Sunday, July 25, 2010

Family trip to Yosemite

After having such a wonderful experience in Yelloswtone last summer, Dana in particular was interested in going to Yosemite, so we decide to make it happen.

Sunday: June 20, 2010
Virginia Beach, VA to San Francisco, CA

Our flight to Sand Francisco left at 5:45 am; Kathi and the girls on Delta and me on USAIr to take advantage of a free fare. We arrive in Ca at around 11:45 am. Our friends Tom and Leslie pick us up at the airport in a BIG Chevy Suburban and we drive to Treasure Island to drop off suitcases full of camping gear so we don’t have to take them to the hotel.

We walk to the lighthouse on TI and smell the eucalyptus and marvel at all the beautiful and varied plants - nasturtiums, succulents, and more. The lighthouse is very cool. The Admiral’s quarters are beautiful and we love seeing the seals on the beach below the lighthouse. They seem interested in us and leave the beach to swim in the waters below us. They are looking up at us - waiting for treats to be showered from above????

The Admiral's House on Treasure Island

The Treasure Island Lighthouse

The seals below

We drive to the Presidio and the Disney Family Museum. Walt Disney is an amazing man! What a life! What vision! I was particularly struck by all the cartoons from other artists lamenting Walt’s death. It makes you want to cry!

We drive around the Presidio with Tom and Leslie an visit their old stomping grounds. We see their old house and walk down to the battery for a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and lots of photos.

The Golden Gate Bridge

We drive down to Fisherman’s Wharf for a traditional bread bowl of corn and crab chowder chased with a Sierra Nevada beer.

Fisherman's Wharf

We check into the hotel and go to bed.

Monday: June 21, 2010
San Francisco

Leslie joins us and we scarf down the breakfast buffet at the hotel. Tom is already at work. Leslie, Reilly, Andrew, and out clan head to Trolley Station and buy passes for $13.00 for the day. We take the trolley to wander around Fisherman’s Wharf passing the famous steep and windy Lombard Street on the way.

We meet up with Tom for lunch in Chinatown (fantastic) and roam the streets taking in all the food and trinket markets.

We visit the Chinatown Gate for pictures.

We take the trolley as far as we can and then walk the rest of the way up to Coit Tower. We take the ride to the top and get fabulous views of San Francisco, San Francisco Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge, Oakland, Alcatraz and Marin County beyond.

Coit Tower

We head back down to see the seals at Pier 39 and do some window shopping.

We had dinner at a diner-style restaurant to save some money. The restaurants in SF are expensive!!!!!

Reilly comes back with us to the hotel for a sleepover.

Kathi and I sneak out with Tom and Leslie for a drink at a bar near the hotel for some good conversation, but it doesn’t take too much time for the sandman to come-a callin’

Tuesday: June 22, 2010
San Francisco to Yosemite

We checked out of the Marine Memorial hotel in SF and Tom and Leslie drove us to Rent-A-Wreck to pick up our rental van for the trip to Yosemite. The van looked like new and was an excellent value. I would recommend Rent-A-Wreck in San Francisco to everyone!

We drove Leslie and the kids to Treasure Island and picked up the stored camping gear we left there. We dropped Leslie and the kids off and headed for Yosemite via Rt. 120 East. Stopped along the way to get Kathi and Hailey some cherries and blueberries at one of the many farm stands along the road.

We got to the Yosemite North entrance, took a spin around Hodgdon Meadow campground and then drove through Foresta, past Crane Flat, and into the Valley - lots of windy roads with no guardrail. We saw a bear cub in the meadow near the Tuolumne turn off.

The Woods at Crane Flat

Cub in the Meadow

Driving into Yosemite Valley

Once in Yosemite Valley,we WOW-ed at El Capitan, Half Dome, the waterfalls and all the abundant peaks, meadows, and streams. More evidence of God int he world!

