Archive for the ‘Full Life’ Category

panorama-on-the-garnet-trail-grand-tetons

We knew we would be hiking in Grand Teton National Park, but we had not chosen which trail to hike until the day before our hike. I had a list but was still doing research and we wanted to go with one that fit the way we felt when the time came. I’m not sure what source of info I was looking at, whether it was a National Park Service brochure, or some other guide, but the hike that jumped out at me was described as the easiest hike to an alpine meadow in the Grand Tetons. Easy sounded good and getting up high enough to feel like we were actually “in the Tetons” sounded great too. I do recommend Garnet Canyon Trail, but I would not in any way call it an easy trail. It is 8.4 miles out and back and over 2200 feet of climb. It is a very strenuous climb, and for much of the hike you will have panoramic view out over Grand Teton National Park, but you will have very little to look at “up the mountain”. But when you do finally get views “up the mountain”, they will take what little breath you have left away!

We got up fairly early to have breakfast, but we weren’t in a huge rush to get started. The temperature would be very reasonable even in the middle of the afternoon. We met up with Jenny’s cousin Charles to go with him on the hike. He had stayed nearby so we met at our hotel and then headed into downtown Jackson to get a light breakfast and a large coffee at Jackson Hole Coffee Roasters. The service and the coffee were very good.

The drive to the trail head was not bad from Jackson. We stopped at the visitor’s center briefly, then headed to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. There is plenty of parking and it was fairly clear how to get to the trailhead from where we parked our car. We wasted no time in hitting the trail. The trail starts with a very misleading long flat stretch.

the-start-of-the-garnet-canyon-trail-is-misleadingly-flat

But eventually the trail turns toward the mountain and begins to climb.

trail-turns-uphill

The trail heads steadily straight up the mountain, gently at first and then getting steeper before starting long sweeping switchbacks. I may have under sold the lower parts of the trail in my intro. The trail climbs through the trees for much of the lower part of the trail.

charles-and-jenny-starting-the-climb

If you look up during the start of the hike you are likely to catch a glimpse of the Grand Teton peak through the trees.

view-of-the-grand-teton-near-the-bottom-of-the-trail

As you head up the trail further you won’t be able to see this peak, but you will be much closer to the Middle Teton and Nez Perce peaks. But before you get to that you’ll have lot’s of views out over the park, including some great views of Taggart and Bradley lakes at the base of this part of the mountain.

views-of-taggart-and-bradley-lakes-from-garnet-canyon-trail

After about a mile and a half Charles went ahead of us quite a ways. We were not in the best “hiking” shape we could be in and we were also struggling a bit with the altitude. We kept a nice steady pace, but it was sort of slow. When we got to the 3 mile mark there is a fork in the trail which is well-marked.

trail-junction-at-at-3-mile-mark-on-garnet-canyon-trail

Charles was waiting for us at the junction. The trail heads further up the mountain to some high mountain lakes. We talked to a couple of groups who were backpacking to this area to camp. We would be heading the other direction, more around the mountain than up it, to Garnet Canyon. Charles made a pitch to head back down instead, and decided he would head back either way. Although I was really feeling my lack of conditioning at that point, I was for continuing on. We decided to continue as we knew there would be some great view ahead of us.

After the junction the trail toward Garnet Canyon levels out quite a bit. The hike is easier, but we were pretty tired by this point. As we rounded the corner and headed onto the trail directly above Garnet Canyon excitement replaced fatigue. The Nez Perce peak came into view first.

nez-perce-peak-through-the-trees-on-the-garnet-canyon-trail

There was no one else around so we took a quick selfie with this peak behind us.

selfie-on-the-garnet-trail-grand-tetons-as-the-nez-perce-peak-comes-into-view

We were tired, but happy we had continued. The bear spray we had bought the previous day while checking out the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River was hooked up and ready on my chest. Luckily we would not need it during this trip!

From this point the views would only get more spectacular. Just a little further up the trail we got a great view of both Nez Perce and Middle Teton peaks.

view-of-nez-perce-and-middle-teton-from-garnet-canyon-trail

Just a little further up the trail we ran into a group of hikers coming back down the trail. They let us know it was not much further to the end of the trail. They also took this picture of us.

eric-and-jenny-rial-on-garnet-canyon-trail

We decided to have a seat and enjoy some snacks around the next corner. There was a nice boulder to rest on…

snacks-and-a-break-near-the-end-of-the-garnet-canyon-trail

with a very sweet view! At this point the line of lava going up the face of the Middle Teton was very obvious.

nez-perce-and-middle-teton-peaks-from-garnet-canyon-trail

I explored a little further up the trail, but it was quickly turning in to just a jumble of rocks. Although we could have continued a little further it was time for us to head back. I got these final shots of a stream going down Garnet Canyon in the distance…

view-of-a-stream-descending-into-garnet-canyon-grand-tetons

and one last view up the canyon at the point I turned around.

view-of-our-turnaround-point-on-garnet-canyon-trail

The first part of the descent was beautiful all over again. I love when you get to see things from a different angle on the way back down a trail.

jenny-pausing-for-a-break-on-the-way-down-at-garnet-canyon-trail

In this shot, the lighting was perfect to see the pines reflecting on Bradley Lake from our angle on the trail above the lake.

pines-reflection-on-bradley-lake-grand-teton-national-park

As we got closer to the bottom though we started to feel it again. Sometimes going down can take it out of you too. I prefer going down hill, but for Jenny it is harder than going up. Hiking poles help, but a good smooth well maintained trail helps too.

heading-back-to-the-car-on-the-garnet-canyon-trail

We were glad to come to landmarks that let us know we were getting close to the end. We woke Charles up from his nap at the car and headed back to Jackson for a light dinner and a well deserved beer!

having-a-beer-above-the-jackson-town-square

I’m finishing this post up on December 31st 2016. During this trip I started to think of myself as “in the worst shape of my life”. I’ve done nothing in the nearly 5 months since this trip to change that. Over the last year I’ve only been in the gym intermittently, I’ve been unable to run, and I’ve not hiked enough to really make a difference either. It is a bit cliché, but I’m going to resolve to change my routine in the New Year. It may be a slow start as I have foot surgery near the end of January, but once I’m recovered from that I’m hoping to be able to get back to running. Before the surgery I plan to get a good start on getting out of the worst shape of my life! I have way too many things I want to do to be “out of shape” any longer.

Update Feb 13, 2017:  I got a good start on getting out of “the worst shape of my life” before my surgery.  It has been 3 weeks since my surgery and today was my first day in a regular shoe!  The foot is healing fast and already feels better in many ways than it did before the surgery.  So glad to have the irritating hardware out of my foot.  I’m hoping to get in to the gym by the end of this week (about a month post surgery) for some weight training and maybe a light elliptical workout.  I have an all-inclusive resort on white sand beach to prepare for!

We were lucky enough to be invited to the wedding of the son of close friends in Bozeman Montana at the beginning of August 2016.  Unfortunately for us we already had floor tickets to Adele in Los Angeles the day before the wedding.  These were tough tickets to get and even tougher tickets to sell or give away.  For better seats Adele had set a rule to reduce/prevent scalping that the person who ordered the tickets had to present a credit card to get into the venue.  There were no tickets to sell.  We wanted to go to the wedding so we checked for flights from the LA area the morning of the wedding.  There were very reasonably priced flights from John Wayne airport to Bozeman early Saturday morning, so we decided to go to the concert, stay in LA, and drive to the airport early that morning. We also decided to add-on a visit to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National park to the trip. It would be a fast 3 day visit, but we would pack a lot of stuff into those 3 days.

