The Old Saddle Rock Ranch & Steinbeck's Old Haunt

Trip Start Jul 08, 2009
Trip End Jul 18, 2009

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, July 10, 2009

After a full day of traveling on top of being kind of sick, I feel pretty terrible.  My throat really hurts.  But the day itself was great...

...The ocean was simply gorgeous to our left, glittering in the sun.  The clouds stood out against the deep blue sky.  Finally we came to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.  The name looks like a newspaper headline: "Julia Pfeiffer burns state park".  But the park is, unlike some of the places along the California roads, anything but burned.  There was at first a sort of valley, with green hills all around us and plenty of flowers.  We took the short 1/4 mile path, which included a long tunnel, to the "Overlook" - opening onto a view of a cove that quite literally took my breath away.

I have NEVER in my life seen water that color before, or since.  It looks like an ad for a Carribean island.  The water color was brilliant, somewhere along the lines of teal-turquoise-cerulean.  The beach was far below, and we could see a thin waterfall falling onto the beach off of a huge outcropping and making it's way into the ocean.  (On the downside, the cliffs below where we stood were covered entirely by poison ivy.  We saw some people sitting at the top of the waterfall, and I would have loved to sit there, too, if I could have figured out how to get there!)

At the end of an even shorter path was a view down the coastline, with that stunning water the whole way.

The area used to be privately owned by Lanthrop and Helen Hooper Brown, and was called Saddle Rock Ranch.  The couple befriended Julia Pfeiffer Burns, and after her husband died Helen donated the land, asking for the entire area to be named after their friend.  Formerly there was a way to get down to the beach.  In the name of preservation (but to the annoyance of all the visitors), there is no longer a (legal) way to reach the surf.  I think the Browns just wanted to be the last people allowed to walk on the beach.  (I would like to point out this is probably the first time I've actually wanted to be on a beach.)

We arrived in Monterey towards evening (we found red telephone booths at a gas station stop along the way, my second British reference on this trip!).  Monterey is pretty famous.  There's a great aquarium, Fisherman's Wharf is historic and well-known, and John Steinbeck's Cannery Row was inspired by this place.  Our hotel is a short walk from the coast.  The hotel is rather nice: each room opens up onto a connected balcony that overlooks the pool area.  We settled in our room and decided to head down to the wharf to find dinner.

I wasn't feeling wonderful and couldn't really appreciate the town, but I did notice a "Kayak Xing" sign and plenty of kayaks.  It was a good temperature, much cooler than the sunny daytime.  On the wharf, there were tons of restaurants, with those people out front who try to entice you in with food samples and words.  We wandered for a bit, finally settling on an attractive little place called Cafe Fina.  I just loved the atmosphere of it.  I got a mango-honey tea, which was DELICIOUS, not to mention felt great on my throat.  We also go an artichoke appetizer (consisting of an entire artichoke with dip in the center), and I got ravioli with this pesto-y type sauce. Crème brûlée with strawberries and whipped cream and mint was dessert.  It was all very delicious, and I had some of everything, but my throat was really not willing to let me swallow.

A walk was required after dinner.  At the very end of the wharf was a building with stairs that you could take to the roof.  From there, we watched the sky darken over the boat-filled harbor and observed some little seals swimming around.  We left at dark, and the wharf was lit by criss-crossing strings of lights overhead.  All of the candy shops caught our attention, and we stopped in one called Casa Carmelkor that had a rather nondescript building design compared to some others, but it was less busy and had an impressive display of sweets.  (Carousel Fine Candies was by far the most decorated, and the busiest, sweets shop on the wharf.)

I am very ready to go to bed, feeling kind of awful on top of tired.


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