Yosemite National Park

One of the most fun experiences about RVing is getting to meet people from all walks of life and keeping in touch with those whom you instantly connect.  During our winter stay in Arizona, we met Mike and Kim Romaner, a really fun and cool couple from the East Coast who are likewise fulltimers.  We reconnected and learned that they too wanted to visit Yosemite during the same time period so we decided to meet at Half Dome Lodge and see this amazing park together.  We agreed to reserve a cabin and spend the night so we again apologized to Jackson as he had to be kenneled, and set off on our adventure.

On the appointed day we woke up really early and decided we would stop off for breakfast, but as we drove past the nearest town, we were so excited we simply forgot, only to remember much later as our stomachs were quick to remind us.  Not knowing whether we were going to find anything along the way, we came across Tenaya Lodge.  This four star resort was nestled in the woods and it was just spectacular, adorable cabins or various sizes spread throughout the property and when we arrived at the main lodge we were treated like royalty.  The lobby was beautifully appointed as was the dining area.  As soon as we were seated and our  order was taken (apparently the clock started ticking) because the waitress approached us and to our surprise told us that because the kitchen had delayed our order (it had only been fifteen minutes) breakfast was on the house.  Now, that is service!  Should we return to this area, this is one place we will just have to stay in.

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We continued on and after passing the tunnel into Yosemite we were awestruck by the amazing beauty of this park.  Pictures just don’t do it justice.  Yosemite is open year-round and it is known for its jaw dropping views of granite cliffs, unusual rock formations and its impressive waterfalls, which are always best in the spring and can slow to a trickle by late summer.

 

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The Yosemite Valley is home to El Capitan (on the left), Half Dome (in the middle towards the back) and the iconic Bridal Veil Falls to the right.

As we ventured deeper into the park we were absolutely mesmerized by the beauty around us.

 

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Bridal Veil Falls

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Yosemite Falls is the tallest in North America.

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And of course, to see Vernon Falls a moderate hike was required

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We also hiked to see Mirror Lake which was incredible.

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Michael had prearranged dinner reservations at the Majestic which was formerly known as the Ahwahnee.

The following day on our drive out of Yosemite we drove up the road to Glacier Point which so happened to be closed the day prior due to snow, so we timed our visit impeccably.

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A few days afterwards we visited Bass Lake, a beautiful recreational area nearby with lovely waterside eateries and shops.

Eventually time came for us to break camp to move on to our next adventure.  So keep your eyes open!

 

Sequoia and Kings National Parks

We traveled from Paso Robles to Coarsegold, California.  As days drew nearer we realized that we were not staying quite as close as we really wanted to be so we decided to drive to Visalia, board Jackson, spend a couple of nights in a hotel, bundle up and take a shuttle to and from Sequoia National Park.  It proved to be a very good decision, as we were pretty tired and having to drive back to Coarsegold would have been simply exhausting, as the winding roads are very narrow in this neck of the woods.

Sequoia National Park is California’s first National Park and home to Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous 48 states with an elevation of 14,505′.  It also is home to these incredibly large, cinnamon colored trees which also share the name of the park.

The giant sequoias grow only on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada and pictures do not properly capture their tremendous size and height.  The largest tree in the world by volume is the General Sherman Tree and when standing by its trunk, we felt so small and insignificant.  This gigantic conifer stands at 275′ and is over 36′ in diameter at the base.  Waking around the Giant Forest sequoia grove inspired a feeling of calm and peace.  It felt like everything just slowed down.

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We were so fortunate as it had just snowed about 5″ a few days prior to our arrival and while at the park, it was only a bit cool, but with warm jackets, all was good.  John found some snow and, of course, he could not resist the boy inside him.

 

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Sequoias are so large that tunnels could be cut into them and automobiles are able to drive through them.

 

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Moro Rock is a large granite dome also in the Giant Forest area of the park.  We took the .25 mile hike by climbing 440 steps to the top of the rock.  The view from the top was spectacular and in spite of not having clear skies, we still were able to see the beautiful canyons below.