The Adele concert was awesome and our hotel was walking distance from Staples Center, but we still got to bed fairly late and had to get up at 4 am to catch our flight. We got into Bozeman early, but by the time we got our rental car we had just enough time to go to our hotel, check-in, change and head to the wedding. The wedding venue was awesome, but there were dark clouds approaching.

Wedding Venue Bozeman Montana

We had a great time at the wedding, but started to feel the long day way too soon. We hung in there, but eventually had to head back to the room and catch up on our sleep. The next day everyone else was heading out-of-town early, so we got up fairly early, had breakfast at a terrific French coffee shop, then heading toward Yellowstone. Originally we had planned to go in the north entry into Yellowstone as it is closest to Bozeman, but later decided to go in the west entrance and leave out of the north entrance on the final day.

So we headed down Highway 191 through the Big Sky area on our way to West Yellowstone. A friend recommended this route and now that we’ve gone both ways, I would definitely recommend this route. It is has very scenic landscape, and we saw both elk…

elk-grazing-in-big-sky-montana

and buffalo along the road. I believe the buffalo was a commercial herd, but still cool.

buffalo-along-highway-191-outside-yellowstone

We only stopped briefly in West Yellowstone, but it looked kind of interesting for a future visit. Our first destination in the park was Canyon Village. Both Jenny or I have been to Yellowstone before, but neither of us had visited the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River. We did end up having one unscheduled stop along our route though, Gibbon Falls.

We planned to just stop for a minute to take a couple of pictures from the closest view-point…

gibbon-falls-from-the-lookout-area

but ended up walking on a path for about a half a mile…

trail-along-the-road-to-the-lower-overlook

to get a better view of the falls. The view actually changes quite a bit as you walk along the path to the lower viewpoint. At first there view opens up so you can see the walls on both sides of the falls.

the-view-of-gibbon-falls-along-the-walk-to-the-lower-overlook

Then it opens up even more and there are trees in the view also.

view-of-gibbon-falls-from-the-lower-overlook

We enjoyed the break from the car and the short walk, but then it was back on the road to the Canyon area of Yellowstone. The one advantage of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone over the Grand Canyon, is the much shorter drive from the North Rim to the South Rim.

map-of-the-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone-area

We were able to see the canyon and falls from most of the view points in just a few hours. We did three short hikes during this time. We started with a drive along North Rim Drive. I would actually recommend going to the South Rim first as the North Rim Drive is a one way that takes you back the way you came for several miles. It just makes more sense to do it last. The first stop on North Rim Drive is a trail to the Brink of the Lower Falls. The weather was threatening rain, but of course we had forgotten to pack ponchos. We decided a little water would not hurt and started down the trail. The trail is less than a half mile, but descends about 600 feet. There are switchbacks, but it is still pretty steep. If you look up on the way down, you get a pretty good view of the Upper Falls less than a mile up the Yellowstone River.

view-of-the-upper-falls-as-we-walked-down-to-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls

The rain was threatening and we could hear thunder in the distance so we knew our visit would be a fairly short one. The falls are impressive. We’ve been to Yosemite several times, and the waterfalls are impressive, but the lower falls at the Yellowstone River’s Grand Canyon are right there with any falls in Yosemite. That is especially true this late in the year. The waterfalls slow to a trickle in the late summer and fall in Yosemite. Our first view was from directly over the top of the falls.

view-of-the-lower-falls-from-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls

The view of the water, and the mist, and the green sides of the canyon set against the golden color of the rest of the canyon was spectacular. I can’t recommend visiting this place in strong enough terms, it is my favorite spot in Yellowstone.

I stretched the camera out a ways and got a slightly different angle/shot.

leaned-out-for-a-better-look-at-the-lower-falls-from-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls

This shows how sudden the drop is and how much water is flowing. Finally we went up one level to get a different perspective. This shows the area we had just left, right on the “brink of the falls”.

view-from-a-higher-vantage-point-of-the-brink-of-the-lower-falls-viewing-area

It started drizzling at that point. We were really wishing we had ponchos, but it was a bit late for that. The walk back up was a bit tougher, but it was cool and the threat of heavier rain kept us motivated. There is also a trail from here to the Brink of the Upper Falls, but with the weather we decided to drive further down the road. The next place we stopped on North Rim Drive was Lookout Point. There’s a full view of the Lower Falls from here.

view-of-the-lower-falls-from-lookout-point-at-the-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone

If you look closely in the picture from lookout point you can see a wooden trail heading down into the canyon below. Although the rain had started to fall, we decided to head down this trail to Red Rock anyway. The trail alternates between a steep and more gentle descent. It not only takes you down into the canyon, it takes you a lot closer to the falls. I enjoyed the trail…

along-the-trail-from-lookout-point-to-red-rock

but the view of the falls from Red Rock were even better than from lookout point.

view-of-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-from-red-rock-in-the-rain

There is something joyful about hiking unprepared in the rain. Sometime it’s hard to contain that feeling so you just have raise your arms to the sky!

jenny-raising-her-arms-to-the-rain-at-red-rock-with-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-in-the-distance

Jenny seemed to enjoy it so much… I didn’t want to get left out!

eric-rial-raising-his-arms-to-the-rain-at-red-rock-with-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-in-the-distance

We stayed to enjoy the view for several minutes. I managed to get a picture of this bird (Clarks Nutcracker I believe), resting for a minute in the top of a tree between us and the falls.

clarks-nutcracker-perched-on-a-treetop-in-front-of-the-lower-fall-of-the-yellowstone-river

We waited just long enough to catch the blue sky starting to peek out at the top of the falls. Love the coloring of this picture!

blue-sky-appearing-behind-the-falls

On the way back up I took this picture of the wooden stairs that form the path for much of the bottom of this trail. You can see the rim of the canyon above us.

view-of-the-stairs-as-we-climb-back-to-the-rim-of-the-canyon

I got a couple more pictures near the top of the trail. One back toward the Lower Falls…

one-last-picture-of-the-lower-falls-from-near-the-top-of-the-trail-from-lookout-point-to-red-rock

and the other away from the falls and into the canyon.

view-of-the-canyon-away-from-the-lower-falls-from-near-the-top-of-the-trail-between-red-rock-and-lookout-point

We were soaked to the bone by the time we got to the top. We did take some pictures (evidence), but the smiles could not hide the cold, wet, and a bit worn-out from the climb look. No need to share that look!

We decided to go the Canyon Lodge area for some supplies (bear spray and some ponchos) and to get a bite to eat. Then we headed to the North Rim. Even though the route we took was not the most efficient route, everything is pretty close together here, so we didn’t lose much time, just enough to dry most of the way out!

Our first stop on the North Rim was at Uncle Tom’s point. There is a trail here that leads to a metal staircase that takes you right beside the Lower Falls. The pictures from here were unbelievable. If you are in reasonable shape, definitely go down this trail! The trail is in good shape, but the fun part of the trip is the stairs and the views of the falls.

