Tag Archives: california

Carmel-By-The-Sea Day Trip, Point Lobos and Mission Carmel

~K~

Just about an hour and a half south of us here in San Jose lies the world famous Carmel by the sea. While we’ve visited Monterey, which is just a few miles north, we had yet to really take in Carmel.

The picturesque location of mountains meeting the sea shore gives no wonder to why it’s such a popular day trip for many in the Bay Area. We had been back in California for a couple months at this point, and I was really itching to get a good coastal hike. After some research I decided I wanted to go to Point Lobos State National Reserve and Briana planned a couple other stops for our time down there such as Mission San Carlos Borromeo del río Carmelo (better known as Mission Carmel). 

Whaler's Cove Point Lobos

Mission

Stairs At Mission Carmel

We arrived at the Mission just after noon on a very clear and somewhat warm Sunday. It was pretty busy, as it is an operating mission, but we managed to get parking easily enough and made our way in to see the site.

The campus is large, and a perfect example of a classic Spanish Mission: adobe plaster, warm colored brick, and ceramic tile roofs. Mission Carmel had a distinct charm and personality to it, one that I find perfectly characterized by it’s crooked window above the entrance to the church.

Fountain At Mission Carmel

The grounds were well landscaped with numerous flowers and fountains. Throughout the compound there were also numerous rooms that we could visit that held various histories and artifacts related to the Mission and surrounding area.

Chapel Entrance At Mission Carmel
Fountain At Mission Carmel

The mission was established June 3, 1770. The mission served primarily to baptize the native Ohlone Indian population. It reached a peak of 927 members in 1794, but had dwindled back down to 381 by 1823.

Graveyard At Mission Carmel

The missions was secularized in 1833 by the Mexican government and slowly fell into ruin and disrepair until the Roman Catholic Church regained authority of the mission in 1863, with extensive restoration beginning in 1931.

Tomb At Mission Carmel

Today the mission serves multiple roles as a museum, working mission, and minor basilica.

Display In Mission Carmel

Carmelite Monastery

We also planned on visiting the Carmelite Monastery on our way to Point Lobos. I had thought this would make for a good starting point to our Point Lobos excursion. I was wrong – but it was still a nice stop.

Carmelite Monastery Monterey

The Monastery is mostly closed off to visitors. While you can visit, you will need to set up an appointment first. With that being said, you can walk around the grounds and enjoy the sea breeze.

Bri in The Carmelite Monastery Garden
Carmelite Monastery Garden

Point Lobos

Having parked at Monastery Beach, which sits across the street from the Carmelite Monastery, we made our way along the beach in search for the trail into Point Lobos. The maps online are very misleading, because it appears that you can enter the park via a trail at the far end of Monastery Beach – you cannot do this. As such, we walked about a mile up the road to main entrance to the park. It also turns out this is the only entrance into the park.

Monastery Beach
Warning Sign for Monastery Beach

Parking costs $10, however, there is no charge for people just walking in as we did. When you enter the park, you are a little bit away from the actual coast. Because of this, we set off for Whaler’s Cove via the Carmelo Meadow Trail.

Forest Trail through Point Lobos

Whaler’s Cove is the largest cove in Point Lobos, and it offers stunning views the seashore. Upon arriving, we were treated to a fresh breeze and picturesque landscapes. We slowly made our way around the top of the cliff sides until we reached a boat launch.

Whaler's Cove Panoramic

Here at the boat launch, we were treated to a great surprise: a Sea Otter with her pup, eating crabs. We sat here and watched for nearly a half hour before proceeding on. It was mesmerizing to watch the wildlife here, and we managed to snap a few other pics of the local sea life.

Sea Otter Eating A Crab
Crab on the Rocks

From here, we proceeded up a trail along the cliff edge and continued on the trim around the coastal trail. Here you can find a small whaling museum to visit. The museum features stuff such as the equipment used by whalers, whale bones, and baleen.

Whaling Display Near Museum
Bri With Whale Bones

Cannery Point offered a great view of the ocean (as did most spots). Artists sometimes will take advantage of the location.

Overlooking Whaler's Cove
Man Painting At Point Lobos

We kept on, passing through Big Dome and Cypress Coves before beginning to head back. While we only saw half the park at this point, we were beginning to get tired and the sun was beginning to go down, and we wanted to get back home before dark (we didn’t).

Cypress Cove Point Lobos

So when we came to a trail junction near Headland Cove, we turned inward back towards the park entrance. The park was very well maintained, so these trails in the interior were well manicured, paved, or had wooden walkways.

