Category: Modern Travel

Where to Camp in Big Sur

By dweb247 on August 27th 2020

With 90-miles of pristine coastline, Big Sur is just about the dreamiest place to cruise out of cell service and pitch a tent. There are redwoods and waterfalls, craggy alcoves and socked-in canyons, and on a clear, late summer day you can see whale spouts off in the distance.

Look up in the sky to spot a condor – you can’t miss them, they’re the ones with the 10-ft wingspan – or peek over the cliffs to watch the otters bob in the waves. From the birds to the bakery (THE Big Sur Bakery – get the brown butter cookie), the mossy rocks and the babbling brooks, the silent hikes to the crashing swells – here’s our guide to the best campsites in Big Sur. Don’t forget your long johns.

BLM & FOREST SERVICE ROADS

The Los Padres National Forest is home to Big Sur and there are lots of places on the side of the road that you are allowed to camp for free. Big Sur campgrounds can fill up months in advance, so car camping on public BLM land (Bureau of Land Management) is a great back-up or last-minute trick. BUT — and this is a big but — be sure to check the LPNF website before going to check rules and restrictions. Please be cautious of changing weather and wildfires and always listen to officials. And always respect the no campfire rule and PACK IN, PACK OUT.

Nacimiento-Ferguson Road

Nacimiento-Ferguson Road is a windy, steep road a few miles south of Lucia. It’s got stunning views and many small “campsites,” aka flat spots off of the road where people have been setting up small tents and car camping for years.

Plaskett Ridge Road

For the more rugged campers (or at least the ones with an AWD vehicle), this dirt “road” heads straight into the Big Sur interior. It flattens out toward the top of the hill and there are and grassy meadows and hillsides aplenty.

Prewitt Ridge

Another roadside attraction, what Prewitt lacks in toilets and running water it makes up for in sprawling ocean views. Get there early to watch the sun go from high in the sky to right into the Pacific. Make PB&Js and whiskey for dinner and call it a night.

BACK COUNTRY CAMPING

There are over 50 backcountry trails and “campsites” that will take you off the crowded tourist tracks of Big Sur. It’s a great way to connect with Big Sur’s wildlife, but if you plan to build a campfire or use a stove or barbecue outside of a developed campground area, you need a free campfire permit.

Sykes Hot Springs

A 10 mile hike in from the Ventana Wilderness visitor’s center (along the Pine Ridge Trail) are the stellar hot springs and even more stellar primitive camp sites. The hot springs may be a bit crowded in the day but come late afternoon the crowds clear and you have the Big Sur River and the 100° F pools to yourself. Get an early start on this hike-in so you can savor the waterfalls along the way – and get your pick of the best sites.

*Note: Sykes Hot Springs via Pine Ridge Trail may be closed so check beforehand

Cook Spring Camp

Less of a commitment, the North Coast Trail hike to Cook Spring Camp is only a 5 miles hike in with sweeping views of the coast and mountains. This hike leads to a primitive backcountry camp under a canopy of sugar cone pine trees.

CAMPGROUNDS

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

This is the Big Kahuna of campsites. With over 170+ camping and RV sites, this campground is where most people come when they come to Big Sur. Sure, it can be crowded sometimes, but if you get a spot next to the Big Sur River in the way back you’ll be none the wiser to the chaos (there are also some cute cabins if that’s your jam). Each spot has parking, a fire ring and access to bathrooms and showers, so it’s not exactly “roughing it.” But the site is friendly for families (and dogs!) and it’s centrally located so you’ll have your pick of all that Big Sur has to offer.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

If Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the jumbo site, Julie Pfeiffer Burns State Park is the blue moon. With just 2 environmental (no showers, no running water) campsites available, these two sites have ocean views and a private 80ft waterfall. They are a HOT commodity and are almost always booked, but if you see an opening, seize it. You won’t be sorry when you’re drinking coffee with whales, dolphins, and sea lions.

Andrew Molera State Park

This is the only real “first come, first served” campground in Big Sur, so prepare to get there early to snag one of the 24 sites. Set in a dreamy meadow, these hike-in campsites are about ⅓ mile from the parking area but still offer a lot of the typical campsite amenities (bathrooms, picnic tables, fire pit, etc.). It’s also surrounded by multiple hiking trails that wander through meadows, rolling bluffs, rocky beaches, and stunning hilltop views. We like the Andrew Molera Loop trail – a significant 8.8 mile loop with a 1100 ft elevation gain and a whole bushel of scenic switchbacks.