The first view you get of the falls are some of the best. You are close enough to see the size of the crowd on the Brink of the Lower Falls.

initial-view-of-the-lower-falls-from-uncle-toms-trail

That is near the top of the stairs. There are lots of stairs – 328 per the sign.

some-of-the-stairs-on-uncle-toms-trail

The stairs are impressive mostly because of the spectacular view from them.

the-lower-stairs-and-canyon-on-uncle-toms-trail

You get great views of the canyon down river…

rainbow-over-the-yellowstone-river

of the walls straight across the canyon…

view-of-the-canyon-from-uncle-toms-trail

and of course of the falls.

jenny-and-eric-at-toms-point-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone

Then you get to climb back out! At the top, we debated whether to go on to Artist Point or to hit the road to Jackson Hole, where we would be spending the night. It’s about a 2 and a half hour drive. I’m glad we decided on a quick visit to Artist Point.

From the parking lot at Artist Point it is a short walk to the end of the trail. The difference in the view you get as you walk is dramatic though. At first you catch glimpses of the falls through the trees.

view-of-the-lower-falls-of-yellowstone-river-from-artist-point-trail

The trail takes advantage of a curve in the river so as you walk down the trail the canyon seems to open up and fill your view. At first the trees still dominate the view.

another-view-of-yellowstone-canyon-from-artist-point

But eventually as you approach the end of the trail you can see the full canyon and a long stretch of the river.

canyon-views-open-up-as-you-approach-the-end-of-the-artist-point-trail

From the farthest point you can walk to, the view of the canyon dominates the landscape.

full-view-of-grand-canyon-of-yellowstone-river-and-lower-falls-from-artist-point

I could spend a whole day at this location just taking pictures with different lighting. It is obvious how this place got its name.

We had seen a lot, but not all of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, but it was time to head south. Our route would take us through a big chunk of Yellowstone, past Yellowstone Lake and through Grand Teton National Park. We were hoping there was enough daylight left to enjoy the drive. About a half hour into the drive we noticed a lot of cars stopped in the road. As we approached the area we could see why. There were several buffalo grazing near the road.

traffic-stopped-for-some-buffalo-near-the-road

The traffic was just crawling past this spot and we were at a complete stop several times. We saw the “classic” behavior that can lead to big issues around such big animals. Too many people, too much activity, and people getting way too close. One young lady got to within 30 feet or so to take a selfie. She turned her back on the buffalo smiled big and took her picture. I was afraid to watch!

We took a picture (not great, but good enough for me) from the car as the traffic crawled along.

yellowstone-buffalo-picture-from-our-car-window

We zipped past Yellowstone Lake. We would be back here in a couple days, and we were anxious to get to Grand Teton Park. We got there in time to get some great views of the Tetons. Although we had zipped by Yellowstone Lake, we could not help stopping for pictures of the Tetons across the lakes we were passing in Grand Teton Park.

clouds-floating-above-the-silhouette-of-the-distant-grand-tetons

A few minute later we stopped again with a slightly better view of the mountains.

grand-tetons-visible-in-the-distance-across-a-lake

At this point we were worried about getting to Jackson in time to get a good dinner. We would be back to spend the whole day in Grand Teton Park the next day, so I told Jenny we should not stop any more. Of course a few minutes later I looked over at the mountains, exclaimed “Whoa Nelly” and pulled over again. The full view of the mountains as the sun was setting was too good to pass up. I took a landscape view picture with my phone…

grand-tetons-just-after-sunset

and then this panoramic shot.

panorama-of-grand-tetons-after-sunset

Our reservations in Jackson were at the Cowboy Village Log Cabin Resort. We checked in quickly and got our stuff into our cabin, then walked a couple blocks to have dinner at Snake River Brewing. The service, food, beers, and atmosphere were a perfectly relaxing end to a full day.

We would be having breakfast with a friend, Charles, in the morning, enjoying Jackson Hole for a bit and then going for a hike in the Tetons. We had chosen what was described as the “easiest alpine meadow hike in the Tetons”. But more on that in the next post.

We slowed things down for the last couple days in Maui. We spent both days at the beach and tooling around Lahaina. On Friday we spent most of the day at Black Rock Beach. We got very lucky at the small public parking lot near the Sheraton Resort. Just as we pulled in a car was leaving, so we nabbed a terrific parking spot. We set up our chairs on the beach and hit the water. We headed toward the black rock area. There were several people jumping off rocks there. I was not interested in climbing up there but my friend Dave jumped off a couple of times. I had bought a disposable underwater camera, one of the few things that still uses film. I tried to get pictures of him as he hit the water, but the camera was not that sensitive. In fact I had a really hard time telling when it actually took a picture – no click!

Jenny got one picture of me under the water.

Eric diving under the water

The other pictures we took like that did not turn out. We really have grown used to being able to look at the pictures we take immediately on our digital cameras. At some point I would like to get a good underwater enclosure for my digital camera. Until then I’ll have to go back to hoping the pictures I take are good.

We swam over past the end of the protected area of black rock beach to an area with nice coral. The coral was not the best I’ve ever swam above, but it was pretty nice. The waves “fairly gently” moved us in and back out from the shallows near the edge of the water. I say fairly gently because every so often a bigger wave would come in and push quite a bit harder. I backed off regularly to be sure that I would not be pushed into the rocks.

I love gliding over coral. It feels like you are visiting a different world. I’m very comfortable in the water and could spend hours floating in an area like this. Twice while I floated in this area a turtle passed by. Both times I followed behind the turtle as it swam over the coral. My goal was to get a picture of a turtle and the state fish of Hawaii, the humuhumunukunukuapua’a together in a single picture. I didn’t miss my chance to get several shots of the turtles while I waited. I got a couple good shots of the first one as it passed over the coral.

turtle-gliding

turtle-passing-over-the-coral

I really like the lighting for this shot of the second turtle.

green-turtle-gliding

Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to get the turtle and fish together, but I did get this picture of the humuhumunukunukuapua’a swimming near a bluespine unicorn fish.

humuhumunukunukuapuaa-and-a-bluespine-unicorn-fish

After a couple trips into the water and plenty of time on the beach we decided to get drinks and pupus at the pool bar at the Sheraton. I definitely recommend spending some time there the next time you are in Maui!

That night we had dinner at Kimo’s in Lahaina. I really recommend this place for the food, the location, and the service. The view from our table wasn’t too bad either.

view-from-our-dinner-table-at-kimos

On our last full day in Maui we decided to really go casual. We grabbed the boogie boards and drove away from Lahaina along Honoapiilani Highway until a spot grabbed us. This was the unlikely spot we chose to hangout, swim, and boogie board along Honoapiilani Highway.

The beach was a bit rocky, the road a bit close, and the surf a bit shallow, but we had a great time and managed to slow the day down as much as possible. Although it might not look like much from the road we had a place to set up the chairs without walking far, and without fighting a crowded beach. There was one other family near us, but that was it. We were also able to set up under a tree, so we had some shade. The tree also helped frame some nice shots of the beach.

playing-in-the-water-at-a-roadside-beach-in-maui

getting-some-boogie-boarding-in-on-our-last-full-day-in-maui

But it was more a day for relaxing than taking pictures. Right before we left unfortunately Jenny cut her foot on a rock under the water. It was a pretty bad cut. The only good thing about it was it didn’t happen on our first day! We got some first aid items on the way back to the condo, fixed her up and enjoyed the rest of the night visiting and doing some last minute souvenir shopping in Lanai.

On the last day we had arranged to meet a local man at the airport to get a turtle he carved for us during the week. We had met him on the street in Lahaina. I was a bit unsure of how well the turtle would turn out but we were very happy with the end result.

maui-carved-turtle-souvenir

We decided to give him a nice tip on top of the agreed upon price.

