The Last Coronavirus Hike: Mission Peak

3 Aug

This is another very popular hike, so we went on a weekday morning, but the (admittedly small) parking lot was already full at 7:30am. We parked a little bit down the hill so it wasn’t too bad, but I definitely wouldn’t want to try it on a weekend!

To prevent people from touching the drinking fountains:
IMG_20200702_102010(Though fortunately for James the portapotties were still open).

The start of our hike: IMG_20200702_071811 The yellow grass is not particularly attractive but I’m quite fond of it because it reminds me of Australia.

There were wild turkeys! IMG_20200702_072805Also cows. IMG_20200702_101359Another reason we went early was because it was going to be 31C in Fremont that day and there was no cover on the hike.

It was a steady uphill climb on a wide dirt/gravel trail with yellow hills on one side and dense suburbs on the other side. There weren’t a lot of interesting features on the trail itself so I was pretty excited by this cliff.
IMG_20200702_081536 (1)It was more crowded near the top, and also quite steep:
IMG_20200702_083457 The final stretch towards the peak: IMG_20200702_083931Success!
MVIMG_20200702_085253That pole on the right has sighting tubes so you can look at different landmarks but it was all taped up to prevent people from touching it and getting coronavirus. IMG_20200702_085511If you looked in the non-Fremont direction you could almost imagine you were in the middle of nowhere.IMG_20200702_082905On the way down I took a slight detour to climb this rock. Here is a photo of me on a rock!
IMG_20200702_090500 And a photo of James taking a photo of me on a rock! IMG_20200702_090519It took us about 1.5 hours up and 1 hour down. It was a nice little hike – not so difficult/long that you were wrecked for the rest of the day but challenging enough that you felt like you had accomplished something. I’d definitely recommend it (but only on a weekday!)


A Classic Marin Hike: The Matt Davis/Steep Ravine/Dipsea Loop

25 Jul

This is a super popular hike so we did it on a weekday morning, and even then saw a fair few people. It’s a 7.8 mile (12.5km) hike in Marin consisting of a few different trails stitched together to form a loop.

You can start the hike at various different trailheads and the part we started at had an immediate uphill climb – I want to say maybe 30-60 minutes of stairs and switchbacks? We got the hardest part out of the way at the start, and reflecting back on the trail we were quite pleased at where we started.

There were cool trees:
IMG_20200630_104258I think this was Table Rock – at least, a few minutes after we passed it, James looked at his map and said with disappointment “oh, we missed Table Rock” and I reassured him that I had taken a photo of it. You can also see a hint of the endless stairs we had to walk up.IMG_20200630_110012It was so forest-y and cool.
IMG_20200630_110231We continued uphill and eventually lost the shade of the forest.
IMG_20200630_113642We took a slight detour to a hill with a view of San Francisco, slightly obscured by the marine layer. But you can see downtown, part of the Golden Gate Bridge, and Sutro Tower on the right.IMG_20200630_115557 (1)Selfie time!
MVIMG_20200630_115709Then it was back into the shade of the forest.
IMG_20200630_124623 When we entered the Steep Ravine portion it was mainly flat and downhill. Hooray! This was my favourite part of the hike – it was so lush and green and I liked walking next to the water.

There were awesome giant redwoods: IMG_20200630_130021And also a cool ladder next to a teeny tiny waterfall.
IMG_20200630_131353I liked the bendy trees.
IMG_20200630_131605(If you look back through this post you will notice there are several photos with nice bendy trees.)

A bridge! IMG_20200630_132422Another bridge!
IMG_20200630_133031 Eventually we emerged out of the forest and had a gorgeous view of the beach as we entered the final stretch of the hike. I think this was the Dipsea portion?IMG_20200630_135801If we’d gone in the other direction we would have had the beach to our backs here, so it was a really nice way to have done it.

I think this is one of the nicest hikes you can do within an easy drive of San Francisco. The drive there is incredibly scenic, and it has a little bit of everything that you can expect from a hike in the Bay Area- redwoods, waterfalls, and coastal views. Of all the hikes we’ve done in the area it’s the one I would most strongly recommend to visitors. It’s probably much busier and harder to find parking on a weekend though – definitely go on a weekday!