Bridalveil Falls

Sentinel Rock

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls

We got to our Upper Pines campsite and were disappointed by how cramped, crowded, and noisy it was! Hailey and I set up camp while Mom and Dana cooked burgers to have with chips. After dinner, Dad washed dishes in camp as instructed (which did not seem bear-smart) and we all went to bed.

Wednesday: June 23, 2010
Yosemite Valley - Upper Pines

We had a nice breakfast of pancakes and fresh blueberries from the farmstand, sausage, juice, but no coffee :(

No Fly - The View From Inside the Tent...

But disappointed by the crowds, noise, and cramped campsites!

Since we only had a reservation in the Valley for one night, we packed up camp (yuck), put everything back in suitcases again and drove to the Curry Village parking lot so we could catch the free shuttle bus that carries tourists to points around the valley.

We took the shuttle to Happy Isles to hike the recommended Mist Trail to the Vernal Falls Bridge. Practically from the get go, Dana had a meltdown. It was like coaxing a burro up that trial. In fairness, it was a lot stepper than I remember any of the guidebooks indicating, but perhaps pointing out the 4-year-olds who were skipping up the trail wasn’t helping with motivation. We all made it to the bridge and then Dana was all smiles - taking pictures and flitting about. I continued on to see Nevada Falls marveling at the carved stone steps. I had read the guidebook and had a raincoat so the many splash zones along the way did not dampen my spirit as I climbed. Others were not so lucky and got soaked along the way!

The view from the Vernal Falls Bridge

My destination: Vernal Falls

Vernal Falls

You Gotta Climb These Steps to Get to the Top of the Falls!

Soaking Spray at the Bottom of the Falls Makes Double Rainbows!

At the cusp of Nevada Falls, Emerald Pool and the cascade above were beautiful! I hoofed it down as quick as I could to meet Kathi and the girls for lunch at 3 pm.

You Gotta Climb These Steps to Make it To the Top of the Falls!

Cascade into Emerald Pool - Just Upstream of Vernal Falls

We took the shuttle bus back into the Valley and found a store where we could buy coffee! We visited the Ansel Adams gallery and I oogled a print of El Cap in Spring.

We did a short hike to Lower Yosemite Falls bridge. The falls are GUSHING! As we exited the valley on the way to our new Hodgdon Meadow campsite, we stopped often to snap pictures of the rock formations and meadows and streams.

Drove to Hodgdon Meadows and set up camp on a hill. Hailey is a great tent-setter-upper. Mom makes pasta with meat sauce AND garlic bread on toasted hamburger buns. That woman can adapt!

We hit the hay hard!

Thursday, June 24, 2010
Hodgdon Meadows

Slept past 7 am! Happy to be settled and glad to be out of the Valley! Our campsite is on a hill, but the campgrounds is less cramped and more scenic. The Rangers at check-in (seniors) were very nice!

Hodgdon Meadows Campsite

Mom made french toast and BACON and Dad made COFFEE! We had a late breakfast. Poor Hailey is not feeling well :(

We drove back into the Valley and Curry Village for a $5.00 shower. It’s nice and exhilarating to be clean! We take care of some business - getting stamps, canceling my wilderness permit, and learn that Donahue Pass is snowed in and that there are some lost hikers up there. The Rangers were debating whether to send up a helicopter rescue.

Half Dome - Ansel Adams Style!

I made a reservation for an “Ansel Adams” photo walk at the gallery and then we got to take a tour of the Awahnee - Eh. We were not impressed. It was not so nice, stuffy, not inviting. Seems like just a place to brag about that you stayed there. Didn’t earn its reputation in my book.

Saw Bridalveil Falls and Tunnel View - Awesome!

Yosemite Valley

Bridalveil Falls

Tunnel View

Got lost on the way to Glacier Point and drove a long way on a rocky road under repair before we got to the Wawona campground and turned around.

On the way to Glacier Point we stopped at the Washburn Point turnout - definitely worth the stop.