It’s been a year since we went on this trip (yes I’m way behind on my blog posts). I’m really glad we decided to visit all the different islands rather than just going back to Kauai again. We loved Kauai and will definitely visit there again, but our next visit to Hawaii will most likely be to the big island of Hawaii and Hawaii Valcanoes National Park. It may be a year or two before we can put that on the schedule. Until then we’ll have lot’s of good memories from this trip.

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

We went into 2015 with the intent to have fewer planned vacations.  I started a new job with fewer vacation days to start.  I would have no vacation days early in the year, so we decided to plan a trip to Hawaii later in the year so I could save up a few days.  We decided to go the week of Columbus day to save even more of my vacation time (I only needed 3 days of vacation time).  Our last trip to Hawaii was to Kauai in 2011 and we had a great time.  For that trip we stayed in two different locations and both of them were right on the water.  We wanted to do things a little differently this time.  We decided to look for a condo near Front Street in Lahaina so we could walk to the shops and restaurants in that area.  We would drive to the beaches but be able to relax and enjoy ourselves in Lahaina without worrying about having to drive home.  We found a condo 2 blocks from Front Street.  The condo was in the Aina Nalu a condo property partially managed by Outrigger and partially privately owned condos. It has lots of amenities but the true appeal is the location. We ended up getting one of the privately owned condos in this property that was listed on Vacation Rental By Owner (VRBO).  It was a 2 bedroom, 2 bath condo which was perfect for us and the other couple Dave and Wendy who would be going with us.  We’ve had several terrific vacations with them over the past several years.  Although they live in Boise Idaho and we live in San Diego we actually got together 4 times in 2015; once for this trip, once for my daughters wedding in California, once for his daughters wedding in Idaho, and again for New Years eve and a trip to the Rose Bowl on New Years day.

We had a great time in Maui, but there was one unexpected thing that made Hawaii a little less of a paradise on this trip.  Due to the El Niño in the Pacific the temperatures and humidity were much higher than usual.  Most days were in the 80s with humidity in the 90 percent range.  This is not normal, and not what we expected for October in Hawaii.  Even though we only had a 2 block walk to Front Street in Lahaina, by the time we got there we would be dripping sweat.  I’m pretty sure this is the last time I’ll go to Hawaii during an El Niño year.  Our first day/night in Maui we just took it easy.  On the way from the airport we got some groceries to stock up the frig.  After we checked in to the condo, we walked down to Front Street to get lunch.  We decided on a burger place right on the water called… Cheeseburger in Paradise.  The food was delicious, the service good, and the view from our table was amazing.  We checked out some of the shops along front street which are mostly souvenir shops and art galleries and we spent quite a bit of time under the Banyan Tree at a regular art festival. Got a picture of Dave and Wendy under one of the trunks of the tree.

Dave and Wendy under the Banyan Tree Lahaina

After the long flight and the unusual heat we decided to head back to the condo to clean up, catch-up and take it easy. Jenny and I took a nap for a few hours, then we decided to take another walk downtown after dark.  We walked under the Lahaina Court House banyan tree again.  It is an amazing tree, really hard to believe it is only one tree.

Lahaina Banyan Court night view

Then we walked out toward the pier and I got this image of Front Street lit up from the park behind the Lahaina Public Library.

View of Lahaina Front Street at night

As we walked back toward Front Street I noticed a place that was advertising an old favorite snack – Dole Whip (frozen pineapple juice).  I convinced everyone it was worth the calories!  After wondering around Front Street again for a bit, we gave in to the jet lag, and headed back to the condo to get a good night’s sleep.

Dave and Wendy had arrived a couple days earlier than us to do some exploring.  They found a beach they really loved, Kapalua Beach, so on day 2 we decided to check it out.  We stopped at a snorkeling/boogie board rental place on our way out of Lahaina.  The person working there was a wealth of knowledge and gave us some great tips for how to best do things we planned later in the week, like the road to Hana and a bike ride down from Haleakala after seeing the sunrise over the crater.  Her advice really helped us enjoy the rest of the week, and we got good prices on the equipment rentals and the bike ride reservations.

There were areas of rain just about every day we were in Maui, but luckily there also were areas on the island where it was not raining.  On the way to Kapalua Beach we saw some rain clouds, which were a bit concerning, but it was not raining near the beach.  There is a small public parking lot near Kapalua Beach which provides great access to the beach, but you have to get there pretty early to get a spot.  There were no spots available when we got there, but there was still plenty of parking along  Lower Honoapiilani Road.  Even that fills in fairly quickly so the earlier you get there the closer you will be to the beach.  We were only about a quarter mile down the road, so not too bad.

There are public bathrooms on the way down to the beach, and then you go through a short tunnel and on to the beach.  There were quite a few people there already, but still plenty of room to set up our chairs and beach towels (provided by the condo rental) in a nice shady area.  The beach is in a beautiful cove but it is just a short walk to nearby resorts and restaurants.

View of Merrimans Maui from Kapalua Beach

View of resort near Kapalua Beach Maui

Even in the shade it wasn’t long before we were hot and ready to get in the water. My friend Dave was happy to lead the way by putting his mask and fins on in his chair and then walking down to the water. There are few things in life that are funnier than someone walking on the beach in fins. We all had a great laugh. Luckily I caught the whole thing on a video! I decided to share a screen capture of the video rather than the video. Definitely evokes memories of Charlie Chaplain’s walk as the Tramp!

Dave walking into the water at Kapalua Beach with his fins on

Although we enjoyed the beach and swimming, we wanted to try a different snorkeling spot. We were hoping to see more coral, fish, and maybe some turtles. We had heard that Black Rock was a good place to snorkel so decided to head there. Not really knowing the area or the best way to approach the snorkeling area we decided to park at what we thought was a good public parking/access area at Kahekili Beach Park. That would mean hauling our stuff about .7 miles from the parking lot to an area near the Black Rock area. We had stopped at the Honolua Store on the way back to the highway from Kapalua Beach to get some sandwiches and drinks for lunch, so we were set until dinner. The walk on the path and beach took a little more effort than we expected and it was definitely starting to warm up.

Walking from Kahekili Beach Park toward Black Rock

We set up our stuff under a large tree to enjoy the shade again. After swimming for a bit, Dave and I decided to walk over to black rock area to see what snorkeling in that area was like. We headed out along the large black rocks. There was no coral and not really anything of interest. We decided to go out past the end of the rock and go around the corner to see what was out there. We passed an opening in the rocks and continued on for about another 50 yards. The water was getting deeper and deeper to our right and there was really nothing to see. I started to hear the Jaws theme music in my head, and kept looking into the murky deep water to our right expecting to see a shark coming our way at any point. After a brief discussion we decided there was nothing to see this way and decided to head back. On the way out we had not noticed we were being pushed along by a current. We definitely felt the current as we fought it back to the corner as we headed back. Progress was slow, but steady. As we approached the opening in the rocks, Dave decided to climb up on the rock and take a break. We were both a bit tired after fighting the current. As he was getting out he smacked his knee on the rock and after we both rested for a bit he decided to walk back to the beach over the rocks rather than get back into the water. Now it was time for me to look a bit silly. I have very tender feet. It’s actually a bit embarrassing. I was walking so funny it concerned Jenny and Wendy so they came over to see if we had gotten hurt. We were fine, but my pride was a bit bruised. Luckily no one got a video of my walk of shame!

