October 10, 2012

Journey Across the West - Part 2

Well our adventures have come to an end and if you couldn’t tell by the extended time between posts, we are sort of settled back in Massachusetts.  There’s still a lot to do here to make a home for ourselves, but we are on our way.  In the meantime, back to the delayed updates!

Since we decided on driving to Yosemite so late in the game and it was already Thursday, we were only able to reserve campsites for Sunday and Monday night.  So our plan was to drive as far as we could on Friday so that we could be there early enough on Saturday to get a first-come-first-serve site (not something we liked to do at such a popular park).  We headed out early in the morning from Grand Tetons on the Friday 24th.  Once we drove into Idaho we could smell the smoke on the air from the nearby wildfires, but luckily we didn’t see any evidence of them except for the constant haze.

To space out the drive we decided to stop at Craters of the Moon National Monument.  I only wish we could have stayed there longer to wander around.  Idaho was very desert looking and flat as we approached Craters, but once we got there it was a totally different scene.  It looked like someone had paved over the desert with asphalt and then broke it all up leaving it in various piles.  It was something you expected to see in Hawaii but definitely not Idaho!

Craters of the Moon

lava tube

From there, the rest of our journey toward Yosemite was rather uneventful.  Not long after we crossed the Nevada border, the sun began to set and unfortunately most of our time in that state was after dark along Interstate 80.  Around 2AM (though we went through a time zone change so it was closer to 3 in our heads) we managed to find a 24 hour Walmart in Fallon and parked for the night.  This placed us a little less than 3 hours from Yosemite which made me happy. 

Sunset in Nevada

We woke up at 5:30 to hit the road early.  I drove while Darrell snoozed and it was a pretty drive watching the sun come up across the desert.  We arrived at Yosemite on the east side of the park and headed up Tioga Road to the entrance.  Not the best way to go if you are towing!  The road was incredibly steep and though our car made it, it developed a nice whine that showed up throughout the rest of the trip when going up hills or towing down the highway.  It was a stunning drive though and brought us across the Sierra Mountains to Tuolumne Meadows where we hoped to grab a spot for the night.  Luckily they still had sites available and once we parked we took a well deserved nap.  Later that afternoon, we hiked along the John Muir Trail for a few miles and took in the scenery and the mountains, so different from the desert we had been driving through yesterday.

Tioga Pass

Views along the John Muir Trail

The next day we headed to the other side of the Park where we would camp for two more nights.  We drove into Yosemite Canyon that afternoon and wandered around, doing a couple of shorter hikes.  The Next day was spent down at Mariposa Grove which was my favorite part of the park.  The giant sequoias were breath taking and the further we wandered on the trails, the less people there were which made us happy.

Half Dome in Yosemite Valley

View from Inspiration Point

A hollowed out sequoia in Tuolumne Grove

"Faithful Couple" - Mariposa Grove

Museum in Mariposa Grove

Tuesday the 28th of August had us heading deeper into California and away from National Parks for awhile.  Our goal was to visit San Francisco that afternoon but we had no desire to take the trailer in.  I had thought to camp at Muir Woods which is just north of the city, but they had no camping so we opted for Mount Tamalpais State park which surrounds Muir Woods.  We stayed at Pantoll Campground (which only has tent sites, but if you have an RV you can park in their lot) and drove into the city that afternoon which was about a 45 minute drive.  We did the typical touristy things – Fisherman’s Warf, Chinatown, Ghirardelli Square, etc.  It was fun wandering around.  We ended up at The Buena Vista restaurant for dinner which was ok, but they are famous for their Irish Coffee and it was VERY good!

