Archive for the ‘2009/01/30, California’ Category

Redwood National and State Parks

Sunday, May 31st, 2009

20090530-020x

After a long day of driving on twisty, turny, and hilly roads we arrived in the Redwoods.  We found a little mom and pop campground for a reasonable price in Klamath, CA (known for the Klamath River and it’s Chinook Salmon and Steelhead).  Unlike the weather in Shenandoah, it was 50, cloudy, and foggy upon our arrival and when we woke up Saturday.  Not letting the weather stop us, we headed out in search of some big trees.  We found them… The Redwoods are known for being the tallest trees in the world.  The forests were actually quite amazing, especially with the coastal fog, which gave them a rain foresty feel.  We lucked out on timing as the rhododendrons were in bloom adding some great color to the lush, green, mossy forest.  We had fun trying to capture the sights on camera, each taking shots from a different perspective.  Our first day ended with a Salmon BBQ back at the campground.  The salmon was very tasty and we had fun around the fire chatting with fellow travelers.

Sunday brought another gray, cool day but this didn’t stop us from continuing our exploration of the Redwood National and State Parks.  We took short jaunts to see the “Corkscrew Tree” and the “Big Tree”, which were less than impressive, but after the Sequoias we may be a little jaded.  Our plan was to hike to the “Tall Tree” grove, home of the tallest trees in the world.  The Ranger talked us out of it as the Tall Trees are at the end of a newer growth forest that isn’t too impressive. She also shared that the “Big Trees” aren’t marked, so basically they would look much like any other in more interesting groves.  We opted to take a 3.5 mile loop through an old growth forest, which was quite pretty.  It was interesting to see all of the memorials along the trail.  Apparently, naming groves and trees is popular in the Redwoods. We found several interesting creatures on the trail… There were huge snails, banana slugs, jumbo beetles, and centipedes.  Our feature creatures of the day had to be the elk.  There were several herds posing for us in Elk Meadow (go figure).

Monday brought more poor weather. We took a trip into Eureka to find new hiking shoes. We have actually worn out our Keens. After shoe shopping, Chris had to visit a couple of local microbreweries. The Lost Coast and The Six Rivers Breweries were fun stops. We ended the evening with a fire with our new friends in the campground. Weather will continue to be an issue for the next few days. Grey and rain for the whole coast. Looks like we will finally have time to finalize our Alaska plans.

 

Shenandoah Valley

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

We spent our last few days in Yosemite laying low due to the holiday weekend crowds.  We managed to enjoy the local attractions taking  a few short hikes to local waterfalls and swimming holes, reading our books, doing some housekeeping, changing trailer tires(picked up a nail)…  Our original plan was to go to the famous Napa Valley to sample some California wines. After getting some advice from Ralph, we decided to head toward the Shenandoah Valley instead, as it sounds like Napa has become very expensive and touristy.

Home sweet nuclear home

Home sweet nuclear home

On Tuesday, we arrived at our new home, Rancho Seco Recreational Area and Nuclear Extraveganza… OK… It was actually a decommissioned nuke plant that had a beautiful lake, cheap camping, and great views in a convenient area for the wineries.  It was also way less expensive ($15/day) than the only other game in town($50/day).  It was a beautiful area with TONS of wineries within close proximity.  The best part was no tasting fees and some really great wines!

Dobra winery

Dobra winery

We spent the past few days tasting the local Zin’s, Barberra’s, Sangiovese’s, among other local varietals.  We had a great time chatting with the vintners and making friends with the tasting room pourers.

Villa Toscano

Villa Toscano

After two days and 10 wineries… we were ready to move on.  Can’t fit any more bottles in the camper or afford any more in the checkbook 🙂

Yosemite, Day 5, 6 and 7

Friday, May 22nd, 2009
The start of the Panorama Trail...wonder where the name came from?

The start of the Panorama Trail...wonder where the name came from?

After a day of rest and housekeeping we set out once again into the park.  One of our last ‘to do’ items was the Panorama Trail from Glacier Point to the valley floor.  This 8.5 mile hike is one way with a 3,200 foot elevation change.  We chose wisely, and started at the top, working our way down to the valley and past three impressive waterfalls.