Washburn Point Turnout

We finally made it to Glacier Point. Incredible! We didn’t do any hikes around Glacier Point because it was late and Hailey was not feeling well. It was a long drive back to the Valley and then home to Hodgdon Meadow.

Glacier Point

Got some cool pictures as the sun was setting. Kathi getting tired of cooking in the dark (but there’s so much to do I protested). She made Rice-A-Ron i (the San Francisco Treat!) in the dark and, even though it is one of her favorite foods, Hailey only had one spoonful she was so sick :(,

Cleaned the dishes and went to bed, hoping for a better day for Hailey.

Friday, June 25, 2010
Hodgdon Meadow - Tuolumne Meadows

Kathi made an early breakfast while the girls slept. After breakfast, Kathi went to do laundry at a campgrounds in Yosemite Falls (outside the park).

After the chores are done, we gas up at Crane Flat and head to the Tuolumne Meadows via the Tioga Road. Hailey spots a bear cub in the first meadow so we stop to get a better look. After our experience in Yellowstone, I’m surprised to see cubs without their mothers around so I constantly scan the perimeter for signs of danger. Dana, of course, is oblivious and inches closer and closer for a good picture.

Another Black Bear Cub Going Solo

We stop at Olmstead Point for Awesome Views and take lots of pictures at almost every turnout along the road - Tenaya Lake, Cathedral Peak, Tuolumne Meadows, Lembert Dome.

Water From All the Snow Melt Rushing Down the Mountain On the Way To Olmstead Point

Olmstead Point

Tenaya Lake

Tuolumne Meadows - Late June

Snow Still in the Meadow

We take a picture of Dana with Mount Dana in the background and Hailey asks where Mt/ Hailey is and when she will get her turn. Alas, there is no Mt. Hailey that we know of :(

Dana Standing in Front of Her Namesake

Sierra Nevada - See You Again Soon!

We keep driving to the Park boundary and do a short distance beyond before turning around and starting the long drive home. We stop at the Tuolumne Post Office and store which was surprisingly well equipped. We get ice creams all around to carry us over until another late dinner.

Small Lake Reflections...

Kathi whips up some fantastic chicken quesadellas (cooked in daylight!) and we enjoy a quiet evening before bed.

Saturday, June 26, 2010
Hodgdon Meadows - Hetch Hetchy

Wanting to see every part of the Park, we took a day to see Hetch Hetchy. Drove to HH along a steep, curvy road. Kathi did not look outside, but focused her gaze on the pages of her book instead.

Entering Camp Mather

I do hate the HH dam and what it did to the HH Valley and the insult to John Muir, but the spillway is impressive. I’ve convinced the girls to hike the trail first to Teeulala Falls and then Wapama Falls.

Driving to the Hetch Hetchy Valley

The Damn Dam!

Free The Rivers!

The Spillway

The Lake Behind the Damn Dam

Check out these pictures of what the Hetch Hetchy Valley used to look like before the dam. The same volcanic and glacial forces that made Yosemite Valley filled HH Valley with waterfalls, domes, and impressive rock features and the Tuolumne River flows through beautiful meadows.

Before and After the Dam

Teeulala Falls has nearly dried up, but with the trickle that remains, it supplies enough water for flowers to bloom everywhere in its wake. A Ranger tells us that the flowers along the trail are at their peak and anywhere there’s shade or water, flowers abound.

Teeulala Falls on the Left

Aside from the falls, the trail is rocky, pretty exposed, and hot so we take many breaks along the way. It’s cool to look at the geology and compare it to Yosemite Valley. Here to are steep pinnacles and massive impressive domes. No wonder, the same processes that shaped Yosemite Valley also shaped Hetch Hetchy.

The Rocky Trail to Wapama Falls

The Locally Famous Manzanilla Bush

Dana, of course, nearly steps on gopher snake crossing the trail and is totally freaked out. Even after being told by a knowledgeable hiker that it was harmless, it took effort to coax her on.