Meandering Trail In Point Lobos

The southern half of Point Lobos is considered phenomenal as well, as we plan on eventually making our way back to see the rest of the park. For those interested, you can also go scuba diving here and if you catch the park in the right season you can see whales and seals as well.

Sea Otter In Whaler's Cove Point Lobos

Bear Gulch Reservoir Hidden behind Mountain at Pinnacles National Park California from the High Peaks Trail

Pinnacles National Park California

~K~

We’ve visited Pinnacles National Park previously about two years ago, but this time around we decided to take a slightly different route through Bear Gulch cave and then up to the High Peaks pass. Pinnacles is just under a two hours drive south of San Jose and makes for a great day trip, and we’d been itching to go since we arrived back in California.

Rock formation at Trailhead

The park itself offers more than 16,000 acres of dramatic spines of rock and and fallen boulders. And this time of year is a great time to visit because the weather compliments the location pretty well. In the summer it can get hot and the sun brutal. But spring is great because the recent rains have turned the landscape green and vibrant with wildflowers and the temperature allows for a comfortable climb.

Creek In Pinnacles National Park

We arrived at a seemingly inopportune time; as this is the best time of year to visit, the park can get crowded pretty quick, and with us arriving at noon we had to wait about fifteen minutes before we could get parking, but that was about our only set back.

We parked near the trailhead for Bear Gulch and began making our way towards our first destination – Bear Gulch caves. The path gently rose, through the well shaded riparian forest and rising monoliths of stone.

Rock Formation near trail head
Path to Bear Gulch

We could see numerous rock climbers taking advantage of the excellent climbing conditions here as we approached the cave. Just before entering the cave, we could feel a strong cool breeze blowing out from the entrance. The breeze was refreshing, but quite decidedly chilly.

Rock Climbers near Bear Gulch at Pinnacles National Park
Tunnel on the way to Bear Gulch Cave
Passage on the way to Bear Gulch Cave
Entering Bear Gulch

The caves themselves are Talus caves, formed from rock falls in valleys and canyons, where the falling boulders would become wedged in the narrow spaces and form the roof and interior layout of the caves.

Talus Rock Roof Inside Bear Gulch Cave

Bear Gulch cave was a little bit larger than Balconies Cave (which we had previously visited) and was a little more challenging to get through as well. We enjoyed the challenge though. The primary obstacle was the water, as a small stream flowed through the cave and many times the stream crossed the path or even was the path.

flooded path in Bear Gulch Cave
Part of the path inside Bear Gulch is the River itself

Numerous waterfalls were inside the cave as we proceeded through the roughly half mile cave, and we steadily climbed up the rocks. The passages were quite narrow and ceilings low, so scrambling on rocks and wedging into tight spaces was a must. The most difficult part (for me at least) was getting through a small passage that could only have been maybe 3 feet high at the max and shimmying up a stepped waterfall.

Waterfall inside Bear Gulch Cave
Pool inside Bear Gulch Cave
Light from above in Bear Gulch Cave

After about thirty minutes we emerged from the cave, miraculously completely dry, although I suffered a few bumps on the head from the low ceilings. The caves are home to Townsend’s big-eared bats, and are closed throughout the year to allow them to raise pups in peace. Due to the narrow nature of the caves, they can also close due to rain.

Exiting Bear Gulch Cave

Upon exiting the cave, we came to Bear Gulch reservoir. The reservoir is a nice lake, home to the endangered red-legged frog. While we could have stayed here for a while, as others were, we knew that we still had a long hike to go and only so much daylight, so we proceeded on up the path towards High Peaks.

Bear Gulch Reservoir

The rocky trail winds its up way steadily up for several miles, passing through meadow, sparse woods, and ridge line. The floor falls away pretty quickly as you climb and you can begin to see the surrounding landscape.

Rising Above Pinnacles National Park

Pinnacles National Park was originally established in 1908 by President Roosevelt as a National Monument and later converted into a national park in 2013 by President Obama. Pinnacles sits squarely atop the San Andreas fault, and as such the park and surrounding areas have been dramatically shaped by the seismic activities. The dramatic formations of the park are part of what remains of the Neenach Volcano, which erupted 23 million years ago, down near Lancaster. The fault has since moved the roughly half the rock 195 miles north to it’s present day location in the Salinas Valley.

Rock Stack on way to High Peaks

After an hour or so, we began to near the High Peaks area. The spires of stone stand with a dramatic hue of orange and red against the green hills. Within another thirty minutes or so, we finally made it to the “top”.

