Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Yosemite National Park

I am still working on getting caught up on the blog. We are boondocking in Jawbone Canyon, California. It is a beautiful place, but it has been very windy. We are heading to Death Valley NP tomorrow. We had a surprise visitor yesterday. I will write all about it in a coming entry.

March 14 was a busy day. Shannon and Brian were heading back into San Francisco to do more touring and to do the Alcatraz Island tour. They had made that reservation the first day they were in town and Tuesday was the first time slot available. The crazy thing about their day is while they were on the "Rock", they sold their house. Yep, they agreed to all terms of the purchase agreement on a cell call while on the island. Now that is memorable.

Kim and I also had a memorable day. We got to spend the entire day with Amelia. We just can't get enough of her at 1.5 years old. We also got the rig hooked up and drove from Oakland to a campground on the other side of the state. When I was planning this portion of the trip, I knew I wanted to find a spot near Yosemite NP. I also knew the weather could be a problem this time of year, so I wanted to stay at lower elevation. I found a spot that looked good on Lake McClure. We chose Horseshoe Bend Campground. The drive went well. Amelia slept the entire way. I really should have stopped for fuel, but we kept going. I had to deal with the fuel issue the next day.

The campground was pretty nice and almost empty. We didn't have reservations, so we had to move to a spot that was not reserved for the weekend. When I called the office, they told me about a 7 day rate at $20 per night, rather than the $28 I was expecting to pay. Cool, we decided to just stay 7 days. For the record, we had weak cell signal and spotty OTA TV. Here are a few shots of Horseshoe Bend:

We had fun playing with Amelia around the campground. She was non-stop once she woke up. Shannon and Brian had a rough time with traffic and finally joined us at around 9 PM.

We were up early the next day and headed out to Yosemite NP. The drive was only 73 miles, but took about 2 hours. The entry over Tioga pass was still closed. The drive is beautiful over to Mariposa, but the steep drop-offs are not Shannon's favorite. Then you follow the Merced river up to the Valley. The Merced was flowing at a very high rate and the cascades were just amazing. I was so glad for once I was not driving. I could just enjoy the scenery.

The Merced River
We all knew we were visiting Yosemite at a time of year when much of the park was closed. The valley was open and that was about it. Our plan is to visit many of the National Parks multiple times at different times of year. We know how much they change, and we want to see these awesome places in many different conditions. The good news about this time of year is the lack of crowds. It was spring break, so we had a few college kids, but we were able to find parking easily and the hiking trails were relatively quiet. This was Brian and Shannon's first visit to Yosemite. Kim and I have been before. The look on their faces the first time they saw the valley was worth the entire trip for us. The other great thing about visiting Yosemite this time of year is the snow on the peaks. It really adds to the viewing. And last but certainly not least is the waterfalls. They are flowing at the maximum. And add the amount of rain/snow that California has had this year. The waterfalls are off the chart!

Now for some pictures. I must have taken over 100 on that first day. I will post a few, but it is so tough to choose.

Horsetail Falls
The Next three are Bridal Veil Falls

It was thunderous! You could hear the water and ice pounding down on the rocks. I will never forget the sound.

Signature shot of Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. See the rock to the left of the top of the falls? Remember that.

Signature shot of Half Dome

I will just have to stop there. Yosemite is AWESOME! I put it right up there with Glacier and Yellowstone as my favorites that I intend to visit over and over. I could just sit and look at the rocks and waterfalls all day long.

On the drive out of the park, you have to go under this rock. They say the clearance is 13'9", but it sure does not look like it.

It was a long day, but certainly memorable. We were not done with Yosemite. I always like to do one thing at each park on each visit to make it memorable. Brian wanted to do a hike. He is in great shape, but he has never done a difficult hike. He selected a hike that is rated "Very Strenuous". I warned him, but he was going, so I decided to go also. I will write about that unreal day in my next entry.

