You wouldn’t think it necessary, as you’re cruisin’ along California’s Redwood Highway (U.S. Route 101), to stop and see the trees–specifically, the redwoods–since they’re all over the place. We thought we’d pull over to the side of the road once or twice to get some good snapshots as we traversed Northern California on our way to Crescent City. But then we spotted Frank and Bess Smithe Grove outside Leggett.
It looked like a place to just pull over for a couple of minutes, but we soon discovered that the Grove is a hidden, magical place. And that’s the way it’s supposed to be, so we got out and explored.
There’s no human development (except for a couple of carved out trees) and, when we visited on that particular day, there were no other humans! Just the giant redwoods and us. Nice and peaceful with California nature.
Frank and Bess Smithe Grove is operated by California State Parks. Officially, it’s a “State Natural Reserve”. And reserved it was; it was frozen in time. It’s a place to remind us that we must live in harmony with nature. We promise that you’ll have a newfound appreciation for redwoods after you visit this place.
A UWanderings Reader Shares Her Perspective on Hiking and Dating
A very special thanks to one of our readers, Sally Perkins, who graciously offered her insights into combining hiking and dating. Sally is a professional freelance writer with many years experience across many different areas. She made the move to freelancing from a stressful corporate job and loves the work-life balance it offers her. When not at work, Sally enjoys reading, hiking, spending time with her family, and traveling as much as possible. Sally also writes for Backpackerverse. You can read her other article about prepping for a hike by clicking the link immediately following this article. As she explained to us:
“Whether it’s a first date or a wedding anniversary, hiking can be a wonderfully romantic way to spend time with someone…”
Sally was kind enough to share her thoughts about hiking and dating from a woman’s perspective, and today offers suggestions for those in the Bay Area and SoCal. Pay attention, guys! Since we’ve covered a lot of California lately, and since summer’s around the corner, her contribution couldn’t have come at a better time. Thank you, Sally!
Two Hiking Trails That Know What a Lady Wants—By Sally Perkins
Cute animals, wine, and a romantic hike – it doesn’t take an expert on women to know that these are the elements of a perfect date. With its extraordinary wildlife, vast wineries, and gorgeous scenery, California is the perfect state for a date spot. Here are two different hiking trails in the sunny state that will put you up close with animals, nature, and wine to create the perfect romantic date for any couple.
Freemont Older Open Space Preserve
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A 763-acre open space preserve, Freemont Older is the perfect destination for a romantic hike. With incredible views of the oak studded hillsides of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Freemont Older is home to many native animals such as bobcats, coyotes, deer, and bird species. If these animals aren’t cute enough to make your date say “Aww”, the horses of the park are sure to. The preserve borders the Garrod Farm Stables to give you and your date an up close and personal experience with some of their horses. You can even ride one through the trails if you’d prefer.
Regardless of whether you hike on two feet, or are assisted by a four-legged friend, you will start the trail in the Cooper Garrod Estate Vineyards parking lot and end in the tasting room. The grand finale will have you tasting their wine and even munching on a mini buffet. Wine, horses, food, and romantic views – What more could a girl want?
Located in Malibu, California, just thirty minutes from Los Angeles, you and your date can sign up for a hike through the Malibu Vineyard and Saddlerock Ranch for a day filled with precious animals, breathtaking scenery, delicious wine, and ultimately romance. You can choose between a group hike or a private hike to fit your needs. The 2.5-mile hike is classified as an easy to moderate hike and will take you about two hours to complete. Therefore, you should wear clothing that is comfortable to do a light workout in, and make sure you have proper footwear as closed-toed shoes are mandatory.
Your romantic hiking trip will take you through the Saddlerock Ranch where you can meet the animals that live there. These exotic animals include zebras, camels, alpacas, and bison. You can even meet Hollywood’s retired superstar, Stanley the Giraffe. As part of your hike, you can feed Stanley and maybe even ask for his autograph. After you’ve worked up a sweat on your hike, you will go to the Malibu Wine Tasting Room to taste a flight of five different wines. Grab a spot on the lawn or pull up a chair at a table to enjoy the beautiful wine, weather, and scenery.
From animals to wine, and incredible scenery, these hikes will be sure to have your women falling in love with the area, and ultimately, falling in love with you.
Our first visit to Las Vegas this summer was a blast. Great city. Great people. Great atmosphere. Great climate. But even we noticed the extreme desert heat. Realizing we needed to get some fresh air and cool off, our hosts recommended Mount Charleston. Also known as Charleston Peak, Mount Charleston, we were told, is a Colorado-like place with cooler temperatures and gorgeous mountain scenery.