Approaching the High Peaks
Climbing towards High Peaks

This isn’t really the top of the mountain, rather it’s a convergence of several trails at a scenic overlook. Here, you can often see falcons and other birds going about their business. We had stopped here our previous time for lunch, but had to run down the canyon due to an abrupt lightning and hail storm. This time however, the skies were completely clear.

From this point, where you’ll also find a restroom if you should need it, you can proceed multiple ways. Our direction was through the High Peaks trail, which follows the ridge line of the mountain.

The hike through here is a lot of quick up and down, climbing very steep and narrow stairs. There are also several tight walkways to maneuver. Luckily, the park has installed railings to assist you through here.

More Stairs at Pinnacles National Park
Steep stairs at High Peaks Pass

You can also find tons of multi-colored lichen and slime molds on the rocks throughout the park.

Lichen at Pinnacles National Park

As we were finishing our way through the High Peaks area, we came a stunning view of the resident Californian Condor. Brought back from the brink of extinction, all the birds present are descended from the original 27 birds that were left on earth. The breeding program has been a huge success and brought their numbers up now to 435. Pinnacles serves as a release site for the Condors and if you look closely, you can even see the tag numbers and find out who they are.

Narrow Paths in the High Peaks Paths
California Condor

Most of the Condors were a little too far away from us to get a real good look at, but there was one in a tree near the trail that decided to pose well for us. The tag reads 00. This Condor was laid in the wild, and hatched (under care of researchers) in April 2015. You can find more information about the specific Condors here.

California Condor Landing on a Tree
California Condor No. 800 at Pinnacles National Park

After spending probably twenty minutes watching the Condors (if not more), we steadily made our way towards the Condor Gulch trail. By this time, the sun was starting to get low, being that it was already nearly 6, so we knew we needed to pick up the pace to get down the mountain and make it back to the car before sun down.

Along this route, we encountered the numerous wildflowers present along the trail. There are also numerous bees in the area, due to the flowers. In fact, Pinnacles hosts the highest density of bee species in the world with 400 different species. Most of them are solitary bees though, not hive-dwelling, so you don’t need to worry about being stung.

wild flowers at pinnacles national park
wild flowers at Pinnacles National Park
Wild flowers at Pinnacles National Park
I call them Bee Bonnets

Condor gulch made for a nice walk down as the sun set and the temperature began to drop. The flowers, fresh air, and gurgling streams made for a nice end to a pretty strenuous walk. We were pretty happy for the route we chose as well, because I don’t think we would have been quite as up for traversing the caves at this late a point in the day.

Finally we got to the car, as the Condor Gulch trail put us out right at the parking lot that we had left roughly 6 hours previously. Tired, but happy, we started our long drive back to San Jose.

If you plan on visiting Pinnacles, you should keep in mind that there are two entrances to the park. SR 146 approaches from both the east and west, but it is not a through road, and takes about two hours to get drive from one entrance to the other, so make sure you enter where you want to. We entered from the eastern side, which is just a little south of Hollister; whereas the western entrance is just east of Salinas.

west parking lot viewed from High Peaks trail at Pinnacles National Park

Both entrances are good locations with full access to the park, though the western entrance will put you closer to Balconies cave, while the east entrance puts you nearer Bear Gulch cave. As well, you make sure you bring enough water, especially in the summer. If on a relatively cool day in spring such as our visit, we went through six bottles of water and could (should) have drunk more.

Regardless, Pinnacles National Park is an excellent spot to visit for hiking, camping, or even night hikes.

National Park Service Website

 

Sunset near Hollister California

If you want to camp at Pinnacles National Park, you absolutely can. There is a campground, but only on the eastern side of the park, so you must approach from Hollister, not Salinas. The campground has 134 sites, so you shouldn’t have too much difficulty getting a place, but it may fill up during the spring season which is the ideal time to go. You can camp all year, but you may want to be wary about the summer and early fall as it can be extremely hot. In any case, you’ll most likely want to get a shaded camping spot if possible. There is a camp store that is well stocked for what it is, but you should still pack carefully as the closest supermarket is in Hollister, 32 miles away. There are also showers and flush toilets on site for you to use.

