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Campervan Vacation: San Francsicso, Northern California and the Great Redwoods Forests


Day 1
Minneapolis - San Fransisco 
And we're off again. This time on an actual planned vacation.

Somehow we managed to all get up and eat breakfast despite a relatively early flight to San Jose.
 
Travel Theo is so cute. 

He didn't remember the last time we took a flight back in 2020, so we let him sit at the window. He was interested for about 5 seconds. He was more into the movie choices on the back of his seat. 

Brooke, Meadow and Theo sat on one side and I got to sit with strangers. Unfair.

Meadow coordinating as usual. 

We flew into San Jose despite wanting to start our journey in San Francisco. After debating Caltrain, BART or renting a car, we just took an uber. Not cheap for one person, but basically the same price as our other options with the four of us. An hour or so later we arrived at the Hotel Triton in what I guess is simply called Downtown.

Fortunately for us our hotel was right at the gateway to Chinatown. Perfect as we were hungry for lunch.

I'd looked up the top restaurants in Chinatown on a Reddit thread and thought we were going to go to hole-in-the-wall Hon's Wun-Tun House. It was super busy so we had to quickly make different plans.

R&G Lounge just happened to be across the street and was on my short list. With white table cloths and all this place couldn't be more different than Hon's Wun-Tun. The green beans were something else. Most Chinese food in the midwest leans on Hunan-American cuisine. R&G and much of San Francisco specialize in Cantonese food.

Meadow was all about the endless cups of tea. 


We had passed a few shops on our way to lunch that we wanted to go back to check out. 

First stop, a kite store. 


We really should've checked out the Wok Shop.

Meadow was in heaven with all the cat items.

And the sparkles. 

Theres a few Japanese pop culture boutiques and of course the kids wanted everything.

We wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but didn't want to have to pay for another Uber. In hindsight we should have rented a car. So we walked that way, through Little Italy.

North Beach, but you get the idea.

We made a pitstop in Ghirardelli Square.


We didn't realize they had free samples, so we ended up buying a bag of chocolates for our adventures.

Bye, tourist trap.


This must've been my this is a long, long walk face.

Nope, you were embarrassed to take your photo by Scott St. 

We were so close to the bridge but the kids spotted a playground.

I wished we had had more time in San Francisco to explore more of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the Presido. 

You know when we see a sign with our names we're gonna get a pic.


Then we continued on towards the bridge. 

At some point the dreaded San Francisco Bay fog had rolled in.

As it got foggier and foggier the closer we got I thought we would have at least been able to see the bridge up close. That was not the case. 

Theo was a bit disappointed he didn't get to see the big old bridge.

After getting a Lyft back to our hotel we were ready for dinner. 

We strolled up those famous San Francisco hills to Uncle Vito's Pizza. We shared pizza and spaghetti and meatballs after a big lunch.

These kids were troopers after walking almost 5 miles today.

Our hotel sign is cool.

We ended our night at Amorino Gelato next door to our hotel. They make each cone into an incredible flower petal delight.

Day 2
San Francisco - Clear Lake State Park

Our hotel served a continental breakfast heavy on the pastries.



Meadow got a postcard that she wanted to send to her Grandpa. After walking to the Post Office we spotted this pretty building.

What did I say about sign's with our names on it. I can't remember why I posed like this.

The sign to your right says No Butts. 


Meadow really wanted a Kiki keychain she saw the day before, so back to Chinatown we went. We were too early, Chinatown wasn't quite awake yet. Also Theo had woken up in a tough mood today. He was over any walking today.

But miraculously ran around St. Mary's Square.

I think we could've just spent the whole day and half in San Francisco meandering Chinatown.



To cheer up Theo we found them a playground.

So, we headed over to Woo Woo Wong Playground. Playgrounds are always the best crabby kid medicine.


We decided to eat at the famous dim sum joint, Hang Ah Tea Room, which is right above the dragon playground. Hang Ah has been open since 1920! Those dumplings, steamed buns, the tea. Even better than R&G.

That Chinese broccoli was so good.

We went back to the anime store where Meadow picked up a Kiki keychain after we said, "No more stuffies!"

Then it was time to pick up our home for the week or should I say the next 10 days. 

