Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Santa Cruz Mountains Camping

Pigeon Point Lighthouse
We were on the fence about camping this past (Easter) weekend. On one hand, DH had Monday off, making it a 3 day weekend and an ideal weekend to check out the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains. On the other hand, it was scheduled to rain. 
Now I am a glutton for punishment just as much as the next guy but camping in the rain is for the dogs!
So one can imagine our shared delight when we checked the weather report Friday to see the rain was no longer in the forecast! We packed the car early Saturday morning and were on the road just after 8am, ready to discover a new spot.
enchanted campsite surrounded by redwoods
Home away from home!
We'd heard good things about Butano State Park in the town of Pescadero and in fact, this campground was one of the more remarkable and beautiful I have experienced. The campsites themselves are rather small and not ideal for more than 1-2 tents but the sheltering redwoods create a very intimate, serene space. 
Banana Slug!
Having never been to Santa Cruz, I was ecstatic to see a real life banana slug for the first time. So adorable. These mushrooms looked delicious...and dangerous!

Whale City Bakery

Ollaberry croissant
After settling in we headed down a particularly breathtaking strip of Pacific Coast Highway toward Santa Cruz, stopping along the way at whatever roadside attractions caught our eye. Whale City Bakery was a nice little spot where we picked up an amazing ollaberry croissant and an artichoke-stuffed bread loaf (not amazing). 
Wine tasting and camping go hand and hand in our experience and DH was particularly excited to try the wines of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The pinots of Beauregard, Silver Mountain and Santa Cruz Mountain Wineries were excellent and the tasting rooms were pleasant and understated. 
veggie sandwich, rigatoni salad & local beer on tap
We headed into the center of town for lunch at the lovely River Cafe. I am still thinking of their delicious veggie sandwich with raw asparagus slices and homemade kombucha on tap!
colorful wetsuits on sale

surfboards for every size

Verve lattes
Not unlike the coastal cities of Venice, Santa Barbara and Big Sur, Santa Cruz is a distinctly Californian city with classic laid-back surfer/hippy vibe. Racks of wetsuits and surf shops line the streets and Verve coffee is a knockout coffee spot whose beans are brewed up and down the state.
Duarte's tavern and restaurant
After a delightful, decadent day in Santa Cruz, we headed back to the campsite to discover an unforcasted rain dampening our good time. Not to be discouraged, we dined at Pescadero's only dinner spot, Duarte's Tavern. Around since the turn of the last century, Duarte's is known for its artichoke specialties and its cioppino.

By the time we got back to the campsite Saturday evening, there was no denying the rain was here to stay. By Easter Sunday, the campsite was drenched and anything with a surface (everything) was wet or wet and muddy!
Nepenthe's famous sour cream pancakes
persevering pancakes
There were two options: either pout about it and pack up camp OR persevere. 
So we persevered with pancakes! Nepenthe's famous sour cream pancakes to be exact. A good pancake can really brighten the tone of an otherwise dreary moment.
And after persevering with pancakes...we packed up and headed home. Sometimes you gotta know when to fold 'em!

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