cabin mt tam state park
The Steep Ravine cabins in Mt. Tam State Park
Julian Bialowas/Unsplash
By Diane Rommel / June 23, 2020 1:36 pm

The last three months have been excruciatingly hard for tens of millions of people — who’ve lost their jobs, their businesses and members of their families. There’s no real balm for that, and no proof that things are getting any better, either.

Our collective list of concerns includes, near the top, “Our country’s institutions have failed,” “This nation is a rudderless ship, adrift in churning seas,” “What will become of S.F. if the entire tech industry starts working remotely from Montana?” and “Will any independent restaurant survive 2020?” Far, far below those worries is the future of travel, and that singular form of travel known as the weekend getaway. 

For travel writers like your correspondent, watching travel come to a halt has reminded me of the end of the Stephen King short story “The Langoliers,” when the titular time-eaters threaten to catch up to — and devour — a passenger plane. (Just the quickest shout-out here for King’s newest collection of novellas, If It Bleeds, which is *fantastic*.) Last year by this time, I’d traveled 25,000 miles — a lot by some measures, not many by others. In the last three months, I haven’t gone farther than five. 

Everyone’s going to have their own calculus and their own take on an acceptable level of risk, especially for leisure travel. On a list of essentials, it’s well above, say, an ice-filled trough for wine bottles cut into your Carazza marble countertops — but maybe a step below a spare flashlight. Not for nothing, but the most well-traveled writers I know are the ones who’ve been staying closest to home. I’m not sure if that’s because they figure they’ve already seen what they wanted to, they know that any trip is a crapshoot more than ever now, or they’re just happy to get a break and stay home, but it’s nonetheless true.

Sometimes I feel like we’re on the downward sprint on a roller coaster with broken tracks. Other times I feel like the blizzard around us might be lifting (uh, at least until autumn) — and with that thaw comes a reawakening of that very human desire to see new things, in relaxing settings, and ideally with water (lake/beach/ocean) access. These are the spots we’re looking at: more isolated than not, more self-sustaining than not (full kitchens, activities within walking distance, etc.). When we go, you can bet we’ll take a special supply of disinfectant wipes to tidy up behind us, and double-tip the cleaning staff. And we’ll head out with a full tank of gas and enough supplies — food, entertainment, gear — to get us through our trip. Most travel writers I know would say that the best form of travel, the Platonic ideal of travel, isn’t to vacation, per se, but to connect in a meaningful way with other people. That, I think, is going to have to wait. But until then, vacation will do. 

Below, you’ll find six homes in driving distance of the Bay Area that you can safely travel to this summer. Obviously you should be prepared to adapt to sudden changes and/or cancellations, but if you’re itching for a change of scenery, this is a good place to start.

One of a kind spectacular view home (Pilot Hill) 
After being cooped up for months, few things get a body moving again like a 230-foot vanishing-edge pool, overlooking the Sierra Nevadas. Don’t feel like going outside? Work out instead in the indoor gym, with views of Folsom Lake. The interiors, meanwhile, take design notes from the hotel-luxe notebook, down to the Westin Heavenly Bed in the guest room. Bring a couple bottles for the wine chiller and you won’t need to leave for a week.

Shasta A Frame Cabin with a View (Shasta County)
This A-frame with an expansive deck (suitable for sleeping outside) is close enough to Lassen for daytime excursions amongst the burbling hot pots and sulphurous springs, and happily, most of the park’s trails are open. There’s a full library and grill if you’d like to stay home, and easy access (read: a four-mile drive) to Hirz Bay if you want to get on the water. 

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Peaceful Mountain Hideaway in Carmel Valley (Carmel Valley) 
It’s easy to get away from it all when you’re staying on a 65-acre wooded property. It’s small, but if you really want some isolation, here’s our pick, with views of the surrounding Carmel Valley and hiking trails located entirely within the property. Kitchenette only — it’s officially off the grid, but a wireless hotspot can handle your data needs as long as you’re not downloading all 76 episodes of Battlestar Galactica.

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Trinidad Oceanfront Hottub & Sauna! (Trinidad)
Eager for some moody beach walking? Depending on the weather, Trinidad is either a sparkling Pacific seaside destination — or a fogged-in spot suitable for reading under blankets (and in front of the fireplace). There’s a private trail here down to the sand, while the trails and beaches are open at nearby Patrick’s Point State Park (which for the time being has only limited parking, so go early if you’re going).

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Stunning Round House, View, Hot Tub (Grass Valley) 
If you’re looking to get away with your entire quar bubble (or don’t mind the extra space), consider this “round house” with nearly 360-degree views of the surrounding countryside … or take them in from the hot tub on the deck. (Or from the property-inclusive waterfall.) Three bedrooms, five beds, and 11 guests — plus a well-outfitted kitchen. 

Photo courtesy of Airbnb

Bass Lake Cozy Cottage – near Yosemite (Bass Lake)
With the new limitations on access to Yosemite, anyone who’s headed to our nation’s best park would do well to organize a local stay — since you can’t sleep in the park itself for the time being, and that drive back to S.F. is a haul. Consider, instead, this cottage, a half-block from Bass Lake and 15 minutes from Yosemite’s southern entrance, for a few days of pre- and post-Yosemite’ing with lazy afternoons on the lake’s beach and hiking. 

Photo courtesy of Airbnb