After a 45 minute Lyft  from San Francisco to Escape Campevans East Bay location that is.

The kids thought this was the coolest thing. 

We originally thought we would go back into San Francisco so we could drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, but after seeing the traffic we skirted around the city. 

We headed north past Oakland and over the Richmond Bridge on our way to Point Reyes.

And just like that the scenery changed. 

As we do, we made it to the Point Reyes National Seashore visitors center 5 minutes before closing.

Note the partly sunny skies at the visitors center.

This was Theo's first time seeing the ocean.

By the time we go to the beach it was foggy again. California in summer, I suppose.

The kids and I explored while Brooke took in the big waves.


I saw on the map that there was a seal viewing area by the lighthouse. 

Foggy views would be our theme for this trip. 

It was too bad we didn't have more time to spend here, but we had to get to our campsite.

We wanted to stay here, but had put off booking anything until close to our trip since August is typically wildfire season out west. So we headed back inland.

The rain forest away from the coast was otherworldly.


Back in Point Reyes Station we filled up our tank for the first time. Hoo boy, this is not a Honda Insight. Add in the infamous California gas prices and you get a bit surprised on how much money you spend on gas with a campervan.


Being from flat land Minnesota we were just in awe of the landscape here.

We made a pit stop for In-N-Out because Brooke insisted. I'll admit, it was good.

We were disappointed the last time we went so I wanted to give it another try. I was mostly impressed by how immaculately clean everything is. I was enthralled with watching the workers constantly cleaning. 

We can check this off. 

We arrived at our campsite around 11. Which for us is 1am. 

The drives between the 1 and 101 in Northern California are gnarly. Smooth pavement, but bend after bend and then a dozen hairpin turns.

I thought we'd all just squeeze into the bed in the van but setting up the popup tent was pretty easy. Theo slept with me the first night. 

Day 3
Clear Lake State Park - Humboldt Redwoods State Park 
Clear Lake State Park was the closest park with any availability when we booked everything a couple weeks before the trip.

The popup tent comes with a detachable ladder. 

The inside bed of our Big Sur (now Mesa) Campervan is huge.

The backside is the kitchen. 

Before leaving we had to see the Clear Lake as it's California's largest freshwater lake. 

Lake Tahoe is bigger, but is also in Nevada.

This was probably the warmest body of water on the whole trip. We should've taken a swim.

I was most excited to have a little drawer fridge so we could save money by eating our breakfast and lunch out of the van. We stocked up said fridge and had plans to find a park to eat our breakfast.

The park we planned to eat at was under construction. Instead we ended up eating breakfast at Santantas Cottage Cafe.

I think we were okay with the change of plans.


Back over the mountains to the coast once again.




We took in a view along the winding roads to Fort Bragg, California.

We went back to the coast to check out Glass Beach.

What was once an old dump is now a beach full of sea glass. I thought the whole beach would have been covered in sea glass but you did have to dig for it.

I was hoping maybe there was another area that was less busy/picked through that had more.

So we made our way along the shore and down a ravine.


Just chilling.

Not much better over here but at least we had it to ourselves.

And way more peaceful.



Meadow did find quite a bit, but I allowed her to take only 5. 

Dreamy Highway 1.

Don't be a creep, Brooke.

After driving Highway 1 for a bit Meadow was starting to get motion sickness. We stopped in Legget to walk around a bit. 

We checked out the local school despite the heat. The whiplash from 60s to 90s going from the coast to the 101 was harsh.

When we got onto the Avenue of the Giants a mix of enormous Redwoods and tourist rest stops appeared.

On our way into Humboldt Redwoods State Park we stopped for ice cream of course.

Once at the Hidden Springs Campground we parked our van between the giant redwoods. 

I do like having the sink to do dishes. Makes it much easier. 

We went on a little walk without Meadow. Brooke wanted to hike into the dark woods, but Theo and I chickened out.


We played some games before heading to bed. 

Day 4
Humboldt Redwoods State Park - Sue-Meg State Park

The nice thing about the popup tent is it can open completely to screens.

The not so nice thing about sleeping inside the Escape Campervan was the lack of airflow, though I guess they rent screens for your front door. I'd highly suggest one.


