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DPChallenge Forums >> Out and About >> Goin' to California (Palm Springs & San Fran)
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03/15/2006 11:50:41 AM · #1
I'm going to be in Palm Springs for a business conference this weekend and early next week. I'm then planning to take two days to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco and then spend another week and a half in and around the bay area (San Fran, Berkeley, Sebastopol, and Monterey).

Does anyone have any suggestions for good photo opps in those areas?

While in Palm Springs, I'm hoping to get out to Joshua Tree National Park, but I've never been out there and I don't really know where to go or what to expect.

This will also be my first visit to the bay area. It's somewhere I've always wanted to go, but again, I'm not really sure what to see and do.

Any advice or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
03/15/2006 12:59:31 PM · #2
Anyone?
03/15/2006 01:10:07 PM · #3
The Big Sur Coast from San Simeon to Monterey is stunning. Just make sure that you park safely before taking pics - it's a very windy road with very few turnouts. Make sure that you stop at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and walk out towards the ocean as there is a beautiful waterfall.

Message edited by author 2006-03-15 13:30:05.
03/15/2006 01:11:18 PM · #4
Joshua Tree National Monument is an eerie photo opportunity; strange plantforms and Great rocks/boulders. Plan your trip to be there in early light or late light. It's a day-trip sort of place, spend a few hours there passing through.

You say "2 days" to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway. It seems like I've spent half a lifetime on the PCH (I'm an ex-Californian) and I still haven't done it justice. From San Luis Obispo on north it's heaven on earth. You'll be driving the Big Sur Highway, and you'll want to do it early in the day for best light. Book a room in Cambria-by-the-Sea, or somewhere around San Simeon (Hearst Castle area) and then leave EARLY the next morning and take your time.

Get a good map and look for where the "Nacimiento Road" leaves the coast and heads into the Piedras Blancas (the coast range) at about the 2/3 mark heading north. This is a graded dirt.graveled road that is totally passable unless weather has recently been unusually severe, and if you take it up a few miles from the coast you will see some vistas back toiwards the sea that are breathtaking.

Plan to spend a day in the Carmel/Monterey area at least. Don't miss Point Lobos in Carmel, the stomping grounds for Weston, Adams et al, considered by many to be the most beautiful seascape on earth. See also the Mission in Carmel, and check out the beach at the foot of town.

Monterey has one of the great Aquariums, the Monterey Bay Aquarium; don't miss it. Continuing north, check out the waterfront at Moss Landing for all osts of "old fishing boast" opportunities.

I'll let the SF residents take it from there :-)

Have fun!

Robt.

Edit to add: the earlier-mentioned waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park is the ONLY waterfall on the pacific coast of the USA that falls directly into the ocean.

Message edited by author 2006-03-15 13:12:38.
03/15/2006 01:32:30 PM · #5
Thanks Tinky and Bear. That waterfall at Julia Pfeiffer Burns looks beautiful. I found a photo here. That's defnitely on my agenda now.

I'm sort of stuck with just the 2 days to drive up PCH because my wife is flying out to meet me in Oakland, and I don't think I can miss that date! But we're making a separate trip down to Monterey after she arrives. I've actually already booked a room at Morro Bay, which looks to be right down the road from where you suggested, Bear. Since it's not a tourist town, it's much cheaper than some of the other options.

I haven't been able to find the "Nacimiento Road" that you referenced, and I have some pretty good maps. I think I'm just not looking in the right place. Do you know what the nearest town, or at least which county it is in? Not sure I'll be brave enough to risk it in my rented minivan, but it definitely sounds worth checking out.

As for Joshua Tree, my time is probably going to be limited to just early morning and sunset due to the conference timeframe. Do you know any easy-to-get-to spots in the park near the Palm Springs side?

Thanks, again!
03/15/2006 01:39:45 PM · #6
I live just south of Morro Bay, like a mile as the egret flies. It will take you about 1 hour to get to the start of the windy road up to Big Sur so like Bear suggests, start very early. But nice, nice all the way. In Morro Bay, sunsets over the rock are the photo op and if you like birds, the rookery at Morro Bay State Park is full of herons, great egrets, etc that are nesting now. If I can be of any assitance on your trip, just PM me.
03/15/2006 01:44:24 PM · #7
Thanks, Tinky. That's great info. I am really looking forward to this trip. I just wish I had more time!