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln feels like you stepped into Fern Gully. With 33 campsites that span the coast to the redwoods, the best part of Limekiln is the hike back through the redwoods up to the old late 19th century limekilns and Limekiln Falls (100ft waterfall). Snag a spot that overlooks the creek and stay for a few days – no need to go anywhere else.

Kirk Creek Campground

If Julia Pfeiffer is filled up (which is likely), check out the oceanside Kirk Creek Campground. This site has 34 spots that sit between Highway 1 and the Pacific – so it’s literally jutting out into the ocean. This may be the best view camping view in all of Big Sur (when the fog lifts) but be wary of Poison oak – it is EVERYWHERE. If you bring a dog, keep it on the leash. You’ll thank us later.

Even if you have a reservation, always check with the campgrounds and the Forest Service for any updates regulations or guidelines before you show up. California is often affected by Natural Disasters so you need to be aware of Mother Nature’s many mood swings. And crazy weather or not, always enjoy campfires in designated pits and be sure to snuff out every ember before bed (and we mean EVERY ember). Pack in, pack out, and leave not trace. Oh, and have fun!

Lesser Known National Parks to Visit

By dweb247 on August 8th 2020

104 years and still going strong! On August 25th, 2020 the National Park Service celebrates 104 years as “America’s best idea.” We couldn’t agree more. And as a party favor, the NPS is opening all of their national parks and monuments free of charge! So load up your pandemic pod, grab your masks, and get out there. Here’s our list of some of our favorite, lesser-known National Parks and forests – the gems off the beaten path, the less crowded but equally as pleasing trails, the grand vistas with ne’er a selfie in sight. Give the popular spots a rest and try these national treasures on for size.

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Just across the Colorado border from the popular Mesa Verde National Park is Bandelier National Monument – an equally intriguing example of Ancestral Pueblo culture. This park monument is 33,000 acres of canyons and mesa country with gorgeous hiking trails (some easy, come difficult) and views of ancient ruins and petroglyphs. Archaeology and history buffs are sure to love it.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Deep in the heart of Texas is another “El Capitan” that’s equally as impressive as the more popular face in Yosemite. You can find this larger-than-life Captain in Guadalupe Mountains National Park halfway between El Paso and Carlsbad New Mexico (also the home of an epic National Park). The Guadalupe Mountains were formed millions of years ago when a vast tropical sea covered the region; today, fossilized reefs stand as tall as the mountains – and El Capitan is the chief. There are more than 80 miles of trails and the best (and only) way to view these natural specimens is on foot. Bring a lot of water and binoculars – the park is also home to more than 300 bird species.

Cuyahoga Valley National Monument, Ohio

Love waterfalls and lush, verdant valleys? Cuyahoga is the place for you. In between Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga is a quieter version of Great Smokey Mountains National Park (easily the most-visited national park). The park is filled with forests, hills, creeks and the namesake Cuyahoga River, as well as historical canals that played a key role in the American settlement of the 1800’s. Another bonus: The historical Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad that winds through the park. Hike in, train out.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Ok, the Grand Canyon is obviously mind blowing (the word “grand” is part of the name), but what Black Canyon lacks in width, it makes up for in depth. The great cliffs of Black Canyon plunge into the Gunnison River, some place more than 2,700 ft down. This results in some stellar echoes and even more stellar rock climbing opportunities. Deep in the canyons there are some radical Class V rapids if you are a skilled paddler (NOT recommended for beginners!) as well as some rewarding but complicated hikes (also recommended for a more intermediate or advanced hiker). For the beginners, there are ample scenic hikes along the South and North rims as well as world-class trout fishing in the Gunnison River.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

One of the newest parks in the system, Congaree National Park is like Texas’ Big Bend but without the crowds and coolers of Lone Star. Tucked along the mystical Congaree River near Columbia, South Carolina, this national park boasts 27,000 acres of old growth floodplain forests dropping with biodiversity. The park has more than 25 miles of hiking trails and offers gorgeous boardwalks for great accessibility. You can also explore via kayak or canoe (yours or rented) or camp along hiking or canoe trails (permits are required but free). Bring a harmonica, a dram of whiskey, and harmonize with the bullfrogs.

Muir Woods National Monument, California

Just across San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is Muir Woods National Park – a big-time redwood experience nestled along the coastline of northern California. President Teddy Roosevelt declared the land a National Monument in 1908 to preserve the redwood forests, so lose yourself among these giants and marvel at the fantastic views along the way – look out at the wide pacific or across at the sparkling city on the bay. Make a weekend of it and explore adjacent Marin County for more hikes, beach walks, and oyster dinners.

