CARMEL — Man, I love a good Manhattan. Especially when you look through the glass at a wraparound big-picture view of the ocean doing its best oceany stuff far below. Heck, I love a great Manhattan so much, I’ll drink someone else’s, but we’ll get to that later. First, the “work” that led to the boozy reward.
It’s hard to call anything related to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve work, because the place is so dazzlingly beautiful that your eyes seem to pull you from enchanting vista to enchanting vista, and your legs willingly follow. My girlfriend Alice and I recently hiked through a sweet serving of the reserve and quickly ran out of adjectives, so much so that soon, we could only point and say “Wow!”
We started our delirium at Whalers Cove, not far from the entrance, where an active whaling station existed from 1862 to 1879. There’s a fine (if scary) exhibit there on whaling history, including tools for flensing and rendering the giant beasts, plus some big old bones to haunt everyone’s collective guilt for the practice.
From the old whalers cabin, take the quick Cabin Trail up the hill overlooking the cove (wow!) to reach the North Shore Trail, which winds up and down, among living and decaying cypresses, above jagged, ocean-bruised coves, past grassy knolls and flowery meadows. You will think you will have exhausted your “wows.” You will be wrong.
After a mile or so of moderately steep ascents and descents, and so many photogenic spots you will crow over the virtues of inexhaustible digital storage, you’ll reach the Cypress Grove Trail, which is adjacent to a parking lot (there are a few in the reserve) and a lovely walk of a mile or so through one of the last two naturally growing stands of Monterey cypress remaining on earth. You will tap into your reserve of “wows” for the grove and its stunning and varied ocean views.
We reversed direction and returned on the same trails, and damn if it wasn’t still beautiful. There’s something bewitching about the deep aquamarine hues of those cove waters. Back at the car, we struggled to get out of hiking togs and into something more presentable, because we were going to the Hyatt Carmel Highlands, just a bit farther south, and it’s a very presentable place.
The joint has been a hilltop hotel for a hundred years, long before Hyatt — and after that an investment group — landed naming rights. They’ve recently combined the old cafe and restaurant into one stunning glass-walled retreat, the California Market at Pacific’s Edge, well worth unearthing a couple of lingering “wows” for the nice work.
We cruised the old-school Sunset Lounge adjacent to the restaurant, a place where I’ve sighed over many a fine cocktail and endless views in the past, but settled into the refurbished bar area of the restaurant, where the views were just as spiffy. We’d had a hiker’s lunch already, so we were reserved in our choices: a nice New Zealand sauvignon blanc for me and a Manhattan ($15) for Alice.
That was such a dandy Manhattan that I betrayed my blanc more than once, and when Alice ordered another — even better than the first, because we changed up the whiskey — I paid more attention to it than to my Anchor Steam, fickle man that I am.
We paired the drinks with some roasted shishito peppers ($10), salty and satisfying, and shrimp ceviche ($16), which skipped a lot of the onions, peppers, parsley and the like seen in most such dishes, but which delivered on saucy, shrimpy goodness.
And then we called it a day. Wow.
If You Go
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: You’ll find the reserve about three miles south of Carmel on Highway 1. $10 car entry fee. Whalers Cove trailhead starts ¼ mile or so past the park entrance — and you might be clever enough to use the binoculars I forgot were in my pack. Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily; www.pointlobos.org.
Hyatt Carmel Highlands:
This grand hotel and its California Market at Pacific’s Edge restaurant lie a couple of miles south of Point Lobos at 120 Highland Drive, Carmel; highlandsinn.hyatt.com.
All Credit Goes To : Source link