November 30, 2010

11/30/10 – Pinnacles NP

Next place we stayed was at 1000 Trails San Benito.  It was cold there—the water hoses froze one night—but from there we were just down the road from Pinnacles NP.
George hated the country around there, but I thought it was interesting.  I didn’t realize that he was so resistant to places that don’t look like home.  Could be a long trip…
We stopped at the Visitor Center and the ranger suggested a trail for us to take.  The pinnacles the park is named for are interesting, but the Talus Caves are super cool.  Do you know what Talus Caves are?  I didn’t!  Talus caves are formed when an earthquake causes great big rocks to fall down on top of other rocks, leaving a “cave” under the rocks you can walk through.  In some places you can actually see these giant boulders balanced on top of two other rocks.  We had to take flashlights because one section was fairly long.  There are rock stairs that were built by the CCC in the 1930s that really make the hike easier.

We hiked up through Bear Gulch and to the Reservoir.  We saw black tail deer, LOTS of quail, and later, a coyote with the prettiest coat I’ve ever seen on a wild canid.
They do a lot of rock climbing at Pinnacles, so there are signs all over that let you know which rocks are climbable, with pictures of a carabinerMy favorite was labeled “Tourist Trap”. 

If you want to see more Pinnacles NP pictures, check out some more on this link:  Pinnacles NP

November 28, 2010

11/24-26/10 – Monterey Peninsula

After Yosemite, the next 1000 Trails resort we stayed at was Morgan Hill.  It’s nestled among vineyards, and there are wild turkeys all around the campground.  Since it was Thanksgiving week, George thought that was pretty handy, but I talked him out of his original idea. 
On Wednesday, we took a drive down through the Watsonville valley to Monterey.  We wandered around Cannery Row for a while, taking pictures of each other with the Steinbeck bust and the bay.   
I’ve always wanted to see the Monarch Butterflies that winter in Cypress Grove.  It was a little late in the afternoon when we got there, but some other people pointed out where they were clustered up in the branches of the eucalyptus trees.  I thought they would be on the tree trunks, but apparently they like to pretend they’re leaves.  Too dark to see much, so we didn’t hang around very long.
The day after Thanksgiving we went back to Monterey.  First thing we did was head back to the Monarch Grove Sanctuary.  It was sunny but still hard to really see the butterflies up in the trees.  George really needs a BIG telephoto lens for his new camera….(sigh)
Next stop was Point Pinos Lighthouse right there in Cypress Grove, and then on to the 17-Mile Drive.  I’d been there before, when they didn’t charge to go on the drive.  George wasn’t convinced it was worth the money—at least at first.  There are, of course, golf courses all over the place, and George was more interested in them than the ocean.  Eventually you couldn’t see the golf courses, so he started taking pictures of blue water and rocks.  We stopped at Seal Rock, Cypress Point, Ghost Tree, and all the other stops along the way.  Lots of people and sometimes it was hard to find a place to stick that big truck.

Eventually we came to the Pebble Beach Golf Course.  You’re probably not surprised that we stopped.  George got souvenirs at the Pro Shop, and we walked down to the 18th hole.  I really do think he took a lot more pictures than I did.  Hmmm... 
More pictures from Monterey:  Monterey Peninsula

