Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Summer Trip, Yosemite


After Church we headed to our campsite, just outside the northwest entrance of Yosemite National Park, Dimond O.  We had a reservation for 1  night, and I was hoping we could snag an open first come, first serve spot for the next night.  The camp hosts were friendly enough and let us know which spots were those sites, and who they thought was leaving the next day, but we still needed to wait till the next morning to know for sure.  So we dropped the trailer at our reserved site, and put off setting it up till later, and headed into Yosemite to enjoy the few hours left of sunlight.  

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It was about 4pm and we had a late lunch, and decided to drive the road up to Glacier Point.  It was a beautiful drive and the view points at the top were outstanding.  In fact on one edge you can look down 3000 feet to the valley floor, and realize you are on a cliff!  Matthew occasionally gets scared of heights, thinking he’s up so high, and so we took him to this edge and held him as he looked over the railing and could see just how high he was up right now!  Even with his occasional fears, this kid still loves to climb counter, chair stacks, and rocks.  

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After doing the short hike to the view point, we stopped at Bridal Veil Falls on the way back.  They have serious concerns in Yosemite about injuries occurring from climbing on rocks near the waterfalls.  The rocks were definitely slippery when wet, and then they were concerned about people playing the rivers upstream from falls and then getting swept into the river and over the falls.  After the short hike to the falls, the kids were ready to enjoy the 1.5 hour drive back to the campsite for dinner.  Along this trip we have been listening to our family favorite audio book— Tennis Shoes among the Nephites.  There are about 12 books in the series, and each book last 4-6 hours.  In addition we have been listening to Hank Smith motivational talks.  He has a great sense of humor and ties it into his gospel talks.  We have truly loved our driving time spent listening to both of these things.  By the end of our trip we will have listened to 2 Tennis Shoes books, and 9 Hank Smith talks.  

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That night we kept our campsite simple, hoping to move sites in the morning.  The kids set up while I made dinner.  And in the morning after breakfast, we packed up and hoped for an open campsite.  We had to wait about an hour while the other sites cleared out, but we snagged an open site.  We dropped our trailer and stuff and headed back into the park by 10am.  We took the bikes with us and headed into the Valley.  Last night the traffic was pretty light, but this morning there were definitely a lot of cars, and it took a few minutes to find an open parking space.  

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We set off on our bikes for a tour of the valley floor.  We headed to the visitors center first to pick up Junior Ranger Packets and watch the film about the park, and view the interpretive exhibits.  Then we came up with a route to travel.  We hit all the major highlights.  Yosemite falls, which was barely a trickle at this time of year, was a short nature hike to the lower falls.  We biked thru meadows with a hint of purple flowers left, but a beautiful ride with the granite peaks across them. We biked on bridges over rivers.  We headed over to Curry Village and shared some ice cream, and decided to come back later for pizza, which smelled so good!  From there we rounded out our loop by biking up to Mirror Lake, which was just a mere pond this time of year.  But it has a great view of half dome.  It was a nice ride from here through the trees back to the valley visitor center where the kids were ready to turn in the packets and get sworn in, again, as junior rangers.  

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It was nearing 5pm, and the stream of cars heading out of the park was enormous and slow.  This was the perfect time to head back over to curry village for pizza and give the roads time to clear out.  And it worked.  We ate yummy pizza, and our drive home was a breeze, no stop and go traffic for us.  Bike was a great way to travel around the valley as well.  No waiting in line for the shuttles and move at our own pace.  We biked about 15 miles traveling the Yosemite Valley.   The drive in and out of the valley, as you climb through the mountains is quite beautiful.  You can see damage from fires and re growth and it is quite scenic.  

