July 14, 2022

Wining and Hiking in California

I can’t think of two activities I like to do more while traveling than drinking wine and hiking. No matter which continent, country, state, or city I explore, I like to find wine to drink and trails to hike. If I’m being honest, which I will be, the wine is mostly my doing and the hiking is mostly my husband’s. Combined, we (and those activities) make a great pair. We don’t do them together ever, but as I’m writing this, the idea sounds nice. Potentially unsafe, but nice. Recently we went to California and had a whirlwind trip. We traveled up and down the coast and experienced new-to-us and delightful things along the way. I can’t get enough of California, and it was high time that we made a trip back there. It had been way too long. I’ll take you along our journey to one of our favorite travel destinations: California!

Channel Islands!

Which National Parks to Visit?

My days at Big Blue (IBM) introduced the adult me to California (that’s where my team was based). Ever since, I have fallen in love with the plethora of activities to do there - I can’t get enough. Whether you’re a beach person, a hiking person, a foodie, or a wino, California has a ton to do. For this particular trip, our top priority was visiting a couple of national parks. Some time ago, Jeff and I decided to make it a bucket list to visit all the national parks, so we got on it this summer. We’ve visited some of the more popular ones but decided to go for some lesser known parks: Channel Islands and Pinnacles. Secondarily, we wanted to fit some wine tasting or tours into that equation, and that we did! It took planes, trains, automobiles, and boats to accomplish our missions, and it was well worth the effort. 

Best Ice Cream Shop in Santa Barbara

Santa Barb and Sush

Our plane flew into L.A. and we immediately jumped on a train to Santa Barbara. Our bed and breakfast was in the heart of the little city, and it was a great place (minus our large spider roommate that did end up minding his own business during our stay). Our first order of business was to find a really good ice cream shop after eating high end sushi. Done and done. The raw fish and ice cream coma put us right to bed. My dreams of an all-day wine tour were about to be realized, and I had just one sleep until that dream became a reality. 

Third Winery of the Day

Wine Not?

Sunny picked us up around 10 am from our B&B. She represented her name well. There was one other couple in the van but they seemed rather unsure of how group settings typically went. PSA: there is no keeping to yourselves when you opt for a group tour. Those are the rules, I didn’t make them. Before our departure to the Santa Ynez Valley, we had to pick up a group of sorority sisters who graduated in the 60s together and their spouses, which could’ve gone either way. They all loaded up, we got on our way, and everyone was letting the ice melt and getting chatty. The day was going to be a great one!

Our first stop was at a small but beautiful winery that had an intimate and calm setting. By this point I was starving and ordered a cheese board, which was slightly awkward since we were all sitting at one table. I half-heartedly offered up a nibble, but luckily no one bit (pun intended). We had a proper tasting, and I liked 1-2 of the wines. Just as we were getting comfortable, we got shuttled to the next winery, which is not worth much of a mention. The third place made me feel like I was at an Argentinian beer hall. I have no idea if that is a thing, but that’s the vibe I got. A couple of wines were awesome, so I made my purchases. By this time the sorority group loved me because I became their official photographer. Since I had brought an actual camera, they decided I was professional. I sheepishly agreed, as I’ve been called worse. The group was drunk, we got herded back to the van, and driven back to our respectful accommodations. I forgot to mention somewhere in between the wineries, we stopped at an olive oil stand that makes some of the best olive oil I’ve ever had. Highly recommend a purchase!


"Best Mexican Food I've Ever Had" - Jeff

Automobiles and Mexican Food

Jeff and I had to jump off at the sorority ladies’ hotel, as it was closest to our rental car place. We had to Uber over to the airport and pick up our car so we could get to Ventura, the dock where our Channel Islands boat departed. Car picked up, and we decided it was time for some proper Mexican food in our lives. Jeff declared the meal “some of the best Mexican he’s ever had,” but I am skeptical of his declarations. He says that about most things he’s just had after feeling like he was starving to death. It was pretty good, fancy, and the atmosphere was lively. You can’t beat an outside meal in Santa Barbara, can you?

Jeff with His Unnecessary Items

Off to the Channel Islands!

Our B&B provided a “to go” breakfast for us so we could leave early and get to the dock, which was about an hour away. I do not do well with early morning shufflings-around so I stayed quiet, as not to poke the bear (myself). We arrived, with our snacks, water, and backpacks ready to go. Jeff brought a box of bland cereal for some reason. When I asked him why he wasn’t packing it in his backpack, he reluctantly admitted he had no room. He had chosen not to unpack the 20lbs of books and other items that have nothing to do with hiking. Instead he carried a cereal box around the entire Santa Cruz island, wondering if people labeled him as “the weirdo who carried a cereal box all over the island.” It was a valid concern. The island was beautiful and windy, and naturally the highlight for me were the tiny foxes that roamed around. I wished I could take one home, but I would’ve gotten arrested. The boat ride there and back was sufficient, and the visit to the island was a hit for both of us.