A Hike with Will! The Tafoni and Fir Trail

16 Jul

The Tafoni and Fir trail is a 6.1 mile (9.8 km) loop so a little bit easier than the one we’d done the week before. We met up with Will since we’d all been isolating similarly and decided it wouldn’t be too risky to meet up for a socially distant hike.
IMG_20200628_143404It was so nice to see Will again! James said that his social needs have been met between me, the cats, and video/voice chats with friends, but I have really missed face to face interactions.

The hike wasn’t particularly long but it was very up and down and quite tiring! There was also this cool sandstone formation:
IMG_20200628_144644 Of all the hikes we went on that week this one had the most mask-compliant hikers. Everyone had masks and would pull them up when we crossed paths (actually there was one guy who didn’t have a mask but he covered his nose and mouth with his hands which was really cute).

The next photo doesn’t really look like much, but it was the worst part of the hike. We all hated it. IMG_20200628_155520It was downhill and much steeper than it looks in this photo. It was also really smooth, so we had to be really careful to not slip. We should have reversed the loop so we walked up this part instead of going down.

Aside from the sandstone formation it wasn’t a particularly picturesque hike, but we mainly just wanted to get out of the house and get some exercise. And see Will of course. =)
IMG_20200628_162440My joints started hurting towards the end again, which made me decide to bring ibuprofen on future hikes. James said he could tell I was sore because I wasn’t trotting to try and keep up with him anymore.

At the end we had to walk on the road to get back to the carpark. Not ideal, but luckily there weren’t too many cars. MVIMG_20200628_172011This hike was much closer to San Francisco, so luckily it was only a short drive home, though we did do a booze run on the way (as an aside, a friend of mine’s dad owns a bottle shop back in Melbourne, and she said business is booming in iso).

So yeah, that was our Sunday. We got back, showered, then collapsed – feet throbbing – for the rest of the afternoon/evening. =)

The Berry Creek/Sunset Loop at Big Basin

12 Jul

After 3 months of staying at home I was getting a little bit of cabin fever, so we rented a car to get out of the city and do some hiking. Big Basin is almost a 2 hour drive from San Francisco, so we had to wake up pretty early to get there for our planned 7:30am start.

We ambitiously planned to do the 12 mile (~20km) Berry Creek/Sunset loop.IMG_20200621_092944Possibly not a good idea for our first physical activity in awhile …

The hike started off well! I had a lot of pep in my step and we admired the ridiculously tall redwood trees:
IMG_20200621_093821 Walking under fallen redwoods: IMG_20200621_112413The two waterfalls were the highlight of the hike:
IMG_20200621_103848Unfortunately that was the closest we could get because the viewing area had been taped off for Covid-related reasons.

The stairs and insanely green plants leading to the second waterfall:
IMG_20200621_110222The second waterfall was less impressive but it was nice walking up beside it.
IMG_20200621_110403The second half of the loop was much less picturesque than the first half (or maybe we were just redwood-saturated by that point).

This bit was cool though – walking on a rock formation.
IMG_20200621_112057The hike took about 4.5 hours, and about 3 hours into the hike my knees and ankles started aching a ton so we went pretty slowly from then on. =( At the end our trail joined up with some shorter trails, and I was getting overtaken by little fat children. We definitely should have started off with a shorter hike!

But anyway, we finally made it and I was glad we’d gotten there so early because the trailhead was packed by the time we got back. We were utterly exhausted by the time we got back to San Francisco and spent much of the following day hobbling around the house. But still, it felt wonderful to finally walk around, even if we maybe overdid it a little.

Another Update From Iso

7 Jul

We don’t call it iso in the US but it’s what all our home newspapers and Aussie friends are calling it (because you’re in isolation) and it’s such an incredibly Australian name that I find it comforting in these trying times.

It’s July now and I really didn’t expect iso to last for so long. San Francisco has some of the strictest lockdowns in the country – we’ve only recently opened outdoor dining for restaurants and curbside pickup for retail. Masks are mandatory inside grocery stores, and outside if you’re within 6 feet of someone else. Also Google has said that James probably won’t be back in the office until 2021 at the earliest.

Not a ton has changed – the great toilet paper panic is over at least. Aside from the small matter of a worldwide pandemic, it’s actually quite tolerable on a personal level now that there aren’t any shortages and most restaurants have reopened either for takeaway or outdoor dining. It’s nice having James home all day and we’re keeping in contact with everyone and regularly doing Zoom hangouts with our Melbourne friends.