Oh, and I did find the road that Bear was talking about. It looks like it's just about 16 miles inside of Monterey County coming from the south.
03/15/2006 01:44:36 PM · #8
Thats a big chunk of real estate, but if I were doing it I might concider a detour to death valley, then across the valley where the fruit trees are all in flower, pick up 5 after crossing the mojave desert, and take it to the cut off for San Luis Obisbo. Moro beach and Hearst castle are worth a stop each. Take highway 1 up the coast and stop at Big Sur and the 17 mile drive, then visit the monterey bay aquarium. Next stop is Moss Landing where you might do a whale cruise since they are in the neighbourhood right now. There is an otter hangout near the mouth of the harbour, or take a tour of elkhorn slough on the other side of the highway. If you want to shoot surfers, a stop at the breakers in Santa Cruz is worthwhile if the surf is up, near the surfers museum. Henry Coe state park is nice for second growth redwoods and fine Banana slugs this time of year. Then you can stay on 1 through halfmoon bay ( a stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse is a good idea)up to San Francisco, or take 17 over the hills to San Jose, perhaps visiting the Rodin sculptures or the outdoor installations on the Stanford
campus on the way to San Francisco.

OK this is getting a bit too long, but make time to visit
Fort Cronkite- the overview on the marin headlands where the classic city and bridge shot is so overdone, but always beautifull, the dirve on to Muir woods, and amazing pocket of first growth redwoods, the only one left closer than the sierras.
Sonoma-Napa-when the mustard is up and the vines are black, classic wine country shots are now in sesaon.
I could go on but i just ran out of time.

03/15/2006 01:50:16 PM · #9
Thanks, Brennan! I think given my short time-frame that Death Valley is going to have to be another trip. I've been there once (before I had my camera) and will definitely want to go back. As for your other suggestions, they are going on my map as we speak!
03/15/2006 01:56:01 PM · #10
Don't know about Joshua Tree, although I hear it's beautiful. The aerial tram in Palm Springs is kind of fun. Not a lot to do up on top of MT San Jacinto, but a good place to have lunch and enjoy the views. There's an oasis south of town that has lots of palm trees just kind of stuck out in the middle of nowhere. If you're looking for photo ops, Joshua Tree sounds better.

After leaving Palm Springs on highway 10, check out the dinoaurs. If you have kids, they will love this place. You can go inside the brontosaur and they have a shop in there selling all kinds of dinosaur toys and such. (They used this in Pee Wee's Big Adventure where Pee Wee and Simone watched the sun rise from inside the tyranosaur's mouth.)

A good half-way stay over town would be Cambria. It's a nice little town on the beach, almost looks like the Oregon coast with pine trees down to the water. There's a bunch of nice motels/inns right across the street from the beach, although they can be expensive for a motel atmosphere (I think we paid $200 a night). Lots of antique stores in town there. From there, go up the coast a few miles and you can visit Hearst Castle. Kind of a tourist trap, but some interesting architecture and other things there. They have different tours, we bought 2 of them but only did the first one.

From there is where the really beautiful California Coast begins with the mountains plunging into the ocean and the big bridges, etc. Gorgeous spots along the road to take photos, keep your eyes open. Pretty dangerous if you're driving and not watching the road as the road is perched on some huge cliffs over the rocks and water, so pay attention. Carmel is beautiful. Monterey is ok, 17 mile drive is pretty. They also have a nice aquarium there at the wharf. Monterey would be a good place for lunch with lots of restauraunts too. Santa Cruz is just up the way from Monterey, with lot's of touristy things to do there too as well.

As for San Fran, there's a plethora of things to do and see there. Golden Gate Park is really nice. Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Lombard ST, the wharf... too much to list here. Get a tour book from AAA or Amazon and it will show you most of it.

Hope this helps a bit. Have fun!
03/15/2006 02:08:49 PM · #11
Thanks, Marc. I'm definitely going to wish I had more time.
03/15/2006 02:34:57 PM · #12
Hey my first post!