Bath Street Inn

Best B&B Experience, and More Wine

That evening, we checked into a new B&B, as our original one didn’t have space that third night. Boy, was I happy that minor inconvenience happened. We were greeted with a glass of wine, coffee, and cookies. Pretty much made my trip, right there. I’m big on the extras, and that was a perfect touch. It was late, but we ventured out for one last meal in SB after showering the sea salt off of our bodies. The next day we had to eat, go to mass, and get on the road, as we had a wine tasting at Daou, which was 2.5 hours away. We hopped in our little SUV and skedaddled north towards what I know now to be the best winery I’ve been to.

Visit to Daou Winery


I wish I could play a soundtrack in this blog to my arrival at Daou. I felt that I had arrived in my version of heaven. Rolling hills, a chateau-style entryway, wine for days, weeks, months, or years. I was on Cloud 9. We were seated at one of the best tables outside that they had to offer, and we got to boogying on our wine tasting and cheese eating. Red wine is my jam, not white at all, so I was in the right place. All but one wine they served was red, and it delighted me to no end. Jeff and I got so carried away that at the end of it, we sure did order 6 bottles that cost us more than we’ve ever spent on wine, and it was worth every penny. (Although we haven’t even had a bottle yet because we…well, I have no idea what we’re waiting on.) We were high on life and experience, and sometimes that is A-OK. Daou gave us the warm and fuzzies, and I am eternally giddy.

Schitt's Creek, I mean Stables Inn

Am I in Schitt’s Creek?

Our time to depart had come, and we hopped in our car to Paso Robles proper. We checked into our Schitt’s Creek motel look-alike, and were unsure of what possessed me to book it. I wanted something quirky at the time of booking and I got it. Before having one of the worst sleeps of my life, we made it to a cool restaurant with very beautiful drinks, and the bartenders were absolutely lovely. The next morning, after feeling like I had been physically assaulted, I woke up to a relatively bad attitude and I requested to swap rooms. They obliged, and I prayed that the next mattress was going to give me more support than the marshmallow I originally slumbered upon. Bad sleep aside, we were off to Pinnacles National Park for some hiking.

Hiking at Pinnacles

Hiking My Lack of Sleep Off

What pairs well with terrible sleep? The hardest hike of one’s life, of course! Our give and take in marriage is hiking for my husband and things like wine tastings for me. Relationships are a compromise, and we are getting better at it. I let him pick the hike, and off we went. I failed to bring with me any shorts on this trip, thinking California is so much chillier than New Orleans. While it is, it was still hot AF on this hike in my stupid pants. Plus, no sleep. You know…a recipe for success. The hike was hard. Truly one of the hardest hikes of my life. I mentioned that earlier. I complained a lot of the way up, but when we reached the top, I shut my trap. It’s always worth it, that climb to the top. I felt deep gratitude to my body that allowed me to get up that mountain and see sweeping views. Naturally, my guilt for my lack of enthusiasm and passive aggressive comments at Jeff set in, but frankly I didn’t have the energy to give it too much attention. We took some nice pictures, appreciated our hike, and went back down the mountain. It was a great experience and too short-lived at Pinnacles. I would definitely go back.

Hiking at Pinnacles

San Diego, Here I Come

Alas, our time for nonstop action was coming to an end. We had a long old train ride the next day down to San Diego, where we would stay with some old friends. We picked up a bottle of wine at the local liquor store and took advantage of the outside fire pit at our motel, as well as some Asian food for good measure. The sleep that night was leap years better than the previous night’s, and I woke up with a much better attitude. We got in our car, drove down to Santa Barbara, dropped said car off, and hopped on the train. We arrived in San Diego and were received by our obliging hosts. From there we had a relaxing couple of nights, had great conversations, good food, and the best company. The trip was a huge success. 

Birthday Travel is for the Birds

Like a complete ding dong, I booked our travel home on my birthday. I had a feeling that the travel day would be challenging, and it sure was. We woke up, hopped on our early morning train to L.A., and not far into the trip the train conductor explained that we would be delayed by who-knows-how-long due to an accident up the tracks. In our sheer panic, we made the choice to hop off the train, book a rental car, and drive to L.A. That would’ve been fine except no one was at the rental car place. We got an Uber to take us to the next town over to yet another car rental place, and jumped in a teal go-cart looking vehicle headed due north. Our go-cart got us to the airport in time, we boarded our blasted flight, and got home in time for my three pets to greet me for my 42nd birthday. It was a trip to remember, and one I will never forget! 
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