Sunday, July 13, 2014

California Love :)

We finally got around to booking the trip to California that we've been talking about for a while now:). There was so much that we each wanted to see and do that we struggled to scale back the trip to fit the days that we had available. But thanks to Independence Day falling on a Friday this year we were able to fly into San Francisco in time for the celebration and get some extra time in for the trip!
 
 
On Friday morning, things didn't start out well - Mike cut his eye on the trunk packing up the car...
 
 
After we picked up the rental car at the airport, we couldn't resist stopping to take a look a the California coast on the way to the hotel. It was warm, windy and very low humidity - a refreshing change from Florida!
 
 
As soon as we got checked in, we rushed through China Town to get to Pier 39 to see the famous sea lions...
 
 
Unfortunately they had left already for mating season:(.
 
 
We had some oysters overlooking Alcatraz to cheer ourselves up a bit instead:)
 
 
There was a huge party all day in Fisherman's Wharf and literally tens of thousands of people gathered for the fireworks.
 
 
What a great place to celebrate America's birthday!!
 
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On Saturday, we packed in as much sight-seeing as possible. We started the day with the awesome Golden Gate Bridge...
 
 
...then visited peaceful Muir Woods...
 
 
...and the bohemian Haight-Ashbury district (where the hippie movement got started)...

 
...and the amazing Golden Gate Park...

 
...and ended the day on quirky Lombard St. ("the crookedest street in America").


Walking around the city with so many hills was tough and we all slept well that night ready for some more exploration in the morning:). The next day we decided to make the drive down to Big Sur since we had heard from several people that it was really beautiful. We stopped at an old lighthouse on the way and saw some harbor seals!
 
 
 
We used atlasobscura.com and the roadsideamerica.com app to find curious places to stop and see along the way. This is a full blue whale skeleton we saw in Santa Cruz...
 
 
The coast got prettier and prettier as we traveled south...
 
 
 
We did our first Early family dip in the Pacific - it was chilly!
 
 
We made up for Pier 39 and saw literally hundreds of sea lions, harbor seals and gorgeous sea otters along the way...

 
We did the famous 17-mile drive just before stopping for the night in Big Sur. The views on the way were just breathtaking. Some of the prettiest scenery I've ever seen... 

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We lucked out and found a cabin right on the edge of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in Big Sur. Mike made his first fire using just a lighter and Maddy tried from scratch to see just how difficult it is on our favorite show "Naked and Afraid." Turns out Mike had an easier time and we ended the day enjoying s'mores in the woods:)

 
In the morning it was so lovely to wake up there. I practiced taking pictures of the hummingbirds over my morning coffee...
 
 
We had a lovely walk down at Pfeiffer State Beach... 

 
 
I saw a near-threatened Heermann's Gull :)...
 
 
On the drive back up the coast, we stopped for lunch in Carmel. I think this is the best lunch view I've ever had!

 
After lunch, we played around on the rocks outside the restaurant :)


We spent the night just outside of Yosemite to hit some trails first thing in the morning!
 
 
Yosemite Valley represents only one percent of the park area, but this is where most visitors arrive and stay. With just one full day in the park, we decided to spend it here.  El Capitan, a prominent granite cliff that looms over Yosemite Valley, is one of the most popular rock climbing destinations in the world. Granite domes such as Sentinel Dome and Half Dome rise 3,000 and 4,800 feet (910 and 1,460 m), respectively, above the valley floor.

 
It is indescribably beautiful - we all fell in love with Yosemite as soon as we arrived:)
 
 
 
 
Our trusty sticks :)...
 
 
One of the views was so beautiful it literally brought me to tears :)
 
 
 
 
Mike jumped into a mountain lake for a little swim - he said it was cold. We believed him :)
 
 
We ended the day at Mariposa Grove to see some Giant Sequoias...

 
 
They were amazing!!
 

We saw so much wildlife but no bears this time :)
 
 
 
An unforgettable day:)

In the morning we got to drive through Yosemite again just north of the Valley area to get some last views in on the way to Mono Lake on the Eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountain range...
 
 
 
We had Subway at a beautiful mountain lake at 8,000 ft. The chips had expanded because we were so high up!
 
 
Mono Lake is a large, shallow saline soda lake formed at least 760,000 years ago. The lack of an outlet causes high levels of salts to accumulate making the water alkaline. Brine shrimp thrive in the lake forming the basis for an unusual ecosystem supporting two million migratory birds annually. It also featured prominently in the Clint Eastward movie High Plains Drifter and this picture ("The Diver") was the inside cover picture of the Pink Floyd Album 'Wish You Were Here' in 1975...


The formations are made of 'tufa' - which is made of a type of limestone. It's pretty spooky looking...
 
 
 
About an hour's drive away is Bodie...
 
 
In 1876, the discovery of a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore, transformed Bodie into a Wild West boomtown from an isolated mining camp. Over the years, Bodie's mines produced gold valued at nearly $34 million. Although it was reportedly the third biggest town in California at one point with a population of 7,000 to 10,000 , Bodie had only 120 people left by 1920 as the get-rich-quick, single miners who originally came to the town in the 1870s moved on to other booms. The last mine closed in 1942 due to the War Production Board order which shut down all unprofitable gold mines in the US. After two major fires and climates ranging from over 100 degrees in summer through to over 20 feet of snow in winter, only 170 buildings remain. These form the Bodie State Historic Park of today. Bodie is preserved in a state of arrested decay. Interiors remain as they were left and stocked with goods.
 
 
The school classroom...
 
 
It fascinating to see what people left behind when they left town...

 
This store was fully stocked!...
 
 
The morgue...

 
We loved it - it was fascinating :)

 
Here are Maddy and Mike breaking into jail!
 

In the morning, we were all feeling tired but couldn't resist adding on one more trip to Lake Tahoe. Maddy was smart and grabbed some sleep on the way :)
 
 
We took a beautiful sunset cruise on the lake...

 
I had champagne to celebrate our amazing trip!
 
 
 
And the sunset was so pretty...
 
 
But not as pretty as her...
 
 
In the morning we made the drive back to San Francisco for one last day :(. We walked around the city and took a Bay Cruise to say goodbye...

 
And got a really good view of Alcatraz!
 
 
And then we had to come home :(. We had such an amazing time! The Californian people were really welcoming, the sights were diverse and incredible, the climate was perfect and the scenery was just breathtaking. We all fell in love with the state and can't wait to go back and see more. Any one of the places we travelled to we couldn't have fully explored in a week or more. My personal favorite place was Yosemite. It is as special as everyone who has visited there describes it - I'll never forget my Yosemite experience and hope to make it back there again some day.
 
 
We hope you are all having wonderful family vacations!