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Tomorrow we were heading home, so again we kept our campsite simple for the night.  In fact we packed up the bikes on top of the trailer before we set it up for the night.  That made it much easier to pack up in the morning.  We headed out fairly early.  We were taking the north road thru Tuolumne Meadows out of the park, and it is one of the most scenic drives in the US, and gets busier the later it gets.  We also wanted to hike into the Tuolumne Grove to see the giant sequoia trees, and were advised to arrive at that parking lot before 9am to get a parking spot with the trailer.  We were the 3rd car there, perfect!  It was a mile hike down into the grove, then a nature hike around the grove and trees.  One of the trees was carved out in the early 1900s to attract more tourists.  They invited them to bring their cars down there and drive thru the giant tree.  Not anymore, but we were able to walk thru the tree, and the road they once drove, makes for a nice wide hiking path, which was nice for the steep hike up and out of the grove.  

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The drive from here to the parks east boundary was quite beautiful passing valley overlooks, lakes, and meadows.  We stopped at Olmsted point and did a short hike- well those of us willing to get out of the van.  Matthew had a great time hiking on the granite rocks, and climbing.  The view of half dome and nearby peaks was quite pretty.  

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As we passed thru the one booth entrance on the north east corner of the park, we couldn’t help but count the line of cars.  It was now lunch time, and there were more than 50 cars lined up to get into the park.  My lesson here is arrive at the park entrances either before 10am or after 4pm.  Or you may wait in a very long line and never find parking.  

After exiting the Park it was a 7 hour drive back thru the deserts of California and Nevada to home.  Not much in the way of scenery, but at least we had something good to listen to!  I didn’t realize Yosemite was as close as it is.  I could totally see making a 3 day weekend trip back here to see more.  There is a campsite at the Northeast entrance, with a reservation there, it would be totally doable to take off around 2 or 3 pm, and arrive by  9 or 10pm.  Set up camp, and hike and enjoy the park for 2 full days, drive home on the 3rd.  David loved Yosemite, said it was his kind of beauty.  So I guess we will have to come back again.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

San Francisco

After 6 nights of camping, it sure was nice to sleep in a hotel, our bed in the trailer is pretty comfy, but having a real shower, rather than a quick outdoor tent shower, was wonderful.  We had a full day to spend in the city exploring.  We decided to park in the Presidio, and ride bikes around.  So after a yummy hotel breakfast, we headed the 25 mins into the city.  Our first ride would be to the Golden Gate Bridge.  One side of the bridge has a dedicated bike path, barricaded from traffic, it was perfect to ride across.  I was glad that we got a semi early start, as after we made it across the bridge, and started to head back, the bridge was much more crowded with tourist rental bikes, stopping far too often.  Matthew enjoyed this expedition, as he had been talking about the Golden Gate bridge since we started our trip and told him we would be going to see it.
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From the GG bridge, we biked down to Fisherman’s wharf for Lunch.  Boudin sourdough bread bowls filled with clam chowder.  YUM!  From there we biked along the piers to 39, then to 17 to the San Francisco Exploratorium, which has moved locations since David was a kid, and the exhibits, he declared, were not as good.  But the kids still had fun exploring, which was good considering the cost to get in there!  

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After that, it was time to start heading back to the car.  We had to stop and see the Otters, and we detoured up a few SF hills to Lombard St., and then over to Ghirardelli Square for some yummy ice cream sundaes.  By the time we reached the van we had biked 15 miles.  That’s a good amount for the kids! They did great!  There were a few bouts of whining, but those were solved with rest stops and food.  

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Summer Trip, Redwood National Park

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Our next stop was to explore the Redwoods of northern California. These amazing old trees are huge and beautiful! We were camping at the Del Norte Coastal Redwood State Park, which is one of 3 state parks that make up the National Park. Our campsite had a few huge redwoods surrounding our site adding to the privacy from our near neighbors. It was a very fun place to camp. We enjoyed riding bikes around the large campground checking out the different sites and how they hid campers in between the logged stumps of giant redwoods. 
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To the north was the Jedediah Redwood State Park. We stopped there for junior ranger packets and to learn about bike trail, hike trails, and scenic drives. We had fun doing a few short nature trails up there, including a scenic drive to a short trail that led to a summer foot bridge over the river. These trees are quite beautiful and ominous. 