With the huge melting snowpack (and the majority of snow the Ranger told us came late in May) Wapama Falls is raging! We get soaked in its spray, but don’t mind so much because it is hot! We haul up on a big flat rock for a snack and to let the sun dry us off.

Wapama Falls

Drying Off via Sun Bake

The hike back to the car goes a little faster. We chatted up some SCA workers that were taking a trail survey. The Ranger tells us the lake formed by the O’Shaughnessy Dam is 300 feet deep. I ask him about plans to remove the dam. He is “PC” and talks about the lake’s beauty and development that might’ve happened if there was no dam (like in Yosemite Valley), Sounds like a BS excuse for a lack of will to me!

We spy some cool looking lizards on the trail on the way back, but after Dana's gopher snake scare, she wants noting to do with them. Still, they were cool looking!

On the way home, we stop at Camp Mather family camp (owned by the City of San Francisco) and get coke and ice cream. While using the bathroom we realize we could sneak into the attached shower facilities for free! I will tuck that nugget into my noggin for later use.

We get home and Kathi makes campsite pizza. That gal is versatile! A Ranger comes through the camp and tells us about the meadow there at Hodgdon Meadows. It’s at the end of the campground and she tells us we might see bears at dusk. What the cuss! It would’ve been more advantageous if they told us that when we entered the campground, not near the end of our trip!

We go to the meadow after dinner, but don’t see any animals of note. The meadow and the flowers are very beautiful though. Kathi and Hailey head back, but Dana and I stay and are rewarded by seeing two deer in the woods on the way back. We appeased the girls desire for a fire in the evening and after a while put it out and went to bed.

The Meadow at Hodgdon Meadow Campgrounds - Beautiful!

Sunday, June 27, 2010
Hodgdon Meadows


Kathi makes eggs and bacon for breakfast, and we hit the road by 8:30 am to see about rafting on the Merced River at 10 am. Unfortunately, the water level is too high and speed of the flow is too great and they won’t let rafts go. They tell us to check in later in the afternoon.

So we head to the Mariposa Grove of sequoia trees. We retrace our steps from when we took the wrong turn heading to Glacier Point, down the same rocky dirt roads under construction, and it’s slow going. We finally make it to the Wawona General Store and it’s only a short wait before we grab a ride on the free bus shuttle to the grove.

We buy tickets for the tram so that we can ride up to the top of the grove and then my plan was that we would walk downhill trough the grove back to the bus stop. Unfortunately, my plan was met with major resistance. The girls were in revolt! Kathi stayed with them on the tram for the return ride back while I struck off alone to be with the trees.

Bus Stop at the Top of the Grove

The Mariposa Grove

I walked the forest loop which was very nice. I then proceeded along the northern loop to see the telescope tree. Very cool!

I continued down getting up close and personal with the the Clothespin Tree, the Loving Couple, the Grizzly Giant and many more un-named trees - all magnificent!

Telescope Tree

The Grizzly Giant

Back at the Wawona General Store, we got soft drinks and cheese doodles for “lunch”.

We rush back to the Yosemite Valley (while Kathi focuses on the pages of her book..) and find that the afternoon float trip is ON!

Hailey and Dana are stoked! The float down the Merced is fun, but too short. This would be a very nice relaxing thing to do for a whole day. If you bring your own floaties you can do it for free! The views of the major sights, Yosemite Falls, etc are different from the perspective of floating down the river and I would highly recommend the trip. The girls say this is the funnest part of the whole trip!

Floating Down the Merced River

Unique Views of Yosemite Falls While Floating the Merced River

I get a beer at one of the Curry Village markets and we drive back to Hodgdon Meadows. Kathi makes hot dogs and mac and cheese and salad - burp! We get the clothes squared away in the car and go to bed early for the morning pack up and departure.

