When I think of taking off time from work it usually falls into two buckets. The first is an obligation that I have to attend. Things such as a doctor appointment, an errand during the daytime, or in the best case scenario the wedding of a close friend.
The second bucket contains well thought out trips planned well in advance. These include time spent visiting family in different parts of the world or trips to special locations with friends.
I’ve never really considered smaller, local weekend trips as an option. If a place is close enough to drive to then logically we could just do a day trip and save on a hotel. This has resulted in many world class locations around us being vastly under explored.
Luckily, my partner has a different mindset. We currently don’t have the freedom to take many long, extended trips that include just the two of us. She understands the value of taking shorter, smaller vacations occasionally. They are a chance for us to break from the grind and form cherished memories together.
A few months ago she pushed me to take a Friday off with her and plan a trip down to Monterey where we would spend a night. We booked a hotel and a week later started the drive down on a Friday.
After a hectic morning where I checked my work email one last time and we wrapped up a few last minute errands we were off to Point Lobos. When we arrived we parked at an inlet and took a hike through the cyprus trees along the coast. After a short climb we were able to experience view after view of the coastline. It was breathtaking.
Pelicans lined up alongside rock formations that jutted out into the sea. From where we were standing a few of them would glide right by us before joining their friends on the rock. We pulled our faces back into our necks and waved our arms to imitate them flying along with other hikers.
Some would take dramatic yawns before settling down. They would drag the droop of their beak over their exposed necks before gulping sharply in the air. It was one of the wildest things I’d witnessed and made me feel like an amateur yawner.
Midway through our walk we met a docent that relayed the history of Point Lobos and how it almost didn’t exist as a park for everyone to enjoy. In 1897, Alexander MacMillan Allan, came over to the Point Lobos as an engineer for coal mining companies in the area. He proceeded to buy a huge swath of land that would later become a large section of the park.
The remaining land was subdivided into parcels for large, luxury housing nestled in the woods with dramatic views. He proceeded to buy up all these parcels to consolidate his holdings. Afterwards he put up tollgates and began charging people for access to the scenery. Although the California State Park association wanted to buy the land from him and turn it into a public park, he resisted.
After he passed, his family sold the land to the state of California for ~$600,000 in 1933 (~$10 million in today’s money). It finally became available to the public and became known as Point Lobos state park.
After exploring Point Lobos we drove over to Carmel’s downtown for an extremely underwhelming visit. I had heard a lot about the picturesque Carmel downtown but its vibe wasn’t for us.
It was filled with expensive French or Italian restaurants, real estate agencies, jewelry shops, and art galleries. The most exciting part of the downtown was the two story library smack dab in the middle of the place.
We finally made our way to Monterey where we checked into our hotel. After our dinner we took a walk through Monterrey's downtown. The place was bustling as there had recently been a car show that closed down part of the main street. We walked through downtown until we reached a promenade that extended along the bay.
At the walkway we encountered hundreds of seals, some barking, some sleeping, and some arguing with each other. It was an incredible sight, nothing like we’d ever seen before. There were seals passed out on the bank while their friends were out in the water slamming their necks into each other. It looked like all the seal bars let out at once and they were turned loose onto an unsuspecting bay.
Time slipped by and we watched in awe for longer than we realized. Well past dark we dragged ourselves back to the hotel where we copied some of our new seal friends and fell into a deep slumber.
The next day we woke up and waited in line for some trendy coffees at Alta Bakery and Cafe. After drinking an amazing cortado and a confusing coconut lime infused latte we made our way to another local hike and then headed back home.
The trip taught me that planning an overnight stay at a place within driving distance can be an amazing way to have a mini getaway. The change of pace was refreshing and a welcome break from the grind. I’m glad I have a partner that pushes us to take advantage of the beauty we have around us.