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We took our bikes for a hike one afternoon. The rangers told us about a bike trail nearby that took the old coastal highway, but there was this one up part. But once you get up it’s a great trail. So, we rode the short way to the “up” part. Oh boy, it was definitely UP, and UP. We really should have consulted a topo map first. But we did survive. The kids could not ride hardly any of the up part, so we all pushed our bikes. Up, up, and Up. About 1000 foot gain over 2 miles. Once we did it, we can’t believe how the kids did it. There was a little complaining, but really they made it. David pushed 2 bikes most of the way, and the 2 youngers shared pushing one of their bikes, or I pushed it when they needed a break. Finally we reached the worst of the up, and realized the kids could not go back down it. It was quite steep. So we formulated a plan to ride to the end or near there, and David would ride back and retrieve the van and meet us at the end of the trail. But now that it was not so much up, the kids were a little shaken. The trail became "too narrow” or "too many rocks" or "too close to the edge" for the kids to want to ride, so we continued to hike with our bikes about another mile. And finally we reached a path the kids were willing to ride. It became more open and and less up, and a few downs. We had reached the old coastal highway, and what was once a well traveled rode, was now mostly covered in leaves and growing brush. The scenery was beautiful. The entire trail we did was about 6 miles. We were so impressed the kids hiked half pushing their bikes. The last half we did ride and as we reached the end to meet David, who had turned around at 4.5 miles, he made it back to the van and drove to the end of trail in the same about of time it took us to finish biking 1.5 miles. Clearly we stopped to “rest" a few times. We loaded up the bikes and headed the short drive into Crescent City to get some ice cream at the Walmart there. The kids deserved it!
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1  14The next day we drove to the south end of the National Park. We enjoyed a few short trails in that area, hiking a 3 mile loop of old redwoods. We then drove out to the shore line, and did an actual full bike ride. This trail went along the edge of the woods and sand dunes lining the shore. It was a great ride in and out of trees, thru fields of tall grasses near the dunes. It would have been perfect if my tire hadn’t gone flat a quarter of the way thru the trail. After stopping several times to pump the tire, I decided it was time for Matthew and I to turn around and head back towards the car. This way David and the older kids could finish the ride and at a much faster pace without Matthew- who is a great bike rider, just a little slower than the rest.
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In the morning we packed up and headed towards another campground in the Redwoods, Albee Creek, in Humboldt State Park. The day before, a park ranger mentioned a beach to the south good for rock and gem collecting. We had been hoping to see some tidepools, so we rose early to head there. We didn’t find any tide pools, but Savannah and Benjamin had a great time exploring the rocky, pebble beach. They found several rocks and gems to bring home. Off in the field behind the beach, was a group of elk feeding for the morning. They were beautiful, set against the hills, and the morning fog.

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We drove the few hours to Albee Creek Campground, and set up our campsite. Then headed to the north end of the park to drive the well known Avenue of the Giants. It’s quite a scenic drive of old Redwoods, but honestly my favorite drive of the trip was the short spur road that leads to the Albee Creek Campground. It’s narrow, and winds between the trees. 
In the north end of the park we explored a few beautiful trails. Our favorite, the Grieg-Bell-French Grove. Clover covered understory below the redwoods. It was like walking through a fairy tale. Just beautiful. The kids had great fun just wandering on trails through the clovers.

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The next morning we hiked straight from our campsite. The 2 mile trail along the creek and through the forest would have been a great one for a run, but we enjoyed it as a hike. Savannah needed some “space" so she stayed at the campsite reading. We camped at this campground and site based on the recommendation of our good friends, the Despain family. This is their absolute favorite spot of anywhere. We loved it too, the kids especially loved the creek that ran behind our site, they enjoyed playing in it for hours. Even with a water snake or 2 swimming by. Mostly we just hoped they wouldn’t touch any poison oak. 

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