Choose Your Own Adventure!

Anyone remember these books from your childhood? Well, they're labeled classics, which make me feel really old, but other than that, they were awesome books! You would be reading along, and then come to a place where you have to make a choice about your next step. You'd either choose wrong and kill yourself off, or choose wisely and move on to the next challenge.
Yesterday was a bit of a "Choose Your Own Adventure" type of day for us. We had planned to visit Muir Woods on a Sunday. Since the woods are several hours from our house, and since we know Muir Woods State Park is a very popular place, we planned to leave early in the morning for our day trip. Everything was packed up and ready the night before, so early Sunday morning, we fed the troops and hit the road.

Much to my (my hubby is much more good-natured about these type of things) dismay, apparently everyone else in the world "hit the road" right along with us. After rolling along in stop and go traffic for a few hours, we arrived at the parking lot for Muir Woods. It was full. But no worries, there was a sign for an overflow parking lot! It was full too. And more signs for street parking. Yep, full! At this point, the crew was very hangry, I was driving and really trying to be patient (despite $#@%!, selfish drivers who cut around everyone waiting in line and kept stealing parking spaces), and we were all feeling pretty discouraged. About 4 miles from the park we acknowledged that even if we somehow found street parking this far away, we would have to hike all the way there, and then be fighting for walking space within the woods with five million other people. It just didn't seem very relaxing to any of us. So I kept driving and meandered upon the entrance to Muir Beach. I pulled into the lot (thank YOU for parking lots!!) and by some miracle found a spot. Woo-hoo!
We made some quick turkey sandwiches and enjoyed lunch right on the beach. The waves were crashing beautifully, a slight breeze was blowing. Things were starting to look up. Usually the weather this close to San Francisco is cool, if not cold at this time of year. And every other time we've been here, it's been very, VERY windy! But today, the weather gods sent some freak heat spike and it was 88 degrees at the beach! Almost unheard of. We think this may be part of the reason for even more than normal crowds at the popular park and beach. So, we re-adjusted our plans, peeled off our hiking boots and socks, and walked barefoot to explore the beach a bit.

The kids had a great time, and were able to stretch their legs and get out and move around near the water. The beach was crowded and there were lots of dogs, many off-leash. But everyone was friendly and it was fun to feel the warm sun and the cool breeze off the ocean. The waves were crashing and it was really beautiful. But I had anticipated walking through the cool groves of redwoods, and enjoying some solitude with nature. A crowded beach was just not what we had envisioned. So we made our way to the more rocky end of the beach, away from most of the crowds, and let the kids play while we discussed what we would do for the rest of the day.
As we were walking the beach, it was quite the feat to avoid land mines (aka- doggy piles) and the smell was disgusting. When we got to the rocky point, the kids played happily and I went to sit down...thankfully watching where I was walking...because I narrowly missed a huge fresh pile. Ugghhh...I seriously almost felt ill from the smell (and usually poop doesn't bother me very much, but this was RANK)! I grabbed a big rock to cover the offending pile, but as I lifted it, I discovered that it had been placed over ANOTHER huge pile of dog poop. nasty! So we decided to move along to the next part of our road trip adventure. But first, we all used the restrooms. And they were pit toilets...yuck! I can see why the dogs preferred to use the beach! Anyway, on to the next stop...wherever that may be.
We decided to drive north, up towards Bodega Bay and some pretty lookouts we had seen on other trips. As we drove along, we admired the magnificent vistas. It was really a gorgeous drive!
It was getting pretty late in the day, and we didn't want to get home too late, so we decided to pull over and park near a fire road (marked that parking was OK there) and hike around for a bit with the kids. The trail we followed was just a small portion of the Dipsea Trail which originates in Muir Woods and leads down to Stinson Beach.

It was sunny and hot and not windy at all! But we loved feeling the warmth of the sun while we admired the beautiful ocean below us. The kids had a great time trail-blazing ahead.
While they marched ahead (grumbling a bit because of the heat and their disappointment in not getting to see the big trees) their dad and I talked about how many people there are in CA, and how frustrating it is at times when crowds keep us from being able to even access some parks.

We were just about to roshambo for the dreaded duty of telling the kids we had to get back in the car for the long drive home (have I mentioned they don't love road trips like we do?) When suddenly, there she was...our redemption...the big tree swing in the sky.

Seriously, that's not a was right there. A big tree swing in the sky! And it was ALL OURS (well, all ours to enjoy)!
Of course, we all had to swing. Yes, all of us. No, you're never too old for a swing. And if you see a magnificent, majestic, enormous tree with a tall swing hanging from her, overlooking the ocean...I don't care who you are, you are going to swing!

After a good swing, we were all in amazing spirits and extremely happy to keep walking down the trail for a bit. 
Did I mention the views? Amazing!

Suddenly, they came upon a treasure (of sorts) and their dad let them try to guess what it was. Some of the guesses included trap door, escape hatch, bunker for a nuclear war...but the real answer was a lookout/gun nest for the military during World War II. We had visited the displays down by the Golden Gate Park area , but I had no idea that these remnants were still here.

Dad was happy to give an impromptu history lesson, which the kids and I were really interested in listening to. It was very surreal to actually be on that tower and imagine what was going on in history at that time.
The kids found a few more stations, which we looked at before heading back home. 
Our little 6 year old was furious that we wouldn't let him open the hatch and enter the old "gun's nest" which was deep, dark, over-grown, and quite possibly inhabited by wild creatures of some sort. We're cruel like that.
While the day didn't end up exactly as planned, we were thrilled with our adventures today. And I guess that's the moral of this story. You can't always control your environment, but you can choose to make the best of it. Sometimes you don't even realize that there are so many new, magical spots to discover. But if you don't get outside and explore, you'll never know. 

Some days are Muir Woods redwood days. Some days are big piles of dog poop days. Most days are a combinations of both. So work through the traffic, and the dog poop, and the crowds; and find your beach spot, your redwood forest, your stunning hike, or your perfect swing. I promise, it will be worth it!
Happy Travels.

PS- Wonder what the beach swing felt like? Have a try....


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