 

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Tharpe’s Log was the summer cabin built from a fallen, fire-hallowed sequoia log back in the 1860’s by Hale Tharp, the first non-American Indian settler in the area.   It is the oldest pioneer cabin in the park.

 

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The last remaining remnants of snow at the edge of the meadow in the Sequoia.

 

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Before we left the park, I was curious and asked one of the park rangers if, hypothetically, one of the named trees were placed elsewhere, would she be able to identify it.  She laughed and said, well they all have specific characteristics, but agreed that it would be difficult.

The views of the snow capped mountain during our drive back to Visalia were also beautiful.

 

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The following day we picked Jackson up from the kennel and continued our adventure into Kings Canyon.  We were actually very surprised as it was not at all what we had anticipated it to be.  This park was also interconnected with a national forest, so part of the road was in the forest and the other was in the National Park.  We knew we would be driving a windy and narrow road with pine trees, some redwoods and perhaps a few sequoias. However, we were surprised by the beauty of the canyon.

 

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Kings Canyon has its own sequoia grove called Giant Grove and amongst them is Sentinel Tree and the properly named General Grant Tree.

 

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Since the fire staff was conducting a prescribed burn during the period we visited, we saw some smoke and smoldering logs.  But all in all, we had a fabulous time. We can’t wait for our upcoming adventure, so stay tuned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

San Simeon

While in the area we were told numerous times that we should go see the Hearst Castle.  Since it was a must see opportunity, we took a beautiful meandering road from Paso Robles to Cambria and then onto San Simeon where back in 1850, George Hearst, a miner from Missouri, was drawn to California by the gold rush.  In 1865 he began acquiring property where the castle now sits.  When he passed, his wife inherited his entire estate and it was not until she passed in 1919 that their only son, William Randolph Hearst at the age of 30, a media mogul, inherited $11,000,000.00.

William was not just a newspaper publisher, he was a movie producer and an art collector. When young, William would camp at this hilltop with his family and grew to love the property.  It was known as Camp Hill and there he offered a place for family and friends to rough it while sheltered by elaborate sleeping and dining tents.  He decided to commission, Julia Morgan, the first female engineer who graduated from UC Berkley and the first woman architect licensed in California, to build a “little something on his favorite hill” so he and his family could be a bit more comfortable.  Construction of what is now known as the Hearst Castle began in 1919 and at the time of his death in 1951, it was not fully completed.  The reason for this was because William kept changing his mind, adding and renovating, etc.

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A perfect example was the Neptune Pool, which began as a lotus pond.  William’s wife wanted a swimming pool for her and their five children, so the lotus pool was relocated and a swimming pool was built.  The third and final renovation of the pool is what we see today, which holds 134,000 gallons of water.

 

The indoor pool was just as impressive.  Its deck had fused gold in the tiles and the intense colors are breathtaking.

William was quite the art collector.  He would travel around the world and bring a little of this and a little of that.  Everything was of different architecture and perhaps even period.  He would find some special wood or a special tapestry every time he bought something new, the building plans had to change to accommodate his new acquisition.   Casa Grande, the big house, at Hearst Castle has 42 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms and 19 sitting rooms, 127 acres of gardens, an indoor and outdoor swimming pool, tennis courts, an airfield, and even used to have his own private zoo.

Regardless of what room you were in, the view from the hilltop was just spectacular.  I can just imagine the Hollywood elite back in the 1920’s and 1930’s walking around the grounds and how it must have been.

When we left the Hearst Castle we just drove up the road to see the Northern Elephant Seal Rookery at Piedras Blancas.  The rookery spreads over 6 miles of beach and is the home of about 20,000 elephant seals, except they don’t all visit at the same time.  Because we visited the area in May, we did not see any adult males, as they come ashore late November to early December.  We did see about 4000 females and juveniles that returned to the beach to go through their yearly molt.  They shed both their skin and their hair and do not either eat or drink during this period. It is also common to see the juveniles sparring with each other on the shore.