I would suggest a stop at Hearst Castle as well. I enjoy the eccentric architecture it has to offer. The Hearst sure did have a lot of money!

You mentioned picking up your wife in Oakland and returning to Monterey. If possible I would cut over from Monterey to Highway 101 (I believe you take highway 156) and take 880 north to Oakland. You can do this in about 2 hours if not in rush hour. You can also take that back to Monterey if you're going straight from Oakland. If you go all the way up from Monterey to San Francisco to Oakland it will take 3-4 hours. Just make sure you do take that trip (from Monterey to SF) once so you get to see Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz... Just trying to save you a little time to see some of the other stuff.

On the Highway 1 in San Francisco here's a couple of stops:
The SF Zoo - It's pretty much at the south most point of Highway 1 in SF.
Ocean Beach is kind of dumpy, but its a long straight strech from the Zoo to Golden Gate Park. Where GG Park meets the Ocean has these interesting windmills (I think they were a gift from the dutch, but I might be completely making that up).
Going up a little hill on Highway 1 there is a couple small buildings on the "cliff" and somewhere is a sign that says Sutro Baths. This was an indoor pool from the early 1900's I think. The building is gone, but the pools are still there.
Contiinuing on there is a scenic route you can follow through one of the richest areas in town (might run into robin williams). I think the route eventually takes you through the presidio to the GG bridge, but check a map.
Try to find your way down to Fort Point, under the GG Bridge on the SF side.

That should keep you busy for half a day anyway!
03/15/2006 02:52:55 PM · #13
Wow, what a fun trip! The Nacimiento Road you are trying to find is also called Ferguson Rd. In fact, I think it is commmonly refered to as Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd. It goes from HWY 1 through the Fort Hunter Liggett Army base and connects up with Jolon Rd which will take you to HWY 101 near King City. All you will really need to do is drive up to the top of Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd and take a few pics of the coast line from the top, then head back down to HWY 1 and continue North. The drive through the military base is nice, but the coastal route is far more scenic.

Enjoy. Honk as your drive through San Luis Obispo.

Cheers,
-Jeremy
03/15/2006 02:58:05 PM · #14
Thanks for the tips, Jason. I'm still debating the ride from Monterey up to the Oakland Airport. I really want to go through Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, but I guess it will really depend on how much time I end up with.
03/15/2006 02:59:10 PM · #15
Yeah, I think that's why I was having trouble finding it. I probably won't venture too far, but it sounds like a view not to be missed.

Originally posted by jahoward:

Wow, what a fun trip! The Nacimiento Road you are trying to find is also called Ferguson Rd. In fact, I think it is commmonly refered to as Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd. It goes from HWY 1 through the Fort Hunter Liggett Army base and connects up with Jolon Rd which will take you to HWY 101 near King City. All you will really need to do is drive up to the top of Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd and take a few pics of the coast line from the top, then head back down to HWY 1 and continue North. The drive through the military base is nice, but the coastal route is far more scenic.

Enjoy. Honk as your drive through San Luis Obispo.

Cheers,
-Jeremy
03/15/2006 03:03:50 PM · #16
Oh, in case you do venture up Nacimiento-Ferguson Rd, several miles past the top of the hill (where the view is so good), you will come to an army check point. They will require valid drivers license and insurance card to pass on to the base. I don't think you'll venture that far, but in case you do, I wanted you to be prepared.

Don't worry about the road condition too much as it is in pretty good shape. In fact you don't really need to go all the way up to the top for the view, about half way up just pull over a shoot a few pics. You won't be dissatisfied.
03/15/2006 03:17:29 PM · #17
Originally posted by eqsite:

Thanks for the tips, Jason. I'm still debating the ride from Monterey up to the Oakland Airport. I really want to go through Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, but I guess it will really depend on how much time I end up with.


Definitely take the trip, I meant you should take it after you pick up your wife when returning to SF (or take her from SF to Monterey on Highway 1). Although, taking it by yourself may give you more "camera" time!
03/15/2006 03:26:00 PM · #18
well, you can't really go wrong along the coast...it is 99% beautiful.

around santa cruz you can hit Capitola Village, The Cement Ship in Aptos, West Cliff drive in santa cruz, Natural Bridges [at the end of west cliff], and there is Big Basin Park and Henry Cowell park...both of which have redoods.

here is a site for Visit Santa Cruz [i work for the company that publishes it. if you want a copy of the visitor guide message me your address and i'll mail you one. I shot the cover and about 50% of the interior.]