The trail runs by the side of both Nevada and Vernal Fall.

The trail runs by the side of both Nevada and Vernal Fall.

The views were outstanding throughout (go figure, Panorama Trail…).  Again, we couldn’t get away from Half Dome.  It was really cool hiking “into” the view we were enjoying.  The falls in the background are Nevada (top) and Vernal (bottom), which we will finish our day with.

Illilouette Fall

Illilouette Fall

Along the way we passed Illilouette Fall, where we enjoyed a PBJ on the rocks and a brief rest.

Descending down Nevada Fall

Descending down Nevada Fall

The next stop was at Nevada Fall, where we enjoyed another snack on the rocks, this time looking out toward Glacier Point where we started our day.  The hike down along the Nevada Fall was steep and offered some great views of the crashing water.

In front of Vernal Fall...still dry

In front of Vernal Fall...still dry

From Nevada we hooked into the “Mist trail” that brought us to Vernal Fall, our last stop for the day.

Now we know what is at the end of the rainbow :)

Now we know what is at the end of the rainbow 🙂

We had fun trying to capture the rainbows at the bottom of Vernal Fall.

Soaked again, this time by Vernal fall on the Mist trail

Soaked again, this time by Vernal fall on the Mist trail

Ok, mist trail is a misnomer… We think rain trail, torrential downpour trail, shower trail, etc… may be more appropriate.  Once again we ended our day damp but happy!

Since this was a one way trail we had to jockey the truck and a motorcycle to do it.  After each of us drove 6 hours roundtrip to make it work (Yosemite is huge and our campground is 25 miles outside of the park), with a 9 mile hike in between, we were pooped.  We stopped for a quick bite at a lodge on the way home since neither one of us were in cooking shape.

Our first Yosemite beat, a brown 'black' bear

Our first Yosemite beat, a brown 'black' bear

The last section of the park we wanted to see was the Tioga Pass road.  When we first arrived it had yet to open, as it is closed in the winter (November-May).  As luck would have it, the pass opened up yesterday and we were excited to see what the upper elevations had to offer.  As we made the turn onto the Pass we saw our 1st Yosemite bear in a meadow hanging out.

The storm cometh

The storm cometh

After hanging out in the Valley and at Glacier Point, we were a bit disappointed with the Tioga Pass.  There were some good views, snow, marshy meadows, etc… but nothing too exciting.  There was a storm that rolled in as we drove through, which we tried to capture in a picture.

Our second Yosemite bear, a cinnamon 'black' bear

Our second Yosemite bear, a cinnamon 'black' bear

We made it to the other side of the park and checked out Mono Lake and Mammoth Mountain.  On the way back through Yosemite, we stopped at the meadow where we saw our first bear and he was gone.  We couldn’t believe our luck when there was a different bear there in the meadow to take its place.  How cool…two Yosemite bears in one day!  Don’t worry mom, we kept our distance this time.

Yosemite, Day 3 and 4

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

 

Half Dome reflected in Mirror Lake

Half Dome reflected in Mirror Lake

Day three was a Monday and we set off into the park once again, hoping for lesser crowds.  Since it was supposed to be in the 90’s again, we decided to take a less strenuous hike than originally planned.  The Mirror Lake Loop trail was the perfect ticket.  Mirror Lake is known for its reflections, specifically of Half Dome. We did the best we could to capture the reflections on a cloudy afternoon.

Trail devastation from a recent rockslide

Trail devastation from a recent rockslide

Once on the trail we found out that it was closed part way through due to a rock slide on March 28, 2009.  The slide caused damage to several hundred feet of trail.  We hiked as far as we could get which was where the slide occurred, pretty impressive.  There were tons of boulders and trees strewn everywhere. 

Relaxing over the Merced River

Relaxing over the Merced River

It was a nice trail and crossed a raging river that fed Mirror Lake. Thunder was heard in the distance our whole way back. We made it back to the visitor center just before the skies opened up.  

The Merced River under an angry sky

The Merced River under an angry sky

Wow! It got very dark, and the wind, rain and hail came down.  Thunder and lightning entertained us as we had a snack in the village.  We got soaked running back to the car.

Yosemite Falls - See the overlook at the top?