Monday, March 27, 2017

San Francisco Day 2

On March 13, we headed back into San Francisco. It is abnormal for us to spend so much time in a city, but San Francisco is a special kind of city and we were enjoying walking around the city and seeing all of the famous sites. I am finding the history of the city very interesting. Brian, Shannon and Amelia had never been to San Francisco, so this was all new to them. This was Kim's second visit and I have been to the bay area many times on business. Here is a shot of the city on this nice sunny day from the Bay Bridge looking at the waterfront. Alcatraz to the right and Telegraph Hill to the left with Coit Tower at the top. The Golden Gate is in the background. Not a great shot, but I just kind of like it.

We decided to start the day with a walk around the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts. This was originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition in order to exhibit works of art presented there. It was only expected to last a year, but the city loved it and it has been rebuilt many times. It is a nice place to walk around the lake. Amelia loved the ducks, Swans and other birds.

We then went down to the waterfront to check out the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. Our National Parks Pass got the entire group in free. 

We joined a tour group inside one of the larger ships. This one is made of all wood and is being carefully restored. Many of the ships here have been restored at this location. 

This is the cargo hold that was used for lumber.
We then toured the Balclutha. It is a large 3 masted, steel hull cargo ship. They have done an amazing job restoring it and creating exhibits throughout the ship. 

There were some sea lions on the docks making the usual racket. Amelia loved that!

They also had a restored San Francisco Ferry complete with some awesome restored classic cars. 

Love the "Woody"

We then moved on to Fisherman's Wharf. It was time for lunch and we were expecting to spend a pretty penny. As it turns out, there is an In and Out Burger store in the area and Brian wanted to try one. They had normal prices and I had a lunch that tasted great and was less than $9 for Kim and I. And I enjoyed it much more than the expensive dinner from the day before. I guess I am a man of simple tastes. (I guess that goes along with my simple mind)

We stopped at a classic arcade and checked out all of the antique coin operated machines. Amelia loved the monkey band.

There were two vessels parked along the wharf. They were giving tours, but we have been in WW2 submarines, so decided not to go inside. They also had a Liberty ship. I will not explain their significance, but they are also very important to the success of the Allies in WW2. 

USS Pampanito

The Jeremiah OBrien

At that point we were a bit tired and decided after a stop at Ghiradelli Square, we would head back to the campground. We really wanted to beat the rush hour traffic, but that seems to go on all day. We stopped at the Chabot Lake for a nice walk around the lake. Kim and I found a bench and enjoyed the nice late afternoon. 

We made it a shorter day because we were moving across the state the next day. We were heading to one of the most awesome places on the planet: Yosemite National Park! Come back to see the beautiful sights and find out how I got that picture on the header of my blog. That one comes with a hefty price tag. 

Saturday, March 25, 2017

California Coast

I am writing this on March 25, but I will describe the events of March 12. We have moved again to the desert near Mojave, California. We are on our way to Death Valley National Park. We found a great boondocking park out in the desert with good cell signal. It is very windy and I hate to drive in the wind, so we will just hang out here for a few days. My goal will be to catch up some on the blog.

March 12 was the first full day that Shannon, Brian and Amelia were with us. We spent the previous day in the city of San Francisco and did plan to go back, but wanted a different experience. We decided to go through San Jose and then pick up highway 9 to a little town called Ben Lomond. That was a place I had been before and remembered correctly that it is a beautiful area filled with large coastal Redwood trees. We then turned on a very steep and windy road that ultimately took us to the coast. The goal was to see some more large redwood trees. We decided to enter Butano State Park and see if we could take a hike. We had read that they have a nice grove of Redwoods.
When we arrived we could see some evidence of the storm of the previous week. Many of the trails were wet, but we put Amelia in her backpack and headed out.

Here is a shot of Brian and Amelia in front of a large Redwood. 
We walked for a while and all were enjoying the nice day and the beautiful trees. In all of our travels, Kim and I have developed a love of old growth forests.

