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Northern Expedition: Our Journey to NorCal

a travel blog by prettyblueroses

Since Mike is out of work for a bit, we decided to take a road trip to see what lies north of our little home in SoCal. 2 nights in a canvas tent in Yosemite, 2 nights in a deluxe 4star hotel in the center of San Francisco, and 3 nights at a motel in the middle of the Redwood Forest. Over a full days worth of driving, the entire week should be quite the adventure!
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On Our Way... Eventually

Los Angeles, United States

So we woke up late this morning... the alarm didn't go off!

But eventually, we are able to get on our way! After shopping and packing last night, doing laundry, updating the GPS this morning, getting the camera and the blog ready, and settling the cats and the fish, we are finally able to leave!

It should take 6 hours (hopefully there isn't any traffic!) to get to Yosemite. We are staying in a canvas permanent tent with cots- as close to camping as we are going to get!

Don't know how much internet access we'll have- we'll try and update from our hotel in San Francisco, but other than there, the wifi is most likely scarce since we'll be in the woods... So don't hold your breath!

Luckily, Mike was able to get his hands on a device that plugs into the car and has outlets used to power up electronics, so we'll be able to charge the cell phone and I'll be able to play Risk and the Sims to keep me occupied while he's driving!

Hope the meows don't miss us too much! =)
(Nala, aka Keyteh, and Chat Gris, aka Littlest Love, all cuddled up together in their tunnel!)

Here is a preview of our trip:

Sun 7/12: drive to Yosemite (6 hrs.), check in @ 5
Tuolumne Canvas Tent
Mon 7/13: Yosemite
Tues 7/14: check out Yosemite @ 11, drive to San Fran (3.5 hrs.), check in @ 3
Hotel Nikko
222 Mason Street
San Francisco, California 94102
Wed 7/15: San Francisco- day with Marc and Yuko
Thurs 7/16: check out San Fran @ 12, drive to Redwoods (6 hrs.), check in @ 2
Motel Trees
15495 Highway 101 N.
Klamath, CA 95548
Fri 7/17: Redwoods
Sat 7/18: Redwoods
Sun 7/19: check out Redwoods @ 11, drive home (13 hrs.) along the Pacific Coast Highway

permalink written by  prettyblueroses on July 12, 2009 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: Northern Expedition: Our Journey to NorCal
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Driving on a One-Way Highway: Ur Doin It Rong

Yosemite National Park, California, United States

So the drive up to Yosemite took much longer than expected. It is 11pm and we still aren’t at our campsite!!

We drove through lots of the arid region- mountains covered in dead, yellow grass, the desert, and lots of burnt ground from the fires. As we drove through the desert, I noticed a sign that said “Avoid Overheating- Turn Air Conditioner Off Next 6 Miles”- so we did. And boy, was it hot! Up to 105 degrees, with no air conditioning… you could feel the pressure on your chest, preventing you from breathing normally. Not fun. However, it was a good thing we did it. The entire breakdown lane of the highway was just about lined with cars that had broken down from overheating. We even saw a truck with its brakes on fire!!

Eventually we started to get away from some of that when we got up towards Fresno- wine country. There were patches of cute little flowering bushes along the side of the road, but even better was the acres and acres worth of farms! We saw lots of things growing: lemons, grapes, pistachios, walnuts, almonds, alfalfa, corn, raisin grapes, English walnuts, oranges, and cherries. We also saw lots of cattle, and a few slaughterhouses along the way as well. We ended up stopping at Bravo’s Cheese Factory- a cute little place with a gift shop, restaurant, ice cream parlor, antiques, bathrooms, and fresh fruit. We wandered through the gift shop, Mike took pictures of the crazy oasis set up outside, we sympathized with the very hot bunnies (it was over 100 degrees outside!), I got a scoop of Butter Pecan ice cream and we bought some fresh fruit- a bag of cherries, a white peach, and a Santa Rosa plum. Mmmm!

Back on our way again, we continued on until we reached the little town of Oakhurst. We kept seeing signs along the way about wine trails, but weren’t able to stop and explore. We stopped to take out some money from the ATM and decided to eat dinner, since we didn’t think there would be much beyond that point. We ended up eating at a little Chinese food place called “A Taste of China.” For $10 each we got a cup of soup and a full plate, with lo mein, fried rice, a fried wonton, an egg roll, and main course. Mike got the sweet and sour pork and I got the cashew chicken (with no peppers!). The food was incredible- we were pleasantly surprised at how good everything was! After filling up and leaving a good tip, we took off.

