My Favorite Day–Driving Highway One on the California Coastline

As beautiful as everything was on our trip, I think this part was my favorite.  The beauty of the area, the memories of friends visited in the past, and probably the biggest reason–I FINALLY got a bed to sleep in =).

We left Kings Canyon, as usual, early in the morning, and we headed west.  It was actually a neat drive.  We went from the mountains, through vineyards and fruit orchards, through desert, and finished at the ocean!   We drove to Morro Bay, which is at the southern end of what is said to be the most beautiful stretch of the highway.  We had fully planned on getting a hotel there, but, it was really really expensive to stay there.  Even on Priceline.  As much as I did not want to, we ended up camping one more night at Morro Bay State Park, which saved us over $100.  We used Trip Advisor and found an AWESOME hole in the wall Mexican restaurant and walked around the downtown area until the sun went down.

Random shot of the desert like areas we drove through-Matt said it reminded him of his mission trips to Mexico.

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Morro Bay’s iconic landmark, Morro Rock, at sunset.

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We got up the next morning and headed north on Highway 1.  Our next stop was Cambria.  Cambria is a super cute little town that has a wonderful downtown area, and it holds a special place in my heart.  I had some very special friends (in their 90s!) that had first been patients of mine at Vandy and then fellow church members at our church.  They lived half the year in Nashville and half the year in Cambria, and I visited them about 7 years ago.  It was a blessing to see him so active and happy after his surgery and therapy, and I have never felt so welcome at someone’s home. We had the BEST time while there.  Sadly, he died a year or two ago, and his wife has moved to be closer to her kids.  I took Matt into town, showed him all the places we went to and ate at, and we went for a walk on the boardwalk near where my friends lived.  It was a beautiful walk!

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Just north of Cambria, there is an elephant seal sanctuary.  These sea mammals are huge and can be seen sunning themselves on the beach.  When we visited this time, it was resting/migration time, so it was pretty calm.  When I visited my friends during the winter last time, it was mating season.  During this time, the males fight for the females, and it is quite interesting to watch!

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We spent the rest of the day driving north up the coast.  It is truly beautiful.   A must see is Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park; it looks more like Hawaii than California. We stopped at an awesome little restaurant/store called Nepenthe to drink hot tea with a view overlooking the ocean.  Several bridges along the way are known for their age, craftsmanship, and beauty.  We ended the day in Monterey at a hotel I got off Priceline there; I was SOOO excited for a nice shower and a bed!  =)  We ate at a great Hawaiian food place downtown that night and then walked around to look at some shops in Cannery Row.  We got up the next day and finished our trip up the coast with a drive through the Pebble Beach Golf Course

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Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks

Kings Canyon and Sequoia are not nearly as visited as Yosemite, despite their close proximity to each other.  However, we really enjoyed them.  We found them beautiful and remote, and we loved that they weren’t as crowded.  As awesome as Yosemite is, at the busy time that we went, there was always some silly tourist posing in front of the beautiful waterfall you wanted to photograph.  Not so here!

We left Yosemite early in the morning and exited through the south entrance.  We stopped at a Jamba Juice for breakfast (yumm–O!) and then made our way to Fresno.  We stopped at a Whole Foods to restock our groceries for the next round of camping, and the extremely nice cashiers directed me to a clean laundromat nearby.  A few hours later, with clean clothes and Matt’s In and Out Burger lunch in tow, we headed for Kings Canyon.  We drove through groves of fruit, olives, and nuts, and then headed UP.  The road gained about 5000 ft in 20-30 minutes.  We were actually staying in Sequoia, which is just south of Kings Canyon.  There are also some National Forests around the area as well; they are all just kind of “lumped” together when they are talked about.  We could have taken the Kings Canyon Byway across the park, but by this time, it was early afternoon.  Though we were told it was beautiful, this drive would have added another 3-4 hours to the day before we even got to our campground to set up camp and cook dinner.  We did this on the first day in Yosemite, and we were not eager to try it again with Taylor.  So, someone else is going to have to take the Byway and let me know what I missed.

We headed to the Lodgepole Campground in Sequoia NP.  It is one of the biggest and nicest in the area, and I got the last site when I made the reservation.  We were so glad; we loved this campground.  It was huge and beautiful.  Surrounded by lodgepole pines, the campground had a really pretty river with large boulders running through it.  There were showers (for a fee) at the front, and there was a visitors center for the park at the front as well.  We even had ONE lightbulb in the bathroom near our site! =)

 

Taylor at the Kings Canyon Visitors Center–playing while I washed bottles with the hot water there

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Drive to the campground

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The BEAR that we saw.  It is actually closer than it appears in the picture.  More bears to come….