Yosemite Falls - See the overlook at the top?

Tuesday, we set out to tackle our next major goal in the park,  hiking to the top of Yosemite Falls.  The 8 mile roundtrip brought us to the top of the largest waterfall in the United States and the 5th largest in the world. 

Part way up...Half Dome in the background

Part way up...Half Dome in the background

This hike was crazy strenuous.  There was a 2,700 foot elevation change with switchback after switchback.  Good thing the views were worth it!  We just can’t seem to get away from Half Dome.

Halfway point, Upper Yosemite in the background

Halfway point, Upper Yosemite in the background

By the halfway mark the Upper Yosemite was calling us.  The rumble of the falling water from Yosemite Creek was incredible. 

Wow!
Wow!

Our favorite shot of the day was this one of Upper Yosemite Fall and Half Dome.  Nice pic Chris! We ended our day sore, and at a new local establishment that has wireless internet. Good food, good beer, good atmosphere and a good end to the day.  Yea!

Yosemite Day 1 and 2

Sunday, May 17th, 2009
Above the valley floor from Tunnel View

Above the valley floor from Tunnel View

We settled into our new ‘home’ Friday night, just outside of Yosemite National Park. Nice campground, but we are without cell/internet coverage once again. Internet access is miles away, so updates may be few over the next week or so. Our first day in Yosemite was a Saturday and we rode in on the motorcycles with high expectations for the day. Unfortunately, Yosemite on a Saturday much resembles Los Angeles or New York City during rush hour…After getting over our initial shock of the crowds we decided to make the best of the day. This was easy to do as the views are incredible at every turn. Bridalveil Falls was easily captured from a roadside turout.

Vernal and Nevada Falls from Glacier Point

Vernal and Nevada Falls from Glacier Point

 

We thought going to Glacier Point would provide a less crowded stop.  The 32 mile roundtrip off the main road to Glacier Point was well worth the ride.  Although far from “less crowded”, we managed to grab a few pictures away from the masses.  Half Dome, Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls were prominent features in the vista.

 

 

 

 

Vernal and Nevada falls again

Vernal and Nevada falls again

 

Half Dome

Half Dome

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley

The Bachelor and the Three Graces
The Bachelor and the Three Graces

 We decided to make a loop of the day and went home through the southern section of the park.  Yosemite also has a giant Sequoia Grove (the Mariposa Grove) which we stopped at briefly for a break from the bikes before our long ride home.  We were pretty tired and hot! It was in the mid 90’s today.

 

 

Falls at Hetch Hetchy
Falls at Hetch Hetchy

The second day we swore off the motorcycles.  It is just too hot to suit up for safety.  It was supposed to be in the mid 90’s once again.  We headed out to check out Hetch Hetchy.  This area of Yosemite is a lesser traveled and more remote area.  The Hetch Hetchy reservoir was beautiful. 

Hetch Hetchy Reservior
Hetch Hetchy Reservior

While there we had to hike up to Tueeulala Falls and Wapama Falls (6 miles rountrip).  What a great hike!  The views of the reservoir were outstanding and you could see Rancheria Falls in the distance flanked by the mountains (a longer hike then we had time for today).

Yes, the falls are flowing this time of year
Yes, the falls are flowing this time of year

When we finally got to Wapama Falls, we were pleasantly surprised.  There were a series of bridges to access the trail on the other side.  Due to spring run off, the falls were kicking and we got soaked as we made our way across. 

...and it is really cold!!
…and it is really cold!!

Since it was 95 degrees, we were glad to be able to cool down.  Boy was that water cold.

More of Sequoia and Kings Canyon

Thursday, May 14th, 2009
Kim at the bottom of Tokopah Falls

Kim at the bottom of Tokopah Falls

On Kim’s birthday, it was off to Tokopah Falls and Crystal Cave in the Sequoia NP.  Again, we headed out on the motorcycles, as the riding is great around here. The 3.5 mile round trip to the falls was a nice walk and, of course, we had to stop for photo ops. 

The trail to Tokopah Falls

The trail to Tokopah Falls

Tokopah Falls was pretty impressive. We tried to show scale with a timer shot along the way. 