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We had such a wonderful time exploring this area but it’s time to keep going and visit even more of the wonderful sights this country has to offer.  Stay with us!

 

 

Paso Robles Wines, Wines and more Wines

We arrived in Paso Robles and loved seeing the hills covered with grapevines planted in a north and south orientation so they can get better access to the sun.

We initially visited J.Lohr, Graveyard, Cass and Taylor James, all good wineries.  I loved Graveyard winery and what made it unique was its location literally next to a cemetery.  Taylor James was very interesting as its tasting room was fun and very colorful.

 

We usually don’t follow special events but we were fortunate to have arrived just in time for Paso Robles’ Annual Wine Festival.  This festival was so much fun, as they had great food, fun music and of course, wine, wine and more wine.  Over 80 wineries participated and it was a great way to sip, swirl and enjoy without having to drive all over creation.

 

Obviously, not all wineries were present, and there were some we really didn’t want to miss, so off to Sculpterra we went.  Friends had recommended it as the gardens were filled with beautiful sculptures, which certainly did not disappoint.  Oh, I almost forgot, the entrance gate is just spectacular!

 

 

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During our last weekend, we enjoyed a delicious lunch and wine tasting at Justin Vineyards.  Wow! What a beautiful vineyard! The grounds were absolutely immaculate and the setting was amazing, as was their food and oh, my goodness their wines!

 

Well I would tell you we are all wined out, but that was not quite true.  We had to visit just one more vineyard and in my opinion we left the best for last.   Daou sits atoa very large hill and it was even more beautiful than Justin and I can’t say enough about its wines.  Even though it was a misty and cold day, the beauty could easily be seen.  Imagine this view on clear day!  Wow!!

Stay with us as I believe you will love where we will be going next.  See you soon!

 

The Five Cities, Morro Bay, SLO

Driving up the coast to Pismo Beach was just unbelievably beautiful.  Imagine verdant hills on your right and rocky cliffs on your left overlooking the largest ocean on the planet.  Our plan is not to travel longer than three hours and this leg was about 1 1/2 hours thus, we took our time and enjoyed the ride.

The five cities are comprised of Arroyo Grande, Oceano, Grover Beach, Shell Beach and Pismo Beach.  All the these cities run into each other and each is very special in their own way.  AG, as known to the locals, is usually referred to as Vintage California while Oceano is known for its sand dunes and for having the only state beach on which vehicles are allowed.  Grover is known for having the only train station in the area and Shell is a gorgeous oceanfront community with breathtaking stretches of coastline and beachfront parks.  Pismo is a really cool town with an amazing pier, surrounded by lots of excellent eateries and surf shops.

Shell Beach:

While in Pismo, Jackson absolutely loved his morning beach walks.  He constantly pulled me toward the beach and his nose would get to work as soon as he reached the sand.  However, driving the beachfront in Oceano was actually fun, although I was a bit nervous.  The last thing I wanted was to get stuck and have to get towed out.  Driving on the sand was a new experience for me.  We drove for a while and decided to park the truck on the soft sand and began our walk.  We did have to look both ways as vehicles were coming from both directions.  We were fortunate to see horses being ridden beachside and of course, Jackson had something to say about that too!

Many had told us we would not have direct access to the beach from the campground we had chosen, however, I did not find that to be the case.  The campground had not one but three beach accesses thru the dunes which were covered by dosanthemums, better known as ice plants.  A small trail had been cut out to provide access.  As we wandered up and down the dunes, the walks to the beach were not strenuous.

It was exciting to have been able to have dinner with new friends, Kathy and Victor Mayeron, whom we met while wintering in Arizona.

 

We visited the Monarch Butterfly Grove because it happened to be  practically next to the campground knowing fully well that the season ended in February, but since it was open year round, we were hoping against hope.  We did see three lonely Monarch butterflies fluttering around.  During season however, thousands of colorful Monarchs cluster in the limbs of Eucalyptus and Monterey Pines giving them the appearance of having orange and yellow leaves.

