Erin and Adrian Go to Point Lobos

Our jaunts wend north, north being the direction of the Golden Gate Bridge. But south has its own joys.

South of San Jose, more, south of Monterey, California dips a rocky finger into the ocean. Take a right off Highway 1 and you have arrived at Point Lobos. The park combines rocky hills, forested trails, cliff views, secluded beaches, wildlife preserves, panoramic ocean views, and California history into a single experience. Its adoring fans bill it as “the crown jewel of the State Park system” and it is difficult to indict them for hyperbole.

As is the case with other state parks, parking within the grounds costs. Having neglected both cash and checkbook (the ranger would have taken either) I was forced to park out of the preserve, on the side of Highway 1, a little down the way. It wasn’t much of an inconvenience, excepting the traffic going by that needed to be avoided during a crossing, and once on the correct side of the highway there was a trail leading into the park that afforded protection from the sight, if not the noise, of the highway.

With Adrian safely in the backpack and Erin taking point, we entered the park. A donation is asked via signage on a box next to the park map, but there are no mandatory entrance fees or day use permits needed, so at $0 expended for parking or permits it is the least expensive State Park we’ve explored.

Below, a map of Point Lobos, with our route marked in red with sloppy arrows indicating our counter-clockwise direction.

Point Lobos Trail Map (Route)

We began at the center-right (the eastern-most point on the map) and wound our way a little west, and a little north, toward Whaler’s Cove along a road. A trail was in the offing, but it wasn’t clear to me at the time that the trail would go where I wished it to go, so I opted for the drive-in road. (Note for future hikers: the trail does go where you’d expect it to go, so avoid the road and its infrequent-yet-inconvenient cars forcing you and your pre-schooler to the side of the road.)


Whaler’s Cove is really beautiful, yet I lack a photographer’s patience with scenery else I’d cast picture after picture at your eyes; I prefer pictures with my children in them. But you are assured a flat approach to a small parking area walled by short cliffs. I don’t know what it is about cliffs above water that always attract my eye, but despite the modest elevation Whaler’s Cove was no different.


Whaler’s Cove is home to a small museum offering access to California’s whaling past through skeletons, art, writings, artifacts, and a video playing in the tiny cabin. A brief archeological excavation beneath the floorboards of the cabin is preserved under glass, bearing witness to the multivalent past in bones and pottery shards.

Whaler’s Cove permits scuba diving, and this tradition must be a fairly old one considering the ancient deep-sea diving suit on display in the museum that prompted Erin to shout “It’s like Scooby-Doo!!!” upon viewing.

From sea-level at Whaler’s Cove the hiker, the pre-schooler, and the backpacked crawler may proceed up the stone steps carved into the rock to reach Whaler’s Knoll, the beginning of the trail that will circumnavigate the Point.


Once at Whaler’s Knoll, you are advised to pose for Teen Wolf Too photos with the Cove as a backdrop.


Or, if you are a dancer, elect to be pictured post-pirouette in front of Bluefish Cove on the northwest side.


The preserve houses diverse wildlife, but on the north side expect reclusive deer who flee from exuberant children.


As the trail winds its way around Big Dome and Cypress Cove it remains relatively flat, with occasional exceptions, but the risk of encountering poison oak remains constant: be vigilant. Or hide on rocks.


The view from the northwestern edge of the point is fantastic, but after you’ve encircled Point Lobos you realize that there is always a better view. Especially if the child in the picture you are taking doesn’t look like she is mining for gold. (Note to child: I believe gold was a Northern California discovery; not the Central Coast; and certainly not your nostril.)


Completing the east-to-west leg of the journey around Point Lobos finds you at a small parking lot and station whence issues docent-tours of the west and south shorelines. To the west and slight north is Sea Lion Cove, which promises sea lions. But you needn’t venture so far out of the loop to see aquatic mammals. South and west, in Sand Hill Cove, the sea lions rest on a small island and the otters do back floats in the kelp beds.


The walk along the southern shoreline is even more a feast for the eyes (and nose) than the north: the ocean invades, and extends to blue infinity.