Gate to Crystal Cave

Gate to Crystal Cave

After the falls, it was onto the Crystal Cave.  This is the only guided tour in the park.  It was a 1/2 mile walk down a steep trail to the cave which meant a 1/2 mile out. We impressed oursleves on the way out by staying ahead of the Law Enforcement Rangers who were hot on our tail.  Guess we are not that old, or at least not that out of shape.  The cave itself was a bit of a dissapointment after some of the other ones we have visited, however, it was a good addition to the day. 

Relaxing over the Kings river

Relaxing over the Kings river

For our last day in the parks, we headed into Kings Canyon to “Road’s End”, where our goal was to hike the 9.2 miles to see Mist Falls (one of the largest in both parks). Again, it was a great motorcycle road and we had a great ride in. We stopped a few times along the way to check out the sights. The Kings River was amazing. We couldn’t believe the amount of water and speed of the flow. 

View down the beginning of the Kings Canyon

View down the beginning of the Kings Canyon

The views along the trail were amazing.  The Sierra Nevada mountains are beautiful in the distance.

One of the many waterfalls on the Kings river

One of the many waterfalls on the Kings river

More views… Check out that run off!
Mist Falls

Mist Falls

Mist Falls, at the end of our hike ,was a little dissapointing since we were following the river and seeing beautiful falls the whole way. It was very misty though! 

More of Kings Canyon views

More of Kings Canyon views

We had to take this timer shot on the way back.  Even in person, this looked fake.

Kim models her new line of Sugar Pine earrings

Kim models her new line of Sugar Pine earrings

We are always looking for ways to quit our day jobs. On the way back, Kim spotted some Sugar Cone Pines.  If the Sotol business doesn’t work out, we figure we can go into the earring business!

It was a great last day.  Very long… 5 hours on the motorcycles (170 miles) and the 9.2 mile hike, we were pooped when we got back to town.  We decided cooking was out of the question (already 7:45), so we tried the local Pizza joint.  Yum!  Tomorrow we are off to Yosemite.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Well, the trip from Bryce was long but uneventful.  We stopped at the California/Nevada border for the night and experienced our first night of “casino camping”.  It was 98 degrees when we got there so we enjoyed our time inside the air conditioned facilities.  The dinner buffet was good, we shopped at the outlets for a few needed items (yes, Chris shopped), gambled minimally (lost only $20), and called it a night when the temps went down to 85, figuring we could fall asleep.

We arrived in the Sequoia/Kings Canyon area on Monday evening, where we found a very nice campground just outside of the park.  Today we decided to take the motorcycles into Sequoia and loop around through Kings Canyon then home.  We both agreed that this loop was one of the best motorcycle rides either of us had ever been on.  The roads were perfect for a variety of skill levels and offered a scenic rollercoaster riding experience. 

We stopped at several points of interest along the way.  The Sequoia’s were quite impressive.  We rode through Tunnel Log, hiked up to Moro Rock for the views, visited the Giant Forest Museum, walked though the Giant Forest, and stopped at both the General Sherman Tree (the largest tree in the world) and the General Grant Tree (third largest tree in the world with the largest footprint at 40.3 feet). While walking in the Giant Forest we happened upon a bear that was drinking from the creek running through the meadow. We got pretty close (within 10 feet), as we wanted to capture a good picture for posterity.  He was a pretty agreeable subject until he started to growl, at which time we picked up the pace and headed on down the trail.  Shortly after our encounter, a ranger came by and closed the trail keeping other’s at bay- good timing.  We’ll do anything, including risking life and limb, to get blog worthy shots. Ok- so we aren’t that bright.  

It was a great first day and we are looking forward to spending the next few days exploring the parks further.  Tomorrow, KIM’S BIRTHDAY, we plan on visiting the Crystal Cave (guided tour) and hiking to Tokopah Falls. 

By the way, we do not have cell service but do have internet. 

An eclectic last day in Death Valley

Friday, March 6th, 2009

Our last day in Death Valley was dedicated to seeing all the remaining sights.  Due to the size of the park it takes a bit of driving to see it all.  We started our day at the Ubehebe Crater, which was created 300 years ago as a result of a violent release of pressure from the earth’s surface.  We got a kick out of the sign.