We hung under the shade tree for a little while longer. It looked like a rubber tree or a magnolia based on the leaves, but as I sat there I noticed a bird fly in and land on a branch. The branch had what looked like nuts on it. Just as I mentioned this to Jenny a nut fell off the tree and landed on her. To avoid getting pelleted by more nuts, we decided to pack it up and to head further northwest toward Nakalele Point and the blowhole. We stopped first at an overlook just past the Honolua Bay, a great snorkeling area that we planned to check out later in the week. We drove out on a dirt road to a parking area not far from the main road. This area not only has great views of Honolua Bay…

Honolua Bay

there is also terrific views of a surfing area near Lipoa Point.

Surfers near Lipoa Point Maui

It was a beautiful place. We decided to come back later in the week to snorkel at Honolua Bay then come up to this overlook afterward to have some wine and cheese and enjoy the view.

The Nakalele Point blowhole was next. As we walked down the path we came upon this very welcoming sign.

Warning sign at Nakalele Point blowhole

It may seem a little over dramatic, but there have been people who have died at this place. Jenny and Wendy were in flip flops and decided to not go all the way down. They could see the blowhole, but Dave and I decided to go a little closer. This area is basically an outcropping of old lava. It is surreal rough terrain, but I think it was well worth the climb down.

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But the best view was not of the blowhole it was back toward the coastline from Nakalele Point.

View back toward the coast from Nakalele Point

Jenny and I braved facing into the sun for one more picture before we headed back toward Lahaina.

Eric and Jenny near Nakalele Point Maui

When we got back to Lahaina, it was very close to sunset. We wanted to see it while we ate, so rather than going back to condo to clean up change we just looked for parking on Front Street. The parking gods must have been on our side because we came on a parking spot only a couple blocks from the restaurant we had decided to eat at – Bubba Gumps.

We definitely had a great view from our table of the sun setting behind the island of Lanai.

Another view from our table at Bubba Gumps Lahaina Maui

View from our table at Bubba Gumps Lahaina Maui

As we ate dinner we decided to do the Road to Hana the next morning.  We planned to hike the Pipiwai Trail to Waimoku Falls at the end of the Road to Hana.  The very helpful lady at the equipment rental business had recommended that if we wanted to do this hike we should leave early and drive all the way to the end of the Road to Hana without stopping, then do any stops we wanted to do on the way back.  So that was our plan at the end of our first full day in Maui.  We were tired, satisfied that we had “stuffed” enough fun into this day, so after dinner we headed home to get some sleep so we could get up early for the Road to Hana!

To see all our Tropical Vacation Posts go to our Tropical Vacation Posts page.

Hairpin curve in slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

Distance 5+ Miles out and back
Elevation Change 550+’ gain/loss
Difficulty Moderately Strenuous
Rating (on the day we went) 5+ Stars (out of 5)
Trail Conditions Smooth sandy road in excellent condition, slot canyons require some scrambling
Comments I did some research on this trail before our hike but didn’t find any reliable details on how to find the slot canyons.  We ended up doing a lot of exploring in the wrong areas and were almost satisfied when we found the first (smaller) slot canyon, but I’m glad we decided to go around one more bend in the road.
Latitude/Longitude 32.833277, -116.156338
Directions Take Interstate 8 East to County Route S2.  Take S2 north for 13.1 miles to a dirt road on the right.  It is past mile marker 53 and the Carizzo Badlands Overlook.  This is Sin Nombre Canyon Road.  You can park in a dirt lot just off S2 at this turn off, or if you have a higher clearance vehicle you can drive about a mile down the dirt road to the east to the beginning of Canyon Sin Nombre Canyon.

 

I’m slowly working my way through all the hikes in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego. I’m not creating posts for all my hikes as the book has everything you need for most of the hikes. I’ve started a page (see Afoot and Afield Hikes on the menu at the top of the page) to track my progress, rate the trails, and post a picture for each hike I do. However, if a hike has changed or if I think there is something I can add or make more clear I am creating a post. For Canyon Sin Nombre, I think the description of the slot canyon is not completely clear in the book.  The biggest thing missing is that there are actually two very nice slot canyons not one.  In looking at other posts about this hike I believe some people have only found the smaller of the two slot canyons, and I don’t see any posts that describe both.

As you turn off County Road S2 onto the unmarked Sin Nombre Canyon Road you will see a sign stating that the road is only for street legal vehicles.   Based on the number of vehicle tracks along the road this is a fairly popular route for off road vehicles.  We drove about a mile down the dirt road to just before the beginning of the canyon.  There was plenty of room to park off the road at this point.  You’ll see the rocky beginning of the canyon as you approach this pull out area.

Rocky entrance to Canyon Sin Nombre

We started the hike in the late morning around 11 am.  It was a cool breezy winter day with a clear blue sky.  At the beginning of the hike we were wishing we had brought jackets, but we were fine after we started walking.  Because I was unsure exactly where the slot canyons were we ended up taking a couple of exploratory trips off the main road that did not find the slot canyons, but they were interesting side trips.  Both were up erosion gullies on the east side of the canyon.  Not sure why I thought to look on this side as the slot canyons we ended up finding were both on the west side of the main canyon.  But the side trips took us through some interesting areas and gave us some great views.

Exploring off Canyon Sin Nombre

We finally gave up on the side trips and decided to walk down the main road.  At about a mile down the road (32.843725, -116.154400) we came on a trail on the left that had 3 posts in front of it and even more encouraging there were lots of footprints headed down it!  Our footprints had been pretty lonely on the other exploratory trails we had followed.  Near the start of the trail it splits into two different trails.

Trail to the smaller slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

The only accessible slot canyon we found was to the right.  There was also an inaccessible slot that looked interesting but there were very large rocks blocking the entrance and we didn’t attempt to climb through.  The accessible slot canyon was on the right side of the right path.  This was the smaller of the two slot canyons we found off Canyon Sin Nombre and the harder one to find.   There is a rocky path up to the opening of the slot, but it is hard to see.

Entrance to the smaller slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

Although it was the smaller of the two slot canyons, it was still about 150 yards long with lots of interesting twists and turns.

 

We found another very short slot in this area but it was only 20 or 3o yards deep.  But I did get one good shot of the wider canyon on the way out.

View of Canyon Sin Nombre from a short slot in the canyon wall

There was another area that was posted off just south of where we had found the entrance to the trail to the slot canyon.  We decided to explore there next.  There was another wash similar to the ones we had explored on the east side of the canyon.  It went higher up on the canyon walls than the others did though.  I particularly like this picture back toward the main canyon with three Ocotillo Cactus along the path.  These have red blooms in the spring… but still interesting looking plants in winter.

Octillo Cactus along a path up the side of Canyon Sin Nombre

We climbed nearly to the top of this path/wash, and got a pretty good view of the area from where we turned around.

View of Anza Berrego from the near the top of a trail off Canyon Sin Nombre

It was a long way up and a long scramble back down.

Scrambling back down the toward the road in Canyon Sin Nombre

By the time we got back down to the road we were pretty tired.  Although this hike is listed as 550′ of loss/gain in elevation, my GPS route showed a total of almost 1000′ by the time we finished all of our side explorations.  On the way back down I told Sean we would head back when we got down, but by the time we got to the road I decided we should explore around one more bend in the road.  I just didn’t think we had seen everything yet.

As we rounded the bend a high solid looking wall came into view.  I didn’t initially see any openings but we kept going and eventually came to a break in the wall that looked very encouraging.

The entrance to this larger/longer slot canyon (32.847642, -116.154712) at the back of this opening is not immediately obvious, but all you have to do is keep walking toward the left side of the back and you’ll see the path. There are a couple of wider areas near the start of the slot canyon.