North Cascades National Park, Washington

Glaciers around the globe are quickly melting, so Montana’s Glacier National Park is certainly worthy of your “Must Visit” list (especially since some scientist think the GNP glaciers will be gone by 2030!) In the meantime, get yourself to North Cascades National Park – 3 hours north of Seattle and home to more than 300 glaciers and impressive mountain peaks and cascading waterfalls. You can hike and camp in the park and even explore by boat via numerous lakes and rivers. Just be sure to bring some warm socks!

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

In the middle of Lake Superior (the largest freshwater lake in the world!), Isle Royale National Park is just about the dreamiest island escape we can think of. This park is a series of over 450 islands (most very small!) that make up an archipelago of 132,000 acres of crystal blue waters and dramatic, craggy cliffs. What it lacks in transportation (there are no cars on the islands) it makes up for in adventure. When you get there (by boat or sea plane), explore the many lakes and trails by foot, paddle board, or kayak (you can rent one there). If you are a scuba diver, look into some of the organized trips that you can take. It’s well worth the trek to this remote slice of paradise.

With more than 400 national parks, forests, and monuments, there are plenty of places to check out. For more information, visit www.nationalparks.org.

Robolights, Palm Springs

By dweb247 on February 19th 2020

Palm Springs is a kaleidoscope of spectacle plopped between the highways and wind farms. It’s a place where pool parties kick off at 8am, drag brunch margaritas are a breakfast staple, and colorful art installations peacock on every corner. If you haven’t made your way to Robolights, here’s why it’s a must-see.

Robolights is a sprawling residential plot that’s about as eye-popping as they come. And each year, artist Kenny Irwin Jr. tears down his masterpiece and starts anew. Using scavenged and gifted trash items, he constructs a mental wonderland of robots, tunnels, bridges, trolls, whosits and whatsits, giant chairs, aliens, creatures from the deep, interactive arcades – whatever comes to mind.

It’s the definition of controlled chaos. It’s 4 acres of upcycled paint cans, phone chords, plastic bottles, tires, hubcaps, cages, garden hoes, 8 million Christmas lights, disco balls, giant Christmas blow-ups, busted electronics, patched up bouncy houses, car parts, unwanted toys … imagine the Wall-E junkyard then blasted with paint. It’s kinda like that.

To visit this fun house (it’s actually the artist’s residence), check the website first – it’s closed during parts of the year so the Irwin can work on his masterpiece. Bring a few bucks for a suggested donation (it takes money to keep those lights on!) and your walking shoes – it takes about 45 minutes to walk through the whole thing.

If you’re in the Palm Springs area, take time to explore Joshua Tree National Park, Pioneertown, and the Integratron. And obviously brunch with the Desert Divas…

Best Places to Travel in 2020

By dweb247 on January 7th 2020

2020 just sounds like a year for epic trips. While we adjust back to office life, we’re slowly re-entering with a healthy dose of wanderlust and electrolytes (because you have to prep that immune system for international travel). According to the Toads, here’s what tops our list for the best places to visit in 2020.

LAKE TAHOE

“I’m taking the little groms to the snow! My youngest hasn’t been yet so we’re getting her on some mini skis. It’s the best place in the world to learn to ski because when you fall at least you got a million dollar view!” – Neil, Operations

VIETNAM

“I took a DNA test last year and turns out I’m 91% Vietnamese, so I’m headed back to the Motherland! I’m doing an epic solo motorcycle trip through the countryside. I’ve never been to Vietnam. I’m so pumped.” – Anthony, Graphic Design

TURKEY

“I’m going on my honeymoon this year and I think we settled on Turkey! I want that balance of adventure and relaxing, but we also like amazing food and coffee and culture…Turkey seemed like the perfect place. I hear Cappadocia is where the hot air balloons float over these ancient cities built around rock formations. Sounds pretty amazing.” – Tessa, Production

AMSTERDAM

“Amsterdam has some incredible art museums. The Van Gogh, the Foam, the Moco, and of course the Rijksmusuem that’s been closed for years and just re-opened after a mega remodel – I hear it’s spectacular. I just want to go to all of the museums and eat all of the snacks and go biking through the tulips!” – Helena, Women’s Design

SENEGAL

“My buddy just came back from a surf trip in Senegal and now I’m frothin’. There are some great breaks just outside of Dakar like the legendary point break, Ngor Right (the one they surfed in Endless Summer!), and apparently down the coast is a little town called Ouakam where you’re just supposed to barrel all. day. long.” – Dr. Drew, Customer Service