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Home Sweet Home for a few days…and dinner time.  Thankful Taylor likes hummus, because she ate a lot of it on the trip!

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Beautiful walk around the campground around sunset

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We went hiking to the see the General Sherman Tree, which is the largest living thing in the world.  It was a few miles away from our campground.  Once there, we took another 3 mile or so hike around the Cathedral Grove, which includes more of the beautiful, and large, sequoia trees in the area.  We also visited Moro Rock.  This trail, due to the expert craftsmanship involved in building it, is on the National Historic Register.  You climb up a set of steps that are cut into the side of the rock.  I did not make it past the first drop off =).  Taylor and Matt did, though, and were rewarded with a beautiful view of the Great Western Divide and the western side of the park!

General Sherman from the top of the trail

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The world’s largest living thing with our little thing =).

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Are you getting any ideas, Matt?

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Recent forest fire

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View from top of Moro Rock

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This park is definitely more remote, and most of it is at a higher elevation than Yosemite.  Our campground in Yosemite was about 4000 ft, but in Sequoia, it was close to 7000.  They were definitely even more proactive to keep bears away, and for good reason.  In addition to the one we saw driving in, we saw two bears actually in our campground while there.  Here’s a few pics of the one we got closer to (before the ranger came and scared it away.  Bears are super cool until they come into your campsite!).

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And lastly, a picture of our little cutie on our last morning there.  Apparently, when you’ve flown to CA, camped in two national parks, hiked to some pretty cool places, and slept in a tent for 5 nights in a row, you think you can do anything ;).

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Yosemite National Park

According to www.nps.gov, Theodore Roosevelt, after camping in Yosemite National Park, said: “It was like lying in a great solemn cathedral, far vaster and more beautiful than any built by the hand of man.”

I would have to agree.  Yosemite is awesome.  It is beautiful, it is huge, it is rugged, it is peaceful, it is dangerous, it is inspiring.  Designated a national park in 1864, it has been all of these things for visitors for many years now.

There are several different parts of the park, but we were not able to visit all of them.  We camped in Wawona, which is at the south end of the park, which meant it was about almost an hour drive into the Valley and a 1.5-2 hour drive to Tuolumne Meadows.  Our first day, we drive from San Jose and came in the north entrance.  We took the Tioga Road out to Tuolumne Meadows, which is the last road to reopen every year due to snow.  We actually had some unseasonally cold weather while we were there, and it did snow enough to need chains on this road the day after we were there.  It was a long day in the car that day, but Taylor took it like a champ, and it was beautiful!

This is how you keep a baby entertained when she has been in the car WAY too long!

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Views from Tioga Road

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Tuolumne Meadows area: It was COLD!

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Camping in Wawona was fun but interesting, at least for this somewhat “whine-y” camper!  We were able to get our tent, our sleeping bags, our camp pads, our pillows, a hatchet, a cast iron skillet, a spatula, and a knife into our suitcases.  We dressed Taylor in a thick snow suit we got at a garage sale and put her on her own little pad, and she slept very well!  Better than she does at home ;).  We grocery shopped when we got there to get everything we needed.  Everything with a smell–food, toiletries, formula, wipes, etc–had to go in a big bear locker due to active bears in the area.  That was a bit of an annoyance at first, but we got used to it.  Much better than having any unwanted visitors!!  There were no showers, so we had to drive into Curry Village in the Valley area and pay for showers there.   I gladly did this every day ;).  If we ever do it again, though, we will camp in the Valley.  Those sites fill up way in advance, but it would be nice to not have such a long drive everyday!

Days 2 and 3 were spent hiking and touring the Valley area and Glacier Point.  We took lots of pictures!!!

Tunnel View of the Valley in the morning mist.  It had rained the night before (thankful for an awesome tent!), so there was quite a bit of fog and mist.  It was beautiful though.  So clean and peaceful.

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Love this shot.

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Yosemite Falls

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Half Dome.