November 25, 2010

11/16-17/10 – Yosemite NP

We stayed at a 1000 Trails resort called “Yosemite Lakes”.  It’s obviously higher there than where we've been, and colder.  Most of the park was shut down for the winter—that includes heat in the showers.  They only turned it on at 6:00 am, and it took a couple of hours to warm up to almost bearable.  I am so not into winter camping!  Sign on the bathroom door had a reminder to close it tightly so you won’t be surprised to share it with critters.   Oh, goodie…
 It’s only 5 miles from the Big Oak Flat entrance of Yosemite on Highway 120, so we actually went to the park two days in a row.  There had been snow a couple of days before and the Tioga Pass road was closed through the park, although it was reopened while we were talking to the ranger at the Visitor Center.  Evidence of the 2009 fire showed clearly from the Big Valley Lookout. 
We stopped to take the short trail to Bridalveil Fall.  (I learned from the park brochure that you don’t add the “s” to Fall–unless you’re talking about two waterfallS.  If you want more on the English lesson, let me know.)  Pretty walk along a little creek to the base of the fall.  George started talking to retired couple from the UK, vacationing in the US for a month.  We blocked the walkway for a while talking to them, then George ended up exchanging names and e-mail addresses.   On the way back, we saw a doe with a couple of fawns.  (Awwww…)
What can I say about Yosemite that someone else hasn’t already said better?  We took pictures of El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls (that would be Lower Yosemite Fall AND Upper Yosemite Fall). 
Even though it’s the middle of November, and there aren’t any (well, at least not many) kids, there are still quite a few people.  Not as bad as if we were here in July, but we still had to park way-the-hell-and-gone from Yosemite Village, and then tromp to the Visitor’s Center.  A very nice Ranger helped us figure out the best hikes to take.  We weren’t ready for the strenuous ones yet, especially at Yosemite—we figured we could handle “Easy” and sometimes “Moderate”, as long as they weren’t a zillion miles long. 
It’s nice being here during the off-season, but one thing you don’t think about is that although the crowds aren’t as big—there’s not as much daylight either, especially when you’re in a valley surrounded by tall granite walls.   
We hiked to the lower fall, a really pretty trail through the forest, complete with boardwalk and rocky stream.  The hike to the Upper Fall is full of steep switchbacks and takes several hours.  Not this trip!
We then wandered the Cooks Meadow Loop, where you can actually get a picture of all 3 Yosemite Falls (Lower, Middle & Upper) at the same time.  There’s not usually so much water still flowing this time of year, but it’s been rainy in northern California this fall.
I think that every pilot that flies to or from SFO detours over Yosemite, no matter what his destination is.   I have never seen so many contrails! 
 The next day we went back.  Hey, if you’re only parked 5 miles away from the park and you’ve got a Golden Age Passport (it’s George’s—he got old first so it’s in his name) so it doesn’t cost anything to visit national parks, then why not go a second time???
Back to the Visitor’s Center to decide what to do, then walked about ½ mile to the trailhead, and the 1.7 mile Mirror Lake Loop Trail.  It’s mostly paved—think it’s an old road bed—that follows the Merced River, then over the river and through the woods.  J 
There was a family group pushing a little one in a stroller.  They sounded maybe Eastern European; they seemed more interested in looking for mushrooms than anything else.  Mirror Lake is actually two little pools that are only there seasonally.  By the time we took pictures, George’s camera battery was dying and Half Dome was blocking the light, so we headed back…

We left the next morning about 6 hours before a big snowstorm hit.  Once again we lucked out with the weather. 

November 11, 2010

11/10/10 – Whiskeytown-Shasta-Trinity NRA

While we were in Redding, at the suggestion of the resort manager, we took a drive out to Shasta. It had been the capitol of California at one time, but now it's mostly ghost town. It's odd to see all those old buildings along a state highway. It's gold rush country in the Klamath mountains, and we walked around the old buildings looking back into history.
We drove on up to Whiskeytown Lake where a friendly ranger at the Visitor's Center suggested a hike to Crystal Falls, but when we got to the forestry road, we found it closed and under construction.

We continued on to Weaverville, but ended up turning around and headed back to Redding. Nice drive through the mountains. George doesn't mind switchbacks sans trailer.

11/9/10 - Sundial Bridge

Our weather angel was with us as we crossed the Siskiyous just in time to miss a storm. We drove directly into horizontal snow, tiny dry flakes that made me happy we were going downhill and south. All we could see of Mt. Shasta was the base.
When we were signing in at the Green Acres RV resort, I asked the owner for suggestions on what to see in Redding. She said we shouldn't miss the Sundial Bridge—it was famous all over the world for its unique design. Okay—good enough for me. It was gray and misty, but we're from Seattle, so it wasn't a challenge to us. We did dig out an umbrella in case we wanted to be recognized as tourists, but left it in the truck when we got to Turtle Bay Exposition Park. There are a couple of museums and an arboretum, but they were already closed. Idiot fishermen were still wading around in the Sacramento River though, freezing important appendages off while waiting for steelhead to bite.
There were a couple of women there, one an official-looking photographer and the other a model. They came up with some odd poses, but it was kind of interesting to watch. We kept getting in each other's pictures so we just wandered around a bit on one side before they finished on the bridge and headed towards one of the trails.
The Sundial Bridge really does look like a sundial. The deck is made of glass panels which are supposed to be non-skid, but I was expecting them to be slippery in the rain and walked cautiously. The support tower works as the gnomon (yes, I looked it up!), although we never could figure out where you were supposed to read the time. Doesn't matter because I'm retired now and don't have to focus on a clock anymore. All I need to know is what day of the week it is…