With that excursion a bust, we decided instead to drive up to Avila Beach, yet another small coastal town which offers the magnificent 1.5 mile Bob Jones Trail and mineral springs.

There are so many beautiful coastal towns in California, yet Morro Bay was different in that it is a waterfront town full of unique boutique shops and a plethora of restaurants to choose from all along the waterfront.  It is mainly known for Morro Rock, an ancient volcanic mound with a height of 576′, where falcons usually nest.  We drove to the rock and although it was disappointing that we did not see any falcons, it was exciting in that we were able to see many sea lions and sea otters freely swimming along its shore.

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During the entire stay in the area, the weather was either cool or gloomy, sometimes both.  The locals call it May gray and June gloom, however, we were so happy our last weekend broke the norm, it happened to be Mother’s Day weekend and it was glorious.  There was not a cloud in the sky.  As we walked the beach we noticed that lots of people were setting up tents and umbrellas anxious to soak up the sun.  Everyone intending to go in the ocean, whether surfing or not wore wet suits, little children included.  It’s a good thing because the water is really cold and although normal to the locals, wearing wet suits on the beach is not something we are accustomed to seeing.

Food in this area cannot be more fresh and we experienced a complete range from elegant dining to family-run cafés where regional wines were made available.

Our last venture was to visit San Luis Obispo.  It is one of the most populous towns in the area and home to Cal Poly, California Polytechnic State University.  So in addition to it being a college town, SLO, has one of the most charming shopping districts I have seen.  The tree lined downtown provides both shade and uniqueness.  We came across an alley the locals call bubblegum alley, which could be, depending on your outlook, either a work of art or just plain disgusting.  People come from near and far just to affix their chewed gum on the alley’s walls.

On our last night in Pismo we were fortunate to see a sunset.  These gloomy days with lots of cloud cover rarely afford the opportunity for beautiful sunsets.

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We left Pismo and took off on probably what will be our shortest drive, a whopping 45 minutes to the central coast’s wine country.  Stay with us as we have more adventures coming!

 

 

Santa Barbara, CA

Here we go again, the Lindstroms always have a story to tell.  I always say that things happen for a reason.  While staying in Barstow we did not have the opportunity to visit our friend in Huntington Beach because John had to repair the damage to the airbags in the truck.  Little did we know that on the very the day we would have gone, there was breaking news that a male suspect was in a standoff with police and SWAT right in that area and although it would have made for a yet another great story, I’m glad we were not there.

We left Barstow and drove to Santa Barbara uneventfully.  We began to see some greenery and then a bit more until we saw tree farms and even several orange groves.  We hadn’t seen orange groves since leaving Florida, over a year ago.  However, we knew, that soon we would be seeing the Pacific Ocean.  We felt a sense of excitement and smiles creeping on our faces.

We arrived in Santa Barbara and once we got set up, we took Jackson for a ride and some lunch.

We visited Stearns Wharf which was built in 1872.  It is the oldest operating wharf on the West coast.  I was amazed that we could drive on the pier.  I had never strolled on any Pacific Coast pier, let alone drive on one.  Since I didn’t know what to expect, I suggested John ask the attendant if we would be able to turn the truck around at the end.  John didn’t and wouldn’t ask and told me not to worry about it.  I guess I was on a need to know basis.  As we were slowly driving on the pier, one of my many thoughts was “this is actually pretty cool, we are actually driving over the Pacific Ocean”.  Unreal!

 

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By happenstance, we chose the Santa Barbara Shellfish Company which is apparently very known for a variety of seafood delicacies and not just limited to oysters.  It did not disappoint!  I had a cioppino, which is a local crab claw, shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels in sauce served in a bread bowl and topped with parmesan cheese and John had a lobster roll.  The last time he had one was in Maine over five years ago.  We had forgotten how delicious fresh fish actually tastes.

Adjacent to Stearns Wharf is one of the oldest working harbors on the West Coast.  There were countless boats and sailboats, many of which serving as residences. 