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California USA Pinnacles National Park

View of Pinnacles National Park California

Hike in the South Bay

Santa Teresa County Park Hike

~B~

Yesterday we went on a short hike in Santa Teresa County Park. Santa Teresa is only about fifteen minutes away from our place making it an ideal spot to hike. In the winter it’s nice and green, and this year it is especially so with all the rain we’ve been getting. Kyle gets home from work pretty early and with the sun beginning to set later, we are able to go on short weekday hikes if we want. It helps a little with curbing our wanderlust and gives us some exercise and fresh air.

Here is short video just for fun.

The main reason I took/made a video this time was for some fun experimentation. I knew this would be a good place because we had already been there and it’s both a nice backdrop and not very crowded (I assumed this would especially be true during the week).

If you want to see more hikes in our area, check out our South Bay Hikes post (though it hasn’t been updated in over a year!- we’ll get on that soon) or see our North and Central America page for even more hiking posts from the bay area.

Parks and Gardens (SJ)

~B~

The Bay area is home to many beautiful parks and gardens. They are nice places to walk around, sit and relax, bring your dog, or have a picnic. We cannot recall every park and garden we went to but have written a little bit about the places we do remember:

(Note: all of them are free!)

1. San Jose Rose Garden. Considered America’s best rose garden, the San Jose Rose Garden has a variety of types of roses on several acres. There is also a nice water fountain in the middle surrounded by benches. We went here on multiple occasions. It is not always in full bloom as we once passed it once right after the roses had been cut back, but most of the time they are blooming and beautiful.

White dress and red rosesUntitledFountain in San Jose Rose Garden

2. Japanese Friendship Garden. (San Jose) Also known as Kelley Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden is actually modeled off of a garden which is in one of San Jose’s sister cities in Japan. There are 3 coy ponds, some Japanese structures and bridges, and a small waterfall. We saw people in wedding attire there on our visit which is not surprising due to the picturesque nature of the park.

Japanese Friendship GardenRed Bridge in the Friendship Garden

3. Guadelupe River Park. (San Jose). This park cuts across the city with nearly 3 miles of walking trails. Festivals and events are sometimes hosted at this park which is home to a Rose Garden (Heritage Rose Garden) and an orchard. It would be a good area for a run or a picnic.

OrchardsGuadelupe River Park

4. Overfelt Gardens. Also known as the Chinese Heritage Garden, this is a pretty place to walk around and has some nice features. Aside from the walking paths, there is a fragrance garden and some interesting structures/statues/buildings. We went on my birthday to walk around with my free birthday (and Kyle’s paid for) Baskin Robbins.

Chinese Heritage GardenOverfelt Gardens

5. Don Edwards Wildlife Refuge. Not a park or garden, but this is another nice place to take a stroll. Initially you walk on a boardwalk and then there are paths in the marshy area. The refuge is home to many different kinds of birds and other wildlife.

UntitledUntitled

6. Rosicrucian Park/Peace Garden. (San Jose) We visited Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum once and walked around the gardens a couple of times. The museum has a large collection of Egyptian artifacts and even has a rock-cut tomb replica. The garden/park is around the museum and contains a temple, planetarium and research library in addition to the actual garden areas.

Rosicrucian GardensRosicrucian Gardens

7. Gamble Gardens in Palo Alto is a smaller garden but still pretty neat. There are some shaped bushes, (which are not so uncommon on the lawns in San Jose) and it is here that we learned about free lawn bowling.

Gamble GardensSun Dial

8. Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront National Historical Park sits on the Richmond Marina and is a pretty decent-sized area to walk around and learn some of the interesting history of the area.

Richmond MarinaRosie the Riveter Park

South Bay Hikes

~B~

1. Castle Rock State Park is a very popular place to hike in San Jose. Big rocks to boulder, pretty sights to see, and it smells like Christmas. The big destination here is Goat Rock which is a large rock with caves inside and a stunning view.

Castle Rock State ParkView at Castle Rock State Park

2. Alum Rock. Founded in 1872, this park is a good place to both hike and learn more about the history of the area. Mineral springs and stonework grottos are both features of the park which is also dotted with picnic areas.

Alum RockUntitled

3. Uvas Canyon County Park. Located in the Morgan Hill area (between San Jose and Santa Cruz), this was one of our first hikes, and a very enjoyable one. The trail was mostly shaded and passed by several pretty little waterfalls.

By a WaterfallUvas Canyon County Park

4. Maisie’s Peak. Another place we got lost but eventually made our way to the top which has a great view.

Maisie's PeakMaisie's Peak

5. New Almaden Quicksilver County Park. We hiked this park on a hot, sunny day. Because of this we tired quickly. We saw some great views and learned more about the history of the area at the end, though.