And then you’ll come to an area of partial collapse. This was the first spot where we questioned if we would be able to continue, or even wanted to walk through what looked like an unstable area.

Sean in front of an area of collapse rock in slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

We decided to go for it the slot canyon continued but not far after the first area of collapse was a second one.

Second area of collapse in the longer slot canyon in Canyon Sin Nombre

We talked about turning back again more seriously this time, but I decided to scramble over the rocks to see what was past the collapse. The slot canyon definitely continued, so I called to Sean to climb on through. As I look at the picture we took before going forward it is hard to see the scale of the rocks. I also took this picture of Sean on top of the pile on the way out that shows the scale.

Sean climbing back over collapsed rocks on the way out of the slot canyon.

We were really glad we climbed through the second area of collapsed rock. At that point we were only about a third of the way through the slot canyon. The trail continued to climb and the walls closed in but were not quite as high.

My favorite part of the slot canyon was in this section. It was a hairpin curve, you could stand with your back against the wall and see down the canyon both directions. I attempted to show how this looked with the picture at the top of the post. I glued several images together but was careful to put them together into one image that showed the perspective you would see with your back against the wall. I really wished I would have just pulled my phone out of my pocket and taken a panoramic shot to show it in one image. Next time I guess!

For whatever reason after the hairpin curve I didn’t take anymore pictures. Not sure why I didn’t. The slot canyon continued for a while, then came to an open area, but the slot canyon continued on the other side of that area to the top of the canyon wall. There was only one branch in the slot and it came after that open area. To the left is supposedly an opening into the canyon (be careful if you go that way). We went right and the slot continued up to another large open area at the top of the canyon wall. It looked like a great place to explore and we might have found entrances to other slot canyons up there, but we decided to head back down and head back to the Jeep.  We did seem to get some better lit pictures on the way back out.

 

I looked back one last time as we left the slot canyon and caught the halo of the sun around one of the peaks of the canyon walls near the entrance to the slot canyon. I also noted the fire ring.  Camping is allowed, free, and no reservations are required in Anza Borrego!

Sun setting behind the canyon wall as we leave the slot canyon off Canyon Sin Nombre

 

I don’t consider myself a desert person, but this was one of my favorite hikes in San Diego County so far. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to see a good example of a slot canyon or who just loves to explore.

After the very slow lazy day floating down the Merced through Yosemite Valley, we were ready for a little more exertion on day 3 of our car camping trip to Yosemite. Our original plan was for some of the group to hike to the top of vernal while the more ambitious folks hiked to Half Dome from the valley floor. I hike to the top of Half Dome in 2011 from Little Yosemite Valley, but wanted to do it the more traditional and more difficult route all the way from the valley floor. In 2011 we had back country permits and backpacked from Glacier Point to Little Yosemite Valley the day before hiking to Half Dome. The good thing about getting back country permits is that you automatically can request permits for Half Dome. If you want to go from the valley floor you have to enter the seasonal and/or daily lottery for permits. We had done both, but unfortunately we did not get selected in either lottery. Hiking the Mist Trail and having lunch above Vernal Falls is not a bad consolation prize.

Our group got separated at the beginning of the trail, into 2 or 3 smaller groups. We had driven separately and some of us took the shuttle and others walked from the parking lot at Curry Village to the trailhead. We had agreed to meetup a short distance up the trail. Our group was pretty diverse when it came to conditioning and even desire to do a tough hike. I was just glad we all made it at least to the rally point. It was a fairly hot day, and the first part of the trail, even though it is paved, is pretty steep. We were hoping to get everyone to at least the bridge below Vernal Falls, but a couple of people decided today was not the day to do that. A few people took off quick, a few went at a moderate pace (me included) but the biggest group hung together at a slow but steady pace. The trail is fairly level until you get to the High Sierra Loop Trail sign not too far from the road. I like to get pictures of this so I don’t have to look up the distance that I hiked!

Sean by the High Sierra Loop Trail sign

The planned hike to the top of Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail and back down on the John Muir Trail would be about 4.5 miles, however, a few of us would go back down the Mist Trail and a few would end up doing several extra miles. Once you get past the sign and start up the fairly steep pave trail, you start to see why this is one of the most popular trails in Yosemite. There are trees and boulders along most of the trail.

Jenny heads up the paved part of the trail to Vernal Falls

And the Merced can be heard and sometime seen tumbling toward the Valley as you climb the trail.

The Merced tumbling toward the Valley beside the Mist Trail

Although the trail is steep, it is really not far to the bridge below Vernal Falls.

The bridge below Vernal Falls just ahead

The views here are terrific and there is fresh water to fill your water containers. If you have friends who aren’t sure they want to sign up for a big hike, get them to sign up to at least hike to this bridge it is only .8 miles from the start of the trail. The best part of this point in the hike is you can see just enough of the falls to entice them to go further!

View of Vernal Falls with Sentinal Dome behind from the bridge

Just get them this far, take a snack break, then point out that the views closer to the falls are spectacular and it really isn’t that much farther to get up close.

Note: I noticed after I got home that all 500+ pictures I took with my Nikon camera had a smudge on the left hand side of the photo. For many of the pictures in the posts for this trip I was able to crop out the blur/smudge. I couldn’t bring myself to crop out Sentinel Dome in the above picture. Unfortunately several pictures that could have been awesome were completely ruined. Lesson learned: clean the camera lens daily!  Note2: The camera lens was actually damaged not smudged but I would not realize it until after our trip to Maui 4 months later.

We took a break to refill our water bladders, use the restroom, and have a snack. As usual, anywhere with food, there will be squirrels waiting for a chance to nab some of your food!

Squirrel near the bridge below Vernal falls nabs some accidentally dropped snack

The trail as you leave the bridge area on the way toward Vernal Falls is not overly steep, runs right beside the Merced, and is shaded at first.

Mist Trail Yosemite just above the bridge toward Vernal Falls

While you’re still in the shade you will pass a sign that marks the point that the John Muir Trail splits off. We planned to come back on this trail from the top of Vernal Falls for a couple of reasons. First that trail is more gentle (although longer) and easier on the knees on the way down. Second, there are some terrific views of the falls from the trail that connects the Mist Trail to the John Muir Trail a short distance above Vernal Falls.

Eventually the shade goes away and the trail turns into granite stairs that lead you up and past Vernal Falls.

Granite stairs below Vernal Falls on the Mist Trail Yosemite

This is my favorite part of the trail and the reason this trail is called the “Mist” Trail. When the falls are going strong there is a constant mist everywhere along this part of the trail. I’ve been on this trail a couple of times before, both times it was later in the summer, but this year the falls had the least amount of water I’d seen. Still not too bad, just less mist.

Vernal Falls Yosemite

I frequently forget to look back when I’m hiking uphill, especially when there is something as spectacular as Vernal Falls in front of you. We weren’t planning to come back down this trail, so I looked back several times on this stretch of the trail. I’m glad I did. You can see the river far below and across the valley Glacier Point and the start of the Panorama Trail.

View back down the Mist Trail on the stairs as you approach Vernal Falls

As you approach Vernal Falls, the views of the falls get even more spectacular. There is a spot before you turn to go up even more steps that is perfect for getting pictures. I took this picture of Sean while we waited for the rest of the group at that point.

Sean Rial hiking to the top of Vernal Falls 2015

Sean took this picture of me and Jenny at the same spot.

