East of San Rafael in northern California is a California State Park called China Camp. This 19th century Chinese settlement has a lot of history and some beautiful trails. Chinese immigrants created a self-sustaining shrimping village in this spot starting in 1880. Today you can walk on the old, crooked dock and tour a small museum with some artifacts from this time when about 500 people lived here. The park re-created the tiny houses settlers would have lived in at the time, which are very sparse.
China Camp is a great place to hangout on a sunny day, have a picnic or take a hike. On a recent weekend, my fiancé and I h hiked the Shoreline Trail. This 4.5 mile trail takes you through oak trees and tall grass with excellent views of San Pablo Bay.
If you go here, keep in mind you need to bring cash for parking OR park alongside the two-lane road. Sometimes these free spots on the road fill-up and you’ll have to park far from the trailhead. The spots along the road don’t leave much room for driving error, as a cliff to the bay is feet away with no guard rail in many spots.
It’s likely you’ll encounter others along your hike since this is a well-known trail, but most of the time we were alone on the trail. Here are some trail rules of etiquette to know if you go hiking:
- You might have to stand aside on the narrow portions of the trail as other hikers pass. People going on the easy downhill portions should yield to hikers going uphill. Bikers should yield to hikers. Everyone yields to people on horseback.
- Stay to the right on wider sections of trail.
- Always pass on the left.
- Stay on the trail to avoid trampling into an animal’s space (rattlesnakes are common in Northern California — I’ve come across a few).
- Don’t hike alone!
I love how many state and county parks there are in the San Francisco Bay Area. As the weather has warmed up and the sun’s come out a bit, I’ve been trying to see as much and as many of these parks as possible. Here are some I’ve visited:
Presidio and Baker Beach
This past weekend I spent the afternoon walking through the Presidio, from the gate at Lombard to Baker Beach. There are so many attractions at this park. I was surprised to walk by horse stables and I later read about a “mountain lake” in the Presidio, which I did not see. But I was able to get some amazing views of Crissy Field and downtown, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. Looking out at Crissy Field it was a beautiful sunny day and by the time I got to the Golden Gate overlook, and especially Baker Beach, the coast was entrenched in fog.
China Camp State Park
Last weekend I was eager to make the most of my Sunday by getting outside and soaking up some sunshine, which the city doesn’t always offer since the weather is so moody. I visited China Camp State Park in the north bay, located in San Rafael. It felt at least 10 degrees warmer than the city. The scenery along the two lane road to China Camp is mostly greenery and bay views, and the occasional passing car. China Camp was a Chinese shrimping village in the 1880s and there are some structures still standing (the crooked dock) that make it extra special. There are also re-creations of the little shacks where the shrimpers and their families likely lived. This was a self-sustained community so they had their own gardens. The only way in was by boat. For visitors today there is a small museum along the shoreline that displays the tools Chinese shrimpers used to haul in their keep. There are some beautiful hiking trails where you can really feel like you’re away from the city. And the shoreline is not too crowded (at least when I visited). If you walk north along the shore you can find a secluded spot to cast a fishing pole.
McNears Beach Park
This is a very well maintained county park down the road from China Camp. It has a volleyball court, a dock for fishing and plenty of grass to lay a picnic blanket. There is a sandy beach area for swimming and swimming pool, too.
If you’re like me you have dozens of apps on your phone but there are only a handful you use frequently. For me, the apps I use most often are the ones to organize dinners, chose a happy hour place or simply find a healthy lunch spot that’s nearby. I didn’t list the obvious ones, like Yelp (which I use almost daily) and the Google app because I figure if you own a smartphone you probably have these must-have apps. Here are the others that get a lot of play on my phone:
AroundMe: The AroundMe app is one I’ve been using since I bought my first iPhone. It’s simple and does exactly what you think it would — finds places near your location. Launch the app and you can see it has a bunch of categories to chose from — coffee, bar, restaurant are the ones I use most often. The app shows you the distance between you and that location. Click on one of the destinations and it takes you to a map where you can see the walking or driving route. Add your favorite destinations to the app to quickly access them. You can also find the nearest gas station, parking lot, supermarket or movie theatre, too. AroundMe is free and available for iOS and Android.
LocalEats: This lovely app is similar to AroundMe but focuses just on restaurants and has beautiful photos to help make your decision of where to dine easier. Search by location to find what’s near to you or use a map to scour your city for a particular eatery. You can buy it in the App Store for 99 cents.
OpenTable: I love the convenience this free app offers. True, it’s easy to pick-up the phone and make a reservation but it’s even simpler to make a reservation with this app — just a couple touches and done. I included OpenTable in this list because it’s also great for when you’re feeling indecisive about where to eat or maybe craving a specific cuisine. You can browse the restaurants near you or in a certain location and see how expensive each one is according to dollar signs listed (one to four), and also see the times the restaurant has tables available. Check OpenTable’s website here to see if the app is available for your city. The app is available for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android and BlackBerry.
SupperKing: You need to be a bit adventurous to try this app. With SupperKing you crash people’s dinner parties. The person throwing the dinner party can chose to sell you tickets for a price or offer the meal for free. Yes, you eat food cooked by complete strangers in their own home! I’ll admit I haven’t mustered-up the courage to use it yet. I might try it out for this blog, though, so stayed tuned! The community is a great idea, and I wrote about it for Mashable when I first heard about it. I can really see it taking off in Europe and maybe in small college towns (Chico?!) but for the average city-living individual I would feel nervous eating food a stranger cooked. Although the founder Kai told me in-home dinner parties are a great way to really connect with people (I agree!), so it may be worth a shot. It’s definitely a new idea.