New Almaden HikeNew Almaden Quicksilver Park

6. Belgatos Park. A simple hike with decent views.

Belgatos ParkFlowers in her hair

7. Los Gatos Creek Trail is a popular running/jogging trail in the area. Obviously you can walk it too, if you prefer.

Los Gatos Creek TrailUntitled

8. El Corte de Madera Open Space Preserve is a cool place located on the west side of the bay, but no one calls it West Bay and it is still south of SF so I am throwing it in South Bay. The highlight for us was a swing in the forest. There are some big trees and many trails.

El Corte de La MaderaSwinging in the forest

If you go a little more south, there are lots of good hikes in Santa Cruz too! Check out our post: Santa Cruz Hikes. We also wrote about East Bay Hikes and SF Hikes.

If you’re looking for more Free Things to Do in Silicon Valley, check out our post on that topic as well.

Santa Cruz Hikes

~B~

While Santa Cruz may be considered the south bay, we thought it deserved its own section. Santa Cruz had some of the prettiest and best-smelling (like Christmas trees!) hikes.

1. Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We liked Big Basin so much we went twice! The park is beautiful and has some giant trees (see above, and below.) We don’t remember the exact trails we took the first time but on our second visit we hiked to Berry Creek Falls. There is a (free) small museum too.

Big Basin, Big TreeBig BasinBerry Creek Falls

2. Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. At this park, our destination was Maple Falls. We walked through a serene forest and weaved through rocks, river, and more forest to get there. I was worried we were going off trail (we weren’t.) Maple Falls was cold! but cool- we could see little salamanders swimming around in the water with us. While there we watched a man almost ritually bathe himself multiple times over (yes, with clothes on) in the chilly water.

Forest of Nisene WaterfallBench at Nisene Marks

3. Pogonip Creek Nature Trail. The route we took had nice changes in scenery, including shaded streams and open fields. Elevation did not change a great deal.

PogonipField in Pogonip

4. Land of Medicine Buddha. We enjoyed walking around this meditation and retreat center. Some of the people staying at the retreat walk these trails but other people are welcome to hike as well. Because trails go around/through the retreat center, there are some nice features you wouldn’t see hiking elsewhere. I think we took the longest trail, which was not very long. We still managed to get a little lost.

Land of Medicine BuddhaStatue in Santa Cruz

5. Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. We took this hike a bit slower than some of the other hikes so we had time to really enjoy it. We didn’t have a specific destination in mind which was nice so we would stop and do acroyoga or lay in the dirt and smell the forest. We thought about coming back. Maybe next we are back in the area.

Henry Cowell Redwoods State ParkHenry Cowell Redwoods State Park

East Bay Hikes

~B~

1. Mount Diablo State Park was one of our favorites! We gained more elevation here than any of our other hikes and the landscape changed often and was always beautiful. I think we came at a good time of year, but started a little later than we should have and got lost in the dark at the end. Despite this, the way back was beautiful too- we were able to see all the little lights sparkling in the bay. It was really indescribably beautiful but we could not really capture it on our camera/phones. Between the dark and the fog we could barely see in front of us the rest of the way back, which was scary, but fun. We eventually found our way to the car but our muscles hurt for the next week and a half or so.

Walking on Mt DiabloMt DiabloWater DropletsMount Diablo

2. Las Trampas. We just did a short hike here when we were in the area for something else. A little elevation gain, some nice views, that’s about it. Kyle walked barefoot some of the time but probably shouldn’t have done so.

Las TrampasLas Trampas

3. Wildcat Canyon Regional Park was possibly the shortest hike we have done. The park was not as big as we thought but it was nice, and we were in the area.

Wildcat CanyonWildcat Canyon

4. Sunol Regional Wilderness was the location of our first hike! We climbed to Flag Tree Hill. The trail was short (only a little over a mile) but with a big elevation gain. I had a rough time because I was not at all in shape for hiking yet. There were some great views from the top, though.

Flag Tree HillSunol

5. Berkeley. We walked around a trail on this campus. I had considered going to Berkeley when I lived in CA as a kid but hadn’t visited. It was more spread out and not really how I had pictured. The trail was okay.

Berkeley

6. Around Fremont. Sometimes we just wander around.

Bridge in Fremont

San Francisco Hikes

~B~

These were the only (two) hikes we did in San Francisco aside from Muir Woods.