Last week we rented a car to take advantage of the unprecedented lack of traffic so we could do a bunch of hikes and get out of the house a bit.
MVIMG_20200702_085202I’ll do individual posts on those because all the hikes were quite different from each other and we got some lovely photos. After several months indoors it felt great to finally be active again.

We also went to the beach for a morning walk. It was your typical SF summer beach weather.
IMG_20200703_070542But look at all the sand dollars!
IMG_20200703_074221 I have also continued to panic-buy plants (and plant-related items like pots and watering cans). In addition to my stromanthe and calatheas I bought some cactuses and citrus trees. I’m keeping them in their nursery pots until the nicer pots arrive, but here they are on the balcony: IMG_20200707_131641Also our plum tree has gone gangbusters and we bought a fruit picking tool to get at the high plums (we considered a tall ladder but the ground slopes quite heavily). We’ve barely scratched the surface of our plum bounty.IMG_20200705_105159A couple of weeks ago a single branch broke and this is all the fruit we plucked from it:
IMG_20200625_180257 I made some plum cake but there’s only so much cake we can possibly eat, so I chucked the rest of them in some vodka. This process will probably repeat next weekend.

James was utterly delighted one evening when a raccoon visited and hung out in the plum tree. Also that’s when we realised that the tree branch from a couple of weeks ago hadn’t snapped from the wind – it had been broken by this plum-fat raccoon.IMG_20200630_204012Making his getaway – look at his fat butt and bushy little tail!
IMG_20200630_205541We were really hoping he’d go in the window but he didn’t. =(

Also I went through James’ photo storage looking for photos to add to this post and found that 90% of his iso photos are either of the cats or are selfies of him with the cats.
IMG_20200515_192746 IMG_20200319_132838IMG_20200515_214302 IMG_20200317_111020There’s a couple of photos of the hikes we went on too, but otherwise it’s cats and cat-selfies all the way down.

The Venice Beach & Playa Vista Google Offices

22 Jun

While James and I were in Venice Beach I went to visit him at the office. It has a very distinctive entrance.
IMG_20191107_124727 And the entrance hall was pretty cool – from memory they were various Google doodles for all the regional offices:IMG_20191107_114711This walkway from the main cafeteria to the barista area. I liked the contrast between the industrial ceiling and the modern wood.
IMG_20191107_121307In that same area there was also a gallery with rotating art exhibitions.
IMG_20191107_121437James grabbed a coffee and we found this cool Google Earth thing.
MVIMG_20191107_122047Also I took a sneaky photo of someone’s cute little dog.IMG_20191107_121951A chill outdoor eating area. There was also an outdoor buffet set up but James said that was probably for someone’s meeting rather than being a permanent fixture.MVIMG_20191107_123321Rooftop chess, anyone?
MVIMG_20191107_122719I thought this microkitchen was very cool.IMG_20191107_123817When James asked his colleagues if there was anything worth visiting, everyone mentioned the tea lounge. So here is the tea lounge.MVIMG_20191107_123946James also visited the office in Playa Vista, which is where the legal team he works with is. The office is located inside the Spruce Goose’s hangar.

Outside:IMG_20191107_141913The main entrance is very impressive. Because it’s a heritage building they couldn’t alter it, so the office was basically built inside the shell of the hangar.
IMG_20191107_142002A photo looking down towards the entrance:IMG_20191107_142124And to the right where the cafeteria was: IMG_20191107_142129I liked the photo James took of this psychedelic sitting spot:IMG_20191107_170645And a final photo of the beams that anchor the inner building to the outer heritage one:

A Quick Trip to Venice Beach

11 Jun

Last November James had a work trip to Los Angeles and I tagged along, as is tradition. He was visiting the Venice Beach office (why are all the other offices in such cool locations??) and we stayed at Hotel Erwin, which was right near the water.

This was the view from our room:


When we arrived James headed to work for a couple of hours and I unpacked our stuff. Then I walked to Felix Trattoria to wait for a table since we didn’t have a reservation (I overshot and got there 40 minutes earlier than necessary), and James joined me after work.