What?! In Vegas?!?! This one we had to check out…
So off we went on the 40-minute drive northwest of Sin City. It wasn’t long before we noticed the desert landscape getting greener before our eyes. And up Charleston we drove, deeper into the Spring Mountains. Wow, they weren’t kidding. This place is awesome! It reminded us of our visit to Italy’s mountainous Trentino region years ago. And to think, Mount Charleston is only a short drive from Vegas; a very easy day trip. Plenty of places to park the car and enjoy the scenery, cooler temperatures, and numerous hiking trails that will take you deeper into the wilderness. All in Clark County. On the day we went in late August, it was 100 degrees in Vegas, but only 70 (with a light breeze) on Mt. Charleston.
There’s more to Vegas than visitors think. Mt. Charleston’s definitely a well-kept local secret.
We waited a long time to see this place in person. The Bonneville Salt Flats is as close to an alien landscape on Planet Earth that you can find. We were drawn to it because it’s so…different. It’s the ultimate escape from reality.
The final fight between humanity and the alien queen in this summer’s Independence Day: Resurgence took place on the Flats, with a little help from CGI magic. We didn’t see any alien queens out here, but we were ready if one decided to show up. The Salt Flats is featured in countless movies, TV shows, and commercials–especially car commercials. Even Don Draper made an appearance in a modified 1970 Chevelle SS in the Mad Men series finale. Countless land speed records were set and broken here over the years.
It was a hot, dry day in July when we took off from the last paved road and waltzed onto what looked like oblivion. Driving on the Flats is an experience that’s second to none. Sure, you could take a few laps on a (paved) racetrack, but how about driving on a field of table salt, as fast as your car can go and in any direction, without the horizon changing? Distance is impossible to gauge out here. Once you drive a few miles inward, you can get out of the car and walk across the crunchy surface to take in the eerily silent, beaming white emptiness. Want to get away from civilization for a while? This will work.
You can drive as fast as you want to within the realms of safety. There’s no official speed limit. That’s why the Salt Flats is so popular for racing specialized cars. Since we visited shortly before the popular Speed Week, we were lucky enough to meet a crew working on a specialized car capable of going 400+ mph. It was in pieces at the time, undergoing final preparation, but it went on to race on the Bonneville International Speedway–a 9-mile stretch on the Flats marked by two blue (painted) lines–a couple of weeks later.
Some Words of Caution
But the fun things in life come with caution. Racing on the Salt Flats–professionally and for fun–comes with serious risk, so be prepared. We write these words of caution not to be condescending, but because we had a few hiccups out there ourselves, from almost driving into an abandoned spool of barbed wire that came out of nowhere–and would have probably shattered the windshield at our speed–to nearly running out of gas. The Bonneville Salt Flats are to be feared and revered.
The Salt Flats occupy a large swath of Northwestern Utah, but the best place to enter this magical land is right at the Utah/Nevada border at Wendover, UT, just across from West Wendover, NV (see map above). That would be Exit 4 on I-80, about a two-hour drive west of Salt Lake City.
Before entering the Salt Flats, please check with the local Bureau of Land Management office to make sure the Flats are drivable. They’re safe to drive on when dry, but it’s illegalto drive on the Salt Flats when wet, since it’s federally protected land. BLM will have up-to-date information for you and speed limit recommendations. They can be contacted here. There will also be signs posted nearby to tell of the current conditions.
When driving on the flats, bring lots of water, cell phone, extra food, hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and perhaps most importantly, a full tank of gas. Driving on the salt is like driving on very crisp, crunchy snow, so your car’s gas mileage will be terrible. We could actually see the fuel gauge move down as the speedometer moved up. It could costs hundreds to have your car towed.
Those of us who have spent even one winter in the Northeast know all too well the effects salt has on a car. WE’RE NOT GOING TO LIE: YOU WILL GET SALT ON AND UNDER YOUR CAR. LOTS OF IT. It could cost a lot of money and time to get all the salt off the underside of your car; one car wash is simply not enough. We spent $100 at do-it-yourself car washes over the course of two weeks getting salt out of every crevasse. In the end, it was all worth it to us since it was a once-in-a-lifetime adventure, but we advise you, the reader, to enter the Bonneville Salt Flats at your own risk.
Even We Had Trouble Finding This Place, But That’s the Point.
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Far into the wilds of Northern California lies a place where the fish thrive and people can live as one with nature. UW found this fishing paradise on accident after a chance encounter with one of the managers. And we really lucked out.
We ventured to Northern California to see the real Northern California–you know, the one that’s a few hundred miles north of San Francisco. Yeah, that one. Located in Klamath, about 40 miles from Oregon, Gold River Lodge offers true fishermen and outdoor enthusiasts a piece of nature difficult to find these days.
For the fishing aficionados, this is the place you need to be. Perfect for a weekend getaway in a comfy lodge with a scenic view. Or you can bring your RV there if you’d like–they’ve got plenty of parking. But the best part is, Gold River Lodge does everything for you. It’s not BYOB (Bring Your Own Boat) here…they’ll take care of that, plus tailor a trip and fishing packages just for you.