Mountain clouds driving from Mt. Tamalpais State Park

Golden Gate Bridge

Heading down the coast along Highway 1 was beautiful!  Finding our way out of the city (and paying an $18 toll to get across the Golden Gate Bridge!!) we wound down towards Half Moon Bay stopping at Moonside Bakery and Café for breakfast.  It was sooo good!  After breakfast we finally stopped at a beach somewhere along the highway to dip our feet in the cold Pacific.  We officially made across the country now.  Before long we arrived in Monterey where we had booked a hotel for the night.  The afternoon was spent at, in my opinion, the best aquarium ever – Monterey Bay Aquarium.  It is so well laid out, the exhibits are well kept, and the two story live kelp forest tank is amazing!  I had gone when I was little and it lived up to the hype of my memories.  That night we slept in a bed for the first time since leaving home (we slept on a futon when we visited with friends in Michigan so I don’t count that).  We had a very good night sleep!

We officially made it to the Pacific!

 Monterey Bay Aquarium

Close up of the kelp forest

Some of the Jellies in the special exhibit space

Then next leg of our journey kept us heading down Highway 1 and in the morning brought us through Los Padres National Forrest.  It was very foggy though out the morning and the clouds hugged the coastal mountains, gliding through the trees.  I was actually glad it blocked my view of the ocean because I could focus on the beauty of the forests and landscape along the road which was beautiful.  We had decided to stop at Hearst Castle around lunch time but were distracted when I saw seals on the beach.  We happened to pull into Elephant seal vista point, or so the flier we got handed said.  Apparently Elephant seals flock to this particular beach all year round to mate, give birth, and rest.  There were mostly juveniles there at this time of year, but there were a few giant males sleeping in the mix too.

Mists along Highway 1

Snoozing elephant seals

Hearst Castle was a amazing as it looked the few times I saw it on TV.  Unfortunately, we could only get on a tour that walked us through the second floor rooms, but it was still worth it as we got to see Hearst’s envy worth library and bedroom.  After the tour we were allowed to wander around the grounds for as long as we wanted which was really fun.  The gardens were beautiful and it was fun to see copies of ancient roman statuary placed throughout instead of the garden gnomes I would probably have.  After the castle we were hungry and had dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant called Las Cambritas in Cambria.  We decided to keep driving for awhile and ended up at Morro Bay State Park for the night.  Just outside the bay harbor is a huge formation called Morro Rock which seems rather menacing the way it juts out of the water.

Hearst Castle

The stunning indoor pool at Hearst Castle

Morro Bay

Sunset walk at Morro Bay State Park

On Friday we head towards Los Angeles stopping at the Mission of Santa Barbara on the way.  The mission was quiet and beautiful in its own simple way.  After Santa Barbara, we did run into a little trouble.  I had thought to stay with my friend in L.A., but there was no way we would be able to get parking where his apartment was, so we hoped to get a campsite at a nearby state park or beach.  Well, this was the beginning of Labor Day weekend (which we completely forgot about) and everything, everywhere was completely booked up!  We managed to find a spot at Malibu Beach RV Park which was nice, but we paid the price.  Apart from hotels, this was the most expensive place we stayed on the whole trip!  But we had a place to leave the trailer and come back to sleep which was good.  That evening we went into the city and had dinner at a Salvadorian restaurant where we had Pupusas (so good!) and then went up to the Griffith Observatory which was really fun.  Plus it was good to see friends I hadn’t seen since we graduated college.

Chapel at Santa Barbara Mission

Sunset over L.A. at the Griffith Observatory

September 1st finally brought us to San Diego.  We were staying with our friends Kim and Brian which was so much fun!  They took us to some great places to eat, including Crazee Burger, and we wandered around Balboa Park’s beautiful gardens.  We also echoed what we did while staying with our friends in Michigan and spent some time planning our next phase of the trip!  After a relaxing couple of days we decided to head towards the Grand Canyon and to more National Parks further east.  We were beyond excited to get going once things were laid out and very happy to be heading east towards the Atlantic coast again.

Botanical Building at Balboa Park

1 comment:

  1. I loved reading about your trip, I hope you will share more. It sounds like so much fun to drive across this beautiful country our ours.