The whole meal was absolutely wonderful but the sfincione was the star.MVIMG_20191105_180002It was a short walk back to our hotel, past this famous sign.
IMG_20191105_185943And because we are little piggies, a couple of hours later we went and got fish tacos down the street.


While James went to work I decided to go for a touristy walk to Abbot Kinney Blvd, the Venice Beach Canals, and of course the beach.

There were a lot of Arnie murals:
IMG_20191106_094526 My favourite things were the cacti though. So majestic.IMG_20191106_094909I covet them so much but our place is too shady for cactus to thrive. =(
MVIMG_20191106_100757The Abbot Kinney stores had fun little signs:

IMG_20191106_101845 And more Arnie! MVIMG_20191106_105705Then I headed to the canals, which were super cute. It was overcast that day so these aren’t the most picturesque photos ever, but you get the idea!
IMG_20191106_102319 The water was pretty shallow – you could definitely wade in them no problem.MVIMG_20191106_104924There were a lot of ducks!
IMG_20191106_103920And fancy boats! IMG_20191106_102535Then I walked back to the beach. It was still overcast and a little bit warmer and more humid than I like, even though we were heading into winter. I don’t think I’d do well in LA!
IMG_20191106_111614 I loved these little birds that would run in and out with the tide, pecking at the sand. They hated me, though, and refused to do it if I was too close.IMG_20191106_112425A Pride lifeguard box.
IMG_20191106_113911Something that surprised both me and James was how big the beach was. Other beaches we’ve been to have a lot less sand but this beach seemed to have twice as much sand-area as other beaches and was also super long so it never really felt crowded (though we were there on a weekday off-season).

For lunch I went to Gjusta, which is super famous and thus super busy, but the sandwiches were delicious.IMG_20191106_122859In the evening James had a work dinner so I went down the street and had tacos for dinner. =)


In the morning I borrowed one of the free bikes from the hotel and went cycling on the beach. It’s sooo nice cycling when you don’t have to worry about cars! I stopped for awhile at this cool playground near the Santa Monica pier.
IMG_20191107_092912After cycling for a couple of hours I went back to the hotel to shower, and visited James at Google for lunch. (I was originally going to incorporate that into this blog post but it ended up being super long so I decided to split it off).

In the evening we went to James’ Beach, partly because it’s named after James but mostly because Jason Segel’s character in I Love You Man said had the best fish tacos . They were fine, but the best fish taco is a super high bar that it didn’t meet, though we still had a lovely night drinking happy hour margaritas.
MVIMG_20191107_175211 On the way home we saw this giant mural. =) MVIMG_20191107_192903

It was our last day in Venice Beach and I had such a good time cycling the other day that I made James go with me in the morning.

I took him to the playground in Santa Monica where he climbed the rope:
IMG_20191108_071547And swung dynamically on the rings:IMG_20191108_071153It really is a fantastic beach. I’m not normally a beach-goer because I don’t like sitting in the sun, but this was a very useable beach – there were always tons of people jogging, cycling, walking, swimming and rollerblading (yes, rollerblading! Apparently it never went out of fashion in Venice Beach).

Afterwards I hung out at the hotel until it was time to check out, then went to Gjusta to grab lunch and wait for James so we could go to the airport. The LA weather (and traffic) definitely isn’t my thing, but it was a really nice break and I’m super jealous of people who live within walking distance of that beach!


Summer Afternoons with Friends

19 May

Blue Angels

Every year the Blue Angels do a flyover and last year we went to a friend’s rooftop to watch. All the roofs and balconies around us had people on them and there were a ton of boats on the water.
IMG_20191013_150645I don’t know why Horatiu is on that weird angle.

White Water Rafting

A few of us went to Coloma to go white water rafting on the American River. We drove up the night before and stayed in a massive AirBNB.

We saw a deer in the backyard, which James was very excited about. This is one of many photos that he took of it.
MVIMG_20191027_110327_1Here we are at the start of our watery journey.
MVIMG_20191026_113712Isn’t the river gorgeous?IMG_20191026_125433We didn’t do a very challenging segment of the river since we had one person who didn’t know how to swim, but it was still nice getting out on the water.