Off the main road, we found ourselves on a winding path through a thick forest. The trees were tall and gorgeous, and the smell of the sweet pine permeated everything. It was a beautiful smell, and very refreshing to finally be back in nature like we remembered it—not in the city, and not in the desert!!

Yosemite is huge. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the gate, it was dark. We paid our entrance fee and asked the woman at the gate where to go. She was only marginally helpful, as we were confused about where exactly we were headed. A woman on the phone earlier gave us a specific address, but this woman told us to go a different way. We figured we’d deal with it when we got to the split between the two.

The winding road continued, frequently with fun and interesting signs like “speeding kills bears!” “falling rocks ahead” “lights on, no stopping” “smoke on road ahead” and “management fire, do not report.” Yes, there was a fire, although we couldn’t see it, lit by the management. And we drove through miles of smoky road. As nice as it smelled, the smoke was killing me and I couldn’t stop coughing. Finally, it was over… and then came the moment of reckoning.

We came to fork where we had to decide- take the route the woman told us on the phone, or the one the woman at the gate said. We decided we should pull over at the next turnout and call the front desk again to ask. Unfortunately, we had to decide first, and choose the original route. Turns out, it was a two-lane, one-way highway. We pulled over near a very calm sounding river. But we had no reception, and couldn’t talk to anyone long enough to get out our question, let alone an answer. We turned the lights on began trying to make sense of the park map we were handed upon entrance. It was then that we realized we had gone the wrong way. So what now? We pondered. We had three options. 1) Drive down the wrong way, 2) drive backwards back to the split, or 3) keep driving forward and pray that there would be someway to get where we needed to go, however many hours it would take. After deliberating for quite some time, Mike decided he could go backwards and make it back. There were very few cars on the road for such a time, after all. So on went the hazards, and we began our backwards trek. He managed to not drive us off the road and not hit any cars, and although it was further back than we thought, we made it. Whew! Crisis averted.

It was at this point that we noticed a new problem. Since we had our windows open to let in the cool air, many, many bugs managed to find their way into the car while we were stopped. We spent the next hour driving swatting away massive mosquitoes, unrecognizable big flies, and smaller assorted ones too. This was also dangerous, as Mike used his intense bug catching skills with one hand while the other kept us on the road. Eventually, it appeared that we had got all of them, and were able to relax for the rest of the ride. Well, not Mike. He had to contend with the road and the field mice hanging out on it in order to avoid hitting them as we drove along. A scenic ride, not quite as winding, but increasing in elevation up to 10,000 feet. Crazy! Our campsite is up in the high Sierra Nevadas.

We passed many points that would have been wonderful lookouts; unfortunately, all we saw was the darkness of the cliff as it dropped off next to it with nothing to prevent you from flying over the edge. Eeek!

Finally we reached the campsite. We had to put all of our food and anything with a scent (including all cosmetics!) into bear lockers to prevent our car and tent from being broken into! We brought in our suitcases and Mike lit up a fire in the wood-burning stove, and we curled up together to go to sleep!

permalink written by  prettyblueroses on July 12, 2009 from Yosemite National Park, California, United States
from the travel blog: Northern Expedition: Our Journey to NorCal
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Trails and Tribulations

Yosemite National Park, California, United States

We woke up this morning at 8 and headed to breakfast. The Lodge dining room is family seating, so we sat with two older couples and a father with his two sons. They all had been there before, so we didn't have much to talk about with them. We did end up telling them about our first road trip out here when they asked where we were originally from. The food was just ok, but we wanted to make sure we'd have enough energy for the day.

We first called and made a reservation to go horseback riding. It was a 2 hour ride from 3-5; we had to be there at 2. Since it was still early, we decided to explore some the trails around the campsite.

We pretty much just wandered along the trials we found. We tried to stay along the river, which was beautiful and very calming. We were able to hear the river from our tent and it was the sound that soothed us to sleep.

While out, we saw some of the local wildlife, like deer, what looked like prairie dogs, a little gopher-like animal coming up from a whole in the ground, and many birds.

We then headed to the stables. We ended up riding mules, not horses, and the trip took us up and down a mountain. We were paired with a family of 3- father, mother, and young daughter, and 2 guides that came with us.