Monday, June 28, 2010
Hodgdon Meadow - Monterey

We get up early and pack up to brake camp by 7:30 am. We drive down into the Yosemite Valley for Dad to take his Ansel Adams photography walk in the Awahnee meadow (sponsored by the gallery and Cannon). I was one of the few people with a Nikon camera and also one of the few that knew anything about white balance, variations in shutter speed or aperture, or other settings. It was fun, and I learned some interesting things about trying to get rid of haze in the photos. You could actually see the haze in Ansel’s work, just like today. Need to get a neutral density filter! Anyway, had fun.

Ode to AA

Met the girls at Curry Village and took a shower - Nice! Feel light as air!

Take a few pictures on the way out of the Valley and leave the park on the road to Merced and then Mariposa.

Unnamed falls on the way to Merced

There is lots of agricultural land on the way to Monterey - cherries, avocados, etc. Kathi is amazed at the abundance and the prices. She said if she could get avocados that cheap we’d be eating guacamole every night!

We hit Route 1 and make our way south trying to use the smart phone to make “Priceline” magic happen fro an on the fly hotel room. Even with a dead and dying phone and intermittent coverage, Kathi makes it happen and gets a nice 3-star hotel for $85 at the Hilton Garden Inn.

At night, we walked around Cannery Row and had dinner at a restaurant overlooking the bay and the floating algae. We canned for otters. Kathi had another bread bowl and I had mahi. We got Starbucks on the way to the car for a little pick-me-up after a long day.

Cannery Row

Drove to the hotel. Had trouble with some of the TV channels so I watched a little soccer while Kathi checked her emails. Back to that world...

Tuesday, June 29
Monterey - San Francisco

Wake up, pack up and stop at McD’s on the way to the aquarium. Made for the entrance and shot straight to the otter tank for the feeding. Cool. I love the beautiful seahorses, THE JELLIES! all the out int he open advocacy for the oceans (Go CA!)


Venus X 2


Dana in Wonderland

Advocacy - CA Style!

We bug out at 2 pm and get fast food (yuck) on the way out of town. We drive north on Rt. 1 and take a loop through Santa Cruz to see if we can get a peek of the surf break there. We go down near the water, near some carnival looking place but hit a dead end and bugged out so we could make it to San Francisco before stores closed. Kathi had a last minute jewelry purchase to make and we did not want to disappoint.

Rt. 1 north of Santa Cruz is beautiful. Rugged. Sooooooo many state parks on the ocean! We stop at one and Dana and Kathi dip their toes int eh Pacific.

The Famous Rt. 1 CA Coast Between Monterey and San Francisco

We get to SF and rush to Russian Hill where Kathi makes a dash to her store.

Later we drive down Lombard’s winding road to go to the North Beach Italian section to meet Tom Crabbs for dinner. Kathi and Hailey get ravioli and I get linguini with pesto. Tom gets gnocchi and Dana has blonde pizza.

We walk and find gelatto - $4 for a small cup. Yikes!

Walk back to the car and blase a trail to the hotel in Burlingame. Hailey and Dana spot humping raccoons in the grass patch next to the parking lot. Nature will always find a way!

We repack and reshuffle bags to ready them for the airport and go to bed with a wake-up call at 5 am.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Burlingame (Sand Francisco)

Get up with the alarm at 5 am, take a quick shower, make last minute adjustments to the suitcases and take everyone tot he airport. Drop off my checked bag and drop off the girls.

I drive the rental car back to the Rent-A-Wreck offices but they’re not open. Find a coffee place down he street and sip a cup and wait. When RAW opens, they are very courteous and one of the employees drives me to the train station (15-20 minutes away!) so I can ride the train back to the airport. $10 bucks for the train and I make my flight easily.

Kathi and the girls pick me up in Norfolk. Mission accomplished! What an Odyssey!

Looking forward to making it back to the Sierra Nevada to hike the John Muir Trail. From the scenery in the Tuolumne Meadows, it looks like it will be awesome!