While we spent yesterday in wine country with friends, today we're heading just a bit south to the stunning Muir Woods, one of my family's favorite stops over the holiday trip to Northern California that started it all!
We were stumped as to what to do on Christmas Day - almost all the wineries were closed, and we knew most of the restaurants and attractions in San Francisco would be too. Emily had the brilliant idea to see if the national parks were open, and sure enough, they were - so we were up at the crack of dawn in our Sonoma Airbnb and at Muir Woods before they even officially opened!
A word to the wise: if you are planning to visit Muir Woods, do plan to arrive early. The parking lots and road spaces tend to be filled as early as 9:30-10am on weekends and holidays, and there are no alternatives for parking in or near the forest. While there are shuttles, those, too fill up and it's better to arrive early and not have to deal with the hassle in the first place.
It's fairly clear from our attire in these photos: the Schwegfam is not composed of hardcore hikers. We love nature...we are just generally poorly equipped to do crazy-intense hikes. We loved Muir because there was a really wide variety of trails, with a range of difficulty suited to the group. The main loop is a clear, paved path with signs and handrails - legit even a child or older person could handle it - but there are other, lengthier, more challenging loops that can be tackled too. We did a short one that ran parallel to and above the main trail and really enjoyed it.
As for the redwoods - words can't do them justice, and I feel like a sad imitation of a writer even trying to do so. I had read plenty about the redwoods over the course of my life, but to be honest I couldn't even have told you the difference between a redwood or a giant sequoia. Muir Woods had great educational information scattered throughout the park, and I geeked out hard throughout our hike (stroll). Who's surprised? Nobody.
The sheer height and scale of the redwoods can't be captured on camera - or at least not on my iPhone. Christmas morning was cold and misty, and the woods were utterly silent when we headed in. The peace and quiet created a truly otherworldly atmosphere, one that left me completely in awe of what we were seeing and experiencing.
As we explored, the sun peeked through and burned off the fog, and the day got warmer. Watching the sun filtering through the trees - absolutely gorgeous. We made approximately a hundred jokes about finding the perfect Christmas tree and having a "Muiry" Christmas courtesy of Emily, but we also all constantly repeated how stunning the scenery was.
As the day wore on, the woods got much more crowded and hectic - and we got a little sick of the chatter and tourist traffic jams. So we headed out of the woods and over to Muir Beach for a change of scenery!
The beach was blustery and cloudy, and far less crowded than the woods - definitely not swimsuit weather, but the views of the Bay were ridiculous. I would certainly not hate having a little beach shack there...right?!
Looking back, I'm probably sentimentalizing this quite a bit, but I think this is about when I started to maybe percolate the idea of heading west. The clouds over the bay were illuminated from behind by the sun, creating a hazy mid-afternoon sky that looked almost twilit. With the salt wind blasting my face and my toes so cold they were numb, it hardly seemed like an idyll - but that wild, severe, varied beauty was something I hadn't experienced like this before.
I'm not going to assign more emphasis to this than I should, but I think there's something about redwoods and the ocean around here that makes everything seem amazing and possible and just a little bit fantastical.