 hours and 42 minutes. As a result, we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in a state of delusion. It was foggy, so we were unable to truly appreciate the experience. Nevertheless, we were thrilled to reach the city and were excited for all of the adventures our next day would hold. It was our longest day yet, but one we will cherish forever.