Our second stop was Scotty’s Castle, a homage to “Death Valley Scotty” from a wealthy friend who built it as a vacation home.  It was a very odd oasis in such a barren wilderness.

From there we headed to the town of Beatty (just outside the park) for diesel and lunch.  We found a quaint little Mexican restaurant in this one horse town, not fancy but very good. 

We wanted to take the Titus Canyon road back into the valley.  Chris had done this on his motorcycle and wanted Kim to see it. He also thought it would be a fun challenge with the truck instead of the motorcycle.  On the way we passed an old mining ghost town called Rhyolite.  Much to our surprise it was the home to the Goldwell Open Air Museum and featured several large interesting pieces of artwork.  The fact that they were in the middle of nowhere added to their charm.  The artist that started this was Albert Szukalski with his “ghostly” shrouded figures also found throughout Antwerp, Belgium.

The final stop on our journey was the Tawny Sand Dunes.  These dunes were not far from where we were staying and we were glad to finally hit them when there was some interesting light.  It was a full day.  Tomorrow we head east, to where, we don’t quite know yet.

Biking and Hiking in Death Valley

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009
Kim polishes the marble in Mosaic Canyon

Kim polishes the marble in Mosaic Canyon

The past few days in Death Valley were quite enjoyable.  Our colds got better and we had fun hiking and biking. 

A view entering Titus Canyon

A view entering Titus Canyon

Chris was excited to explore the park on his motorcycle, as there were riders everywhere talking about the trails.  The riding was much more suited to Chris’s skill level (too much sand for Kim), hence we spent some time apart.

Aguereberry Point

Aguereberry Point

Chris had fun playing on the many dirt roads and taking awesome landscape pictures.  This is a shot from Aguereberry Point on the opposite side of the canyon from Dante’s View.

Charcoal Kilns

Charcoal Kilns

Chris was able to get to some “cool” sights (literally, the temperature on some of the mountains was 50 degree’s cooler than the valley). This is a picture of charcoal kilns built in 1876 to provide fuel to process silver/lead ore. Notice the snow in the foreground.

Kim goes it alone

Kim goes it alone

Kim actually took her first solo hike, and Golden Canyon was the perfect way too start.  Of course, she met a friend to hike with and they chatted the whole way.  He was kind enough to help capture the moment.

Timer shot in Mosaic Canyon

Timer shot in Mosaic Canyon

We actually did spend some time together. The Mosaic Canyon trail was a great canyon hike with polished marble rock faces, some rock climbs, and of course scenic views.

 

Death Valley National Park

Monday, March 2nd, 2009
Well, we left Hawaii on Wednesday the 25th after a great 2 weeks.  Travel was smooth and we were back at Kim’s uncles on Thursday the 26th.  We spent the past few days visiting and getting organized to be back on the road.  Grabbed the camper from storage, ran lots of errands, and did a lot of repacking.  We said goodbye to Gary on Sunday morning and headed out in search of our next adventure. 

Panorama from Zabriskie Point

 Our destination… Death Valley…  Believe it or not we both caught colds in Hawaii, go figure.  Our first day in Death Valley was quite productive nonetheless.  We toured many of the highlights by truck and had a good day taking in the sights in a low key fashion (practicing for when we are really retired).  Death Valley is immense.  The views are quite interesting with a dichotomy of having the lowest elevation in the western hemisphere and mountains of extreme elevations.  Other points of interest include painted canyons (Artists Drive), salt flats (Badwater Basin), a creek (Salt Creek known for an endangered species of Pupfish), sand dunes, a castle (sort of), and off road opportunities.  

 

Death Valley is the largest National Park in the contiguous United States.  Only Alaska has larger parks.  It also boasts having the lowest elevation in the western hemisphere at 282 feet below sea level, and being the hottest place in North America with a recorded temperature of 134 degrees in 1913 (second hottest recorded temperature in the world ever).   

 

Unfortunately, our campsite was less than desirable, hence no picture this time.  We would describe it as a parking lot, and not an interesting one like in Volcanoes National Park. Luckily it wasn’t too crowded so we had ample space to crank some tunes.

 

Happy Birthday Dad- Sorry we didn’t call but we have zero services here!