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This picture makes me laugh, which is why I’m including it.  We were doing some hiking, thus the pack, but we were just hanging out in the meadow at the time.  Matt told me to get in the pic of Half Dome, and the way I’m standing makes it look like I just climbed it and think I’m tough or something ;).  You can climb Half Dome, either by a hiking trail that finishes with a cable climb, or, by actual rock climbing.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I overheard someone on the shuttle saying there was a 15 year old climbing it the day we were there.  He or she is way cooler than me!

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I think this was Nevada Falls seen from the Vernal Falls footbridge hike (which was harder than I thought it would be by the way.  I’ve obviously still got some work to do post-baby).

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Vernal Falls

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I know this was Nevada Falls.  You could continue on past Vernal to get there.  The week after we left, a teenager on a church trip died after being swept over the edge.  Very sad!

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Loving this, but I’m TIRED!

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After hiking and Taylor’s nap!

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Another beautiful and favorite Valley shot!  God’s handiwork is AMAZING!

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Tunnel View without mist.  I could have sat there all day I think.  We actually saw a couple get engaged while we there!

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Half Dome from Glacier Point

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Nevada and Vernal falls from above

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Matt showing Taylor the sights =).  Have I said “Love this picture” enough?

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Hanging out on Glacier Point =).

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The absolutely YUMMY chocolate truffle from the Ahwahnee Hotel in the Valley.  Forget camping, THIS hotel is the place I want to stay if we ever come back =).  Expensive, but such a neat place.  I allowed myself to splurge on the chocolate while touring the hotel.

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And we end with this….Taylor on the shuttle ride back to our car, with an hour long drive back to our campground still ahead of us.  This is what she thinks of it ;).  In all seriousness, she did great.  No break downs, slept well, and made friends wherever she went!

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We loved Yosemite!

Golden Gate Bridge and Muir Woods

One of the most iconic bridges in the country, and probably the world, is the Golden Gate Bridge.  According to http://goldengatebridge.org/research/facts.php, it is currently the 9th longest suspension bridge in the world.  Of course, the famous prison, Alcatraz, is located in the San Francisco Bay as well.  More info at http://www.nps.gov/alca/index.htm if you are interested.

We took a walking path on the southern end of the bridge; we also drove over the bridge and took some pictures from what is called the Marin Headlands area.  I had found out about this area from tripadvisor.com.  Many said it was the most beautiful shot of the bridge, the bay, and the city, and I would agree.  The drive itself looks almost like a shot from England, not California!

From the bottom/bay:

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We tried for a good picture….oh well.  It was a bit windy =).

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From above:

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Muir Woods National Monument is about a thirty minute drive from the bridge on the other side of the bay.  It is an old growth coastal redwood forest that, due to logging, is one of the few places these trees are still found in the United States.  It is named after John Muir, a writer and activist that helped to preserve this area as well as several other wilderness areas in the Sierra Nevada region of California.  It was established as a national park by FDR.  He died shortly before the United Nations Conference that year, and the conference was held in the Cathedral Grove of Muir Woods in his honor.

There is a main walking loop in the park, which takes you through much of the forest (flat and easy-about 2-3 miles total if you wish to do the whole thing), as well as several other more difficult hikes that take you into the surrounding areas.  Obviously, it is quite difficult to capture an entire redwood tree in one picture.  I did my best =).

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Next post: Yosemite!!

California Dreamin’

I am excited to share the pictures of God’s creation that we were able to see this last few weeks!  Several people have asked me where exactly we went and how this trip got put together, so I thought I would start there.

We had originally planned on going to Glacier NP this summer. We had enough points for a free flight, so we would fly into Spokane and drive to Glacier. In March, Matt found out he had a work meeting in Sunnyvale, CA, during the first week of June. This also happened to be scheduled the week before his annual trip with his college friends from Oklahoma Christian. So, we decided to change our plan and make two summer trips into one with a work meeting in the middle =). This allowed Matt’s flights to be almost covered by work, and my flights to be covered by points.

We flew from Nashville to San Jose, CA, and we “Priceline-d” a hotel and stayed there two nights. We were able to drive into San Francisco for the day on Sunday, as well as shop for groceries to use for the week while camping. From there, we drove to Yosemite NP and camped three nights. We then drove to Fresno, CA for more groceries and a laundromat before making our way back into the mountains of Kings Canyon and Sequoia NPs.  We camped in Sequoia two nights.  Then, we drove across the state over to the coast. We camped one night in Morro Bay, CA, drove up the Pacific Coast Highway the next day, and stayed in another hotel I got off Priceline that night in Monterey, CA.  This ended the family vacay part of the trip; we headed back to Sunnyvale, CA for three nights while Matt was working.  After his meetings ended, we flew out that night to Austin, TX, and we stayed four nights with his friends there!  A lot of packing, unpacking, repacking, and moving around, but, it all turned out very well. We saw some beautiful places, Taylor did great the entire time, and we enjoyed our time with friends.