Jenny and Eric Rial Vernal Falls 2015

Because it had been such a dry winter and spring, the falls were the lowest I had ever seen them. I know they go even lower than this, but I wanted to feel more of the mist. We noticed at one point that a lot of people were taking a side trail to get closer to the falls. I probably would not have done it if the falls were heavier, but with less water/mist, we decided to check it out.

Trail leading to rocks just below Vernal Falls

This turned out to be my favorite part of the hike. It was a very cool experience!

Going off trail at Vernal Falls Yosemite

When we headed back to the main trail, there was a Ranger there discouraging people from leaving the main trail. I’m glad we got there before she did and experienced the falls up close.

Of course the big payoff with getting this close is to get in the shot. That is a little easier said than done. The lighting is not great, the angle to get the falls and people in is tough, and the lens of your camera will get wet. It was easier to do this with the camera on my phone, than my other camera, so we did get one good shot.

Jenny, Sean, and Eric Rial on the rocks above the pool at Vernal Falls Yosemite

After cooling off in the mist of Vernal Falls we were ready to finish the climb to the top of the falls. One of the last good shots I got of Vernal is through the trees, so you can’t see the top of the falls, but it is a good view of the pool below the falls.

Vernal Falls through the trees near the top

I don’t have any good pictures of the last part of the trail to the top of Vernal Falls, so I’ll just describe it. The trail curves to the left toward the falls and as it nears the top it narrows. The last 30-40 yards of the climb to the top are on a very narrow trail carved into the side of the granite wall. Luckily there is a pipe handrail to hold on to. Even with that if you have a fear of heights this is unlikely to be enjoyable. Once you get to the top, you will come to a large open granite slab that leads down to a point right above Vernal Falls.

Granite slab above Vernal Falls

This area is a good place for a group picture, but you may have to get in the queue. If you go to the point closest to the falls, you can get a great shot of the falls from the top by holding your camera out past the railing.

View of Vernal Falls from above

Some of our group was way ahead of the rest, had already finished their lunch and decided to head straight back down the Mist Trail. The rest of us headed upriver a ways to find a shady spot for lunch. We decided on a spot next to a part of the river that slides down a granite shoot into a pool. It’s not generally safe to get in the river above the falls, but if I had swim trunks with me I might have tried this slide out.

Slide and pool a ways above Vernal Falls

We ate our lunch on a rocky spot in the shade with a good view of this slide.

We had lunch in the shade above Vernal Falls

We were planning to cut across above Vernal Falls to the John Muir trail after lunch. This adds quite a bit more climb and about another 1.5 miles to the hike, but it is a much gentler descent and there are some terrific views of Vernal Falls from above. I ended up not going this way, but most of our group did. Here’s a shot of Vernal Falls that I took in 2011 from that trail.

View of Vernal Falls from the trail connecting John Muir Trail to the Mist Trail

This time I was feeling just a little more ambitious. We had been planning to hike to Half Dome, so I was feeling like I want more than to go just to the top of Vernal Falls. While we were eating lunch in the shade I decided to ask my son if he felt like hiking further up. He was in, and so was my wife’s cousin Charles. So after lunch the three of us headed the rest of the way up the Mist Trail to the top of Nevada Falls.

Since we would be going a couple of miles further than the rest of the group we decided to take off as soon as we were done eating. The Mist Trail and the trail toward the John Muir Trail split on a sloped granite slab. Both of them are a little hard to follow at that point. The Mist Trail heads down slope toward a bridge that crosses the Merced. I got this shot of the river as we crossed the bridge.

Bridge crossing the Merced above Vernal Falls

I took this picture from the other side of the bridge looking back on the trail we had just walked on.

View of the Merced tumbling down toward Vernal Falls from the bridge crossing the river above Vernal Falls

There are a lot fewer people who continue up the Mist Trail from this point, although we definitely weren’t alone. The trail starts out fairly gentle with some shade.

Sean hiking up the Mist Trail just past the bridge above Vernal Falls

Although we wanted to go up the trail quickly, it is fairly steep and the top part of the trail is mostly in the sun, so we took a couple breaks on the way up. On one of these breaks I decided to go off trail for a little bit to get this shot of Nevada Falls head on.

Went off trail to get this blurry shot of Nevada Falls

Unfortunately, the top of the picture turned out to be in the smudged part of the lens. it was the best picture I got of Nevada Falls from this angle so I decided to include it anyway.

We enjoyed the shade as long as we could, and this part of the trail was actually shadier than I remembered.

Last section of full shade on the way to the top of Nevada Falls on the Mist Trail

Although the views of Nevada Falls from the trail were “from the side”, it was still pretty inspiring.

Nevada Falls from the side through the trees from the Mist Trail

I have to admit that Vernal Falls is my favorite though! Toward the top of the trail the shade ends.

Last good view of Nevada Falls near the top of the Mist Trail

The trail at this point is just an organized pile of rocks.

The Mist trail is an organized pile of rocks near the top of the Mist Trail

Then you turn a corner and you are at the top. We took a break at the top to fill our water bladders and enjoy the view. Here are a few shots I took while we hung out.

View of the Merced River from the bridge above Nevada Falls

View of the Merced River from the bridge above Nevada Falls

View toward the top of Nevada Falls from the bridge above the falls

View toward the top of Nevada Falls from the bridge above the falls

Sean taking a break beside the Merced above Nevada Falls

Sean taking a break beside the Merced above Nevada Falls

View of the Merced approaching the bridge above Nevada Falls

View of the Merced approaching the bridge above Nevada Falls

Sean and Eric Rial above Nevada Falls

Sean and me above Nevada Falls

We didn’t hang out long though as we didn’t want the rest of the group to have to wait for us at the bottom. To take the John Muir Trail down to the valley you have to head toward Glacier Point for just a bit. The first part of the trail is a gentle climb…

Hike up John Muir and Panorama Trail from Nevada Falls

then it levels off…

Sean hike along the John Muir and Panorama Trail

before the John Muir trail branches off hugs the side of the wall for a ways. This is one of my favorite parts of this trail. There is a granite block wall on the outside of the trail and some great views of Nevada Falls and Sentinel Dome.

Stone wall along the John Muir trail with a view of Nevada Falls

The trail beyond that point heads downward, but has switchbacks that take you back toward Nevada Falls and more great views as you descend.

Nevada Falls and Sentinal Dome from a switchback on the John Muir Trail

The last good view of Nevada Falls is can be seen if you look along the trail that heads back toward Vernal Falls from the John Muir Trail. If you don’t look back you’ll miss it.

View of Nevada Falls and Sentinal Dome from John Muir trail at the branch with the trail back to Vernal Falls

We caught up the group a little further down the John Muir trail in a shady set of switchbacks.

Shady section of the John Muir trail descending toward Yosemite Valley

Just a little further down the trail we came to the merge with the Mist Trail.

John Muir trail approaching the juntion with the Mist Trail

After a glance at the Yosemite Trail sign at the junction of the two trails…

Yosemite Trail sign at the Junction of the Mist and John Muir trails below Vernal Falls

and a quick thought about future trips and adventures deeper into Yosemite, we turned to head back down the way we had come up from that point.

I enjoyed the entire trip to Yosemite, every minute of it, but this day was my favorite! I love hiking this trail. I guess I’m a sucker for waterfalls, and this hike as two spectacular falls just a couple of miles apart.

Back at camp it was Charles turn to provide dinner. He brought carnitas. A couple of carnitas fajitas plus a cold beer was the perfect end to a perfect day!