At one point where the water was calm and deep enough, our guide said we could go swimming, and it was freezing! But still fun enough that we did it again later. =)

And this is us near the end of our rafting trip – some a little cold and wet, others (David) a little sunburned.
MVIMG_20191026_153658Oh yeah, in the evening we had our power shut off! There were a bunch of fires in the area and it was quite windy, so PGE was shutting off power to certain areas. It wasn’t too bad, since our host supplied us with lighting and water to flush the toilets.

It also meant that our drive back the next morning had really bad traffic, since everyone was being diverted due to fires or fallen trees, and there were also people evacuating. Pretty bad timing on our part! David and Lauren actually saw small fires on the side of the road on their drive home.

So we actually ended up taking twice as long to get home as expected. =( But at least we had power when we got back!

Celebrating our 11th Wedding Anniversary

13 May

The latest coronavirus news is that the lockdown will continue to June and James will be working from home until the end of the year. In the meantime, I will continue to document the fun things we did last year (maybe if this goes on long enough I’ll eventually catch up!)

Swan Oyster

Last year for our 11th wedding anniversary James took the day off work and we finally went to Swan Oyster Depot. Since it was a weekday we thought the line wouldn’t be too bad, but we got there 10 minutes before opening and still didn’t make it for the first seating.
IMG_20190808_110938 Service and food were amazing and prices were reasonable but more than you would expect to pay at a cash-only restaurant.IMG_20190808_113201We were chatting with our waiter, and apparently you can call them before opening time and order for takeout! I think that’s what I would do next time since we live within walking distance.IMG_20190808_114504


We had a fortifying nap in the afternoon and in the evening we went to Capo’s. It’s by the same guy as Tony’s but with more of a focus on Chicago style pizzas. Again, it was busier than we expected and we could only get a seat at the bar. We were initially disappointed, but our bartender turned out to be super friendly, and when he found out it was our anniversary he showered us with free food and drinks.

It’s hard to tell in the photos, but this is an absolute shit ton of prosciutto! Normally when you order it you get a couple of delicate slivers, but nope, this free prosciutto was bountiful.
IMG_20190808_191202Our fantastic bartender also steered us away from a cocktail (it was listed prominently on the menu so James thought it was a really good drink but apparently that brand had an arrangement with the restaurant), was really friendly, and kept plying us with celebratory shots.

Look at this pizza!
MVIMG_20190808_194309Also we were pretty tipsy here since there had already been a couple of rounds of free shots, plus the drinks we actually ordered.

The pizza was so filling and we ended up taking most of it home. But not before our bartender gave us a free tiramisu (and goodbye drinks).
IMG_20190808_202459It was a super fun dinner and by the time we left we were wasted – absolutely wasted.

Sonoma Wine Country Visit

23 Apr

In better, more free-range 2019 times, James and I went on a wine weekend with some friends from Seattle. We drove from SF to a little AirBNB near downtown Sonoma.

Napa and Sonoma have really great tasting rooms, so it was really fun doing a bunch of tastings, but gosh the tastings (and wines!) are expensive. On Friday night we went to Pangloss in downtown Sonoma before dinner, and had a fantastic time drinking wine and catching up.

Saturday morning we started at Sebastiani:
IMG_20190831_121213 Their tasting was the best value – if you bought the cheapest wine the tasting was free. Freee!

At Gundlach Bundschu:IMG_20190831_150743 Grapes on the vine: IMG_20190831_135705There weren’t any savings buying cellar door compared to retail, and yet here we are with our purchases:
MVIMG_20190831_150451Also you can’t really tell from the photos but it was hot as balls that weekend.

On Sunday we went to a few vineyards, but it turns out I didn’t take many photos. We did buy a fairly expensive zin at Arandell that I feel we will be too intimidated to drink.

Here we are at the Ferrari Carano grounds:
MVIMG_20190901_162500We ended the day at Healdsburg, which we all really liked. It had a cute town square with a lot of tasting rooms so you didn’t have to drive.

Even though the wines were unexpectedly expensive, we all had a great time and it inspired me and James to explore the Piedmont wine region in Italy when we visited. AJ and Surabhi really liked the wine tour they did in Tuscany, and strongly encouraged us to do some tastings in Italy, and I’m glad they did!

Some of the wineries we wanted to visit were booked out – it was a holiday weekend and we hadn’t planned in advance, oops. But the great thing about Napa/Sonoma wine country is that you can still have a pretty fantastic weekend without having to plan anything in advance. =)