NorCal: Morro Bay, Big Sur, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Monterey, Yosemite

Let’s not waste time with meaningless pleasantries. Hop right back on this Rogue Trip Reflections tour bus and allow us to take you further up the California Coast. (Ok, quick pleasantries: Hi, how ya been? Welcome back. Thanks for reading.) Here we go!

Morro Bay

When we last left you, we were beboppin’ up the coast of the Golden State with the wind in our hair, and we’ll continue that after you answer this important question: what’s the most gut-wrenchingly adorable animal in the world? That’s right, SEA OTTERS! Oh, you didn’t say sea otters? What’d you say? Koalas? I’m sorry, but have you ever seen a koala in the rain?



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They are terrifying.

Oh, you said sloth?



Slow Loris?


Well, ok, yeah that’s a pretty solid contender for most adorable. Watch this sweet little slow loris holding a tiny umbrella:

……….it’s possible that I have gotten off track. The point is, sea otters are tied for first for Most Adorable Animal in the World, and you can see a whole raft of them of them (I googled it; that’s the correct term) in Morro Bay where they love to chill, hold hands, and toss around pebbles. We cooed over these cutie pies for a solid two hours:


Fun fact: otters tie themselves to each other with kelp so they don’t drift away from the rest of the group (er, raft).

That’s enough endearment for one day.

Big Sur

Movin’ on up the Pacific Coast Highway! This 650 mile road is one of America’s most beloved drives thanks to its rocky coastline and dramatic vistas, and Big Sur is a popular destination along the route.  It’s the longest and most scenic stretch of undeveloped coastline in the US and has been described as a “national treasure that demands extraordinary procedures to protect it from development” and “one of the most beautiful coastlines anywhere in the world, an isolated stretch of road, mythic in reputation.” Bleh. Sounds boring, but let’s give it a go anyway, just for kicks.


Rugged Coastline


Pops of color

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Bixby Bridge


See? Boring.

We mentioned in our SoCal post that a small section of the PCH closed in January due to landslides caused by unusually heavy rains. Since we were rolling through in May, this closure impacted us, but we were able to improvise; we detoured further inland and enjoyed the vineyards and farmland scenery that we would have otherwise missed.


Niner Wine Estates with a heart-shaped tree line in the distance


Microsoft screen saver-worthy


Crops as far as the eye can see

If you had your eye on the news, you may have seen that a much larger landslide occurred in Big Sur in May. A MASSIVE one, in fact, that moved 1 million tons of rock, covered Highway 1 with 65 feet of dirt, and shut down a huge portion of the very road we’d just driven. We were lucky to be able to see what we saw when we saw it. Also, lucky to be alive. Add this to the list of many close calls for Rogue Trip, but we’ll cover those in a future post. If you’re planning your own coastal Cali trip anytime soon, this link will help you stay informed about what parts of the road are currently operational.


Can you guess who the mayor of Carmel was from 1986-89? If you guessed Clint Eastwood then we call dibs on you for our trivia team!

Carmel is a lovely coastal town with high end shopping and gorgeous residential areas. We spent most of our time here ogling shoreline homes with thatched roofs, and wondering how many millions we’d need to partake in this lifestyle. Throw us a friggin bone, Dirty Harry!

Welp! Back to the van-house to continue our journey.

Pacific Grove

On the way out of Carmel, we hopped onto the picturesque 17-Mile Drive and enjoyed the cool breeze on our faces (not from the a/c – that’s broken) as we coasted into Pacific Grove. Also known as Butterfly Town, USA, this bike-friendly beach town has all the hits: floral coastline, adorable seals, and a Dennis the Menace park(?)!





We’d recommend getting into the nitty gritty and biking the Pacific Grove Recreation Trail, and factor in some time to stroll around Lovers Point Park and hold hands stare at your phone with your sweetheart.


Lovers Point Park. Confession: Stole this pic from because we forgot to snap one

It was in Pacific Grove that we found our favorite coffee shop to date: Crema. It’s a cozy home-turned restaurant with a garden courtyard, and we visited it twice, which is the equivalent of a Michelin Star in Rogue Trip speak.



Just beyond Pacific Grove is the popular tourist destination Monterey. Our favorite part of this stop was posting up on Del Monte beach all. day. long. We busted out our tent for the first time this year and cuddled up with some pillows, a blanket, and our laptops and we work-napped the day away.



Do Not Disturb

Just a bit further up the coast, situated along Monterey Bay you’ll find Fort Ord State Park which is home to some of the most impressive sand dunes we’ve ever seen, and is a necessary stop for a sunset walk.


If you’re lazy, or your legs are sore from biking around Pacific Grove, there is also an overlook at the top by the parking lot.

Ok, back on the van-bus for the next destination.

Oh, wait, wait, WAIT. We cannot leave Monterey without a special nod to all of the ridiculous design fails we stumbled across here. Please enjoy:

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This hyper-aggressive water fountain


This overly friendly toilet setup


This incredibly threatening parking sign

Salinas, California

Alright, next order of business on our Tour de NorCal: Making childhood Mitchy’s dreams come true. Welcome to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca! It’s a…well…a road…a paved one…uh…race-cars…ok, you know what? Let’s have Mitch intervene for a moment:

This is one of the most famed US racetracks to be used in car racing video games. Like many young video game aficionados, I virtually drove around this track a thousand times. Seeing it in person was as exciting as walking into real life SuperMario World.


