As we sit here in Florida and soak up all this beautiful sunshine, I reflect on 2016 with amazement. We were incredibly blessed to discover 22 new states as a family and to take a tiny peek at 6 others, as we drove through them.
I truly can’t believe how much distance we covered last year. We were in three of the four corners of the United States in 2016. Sadly, I did not document most of our journey on the blog, so I have decided to reminisce and give mention to some of our favorite locations and experiences.
Without further ado….here is the first of “our happy places” in 2016:
Highlights of 2016: #1 Olema, California
Until our RV adventure we had almost exclusively lived in California. You can imagine my surprise to find the most amazing little place, which would soon become one of my very favorite spots in the entire state. In January we spent two weeks in the sleepy little town of Olema. This town is quite tiny. It is adorable, quaint and it has a few qualities that set it apart.
First, it is near the Point Reyes National Seashore. If you have not visited this seashore, it needs to be placed on your bucket list. It is beautiful! Think rolling green hills on the bluffs of the sea that are as stunning and green as Ireland, with endless cow pastures and fabulous wildlife…and your visions will be headed in the right direction.
Second, there is an old rustic campground here called Olema Campground. Now this campground may not seem worth mentioning, but in January…when hardly anyone is in the park, and most of it is flooded due to a lack of drainage from the river…this becomes a wet and soggy paradise for anyone who loves birding and slopping around in tall rain boots.
A note for those planning a winter visit: Reserve a site here in advance and be sure to choose the “high ground” sites at the front of the campground. Though you will be tempted to select a more beautiful location in the back of the park, these photos are proof that you want to be on higher ground when here in the winter. We had quite the adventure throughout our stay and we literally needed a canoe to leave our home for two days before we moved to a spot that was more elevated.
And finally the location of this little town is convenient to visiting San Francisco, Muir Woods National Monument and countless adorable little surrounding towns. There is also a historic tavern, the Farm House Bar, which is in walking distance from the campground that has happy hour oysters on the half shell for $1 each! Some may ask why in the world this is worth mentioning? Well…they are some of the best locally sourced oysters we have ever had….and the price is out of control and well worth stopping for!
At the Point Reyes Seashore we were able to spend an afternoon at Bear Valley Visitor Center. We found a bunch of great information and exhibits here and we were able to see an informative video on the area. From here we were also able to access the Earthquake Trail. This was a memorable trail as my kids can now say that they walked over the San Andreas Fault Line!
On another day we drove Sir Francis Drake Boulevard all the way to the Point Reyes Lighthouse. This is an amazing drive…the one you don’t want to miss! It’s a nice long drive. If memory serves, it took us about an hour of drive time, each way. I do remember that parking at the lighthouse is quite a challenge later in the day. I had to park my truck on the side of the rode along a hill, as the lots were full. When we return again with Chris one day (he was working and missed out on this amazing day), we will go early in the morning so that we can find a parking spot for the big truck.
According to the National Park Service:
“Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent.” You can read more about this unique location here.
Weather and all, this a dramatic piece of coastline. For those that choose to visit the lighthouse, it is 308 steps down, and then back up a lovely steep and rocky hillside. Next time we need to all remember to bring our water bottles! And note to the kids…walking shoes, not rain boots. The views are stunning and and the wildlife is captivating. We looked through a rangers telescope to see an eagle on the bluffs and found dear grazing on the hillside.
Limantour Beach is a beautiful location to visit, bird watch, play stick ball and put your toes in the water. This would also be a fantastic place to picnic and spend time in our nature journals.
This little nook and cranny on the California coast is a real winter treat. What surprised me most was the weather. The entire area was drastically warmer than I had anticipated. Although it was wet with rain and coastal fog, it was not cold. We never wore more than a sweatshirt and typically just had our light-weight rain coats to keep us dry. Every local we came across assured us that January is a local’s secret in this area. Our next visit will also be in January!