Category Archives: California

Central California – Throwback Thursday

“The mountains are calling, and I must go.”

John Muir

Yosemite National Park has always been high on our list of places to visit, but seemed out of reach for an RV trip in our working days.  In early 2005, we happened upon round trip tickets to Sacremento from Chicago Midway on Southwest Airlines for $99 each, so we made plans to head west and check it out without the RV. After touring the California state capitol, we headed to Yosemite.  Our base while we were in the area was the unique Penon Blanco Lookout bed and breakfast in Coulterville.  One of the great features of Penon Blanco was the stocked refrigerator in our room.  Each day, we would head out with our cooler packed with their drinks, and they would refill the fridge each day…no additional charge.  They would even replace the beer and wine!  (That policy appears to have changed since then, per their website). We stopped at the local deli each day to stock up on food, which allowed us to picnic outdoors.  As a result, we felt like we were still on an RV vacation!

When we arrived in Yosemite Valley, we were awestruck.

  

Yosemite was everything we had hoped it would be.  The vistas were simply amazing.  As a bonus, we were fortunate to be able to experience the valley with the waterfalls flowing heavier than they normally would be in the summer months.  This was due to the heavy snowpack in the Sierras from the previous winter. What a difference between then and the drought conditions that exist now!

  

Here is El Capitan standing proud against a gorgeous blue sky.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Yosemite, El Capitan is the largest granite monolith in the world.

  

From the lookout at Washburn Point, visitors really get a sense of the magnitude of the valley.  Here is a profile photo of Half Dome as viewed from the west.

  

Looking north from the northern edge of Glacier Point, Yosemite Falls can be seen across the valley.

  

Looking back east, the valley appears in all of it’s grandeur.  It is easy to see why Ansel Adams loved to use Yosemite as a subject of his photographs.

  

Yosemite is also home to a stand of Giant Sequoia trees.  Some of the trees in the Mariposa Grove are 3000 years old.  Looking up at one of these beauties really puts things in perspective, in terms of a human’s lifespan.

While we were there, we decided to spend one day exploring the eastern side of the Sierras.

  

On our way across on Tioga Road, we saw this view of Half Dome from it’s eastern side.  Most Yosemite visitors don’t get to see this side of the landmark.

  

Heading across Tioga Pass, we encountered leftover snow from the previous winter.  It is always fun to see the white stuff in mid summer!

  

Our destination for the day was the old mining town of Bodie, California.  Now a state park, Bodie is well preserved by the dry conditions that exist on the east side of the Sierras.  We definitely want to spend more time in this town!  On our way back, we encountered a young couple who were hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  They had gotten off the trail to get supplies, and we’re trying to get back to camp before sundown.  We had rented a Ford Expedition and had plenty of room, so they got a ride from us back to camp.  They were fairly ‘ripe’ from hiking, but it was fun to talk with them about their experience. We don’t usually pick up hitchhikers, but it seemed pretty obvious to us that they were thru-hikers.

Once we left Yosemite, we headed to San Francisco for a few days.  Our base in the City By The Bay was the Marriott Fisherman’s Wharf.

  

Here is Lombard Street, which is billed as the ‘crookedest street in the world’.  It was fun to walk down the sidewalk, and was even more fun to drive!

  

Getting a chance to ride one of the famous cable cars was a special treat for us Midwestern kids.  đź™‚

While we were there, we ventured up Columbus Avenue to a restaurant called Mama’s.  Our breakfast that morning became the benchmark to which all others are measured for us.  Simply outstanding.

  

Across the street from Mama’s is Washington Square Park.  Each morning, the local residents begin their day with Tai Chi.  It was fascinating to watch.

Once we left San Francisco, we headed north along the coast.  The coastal fog was very thick that day, so we asked a local if there was any chance at seeing the sun.  We were told to drive north to Tomales and if the fog hadn’t lifted by then, head east to Sonoma Valley and skip the coast.  That is what ended up happening.

Sonoma was enchanting, and we thoroughly enjoyed our time there.  We toured many of the shops in the area and visited a couple of wineries.

  

We took a tour of the Benziger Family Winery, which was very interesting.  Here is a photo of their cellar.

  

It was here that we learned how a winery uses the topography of it’s property to produce various types of grapes.  It all has to do with the amount of sun a vine receives each day as to what variety is grown on a specific parcel.

After we finished up at Sonoma, we headed to Napa Valley to tour more wineries.  Once we got there, we realized that Napa was geared more towards production and was not as quaint.  Next time through, we plan on focusing more of our time in Sonoma.

So thanks to some great airfare, we made a trip that might have otherwise been delayed until our retirement.  John Muir’s words struck a chord with us, and we are glad we followed in his footsteps.