November 10, 2010

11/7/10 – Redwood NP & SP

We stayed in a little county park in Grants Pass, Oregon, for a few days. My cousin Charlotte lives in GP and I lugged my dirty laundry to her house one day while George played golf.
The next day we left Grants Pass to head south to the Redwoods. We drove through Cave Junction with windshield wipers pushing raindrops—we could have been doing the same thing in Washington.
The drive down to Crescent City on 101 wasn't technically part of the NP, but there were some really big trees there. The rain had turned into a mist, with fog strands lingering in the distance, clouds beginning to break up.
Redwood National Forest is a joint endeavor with California State Parks. Not quite sure how that works. Park headquarters is in Crescent City where the ocean shimmered under ragged blue skies. We stopped for a park map and advice from the ranger on hikes.
If you've never seen the Redwoods, those are some mighty tall trees! The one they call "Big Tree"—easy hike among the trees and ferns along a sodden trail—is 287' tall and 21' around; the top was knocked off by lightning many years ago but it still impresses with its size.
Even the trees that have been burned are fascinating. Some of them are heavily damaged by fire, leaving only a remnant of trunk standing around an empty core, but there's new growth at the top. Keep in mind that new growth on a Redwood could be a few hundred years old. Not only are they tall and big around—they're also very old.
Next we hiked the "Lady Bird Johnson Commemorative Loop". If you're not old enough to remember who she was, she was the First Lady in the mid-60's. Wonder if she actually hiked the trail, or if they took her out on a golf cart or something? You cross an elevated wooden bridge from the parking lot over the road. Elevation was a bit higher on the trail, so it was more open.
There's more Redwoods farther south but we were going to be out of daylight before we got back to the trailer in Grants Pass so we turned around just north of Orick. We had seen an elk herd in a meadow on the way south. By the time we came back they had moved down the road and crossed it and were browsing happily on the grass in somebody's yard. There were several large bulls among them, so it was obviously past mating season conflicts.

November 6, 2010

11/3/10 – John Day Fossil Beds (Clarno Unit)

Our very first National Park! Well, that's not counting parks that we've visited on other trips before we retired, of course. And John Day Fossil Beds isn't really a National Park—it's a National Monument. Apparently NPs have a higher status, get more money, and have more rules. Hunting is allowed in NMs. And I think some of the land within the part is privately owned—you should probably check on that.

There are 3 "Units" at John Day Fossil Beds—spread all over central Oregon. My original plan was that we'd swing by the northernmost Unit on the way to our next 1000 Trails RV resort so we wouldn't have to backtrack so far. Then we'd check out the other two units (Painted Hills & Sheep Rock) later.

So as we're headed south on US97, I suggested we take one of those "roads least traveled" to get to the Fossil Beds. On my map, it showed a little red line going south, then east across an unshaded section of the grid. To me that signified more-or-less flat, or at least no big mountains. There were some little grey squiggles for a mountain range a little further east, but no passes were shown or even little tiny numbers identifying the elevation of a mountain. How would I know the little red curve on the map disguised a twisty, windy, narrow, steep road downhill???? George wasn't yet comfortable being pushed by the trailer, so he was a tad upset…I'm not sure he even registered the views of the layers of hills off to the side. He doesn't swear, but the atmosphere in the truck was both sizzling and frosty.
Enroute to John Day Fossil Beds
(Digression: Ever wonder why those roads are least traveled? It's because most people are smart enough not to venture onto them for some pretty valid reasons. Few of these roads are marked with warnings to avoid them with a trailer.) 
Once we got to the park, we parked and walked up to the picnic area for a rather silent lunch, then loaded up the cameras and hit the trails. There are 3 really short trails right there at the Palisades:

1. Geologic Time Trail from the picnic area to the trailhead with interpretive signs that explain pre-historic events that caused the landscape to look like it does. (I walked this one, while George drove the trailer down to the trailhead area.)

Moving the trailer

2. Trail of the Fossils with lots of huge boulders that fell from the cliffs have fossils in them. The tree trunk was pretty obvious, but I couldn't always see the leaves…

George checking out the fossils

3. Clarno Arch Trail climbed up to the base of the Palisades cliff so you were just below an arch created by erosion. 

Clarno Arch

When we left there, we decided not to attempt the other 2 units this time around. And, even more importantly, we stayed on OR218 to get back to US97 and on to 1000 Trails Sun River at Bend. We had the GPS (we call her Gertie) telling us which way to get to the resort, and it was fine until we got to Bend. She then took us through town around a zillion traffic circles, then out of town to the resort. The road kept going up and up….and up. There was snow at the side of the road. We saw signs to Mt. Bachelor! We're still pulling the trailer. We don't have chains for either truck or trailer! George was getting testy again…so we found a place to turn around and go back to town, back around all those traffic circles and back to US97, with Gertie "recalculating" all the way!
Gertie was apparently trying to take us west on the scenic route to the ski resort then south to Sunriver (approx. 40 miles), rather than take us straight down 97 (10 miles), definitely not something we wanted to do at dusk in snow country. There doesn't seem to be a way to program common sense into a GPS unit, so I did the next best thing and put her on mute! 

We only stayed 2 days at that campground. Lots of deer grazing around the trailer, which I thought was pretty cool. We left Bend before an expected snowstorm, and headed south and west to Grants Pass to visit my cousin Charlotte.