Visit Santa Cruz County

a few ocean pics:
//flickr.com/photos/th3ph17/sets/680434/

Message edited by author 2006-03-15 15:28:42.
03/15/2006 03:27:31 PM · #19
Somewhere on your route is a nature reserve - Los something - just south of SF between Pismo and SF but nearer SF - and we just saw it by chance and decided to stop for a break. It was one of the highlights of the drive from LA to SF! Sea Otters and seals and birds were abundant and almost posing for you but there were few people around so it was very peaceful.

This was 8 years ago but is still fresh in my memory. And i shall never forget seeing a herd of zebra coming over the hill at full gallop - I closed my eyes, pinched myself and asked John what country we were in! Hearst Castle was ahead!
P
03/15/2006 03:41:14 PM · #20
this is another fun link...

//www.sandylydon.com/html/sec.html
03/15/2006 03:55:26 PM · #21
Thanks, Phil. That's a wealth of information on that site. I especially like the link for photo spots. Thanks for offering to mail me the visitor guide, but given that I fly out tomorrow, I won't have a chance to get it. I'm sure I'll find a copy in one of my many stops! Oh, and beautiful photos by the way. They're a great inspiration for what I'm hoping to see out there.

Originally posted by th3ph17:

well, you can't really go wrong along the coast...it is 99% beautiful.

around santa cruz you can hit Capitola Village, The Cement Ship in Aptos, West Cliff drive in santa cruz, Natural Bridges [at the end of west cliff], and there is Big Basin Park and Henry Cowell park...both of which have redoods.

here is a site for Visit Santa Cruz [i work for the company that publishes it. if you want a copy of the visitor guide message me your address and i'll mail you one. I shot the cover and about 50% of the interior.]

Visit Santa Cruz County

a few ocean pics:
//flickr.com/photos/th3ph17/sets/680434/


Message edited by author 2006-03-15 15:55:36.
03/15/2006 03:58:31 PM · #22
I'm trying to figure out where this might be. I'm seeing on the map the California Sea Otter State Refuge, but that seems to go most of the length of the road. There's Los Padres National Forest on the east side of the road, but again, that seems to go on forever. Could it be the Point Lobos State Preserve? It sounds very intriguing!

Originally posted by Riponlady:

Somewhere on your route is a nature reserve - Los something - just south of SF between Pismo and SF but nearer SF - and we just saw it by chance and decided to stop for a break. It was one of the highlights of the drive from LA to SF! Sea Otters and seals and birds were abundant and almost posing for you but there were few people around so it was very peaceful.

This was 8 years ago but is still fresh in my memory. And i shall never forget seeing a herd of zebra coming over the hill at full gallop - I closed my eyes, pinched myself and asked John what country we were in! Hearst Castle was ahead!
P
03/15/2006 04:05:24 PM · #23
From the description, I'm thinking Point Lobos - definitely a worth see!
03/15/2006 04:13:42 PM · #24
Originally posted by eqsite:

Thanks for the tips, Jason. I'm still debating the ride from Monterey up to the Oakland Airport. I really want to go through Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, but I guess it will really depend on how much time I end up with.


I used to go from our apartment in Oakland to Aptos ( just south of Santa Cruz) most every weekend and I can tell you that the difference between the fastest route over highway 17 and the more sceinic route over the San Mateo bridge and out 92 to half moon bay to highway 1 is about half an hour, but 17 is prone to massive slow downs if there is an accident (especially on weekends and in bad weather, heck it was closed last week when it SNOWED at the high point). I almost always went the sure and pretty route. Of course because it is so scenic you are going to want to stop and shoot so it may take longer.
03/15/2006 04:17:41 PM · #25
Originally posted by tinky2:

From the description, I'm thinking Point Lobos - definitely a worth see!


Yes!!!!
:)

Blame senile demensia for the bad memory!
P
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