In August 2019, we celebrated 35 years of marriage.  We planned an amazing road trip through Northern California.  Little did we know, it would be some of the best days of our lives!

Us at the Beach!

Several reasons for visiting California – I moved to Tennessee from California in 1980 and David had never been there.  We wanted my SIL and BIL to travel with us and they love California.  We decided on a road trip so that we could see the places in Northern California that we really wanted to see – Carmel, Yosemite, Napa Valley and San Francisco.

It took us about a year to plan it, get reservations, book flights, figure out what to wear, etc.  Twice our AirBNB in San Francisco fell through and our flight got changed a couple of times but nonetheless on Wednesday morning, October 30, we boarded our flight to San Francisco (at our original time).

We arrived in San Francisco on a beautiful sunny morning, picked up our rental car from Enterprise and headed to Carmel via the Pacific Coast Highway.  To see my husband’s face at his first view of the breathtaking Pacific Ocean was priceless.  We stopped in Half Moon Bay for lunch.

First Look at the beautiful Pacific

When we got to Monterey, we took 17-Mile Drive along the coast and through Pebble Beach Golf Course

Us on 17-Mile Drive

We stopped along the way for photos.  I don’t know what it is about the Pacific Ocean and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until I stood there completely mesmerized by it.  The beautiful, dark blue waters brought back so many memories of growing up in San Clemente.

My husband was so shocked at how beautiful and rugged the Pacific is.  He was fascinated by the size of the waves and all the different terrains we encountered on our entire trip.

First Stop – CARMEL

Carmel Beach Near Carmel River State Park

Carmel is the quintessential California beach town.  The homes are all well-kept and landscaped beautifully.  It pays to have friends that travel. We were able to rent this amazing home on Dolores Street.  We were about 2 blocks from Ocean Drive where all the shopping and restaurants are located.   The beach is about 5 blocks down Ocean Drive.

On the first morning, David and I took an early morning walk down to the beach.  It was cool and the waves were crashing on the shore.  There were several people walking on the beach and lots of dogs running around – most of them dragging driftwood or playing in the surf.  We spent the day shopping and exploring Ocean Drive.

David enjoying the beach!

We drove over to Big Sur and hiked in Andrew Molera State Park.  This was an adventure.  First, we had to cross a shallow stream to get to the trail.  It was freezing but we did it!  Next, we hiked through the woods over to the coast and down to the beach.  Breath taking views.  Then my husband got really adventures and said “let’s go this way”.  The views were amazing but we were in waist high shrubs.  We would stop and stare at the Ocean, and we took some amazing photos.


View of Big Sur from Andrew Molera State Park



We had lunch at Nepenthe overlooking the Pacific and headed back toward Carmel where we stopped at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve for an amazing hike.  The colors of the water and the sea life dazzled our senses!  We could have spent hours there!  We loved our first glimpse of the seals basking in the sun.

Both nights while we were in Carmel we drove over to Carmel River State Beach and watched the Sunset.  Breathtakingly beautiful.

Sunset in Carmel


The last time I was in Yosemite, I was 16.  The majesty of it did not dawn on me then but it did when we entered the Valley.  Talk about feeling small and insignificant!  Driving into the Valley of Yosemite takes your eyes up the majestic granite walls of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridal Veil Falls.  Walls so high that it always seems like a cloudy day while in the Valley until you look up and see the blue skies.

We hiked Illilouette Falls, touched the base of El Capitan for good luck, climbed over 600 stairs to the top of Vernal Falls via the Mist Trail, and hiked to Yosemite Falls.  Some of the most beautiful trails, water and scenery we have ever seen.

Our accommodations were very modest.  One room with two full size beds, a bathroom and…oh, wait, that’s it.  No TV, no phone, minimal internet.  It was cozy and a great way to escape the day to day!


Halfway through our trip we were still feeling giddy and knew that we had made a great choice to celebrate our marriage!

Stay tuned for the next post where we explore Napa Valley, Muir Woods, San Francisco, Sausalito and Point Reyes!

A few items that I want to share that made packing quick and easy for me on this trip:

  1. Luggage –  We purchased a 3-piece American Tourister Set from Costco.  We loved it.  It was lightweight, easy to roll and roomy.
  2. Makeup bag – This BagSmart hanging makeup bag was a life saver for me.  Kept all my toiletries in one place and I could hang it on the bathroom door.
  3. Jewelry Organizer –  Another great choice for me.  So many pockets with zippers kept everything organized and untangled!
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