Joe and Melody Maggio, friends from Florida suggested that we not miss visiting Solvang.  We had never heard of that town before and were so glad we went as we really enjoyed it.  On our way we drove through the emerald green hills of Los Padres National Forest and then the Santa Inez Valley.  The sky over Santa Barbara was hazy the entire time we were there and as soon as we crossed the mountain range it was as if a curtain had been pulled aside.  The beautiful blue sky appeared and it was noticeably warmer.

We stopped at a vista point and ran into three original Model T’s which where parked while their owners enjoyed a picnic lunch.

Solvang (meaning “sunny field”) is known as the Danish Capital of America.  The history on this town goes back to 1911 when three danish immigrants wanted to purchase land to build a school in Iowa and could not find anything affordable.  They were told about a tract of almost 9,000 acres in the Santa Inez Valley so they saw the land and bought it for a really good deal.  Imagine that!  It became the Danish American colony of Solvang, California.  They subdivided the land into plots for farms and homes and the profits were used to build a school and a lutheran church.  The feel you get when visiting reflects the town’s Danish culture.  Main Street is called Coppenhagen Drive and other streets have Danish names as well.  The town has about 5,400 residents with about only 10% actually being Danish.

The school was built and so was the lutheran church.  From it’s ceiling hung a miniature of the “Marmora” from the 1870’s.  A Viking tradition views the church as a ship that takes people safely from the storms of life.

This was one of the first buildings in Solvang and it served many purposes.  It was the first college, then as a location for church services until the present danish lutheran church was completed and later it became a restaurant and it remains as such today, called, A Bit of Denmark, where we enjoyed yet another delicious meal.

The town was lovely and we wish we would have known about it before as we easily could have taken several days to explore its restaurants, bakeries and unique shops.  Sadly, it was time to return and we took the coastal route.

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With so much yet to see and do we had to make a difficult choice and went whale watching.  Everyone who has ever gone whale watching knows there is never a guarantee of seeing whales.  We were so fortunate to not see one but two humpback whales each over 40 feet long.  They are such amazing creatures.  Their tales are like our fingerprints.  There are no two alike as that is how they are distinguished.

Santa Barbara was a beautiful coastal town, one we would return for sure, but it was time to continue on.

 

California Here We Come!!!

The RV came out of the hospital looking mighty spiffy.  It even got new shoes.  The truck has also been looked at, or so we thought.  We installed air bags on the truck and when we were ready to go, John activated the bags only to hear the compressor but the bags weren’t filling.  If it’s not thing one, well then it must be thing two.  We have to go with the flow.

Our first stop in California, was Barstow.  This was meant to only be a short stop over while we visited a friend in Huntington Beach.  People had told us that it was just a truck stop, nothing to see there.  Well, it was a very large truck stop as it has a population of over 23,000 people.  The first thing we saw was a drive-in movie theater.  I have  never been to one and thought it might be cool to go, except I wasn’t fond of what they were playing.  We stopped at a local Italian restaurant and I asked the waitress for things to do while in the area.  She shrugged and said “EAT?”  Their food was very good.

The following morning John tried to get a mechanic to look into why the air bags weren’t inflating and none could look at it for a few days so after getting instructions on what to look for from the mechanic who installed it, he got under the truck and after having to go to several auto stores, he fixed it, all for the cost of a coupling.  Apparently, the tube connecting the air bag from the air compressor was rubbing against one of the tires and developed a hole.  No wonder air was not getting through.

 

As a result of having to fix the truck’s air bags, we were saddened not able to meet our friend in Huntington Beach.  On the bright side, we did find a neat place called Peggy Sue’s.  This roadside diner was a true Old Fashioned Tourist stop and it was adorable.  Yes, they cater to truckers, but also to tourists and locals.  The walls were totally decorated with 50’s memorabilia and a 5 & dime store.  The owner had moved from Southern California and was looking to open a place where she could display all of her movie and TV props.  There was 50’s and 60’s music playing all throughout and various seating areas each with a different theme.  And… the food was oh sooo good.  That waitress was correct!

 

Stay with us, the fun is just about to begin in earnest!