CAMINO DE SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

“I’ve always wanted to walk the Camino. It’s a beautiful, historic pilgrimage route that winds through the hills of France and ends at this beautiful city, Santiago de Compostela, in Northwest Spain. After you’ve made your trek (I’d start in Léon so it wasn’t too long…), you end at the Cathedral where all the pilgrims pack in for a church service (all in Latin, of course). It just sounds divine.” – Lucinda, Production

YELLOWSTONE

“This summer we’re taking a road trip all throughout the Western US with the goal to hit as many National Parks as we can. Last fall we took my 5 year old, Lily, to her first national park and she loved it. She asked for a park pass for Christmas. So we’re going to put it to work! Our goal is to do a big circle – Yellowstone, Arches, Canyonlands, Mesa Verde, Saguaro, Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Zion, Great Basin… ok, if we make it to half it would be amazing. But Yellowstone is at the TOP of the must-see list!” – Lucas, Brand & Marketing

JAPAN

“I really want to go to Japan and hit some links! People are shocked when I tell them that Japan has great golf courses, but why wouldn’t they? It’s a country known for epic views and beautiful gardens. Makes sense to me!” – Guin, Women’s Design

ANDALUCIA

“We’re going to visit my mother-in-law in Switzerland, but then after that we’re going to check out Southern Spain (or Andalucia). It’s been on our bucket list for years. We’re thinking Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada…just give me all the tapas and Moorish architecture. I hear the Alhambra is mind blowing.” – Steve, Marketing

VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK

“I am SO excited to go to Volcano National Park on Hawaii’s Big Island! Kīlauea and Mauna Loa are active volcanoes so you can actually watch the lava flow, AND you can go see the Thurston lava tube that’s so big you can walk through it….AHHHH NATURE IS SO COOL!” – SARAH, Culture & Giving (and our resident geologist)

ICELAND

“Seeing the Northern lights is HIGH on my list of things to see with my own eyes. I hear Iceland is just the coolest and my dream is to surf off the coast of a glacier, while the Northern Lights are above, then get into the natural hot springs. Can you make that happen, Iceland?” – Natalie, Materials

COSTA RICA

“Give me mountains and jungle and ocean and sky and I’m a happy camper. Usually I love to explore cities, but I’ve heard nothing but good things about the vibe and the people and the food…. I know I haven’t been there, but I think Costa Rica is a place you find your soul. Sounds like a good place to clock some hours.” – Daisy, Brand & Marketing

How to Stay Sane During the Holidays

By dweb247 on December 5th 2019

Blame it on the weather, but the holidays can be stressful (like when you plan a dinner for 10 and it turns into 16…or your flight gets delayed AGAIN…or you have to make 60 cookies for the holiday class party). But remember: every day (even the trying ones) is an adventure! Here are 7 tips for how to stay sane during the holidays—and beyond.

HYDRATE

Staying hydrated will do wonders for your mind and body. Keep a reusable bottle on hand and never forget the party rule: for every libation, chug a glass of water.

PEOPLE WATCH

Stuck at the airport or standing in the longest check-out line of your life? Avoid the temptation to look at your phone and watch your fellow human beings. It’ll restore your faith in humanity…or at least be entertaining.

BREATHE

You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. When you’ve just about had it to HERE, close your eyes and take 3 or 4 deep, slow breaths. The rush of oxygen triggers a dopamine release in your brain which makes you calmer.

FORGET THE PRESENTS

Ah, gift anxiety—not knowing what size to get, dealing with shipping, dealing with timing, spending lots of money—just don’t do it. Instead you can donate to causes in people’s names, write poems or heartfelt letters, or commit to an adventure in the spring. It really is the thought that counts.

RE-GIFT

Okay okay, we just said don’t do presents. But if you must, feel free to re-gift wine you’ve gotten, jewelry you’ve never worn, your own personal copy of a book that you love… no shame in taking the sustainable route (PS—if you need to wrap, here’s how to avoid the wrapping paper)!

WALK IT OFF

We can’t stress this enough: Exercise makes you happy. Get your blood pumping at least a few times a week and you’ll be happy every day (trust us, we are scientists). Stuck inside? Turn on your favorite tunes and dance it out. If you need a playlist, here’s our Rock the Holidays playlist.

PRACTICE GRATITUDE

The key word is PRACTICE. It’s easy to give thanks when things are going well. It’s when things have fallen apart—the pies burned, the traffic is horrendous, you’re on your second hour of the annual Smith Family political debate—that’s when you practice gratitude and find something (ANYTHING!) to be grateful for. You’ll find that it is, indeed, an imperfect but happy holiday!