The Explorers


A few days before the Airport Fiasco we had pretty much the best day ever.  Parenting high-fives all over the place.

It wasn’t perfect — there were tantrums, and certain parties were bored and starving and exhausted at various points throughout the day — but on the balance?  Whoa, it was a winner.

First off, we did something that we have NEVER DONE BEFORE.  This is a rare occurrence.  We know what we like and we have our routines…but sometimes, and long weekends in particular, just beg for a break from the norm.  Also, it stopped raining for ten minutes which meant we absolutely had to get the kids outside and running around or we might have a collective nervous breakdown.

The morning began with big ambitions: the Monterey Bay Aquarium!  The beach!  But then…three hours of driving each way.  No thanks.  So we had a think, and remember last week when I was recalling that time I went to the Marin Headlands and how I should take the kids there?  Well…looky-lou, who followed through?  I did!

There is a LOT to do in the Marin Headlands.  There is epic hiking (and a ton of really hard-core bikers, if that’s your thing) and sweeping views of the city from the Pacific Ocean, and staggering closeness to the feat of engineering that is the Golden Gate Bridge.  We chose, as our launch point, Fort Cronkite: the Marine Mammal Center, and for proximity’s sake, Rodeo Beach.  We were running early, so we wound up starting at the beach.  Over the footbridge, onto the sand, which was wet through and through, with a coursing lagoon flowing into the sea on one side and the waves just pummeling the coast on the other.  Off on the horizon, a cargo ship, barely visible through the haze, made its way through the intense waters.  We stood, and stared, and wondered at the vastness of it all (and also, Where are China and Russia and can you really see them from Alaska?).  Keeping a safe distance from the water’s edge, the kids collected pebbles and mussel shells, seaweed bubbles and chunks of wood.  They made drawings in the wet sand, and we talked about tides and storms until Babygirl’s 10am hunger pangs proved too much to bear and we headed back to the car.

I feel bad about saying this, because the Marine Mammal Center is doing incredible and valuable work, but it didn’t grip us.  It’s a working rescue center, which is cool in theory, but most of it is off-limits and the animals can only be viewed from a platform really far away.  I’m totally on board with this system for the seals’ sake, by the way (because this is an animal rescue center and the seals are injured and traumatized and maybe Babygirl hollering at them isn’t the best thing) — but it made for a short visit.  We started to feel deflated, until, feeling our way over the hills to Point Bonita, we passed the abandoned Nike Missile Launch site and caught sight of a bunker built into the hillside, all covered in grass vibrant green from the recent rains.  We parked, and trudged along the path to the bunker.



Note Babygirl’s practical footwear. I totally relate to these choices.

The kids peered through barred windows and even squeezed through one little door into a pinecone-filled hole (despite my suggestion that there may be crazed squirrels inside), then we climbed the stairs back to the road.  At the trailhead for Point Bonita, a second bunker offered even better, creepier fun, with the bonus of edge-of-the-continent views.  Finally, the walk with LittleMan down to the Point Bonita tunnel: one of those cliffside slopes that just humbles the soul.  Safe, but staggering.  LittleMan ran ahead and I reached for his arm, for my own security as much as his, and I held on.



The Golden Gate Bridge from points west. A rare view.

The tunnel, bridge, and lighthouse were closed.  This was an excuse to come back sometime soon — yay! — but also cause to climb agonizingly back up the 1/2 mile slope to the road — boo!

Driving home, we took the scenic route, winding along the rim of the Pacific at the gateway to the Bay, then onto the bridge and home.

I don’t know why, but later that day the kids were inspired to take their bikes out for a spin, and we rolled into the evening in lazy circles around the plaza level of our building.  They haven’t wanted to do that in a while.  “I loved being back on my bike,” mused LittleMan.  “Let’s do this every weekend.”

If only, we thought later, sitting on the couch with our long-weekend glasses of wine.  If only we could just strike out and have it be amazing every time.

Of course, if it were amazing every time, then the amazing moments wouldn’t shine so bright.

You should check out the Marin Headlands, is all I’m saying.


Just walkin’ back to the parking area along the cliffs in her ballet flats.



p.s. That greenery in the corner is ice plant. I know this because my husband loves to point it out.


p.s. Speaking of the Airport Fiasco, a few notes:

An extremely well-traveled friend of mine pointed out that planes are not supposed to take off with bags that were deposited by passengers who check in and then mysteriously don’t get on the plane.  The reasons for this became obvious the moment she spoke the words (ahem, terror).  So there’s that to chew on for a few.  The airline is lucky I’m just a befuddled mother.

Also, upon my utterly despondent and humiliated return, my husband (and mother and father, and sister, and a beloved coworker) suggested that I might not be in the best mental state to go straight back to work the following morning (or, perhaps, be around people at all, since constant crying makes others uncomfortable).  Instead, at my husband’s recommendation, I hit and got a last-minute killer rate at this hotel le sigh — and curled up on the bed with a glass of wine and wrote no fewer than three blog posts and some freelance copywriting and watched Ellen and generally felt utterly restored.  Then I went out for dinner with said co-worker in my second-favorite shoes.  Ta-da!

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