Passing beach after beach and cove after cove we found ourselves ascending an unexpected hill, up to a ridge overhearing Highway 1 again. From high above the coves and beaches took on even more secluded looks.


If not for the staircases placed by a considerate State you could believe no one had ever set foot down below.



Beyond a low branch a choice needs to be made: left, to the park entrance a mile and a half off, or right, to more views. Erin, as ever, chose acrobatics.


And I, noting the time, elected the return trip to the entrance, along the South Plateau trail.

It really is difficult to charge the fans of Point Lobos with hyperbole. It is beautiful there. And at something between four and six miles for a thorough circuit, with few hills to climb up or down, it is a perfect day hike for a dad and his kids, even if it does take an hour and a half to drive there from the Peninsula.

Adrian Turns One

For Adrian’s first birthday we went to Disneyland.

Where else would we go? We would live at Disneyland if we could.

Erin has reached an “I want to meet the characters” age.

Adrian has reached an “I want to meet the princesses and make Google® eyes at them” age.

After a year with Adrian I feel like his personality is finally emerging. Where Erin was all curious, furious energy, Adrian is a contemplative comedian. He’s a jokester. He likes to do things that make me laugh. I love that about him.

He eats more than his sister, stands freely for as long as he doesn’t realize that’s what he’s doing, and smiles expressive, joy-laden smiles.

He loves riding in the backpack while we take long hikes together. He spends time easily in the car, making trips to distant wonders easy. He pushes an annoying talking bus toy around on the floor and loves to hear it talk, sing, and crash into doors.

He loves cake so much he ate two on his birthday, and it’s not like they were spread out over the day either. One chocolate, one vanilla, right after each other. We thought he was going to be awake and screeching for days after that rush.

He offers the top of his head to me when I say “Braaaaiiiiins.”

He signs “milk” clearly and deliberately, mimics the sign for “sleep”, and blows kisses with abandon. He also waves a lot and says “Hi” without prompting to the people he sees, unless you’re a stranger in which case it will take him about twenty seconds longer.

He loves hockey and was seriously disappointed when the Wings were knocked out by the Sharks. He is a little gleeful that they in turn were knocked out by the Blackhawks. He hopes Chicago wins now, but only because Chris Pronger should never win a Stanley Cup again. He hates that guy.

When he claps he makes me want to clap too.

He says “dada” and “mama” like they’re going out of style.

Only seventeen more years and he can get a real job and move the hell out and I can miss him when he’s gone instead of only when he’s sleeping.

The Backpacking Dad Prequel

So, looking through some old pictures I found what I believe to be the very first version of Backpacking Dad. It’s like an origin story in a summer blockbuster based on a superhero comic but with more straps and fewer explosions.

So, from August, 2007:


That was the first and only time I wore the harness. I think it’s a Snugli. I felt ridiculous; I felt like Erin felt ridiculous and uncomfortable and she couldn’t see anything and I couldn’t get to her easily or even carry anything else except for her.

So I upgraded to the Deuter Kangakids:


We lasted quite a while in that pack, and it was easy for Erin to sleep in. But what that model didn’t have going for it was a high strap load limit. I think Deuter has increased it since the model I bought, but at the time I just went with a different pack: a Kelty Kid Carrier.



I carried Erin in the Kelty until the summer of 2009, so nearly two years after I first strapped her to my back. She was getting pretty heavy toward the end, though, and very tall.

In the almost year that’s followed Adrian has gone from the Deuter


(still my preferred pack, especially for younger babies because it’s easier to sleep in it without the head lolling all the way out the side) to the Kelty just as his sister did before him.


And Erin has gone from being carried around the zoo to doing four-hour hikes on her own two feet.

Really, although Backpacking Dad had a prequel, he is in his entirety just a prequel to “Erin and Adrian: The World’s Cutest Hikers”. You know that 13 year old who just climbed Everest or something? Well, not to be outdone, Erin’s going to Mars, and Adrian’s going to the center of the Earth.

And that’s just in the first movie. The sequel will have a Burns-mobile that jumps mountains.