We walked up a steep hill to the campground. It is a nice campground in the forest, but would not work for anything but a small RV or tent. We looked at the map and saw that we could make a loop out of our walk. We all know how much I hate to backtrack. We had to walk down a steep hill to get to the end of the creek trail that would complete our loop. When we got to the creek, there were trees down and the trail was blocked. We found a path through but it was not easy. Our only option was to turn around and go back up the hill. We all knew that was no going to happen. We were very careful with Amelia and made it trough. That was just the first of many obstacles we would face on that trail. We had to go over and under many logs and branches, but we made it and we also made some memories along the way.

Here is a shot of Kim crossing the creek in a place that a bridge had been washed out. OK, I was waiting to catch her falling in, but she made it.

It was a beautiful trail and a fun experience.

We next headed to a lighthouse. Brian and Shannon were introduced to the beauty of coastal lighthouses in their visit to Oregon with us in 2015. This one is kind of run down and is trying to find the funds for renovation, but it is still beautiful.

Lots of lighthouse and coastal shots to follow:

We then decided to take a walk on the beach further up the coast. Amelia loves the beach.

There were actually some kids swimming in that water. It was cold!

We were hungry so we decided to find a place for dinner. We ended up going to an Italian place in Half Moon Bay that had expensive food, but not very good. Oh well, the service was good and we had a good time. We then faced the Sunday traffic leaving the beach and headed over the San Mateo bridge. There was a beautiful full moon over the bay, but my camera was not able to capture it.

That wraps up day 2 of our time with the kids. The next day, we went back to San Francisco. I will write about that fun day in my next entry.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

San Francisco Day 1

I am writing this on March 22 from our camp site in Coulterville, California. We had decided to move today, but it is raining and we have not made a decision if we are moving or not. The flexibility of this lifestyle is awesome. (edit: The internet connection was so bad, I could not upload the photos, so I had to finish this on March 23)

I was looking at my pictures and trying to decide how I was going to break up our time with Shannon, Brian and Amelia. It amazed me how much we did in one week. It is also amazes me how little we have done since they left.

We knew our daughter and SIL were going to be flying into San Franciso (SFO) at about 11AM. We decided to go down to Castro Valley BART station and ride the train in to the city. We would just meet up with them along the way and they could take us back to our truck on the way to the campground. We got off at the Embarcadero stop start walking along the bay front. It was a beautiful day.

The Port of San Francisco
It was a Saturday and there was lots of activity along the water front including a farmers market and food booths and street entertainers. I kind of liked this sculpture.

I liked this shot of the Bay Bridge:

We walked for a ways in the direction of Fishermans Wharf. We finally stopped for a beer and some fish and chips at Pier 23. They were very good, but we got a taste of the cost of San Francisco dining. ($35 for 1 beer and the F &C) It was in that area that Shannon caught up with us.

We stopped by the National Park boat tour for Alcatraz. Brian and Shannon were really interested in doing that tour. They made plans to do the tour on Tuesday. Kim and I decided to take that day off and spend it with Amelia. She has grown so much since the last time we saw her 5 months ago. Here is a shot of the "Rock" Alcatraz:

We decided to start driving around the 49 mile tour in their rent car. The 49 mile tour is a marked tour that you can see on line that includes all of the major sites in San Francisco. I like these two shots of this very pretty city:

Signal Hill and Coit tower and the Transamerica tower
We drove to the area around the Golden Gate and the Presidio. It was getting close to sundown so we stayed and watched the sunset.

If you look closely you can see some stand up paddle boarders under the bridge.
You may notice that there are a few more shots of Kim and I. It works like that when we are are with Brian and Shannon. They are both very active on Facebook and take a lot of pictures.

We moved over to Fort Point to get some unique angles on the bridge and to see the fixed gun emplacements. Many of those emplacements date back to the Civil War. They were beefed up for WW2.

The wind was blowing in off of the Pacific and it was very cold, but we hung in there and watched the sun pass below the horizon.

We then made the slow drive back over the bay bridge to our campsite out in the woods. It is an amazing experience to make that transition. That was day one, we would be up early the next day to have a totally different experience. I will write about that in my next entry.