While out on the trial, we climbed up some pretty rough terrain. We got to see a coyote though! He was blonde, and very beautiful. He followed us around for a bit, which was really nice, except that my mule kept stopping to look at it!!

Eventually, we got up to the top of the mountain and had a beautiful view of the Tuolumne Meadows and many of the peaks of Yosemite.

And it went downhill from there- literally, in more ways than one.

I began to not really feel so well... not only was I hot, but I started to feel lightheaded and like I was going to pass out. Mike took one look at me and told one of the guides that we needed to stop. I asked if I could get off, and they let me. One of them gave me her water and the other gave me her bandanna which she had soaked in the river. We decided to split up- one of the guides, Charlie, took the family of 3, and the other, Karen, stayed with us. Mike helped me feel better, so I got back up on the mule- big mistake. The second I got up on him I immediately felt like I was going to pass out, and I didn't think I was going to be able to make it off on my own accord. After resting for a while, we decided that Karen would take the mules back and Mike and I would walk back.

This wasn't exactly the best thing. We had to walk upwards of a mile, with me feeling lightheaded and pretty exhausted at this point, not to mention pretty freaked out. Karen said that it was altitude sickness, and fairly common. Still, I was worried. And that rough terrain? Much worse when you are on foot! Most of it was uphill and only some of it was in the shade. On top of this, it was prime mosquito time, and we were both being eating alive. We had to stop fairly frequently, and Mike began to worry that we weren't going to make it back by dark. Luckily though, we did, and we were both ready to collapse.

Back at the camp, we made reservations for dinner and relaxed for an hour before eating. At dinner, we were placed with a father and his 14 year old daughter, and a family of 4 from France. It was so fun to listen to their accents! And the father and daughter were very nice too. They gave us rolls and salad; Mike got a steak with a baked potato and corn on the cob, and I got a chicken Caesar salad. We shared both. The corn was so sweet it needed nothing- just like Amy's from the 4th! And everything else was really good too.

After dinner, Mike lit up the fire and we got comfortable. The plan was to get up fairly early, pack, and go see some more before we left. Unfortunately, this was not to be.

I woke up after being asleep for only 2 hours in intense pain. My whole chest felt constricted and it was hard to breathe. Mike woke up and went to the Lodge to ask what was going on. It was the altitude sickness again. The only cure- descent. Mike made the decision that we should leave instead of waiting until morning... so we quickly packed and left. As we descended, I began to feel better. Unfortunately though, we had to drive over 3 hours to find civilization and a hotel to stay in! We found a Holiday Inn Express and checked in at 5am, got a late check out, and slept until 1pm. Sore and exhausted, the day was finally over.

At the end of the day, all that matters is that I have the best spouse in the world. Even Karen (the guide) said we won the couple of the week/month/year (neither of us remember exactly what she said- it was hectic) award. Mike was perfect- patient and helpful and loving. I couldn't have made it without him.

permalink written by  prettyblueroses on July 13, 2009 from Yosemite National Park, California, United States
from the travel blog: Northern Expedition: Our Journey to NorCal
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Oakdale, United States

So we woke up at 1, rested and ready to go. We were met with 100 degree weather and excruciating humidity upon exiting our hotel room- eek! The humidity felt good (after all the crazy dryness), but the heat was insane. After letting the car air out for a bit, we decided to grab lunch before heading out, and found an A&W/KFC down the street. I just got a hot dog and some little cheese things, Mike got a variety box (KFC)… and, of course, a nice cold mug of root beer on tap!

Then we took off. We had already gone most of the way, so it was about 2 hours left to San Francisco. We drove by some more farms, saw some strawberries, almonds, walnuts, alfalfa, corn… and then we finally got on a real highway again! Found our way to San Fran and our hotel; put the car in a garage across the street (not quite as expensive), and checked in.

The hotel was nice, very fancy… we weren’t quite fitting in, since we were in our travel clothes, but we didn’t care. Got up to our room and just relaxed. I was able to update the blog and Mike watched some tv.

We made a reservation at an Italian restaurant not too far from here, took a nice long shower, and got ready. Took a cab over and had a really nice dinner. Bread with an olive/garlic/balsamic spread to start, Mike got veal marsala and I got tortellini carbonara. Both were incredible. For dessert we got a chocolate lava cake with vanilla gelato. Everything was wonderful.

