“Why did I not plan to stay longer?” I regretted after just a day or two into my trip out west- there is a lot to do and love in California. My flight wasn’t until 10PM in the evening so I planned to make the most of my last day. I had originally thought of driving down to Big Sur for the day, but decided that I’d rather do a longer hike nearby and save Big Sur for later. The place I chose to visit instead was Point Lobos State Reserve, a park I didn’t know anything about until I started my research around Monterey and Carmel. I didn’t have to look too hard though, as within a few minutes of searching the internet Point Lobos kept popping up with everyone raving about how it should be on one’s “must-visit” list. The fact that it was less than 10 miles from Monterey (and just 3 miles south of Carmel) meant that we could take our time in the morning with breakfast and leisurely drive over for our hike. So that’s exactly what we did.
First things first though.. and that was breakfast. Paula did her usual research on where to eat in Monterey and had her sights on a particular bakery she wanted to check out. We were tempted to eat at this really cute place we walked by called Wild Plum (we may have if there was a table available) but we were meant to go to Patisserie Parker-Lusseau this day.
Housed in an old building in downtown Monterey, this pastry shop was simply adorable. After careful inspection and much deliberation, I chose an almond croissant and Paula picked this gorgeous peach tart. We then skipped over to Pete’s Coffee to complete our breakfast assembly. The pastries were as good as they looked, which confirmed Paula’s desire to return later in the afternoon to get more tarts and macarons as gift for Kevin.
A short drive later, we were at the entrance of Point Lobos State Reserve. Unlike the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park where we went the day before, the distance from the highway to the gates was only about 50 yards (at HCRSP ~ 1 mile to the entrance). So we decided to park the car out by the highway and walk instead of driving into the reserve. It seemed that most people chose to take their cars in ($10 entrance fee per vehicle or voluntary donation for those on foot) and drive from one point to the other, but Paula and I enjoyed hiking the perimeter trails to circle the reserve. Often referred to as “the crown jewel of the state park system,” Point Lobos State Reserve did not disappoint us.
Of the several trails we took during our 3+ hour hike, our favorite was the North Shore Trail which covered about the first 1.5 miles by the ocean. It tucked and swerved, had us climb up and down, through woodsy areas one minute then opened up to little coves the next. It was rocky at times and we also had to look out for the protruding tree roots, but there was a surprise at every turn.
We often stopped to admire the old twisted cypress trees growing out of dramatic cliffs, tried to look for divers beneath the surface of the ocean, watched the fog slowly spread, listened to the waves crash, and quietly tiptoed above a group of sea lions. I think I would be happy hiking this reserve everyday for at least a year.
But sadly we had to be mindful of the time and think of our return journey. Paula and I debated over whether we should have lunch at La Bicylette in Carmel or at a family run Mexican restaurant called Lopez in Monterey. We stopped in Carmel, parked, walked around a bit, and even looked at the menu trying to decide… but in the end our love of Mexican food won out over the charming French/Italian café. Paula may say that the sweat inducing chile de árbol salsa at Lopez was worth forgoing the cute ambiance at La Bicylette. For me it was the Michoácan style mole that did the trick. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my stay in California (well, it COULD have been great to have a tall glass of horchata but Lopez didn’t make any).
Patisserie Parker-Lusseau: 539 Hartnell Street Monterey, CA 93940
Point Lobos State Reserve: Entrance 3 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1
Lopez Restaurante y Cantina: 635 Cass Street Monterey, CA 93940