Yes, SUPER COOL, Mitch! An experience 100% equally enjoyable to both of us! But seriously, it was fun to see the youngster in Mitch come alive as we cruised around admiring the racetrack. A worthwhile stop indeed, and a good way to get Odie inspired about zipping through to our next destination.


Yosemite National Park

Welcome to the main event: Yosemite. Or, as Mitch exclaimed loudly upon entering the visitor center: “Wow! Our first time in Yo-suh-might!”

Future Mitch and Hailey will tell you that Yosemite is the most beautiful National Park on Rogue Trip’s itinerary.


On Day 1, we drove around the park and knocked out two short hikes before committing to anything too strenuous. Here’s the full breakdown of our day (half day, really)–one that hikers and explorers of any skill level can appreciate:

El Portal Road – We entered Yosemite on Highway 140 from the southwestern side of the park, and squeezed Odie through Arch Rock on the way in.


Arch Rock

Bridal Veil Falls – A short drive from the entrance, this hike is a 15min easy stroll to see Bridal Veil Falls from below. Prepare to get soaked by the spray!


Mitch LOVED that it took me 5min to take a picture as he got drenched

Lower Yosemite Falls – We continued into Yosemite Valley and knocked out another short hike – a 1.1 mile trail offering a view of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. Again, easy peasy.


Ahwahnee Hotel a.k.a. Majestic Yosemite Hotel – We then wandered around inside the Majestic Hotel. Aside from being gorgeous, and a lovely place to grab a drink, this also served as the model from which the hotel in “The Shining” was created. This is the Colorado Room. Can’t you just picture ol’ Jack typing away in here?


“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”

Yosemite by car – We wrapped up the day with a driving tour all around the park, seeing waterfalls and mountains in every direction on the Northside and Southside roads.



Side Note: This is El Capitan. A week after we left Yosemite, Alex Honnold became the first to climb this 3,000 foot monstrosity without ropes, and he did it in four hours. For reference, skilled climbers do this climb WITH ropes, generally over the course of four DAYS.


Day 2 is when we really fell in love with Yosemite, and it’s no surprise that these are some of the most popular attractions in the park:

Vernal Falls – Beginning from the Happy Isles campsite, this initially flat hike turns steep in a jiffy. It’s almost an entirely uphill climb before you get to your first view of Vernal Falls….


…followed by a bunch of slippery stairs to get you to the top of the falls…OOF! But feeling that mist and seeing the rainbow that it creates right in front of you is incredible!


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Take a moment, get wet, and enjoy it! You can stop here and turn around for a 2.4 mile round trip hike, or keep going. We kept going.

Nevada Falls – Beyond Vernal, continue along the same trail to Nevada falls. There are plenty of views of the falls on the way up, but the trail takes you to the top where you can see the rushing water drop straight down off the mountain. It’s awesome and deadly, and there are plenty of signs to tell you so.


Looking up at Nevada Falls


Nevada Falls from the top


Nevada Falls. DON’T SLIP!



This entire hike from Happy Isles Campsite to Vernal and then to Nevada is called the Mist Trail. From the top of Nevada Falls, you can go back down the Mist Trail the way you came for a 5.4 mile round trip hike, or continue across a bridge to the John Muir Trail for different scenery on the way down. We opted for John Muir. This adds another 1.5 miles to the hike, but the alternative views are worth it. Plus, I got to watch Mitch run through this little waterfall:


Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

At some point during our hike, we stopped to eat the PB&J sandwiches that we’d packed for lunch. What makes this event blog-worthy, you ask? I’ll tell ya. It was at this moment, 3+ months into our road trip, that we prepared and consumed our FIRST “home-cooked” meal.

We can feel the parental pride beaming from here.

Is everyone ready for a nap now? Let’s go grab a $17 burger at the Mountain Room and call it a day.


We enjoyed the pre-dinner theater act put on by an obnoxious repeat park visitor who demanded that he be seated at, “Table 34–the BEST table in the restaurant!” We strolled by that yo-yo seated at his precious table 34 in the middle of the restaurant and facing a wall as the hostess led us to our window seat with a view of Yosemite Falls. People, man. *eyes roll so hard it hurts*

Day 3 in the park was another winner. We biked across Swinging Bridge, hiked to Mirror Lake, and got a breathtaking look at the oft-photographed Tunnel View on our way out.



Mirror Lake

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Tunnel View

In a nutshell, go visit Yosemite. The sooner the better too, because you never know what lies ahead – rockslides, earthquakes, lack of funding for NPS, a North Korea nuke that ends us all… better safe than sorry! Plan your visit. And go ahead and make a donation to NPS while you’re at it.

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Now, I know that we called California “The state so nice, we had to blog it twice,” but allow us to edit that to “thrice.” I can see your eyes getting droopy, so we’ll table the rest of the Cali tour until next time. Comin’ atcha soon: San Fran! Tahoe! Other things!

For now, peace, love, and hemp seed oil (maybe we spent too much time in CA). Goodnight!

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