Then, we hailed a cab back to our hotel and relaxed before collapsing into bed for a full night’s sleep.

permalink written by  prettyblueroses on July 14, 2009 from Oakdale, United States
from the travel blog: Northern Expedition: Our Journey to NorCal
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San Fog-cisco

San Francisco, United States

We woke up this morning and decided to go swimming. The pool was a bit low, only 4.5 ft. at the deepest, and old, so the floor was all up and bubbly. After a bit, we went in the jacuzzi, which was pretty hot (104 degrees) and relaxed.

Back in the room, I called Marc and we talked about meeting up around 5. So we went to lunch first. We went the wrong way, but eventually found ourselves at Max's on the Square, a deli down the street. I got a reuben and Mike got a philly cheesesteak with pastrami instead. They were both good, and then we got dessert, which was a vanilla sundae with coconut macaroons- awesome.

We relaxed a bit before getting ready to go out; Marc and Yuko came and picked us up at 5. We drove around and saw a lot- Chinatown, North Beach (kinda like the North End) where we got some coffee and walked around through the park for a moment. We went up to the Coit Tower and wandered around to see views of the city. Unfortunately it was pretty foggy, so all of the sites were hard to see.

They took us up to the top of this road that we drove down- it is a famous road, very steep and very winding; it was built that way to allow the horses to get up and down it. Lots of expensive houses up there! We tried to go to another high point, but it was raining, windy and foggy and you couldn't see anything. Then we went to the Golden Gate Bridge!

The bridge disappeared into the fog, which was pretty amusing. We spent some time looking around up there, and then went to check out Golden Gate Park.

We had dinner reservations at 8 at a place called the Blue Plate that Yuko really liked. We got there a bit early, but it was fine. We sat out in the garden, right next to a fountain, which was really nice. They had a heat lamp since it was a bit chilly. The food was incredible. Marc and I got meatloaf, Yuko got the pork chop, and Mike got the rib eye. Afterwards, Marc got a piece of blueberry nectarine pie with vanilla ice cream that we all tried- it was really good. We sat around and talked and just enjoyed ourselves.

Today was quite wonderful. We had a great time with Marc and Yuko and seeing the sights of San Francisco.

permalink written by  prettyblueroses on July 15, 2009 from San Francisco, United States
from the travel blog: Northern Expedition: Our Journey to NorCal
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Trees of Mystery

Klamath, United States

We woke up on the later end of things, and headed to lunch. It was pretty busy since a tour bus had come right before us. Luckily, we had an awesome waitress, who actually ended up making our food herself. She was very sweet. I got a Turkey and bacon melt with vegetable beef soup and Mike got a bbq roast beef sandwich and a salad. We finished up and headed across the street ...

To the Trees of Mystery. It consisted of a walking, self-guided tour up to the Sky Trail (gondola).

There was a cute little wildflower garden...

where we walked around...

The Elephant Tree...

Nature's Underpass...

The roots of a fallen tree...

The Cathedral Tree...

And the Brotherhood Tree, among others.

Then we got on the Sky Trail and went up the mountain.

At the top, we could see over the mountains, in this picture, you can see the white tree thing- at the top is an osprey's nest.

On the way back down, the trail diverged and went walked the path of "Tall Tales" where the story of Paul Bunyan was carved into the trees.

At the end of the path was this section of the tree, showing how old the tree is. Crazy!! We wandered around the gift shop for a bit and the "End of the Trail" Indian museum within it. It was pretty cool.

Then we went to a spot where a tree had been carved out but is still living, allowing us to drive our car through it. Wicked cool.

After this, we went up to Crescent City to look around. We ate a place called the Apple Peddler. Mike got steak and chicken teriyaki, and I got pork chops. We shared a Dutch Apple Cobbler with ice cream for dessert. It was ok. Then on the way back, we stopped along side the road and walked out on the beach. Then, we came back to our hotel, played Trivial Pursuit for a bit, and went to bed.

permalink written by  prettyblueroses on July 17, 2009 from Klamath, United States
from the travel blog: Northern Expedition: Our Journey to NorCal
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Los Angeles, United States

permalink written by  prettyblueroses on July 19, 2009 from Los Angeles, United States
from the travel blog: Northern Expedition: Our Journey to NorCal
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