Tuesday, October 04, 2011


I love surprises.

I mean the good ones, of course. Not the ones your dog leaves you when you were gone all day and he got into the garbage.

Surprises like coming home to a spotlessly clean house after a long day at work. Like a beautiful mirror purchased at the thrift store, repainted, and hung on the wall while the husband was out of town. Or what about going to drop off two friends in Yosemite for their 3-week John Muir Trail trek and deciding while there to join them for the entire journey? (For the record, that last one has never happened to me, but it did happen to someone I know well. Rumor has it that his wife was infinitely awesome when he called from Tuolumne to say he’d changed his plans and wouldn’t be home for a few more weeks. She told him to go for it and have fun. An unexpected response from a spouse can be another good surprise.)

Even a fairly benign surprise, like a notoriously unprepared student who turns in all his homework, can be wonderful. A change in the weather, a favorite movie on TV, a really good book – all little tidbits to be appreciated.

This past weekend I was the creator of a pretty darn good surprise (if I do say so myself) for my husband. We’ve been married 11 years this month, and I wanted to celebrate. We’d done absolutely nothing for our ten-year, which seemed kind of sad, but I’m not a fan of feeling overly obligated about these things. I confess, I’m usually terrible when it comes to presents. Christmas, birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day – I suck at all of them, pretty much. Andrew is even worse than I, and at least we can agree that Valentine’s Day should require nothing more than just having dinner together, (usually at home). Birds of a feather, yes.

So this year, when inspiration struck, I didn’t hesitate. Surprises make the best gifts, even when there’s no occasion whatsoever. (In this case though, there was a pretty good one!)

San Gregorio State Beach - Site of an exceptional picnic.

I’ve also recently decided that when you live in a beautiful area, it’s important to get out there and enjoy it even if opportunity only allows short trips. And so it was that Andrew and I found our way to the coast for four days of California beauty and adventure.

Our weekend included a night in the village of Saratoga and entertainment by Emmy Lou Harris at the Mountain Winery. In past years, we’ve seen her on this same weekend at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, with many, many more people in attendance. I hate to think we’re getting too old for the mass crowds in Golden Gate Park for this festival, but if you tell me that we’re just wiser, I won't argue.

BAM! "Garlic Bomb" - best picnic food ever.

Beach art - turtle.

Rufus the Sea Lion, heading back out for some waves.

A couple days on the beach north of Santa Cruz. Surprisingly perfect weather – sunny and warm, no rain, no fog. Trails through Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Delicious picnics. Long walks on empty beaches. Surfing. Sunbathing, for goodness sake. In northern California!

Long walks, empty beaches.

Coastal Redwoods on the Skyline to Sea Trail.

Perfect ending to a hike.

Do you have any idea how many state parks there are on Highway 1 between Santa Cruz and Half Moon Bay? How many open space preserves along Skyline Drive?

I love California.

No surprise there. But, still.

This is what's called "luxury camping." Luxury? Yes. Camping? Um, not remotely.

Sunset from the "tent."

I also love surprise weekends that last four days. And I'll tell you a secret - they're best when you're the one planning the surprise.


  1. Absolutely perfect. Happy Anniversary....

  2. Happy anniversary. Beautiful.

  3. What a perfect little house on a perfect little weekend. I love surprises, and right now I really want one - peaceful and quiet:) Happy 11th, guys. A perfect number to celebrate, far better than 10.

  4. I love that "tent"! What a fantastic getaway you two had :) Happy Anniversary!

  5. Thanks, ladies! Pretty perfect, yes. Made Monday a little rough, getting back to reality and all, but how could I really complain, right? I always marvel at the emptiness of NorCal beaches. It makes them so beautiful!

  6. Our economy may be in the crapper, but our environment never looked better. Great job, Gretchen.

  7. What a great weekend! I won't even give you a hard time about not dropping a bit further south to visit us, since it was an anniversary trip and all. Kids have a knack for killing that whole romantic vibe.

    And that kind of camping is EXACTLY my style. Anything less is just too uncivilized.

  8. That looks like it was an absolutely wonderful trip! I love California too. (I'm a California girl.) Happy Anniversary!

  9. Love it! Happy Anniversary to both of you.
    Where was the canvas tent camp at?

    Jack :)

  10. What a wonderful trip... Looks like it was truly perfect. This year was the first year we missed Hardly Strictly. I love that weekend. Happy 11 years to you both. We absolutely must get together for a run soon. I have a feeling our trails our going to be snow covered sooner than later.