A dreary day greeted us but our plans would not be thwarted. After checking out of our hotel, we bade a fond farewell to Sonoma and drove north to the Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. The information at the Armstrong website instructed you to park outside the park entrance to avoid having to pay the entrance fee. I was concerned about finding the parking lot, but needn’t have been. The parking lot is literally just outside the park. You can’t miss it! There was no one taking the entrance fee anyway. An honor box was set up for those who felt it necessary to drive into the park, but I can’t imagine why you would (unless the small lot was filled).
The sun kindly came out while we wandered through the majestic redwoods. We practically had the woods to ourselves and thoroughly enjoyed the hour or so that we spent with these beautiful trees. The tallest among them is the Parsons Jones tree, estimated to be more than 310 feet tall and the oldest is the Colonel Armstrong tree which is thought to be over 1,400 years old. Another unique tree was the Icicle tree which had burls growing on the tree that hung downward much like icicles from a roof. This was a beautiful and very worthwhile stop.
It was our plan to make our way west and drive down to San Francisco via the coastal road, route 1. This started out well enough, even though it began to rain…then pour! DH stopped at one of the scenic turnouts to take pictures of the rain battered shore. Meanwhile I tried to manage some kind of lunch for us. On the way out of Sonoma that morning we’d stopped at a bakery and picked up a baguette and at a cheese shop for a couple of varieties of cheese. We’d envisioned parking at a beach somewhere, having a little picnic for ourselves. With the rain pummeling the car, that wasn’t going to happen. I settled for tearing off chunks of bread and pairing the pieces with slices of cheese (the woman at the cheese shop had been kind enough to slice the cheese for us). I tried to complete this operation without shooting breadcrumbs all over the car, as we’d be turning the vehicle in to Hertz later that afternoon.
Well, we’re driving along and we realize that we somehow lost the coast road. It happened at some point after Bodega Bay, but for the life of me I don’t know what happened. We never took a left or veered to the left, but found ourselves driving through farmland and eventually coming to the city of Petaluma. Ultimately not a big deal, as we were able to continue our journey on 101 S, but mystifying nevertheless!
I don’t know if it made sense to go to two redwood forests in one day, but we stopped at Muir Woods before returning to San Francisco. This was just not as satisfying a stop as Armstrong was. Sure, part of that could have been that the weather was damp and chilly (although, thankfully, the rain did stop while we were there!). Part of it could have been the fact that the place was PACKED! I can only guess that it was so crowded on a rainy Wednesday afternoon because of its proximity to San Francisco. It was crazy busy…to the point where we had to park a good mile from the entrance to the woods. The good news was that the park was free during the month of April (another reason for the hoards of people?).
I think the main reason that we liked the Armstrong Redwoods better though was that the trails through the woods, while marked, were the forest floor, not the wooden boardwalk constructed throughout Muir Woods. The pine-strewn paths of Armstrong just made you feel like a part of nature. Also Armstrong had the specific trees to see (Parson Jones, Colonel Armstrong, the Icicle tree) whereas Muir Woods was more a meandering experience. Don’t get me wrong, the trees were of course lovely and if you’re in San Francisco, Muir Woods is much, much closer and convenient. But if you have the time to drive up to the Armstrong State Reserve, it’s definitely worthwhile.
Of course we hit San Francisco in time for rush hour and inched our way back to our hotel. We were on Lombard Street and noticed that street after street didn’t allow left hand turns onto them during rush hour. We, naturally, need to make a left onto Van Ness and began to become concerned. Thankfully, Van Ness was one of the streets where left hand turns were allowed and we were able to drive the planned route to the hotel.
We were checking back into the Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf. The valet was kind enough to let us park the car for the ten minutes we needed to check into the hotel and drag our luggage to our room. It was around the block from there to the parking garage that Hertz uses and a quick good-bye to the Camry that had served us flawlessly.
From there we took our first walk around Fisherman’s Wharf (kind of funny since we’d spent two nights in San Francisco earlier in the week!). I’d read some critical remarks about Fisherman’s Wharf that made me wonder if we were going to be exploring an area that was terribly tacky if not downright seedy. However Fisherman’s Wharf was fine! Granted I’m pretty much happy as long as I have a view of the water, but I found the bars, restaurants and shops worth a look. Although it was only 5:30 we found that we were hungry (the little bit of bread and cheese we’d managed in the car just wasn’t holding us). We decided to go ahead and have an early dinner at Scoma’s. We’d received numerous recommendations for this restaurant and had been warned to go early, as they don’t take reservations. Being hungry early made this night a perfect time to go!
I found the atmosphere of Scoma’s to be a little contradictory. Walking up to the restaurant, it looked like any casual seafood joint that I’d find on the east coast. However, once inside, the tables were decked out with white linen and the waiters wore vests and ties. Not at all what I expected from our first impression. We had the mixed shellfish platter for two as an appetizer. This was perfect for us as it had oysters and clams on the half shell, which DH loves, and shrimp and Dungeness crab which I love. For dinner I had the seafood cannelloni, which was scrumptious and DH the cioppino, which he happily plowed through. It was a very satisfying meal to round off a long day. We were glad that we went early. By 6:00 the restaurant was packed and they had a waiting list in full swing.
Tomorrow would be our last day of vacation and our day to check out San Francisco. Hopefully the weather would cooperate just a bit!