My favorite things about this area of CA: there are so many.  I loved it out there. Beautiful weather all the time, beautiful scenery, and amazing food.  Everything is fresh and often organic; it’s all grown nearby!  There is a Whole Foods and a Jamba Juice in every town. There are a lot of yummy ethnic restaurants in the Silicon Valley area, because frankly, so many of the tech jobs are held by people that are not originally from the U.S.  There are no plastic sacks to be found anywhere, and you can do U turns while driving =).  My least favorite part about CA: the traffic. That was about it!!

I will be posting more in the next few days with lots of pictures, but at least for now, maybe it is a little more clear as to where we went and what we were doing!

Some much needed sunshine!

Over the last four years, we have been a host family for a Lipscomb student named Rado from Madagascar.  It has been such a blessing to see him grow and learn and for him and his friends and family to become part of our family.  After graduation, he took a job in Jacksonville, Florida.  He moved the week after Taylor was born, so we were unable to go down and help.

Every year, Southwest runs a really good deal on flights for the winter season.  It usually comes out in the fall, and the prices are good for travel December-February, excluding Christmas and New Years.  Usually, they run flights for as cheap as $50 one way; this year, certain flights were 40% off.  We decided that winter would be a great time to visit Rado in Jacksonville, and, we were able to get the flights for $67 each way.  Yeah!

We were there for three days; Sunday was cool and drizzly (though not as cold as home!), but the other two days were absolutely perfect.  70 and sunny.  On Saturday, Matt and Rado played some volleyball with friends at a park right next to the beach, while I lathered the sunscreen on Baby Taylor and took her to the beach for the first time.  She loved it!  We walked out on the pier at Jacksonville Beach and saw several really neat birds.

That night, we went downtown and walked around, as well as rode a boat around the bay area.  It was only $3 a person and was really fun!  There was also a neat little fountain area with “dancing water” and colored lights that Taylor was quite amused by.

On Sunday, we visited St. Augustine.  Instead of taking the interstate, we drove down the coastline.  We got to see lots of million dollar homes, as well as some very pretty beaches!  St. Augustine is only about 45 minutes away, so it was not a bad drive at all.

Like I said before, it was cool and rainy that day, but we did walk around the “old town” area, which has been converted into a sort of outdoor shopping area with a lot of eateries.  There are several old churches and buildings, and the Castillo de San Marcos National Monument was across the street for there.  I wanted to go in, and it was rated well on Trip Advisor, but there was a fee to enter.  Taylor was starting to get restless as well, so we chose not to go.  I thought it was a neat town.  I was surprised at how “tourist-y” the area was though; I think I had expected more of just historical places to see and walk around in.

On Monday, Matt, Taylor, and I went looking for the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve.  We were able to meet several of Rado’s friends, and one of his coworkers likes to surf a lot.  He had told us about this place and how nice it was; he surfs there pretty regularly.   We ended up at the Little Talbot Island State Park (which was part of the preserve or near it…I got confused =).  It was a nice area with trails, campsites, and marshes that you can kayak in.  The beach was almost untouched and secluded; it was really nice!  If we go back, I want to kayak the area. It looked awesome!

We had a wonderful weekend.  I know there are several other things to do in the area, and this post is in no way inclusive, but really, we just enjoyed hanging out together and seeing what Rado’s life is like there.  It was just what we all needed!!

 

Jax Beach

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I kinda like this place….

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Pier on the Beach

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St. Augustine

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This picture was taken just a few minutes before she fell asleep in her stroller…can you tell =)?

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I didn’t realize that St. Augustine was a site of an important civil rights march.

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This is the site of a former slave market.  It really bothered me as I stood there to wonder what pain was caused by the actions at this site.

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Talbot Island State Parks

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I will go with Daddy anywhere!

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And finally, a few beach pictures of our beautiful little girl.  I couldn’t resist =).  She loved the beach!

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