Sneaky pete, we've got to go Redwood peeping.

Before leaving the park we checked out Williams Grove. The kids wanted to play in the South Fork Eel River first.



When we first came in an older couple was picking blackberries and said we had to get some. 

They weren't lying. Wild blackberries are so much better in a way incomparable to wild raspberries or blueberries.

Meadow and I picked while Scott and Theo explored. 

Just look at that redwood.




These giant trees were pretty cool. 

Theo and I kept exploring further into the grove. They must've been picking a lot of berries.


We drove the rest of the Avenue of the Giants despite Google Maps and then headed northwest to Redwood National and State Parks.

We stopped at the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center to get our junior ranger booklets and more postcards. 

And Stickers. Don't forget the stickers.

We had a picnic lunch at the Trillium Falls Trailhead. 

The shade free picnic bench was a bummer, but it would do.

Hoo boy, Trillium Falls is a cornucopia of enormous Redwoods, Western Hemlock and more Redwoods.


We had to make a few stops to work on our books.

This was by far the coolest hike we've ever been on.

Agreed. 10 out of 10. I'd do it again.


This forest also has Western Hemlocks, so cool to see them this big. 

The cottage woods are full of their cousin, the Eastern Hemlock. Western forests are just a different scale.

A new to us creature was the banana slug.

I mean, c'mon.

While the trees are the reason to go, the understory of ferns of all sizes is breathtaking.

Another thing we learned from their Junior Ranger books is that this is called Redwood Sorrel.

The backsides are bright purple.

There was a waterfall back here, but the trees are the reason to go to Trillium Falls.

It seems that most people hike to the falls and turn around. We only saw one other group the rest of the hike. 

Then we had to see the "Big" Tree. 

Did you know they have decks around trees they want to protect? With so many visitors the roots get damaged and can inhabit growth. 

It's big.

I must've been busy or just not cool enough.

Burls on redwoods can sprout into a clone of the main tree. This burl clone was gnarly.


The windy roads scare me, so Scott was doing most of the driving. These relatively straight roads I could handle. 

After enough Redwoods for one day we drove back down the coast to Trinidad State Beach.

I saw another spot on our map that had whale viewing. Not with this fog. I would learn later that you can really only see whales during the winter when they migrate. 


The rock formations were well worth the stop.





Theo and I climbed to the top of a rotund rock formation.

And then Meadow joined us. It's strange when I'm the more adventurous parent. But it happens on occasion.

Our campsite at Sue-Meg State Park was also engulfed in fog. Made for some cool views though.

The only campground in Redwood National State Parks are maintained by the California State Parks. When Redwood National Park was established the plan was to integrate the state's land. California was too proud of the gems of their state park system, so years later they agreed to jointly manage the park. This history by Gail J. Jenner goes into great detail about the fits and starts that eventually led to it's establishment. A small percentage of the Redwood forests, and especially old growth, exist today.

Day 5
Sue-Meg State Park - Oregon Dunes

This banana slug tried to hitchhike onto our van.

They even have brown spots. Crazy.

Near our campground was Agate Beach. We wanted to check that out before leaving.


Theo and I straggled behind taking in the epic morning fog. 

We could hear the waves crashing but couldn't see them.



Everyone here was agate hunting. 

Some people are rock people. I just take pictures of rock people.



We tried to look for sea lions but no luck.


Until next time Agate Beach.




I saw that there was a Paul Bunyan statue on our way. So of course we had to stop.

Then we checked out the adjoining Trees of Mystery gift shop.

This one talks like the one at Paul Bunyan Land near Brainerd.

Our last hike was to see the Grove of the Titans. The road to the trailhead was very narrow and not recommended for trailers. 

The vegetation was shrouded in dust.



Part of the trail went under a tree tunnel.

Just look at that burl.

This hike was busier than the last one. 

Now the boardwalk makes sense, to protect the roots!

I'm still wondering how they got them out here.


Oh, Redwoods, magnificent trees. You make my heart go pitter-patter.

Then we stopped at the Hiouchi Visitor Center to collect our badges. And guess what? Both kids did the pledge, so proud of them. 

Good job kiddos. So long California.

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