1. Marin Headlands. We visited this area a few times. The Marin Headlands are just over the Golden Gate (coming from San Francisco) and contain old military settlement fortifications, graffiti, and nature, making the area pretty unique. The headlands have some great views of the Bay Area as well. We watched the sunset here on one visit and would recommend it.

Marin Headlands Marin HeadlandsSunset in MarinMarin Headlands

2. Lands End. Located in San Francisco, Land’s End has great views but also tends to be pretty crowded with people running, jogging, and walking dogs. On our visit, we walked along the trail and out of Land’s End to China Beach.

Land's EndLand's End FlowersLand's EndLand's End

~B~

Even though they are not all in the bay area, we thought we would also make a post for the national parks we visited in California from 2014-2015. The list is in alphabetical order. I had been to some of these before this and also visited the Redwood National Park(s) with my family when I was younger. The parks that we particularly wanted to visit but did not get a chance to were Lassen and Lava Beds but we predict that we will make our way back there sometime. You can find a list of all the National Parks in CA here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:National_parks_in_California

1. Joshua Tree National Park.  We have only technically visited this park. On our way over to California we drove into the park, stopped and walked a trail. It was a nice break after driving and we enjoyed it, but only saw a very small portion of the park. We were there in the summer but read that it looks particularly nice in the spring when everything is blooming.

Kissing in Joshua Tree National ParkCactus

2. Muir Woods National Monument. I think most people who visit the San Francisco bay area make a stop here. It is beautiful and there are lots of redwoods. According to John Muir, “This is the best tree-lovers monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world.” When we visited, we hiked through Muir Woods and then out of the monument over to Steep Ravine to the coast and back. It was a long day but one with great views.

Muir Woods National Monument SignAt Muir Woods
Steep Ravine

3. Pinnacles National Park was another one of our favorites. As you would expect by the name, there are some cool rock structures. Only recently designated as a national park, Pinnacles contains caves,  stairs, great views, streams and more. One of the highlights of this hike was getting caught in a hail storm for a little bit (I really enjoy precipitation.) Check out a more recent and in depth article about Pinnacles here.

PInnacles National ParkPinnacles National ParkRocks in Pinnacles National ParkKyle at Pinnacles

4. Point Reyes National Seashore. Many people visit Point Reyes for the lighthouse and to see the whales and elk. We were interested in the elk but visited at a time the elephant seals were active and got a little distracted by them. We bought a bus ticket to an area where we would be able to see a bunch but prior to the bus leaving accidentally got pretty close to the seals by walking down the beach. Once we stumbled upon them Kyle chose to inform me that they are actually very dangerous. We took a couple pictures and left. We also visited another beach and the lighthouse and did see some whales!

Point Reyes LighthouseElephant SealPoint Reyes

5. Sequoia National Park was another adventure. We woke up early, drove there and began a hike to Tokopah Falls. I was tired, had a headache and allergies, and got a bite from an unknown bug which was painful for nearly the whole day. Heads up: there are many bugs on this trail, at least in the summer. We made it up and it was beautiful though. We saw wildlife including marmots and black lizards up close and on our way back also saw a bear just across the stream from us.

Tokopah FallsUntitled

Next, we drove to a different section and made our way to the General Sherman tree (the biggest tree in the world) and other trees and explore that part of the park. On our way out of the park, the car broke down. We had no service and had to walk a mile to the nearest hotel, then back then back, etc. Eventually, a tow truck towed us to the nearest town where the car could be fixed the next day. We stayed in a motel and by the next afternoon were heading home.

UntitledSequoia National Park

6. Yosemite National Park. The original plan was to go to Yosemite for my birthday (I had been before with my family but wanted to see the park during the winter) but then opted to wait because there would likely be snowfall if we waited. It was a good choice because we got our winter wonderland.

We were the first people to arrive in Mariposa Grove early in the morning. The road was closed because of the snow so it was a little bit of a walk (especially in the cold) to get to the grove. It was a magical experience knowing only we were there and making the first prints on the snow (that is, aside from some animal prints!) It was silent except for the occasional sound of snow falling off of a tree branch. Eventually a British family arrived and caught up to us and on our way back we encountered more international people. It is actually common to encounter people from all over the world on all of our hikes. For whatever reason (perhaps laziness) I think Americans are not as interested in hiking as people from other countries. After we were done here we drove further. We passed Bridalveil Falls and saw El Capitan and Half Dome. We also took a trail up to Yosemite Falls and got pretty close to the falls (close enough to get sprayed by them).

Mariposa Grove in the SnowSnow in Mariposa GrovePrints in Mariposa GroveYosemite Falls