Having a couple fajitas for dinner at our campsite in Hodgdon Meadow Yosemite

The next day would be our last full day in Yosemite. We decided to do something completely different… but I’ll put that in another post!

Check out this page listing all of my Yosemite National Park posts: Yosemite National Park Posts

We got all settled in to our campsite in Hodgdon Meadows the day before, and decided to rent a raft to float down the Merced on our first full day in Yosemite.  The Merced River winds lazily back and forth along the valley floor.  It’s a relaxing way to spend a few hours and take in a ton of great views along the way. In 2010 we brought our own raft. Although we saved some money on the ride, because we rafted on one of the busiest days of the year, July 4th, the logistics of two cars and moving the raft were not really worth the savings. This time we rented a raft. They charge per person, not per raft, so don’t feel the need to crowd into one raft. We had 2-4 people per raft, which worked just fine.

Carrying the raft to the launch point is the most work you’ll do for the next few hours. Once you get to the river, one of the employees for the raft rental company will give you a hand launching the raft. Randy, Ellen, Brian, and Haley were in the first boat.

The Smiths getting started on the Merced Float

Stacy, Katie, and Candice were next and then we put our boat in. There are no rapids, no big hazards, and very little shade on this float. Be ready to relax and put on plenty of sunscreen!

Sean and Jenny Rial at the start of the Merced River Float Yosemite Valley

John and Brad were in the last boat into the water. The view of Half Dome behind them is just a bonus!

John and Brad Atwell floating the Merced River in Yosemite Valley

Actually there are views of either Half Dome or Yosemite Falls at different points all along the float. Even though it was a busy weekend in Yosemite, the river wasn’t overly crowded. We got started about 10:30 AM and finished before 1:00 PM. I snapped one more picture of Half Dome just a little ways from the launch point.

View of Half Dome near the start of the Merced River float

Due to a lack of snow and an extended drought in California, the river was very low for this early in the year. That was another good reason not to overload the boats.

Sean in the front of the raft very shallow water near the start of the Merced River float

We got our first glimpse of Upper Yosemite Falls about 30 minutes into the float.

Our first glimpses of Yosemite Falls after floating about 30 minutes

Don’t pass up a good picture of the falls, but don’t worry about missing them either. The river meanders quite a bit and just when you think you have passed seeing them, there they are again!

Sean got plenty of practice rowing/steering the raft.

Sean Rial paddling on the Merced in Yosemite Valley

And I got lots of rest!

Stretching out on the Merced River float with Yosemite Falls behind us

We pulled over lunch around 11 at a beach by House Keeping Camp. This place was perfect for lunch. There was a nice beach, some shade, and bathrooms! We ate lunch under some interesting looking trees.

We ate lunch under these trees near House Keeping Camp

And we had a great view of Yosemite Falls.

Upper Yosemite Falls viewed from Merced River about 30 minites into the float while we ate lunch

After lunch as we pulled away from the beach I got another view of Half Dome and some people enjoying the beach, the river, and even one guy sleeping in the raft.

View of Half Dome about an hour into the Merced River Float

Except for the one shady stretch of river…

One of the few shady spots on the Merced River float Yosemite Valley

Most of the rest of the float was about the same. Lots of smiles to go around.

Lewises and Candice floating along the Merced in Yosemite Valley

Plenty of relaxing and the beautiful Yosemite Valley all around. At the end of the float the rental company loaded the raft onto a truck we got on a bus, and headed back to our cars. This is definitely the way to do this! After rafting we stopped at Yosemite Village to call to check on the daily Half Dome Hike permit lottery. Not our lucky day. Since we would not be hiking to the top of Half Dome, we decided to stick together as a group again, but to be a little more ambitious and hike to the top of Vernal Falls. I’ll add another post soon to share our hike and the rest of our visit to Yosemite.

Here are some more pictures from this awesome river!

Jenny and Sean on the Merced Float with another Half Dome view

Jenny and Sean near the start of the Merced Float with another Half Dome view

Eric Rial floating the Merced River Yosemite Valley

Me taking it easy on the Merced River Yosemite Valley

View of Half Dome and a bridge over the Merced 90 minutes into the Merced River Float
View of Half Dome about 2 hours into the Merced River Float

An odd expression on my face and a great view of Yosemite Falls about 2 hours into the float

An odd expression on my face and a great view of Yosemite Falls about 2 hours into the float



Check out this page listing all of my Yosemite National Park posts: Yosemite National Park Posts

We had been planning a day trip to the Sonoma wine country for our final day in San Francisco, but we just felt we wanted more of San Francisco on this trip, so we decided to stay in town and check out some of the sights. Since two cable car lines, Hyde Powell and Mason Powell came within a block of our condo we decided to take the cable car to Market to start our trip. We walked down to the front of the cable car museum and only had to wait a few minutes before we were able to catch a ride. We were in the enclosed part of a car but I guess are hands and arms were much safer.

Dave and Wendy on the number 14 cable car

During our honeymoon stay a couple of years earlier, my wife had nearly lost a hand pointing at something right when a cable car had passed us. She got a piece of the gripman’s mind for that! It was still a fun ride down the hill to Market Street. Just before Market everyone has to get off the car.

Cable Car we road to the Market Stop

There is always a long line at the ends of the line, so we were glad there was space on a passing cable car near our condo. We decided the first “sight” we would see should be Coit Tower. Of course our cable car ride had actually taken us further from Coit Tower than when we started, but it was still fun. We decided to take a streetcar down Market Street to get closer. I think the street cars are almost as cool as the cable cars, and they are usually much easier to get on to since they are bigger, run more often, and do not seem to be as popular with the tourists. Since we had a 3 day metro pass, it just made sense to take advantage of it.

There are posters in the streetcars that give you information on the style of streetcar and the city the particular paint scheme was used for. If you don’t can’t remember later a quick search with the streetcar’s number will get you all the information you need about its history. The streetcar we rode in was a PCC style Streetcar, painted in a 1946 and later Brooklyn style. The PCC style car was popular and used in many cities. This one had been purchased from Philadelphia.

San Francisco PCC Streetcar 1053 - with Brooklyn 1946 paint

I should really start using paper maps when I’m somewhere new or less familiar. Once we got on the streetcar I tried to get my bearing using Google Maps on my phone. It kept pivoting and wasn’t tracking our current location, so it really wasn’t very helpful. We should have ridden almost all the way to Fisherman’s Wharf, but we got off before we reached the end of Market Street. I was completely turned around! Once I realized my error I decided to just use Google walking/transit directions to get us there. It suggested crossing the street and getting on a city bus. This went much smoother and we got off the bus at Washington Square Park about 4 blocks from Coit Tower. There were lots of people in the park, exercising, stretching, and hanging out. Just to the north of the park is

St Peter and Paul Catholic Church

We went north a block, then headed up Greenwich Street toward Coit Tower. No matter which direction you come from, if you are walking, there are tons of stairs. There are bus lines that go up the hill and you can drive up, but there is very little parking at the top of the hill. I would recommend walking up the stairs!

Climbing the stairs to Coit Tower

There are 360 degree view of the city when you reach the top of Telegraph Hill and walk around Coit Tower.

View toward the Golden Gate Bridge from near Coit Tower

I’m sure they are even better up in the tower, it is impressive.

Coit Tower San Francisco

However, on this day the line was long and there are terrific views from lots of places around this very hilly city, so we skipped the ride to the top. I love the art deco style, inside and out. The city has taken very good care of this landmark.

Coit Tower Plaque

We walked back down along Telegraph Hill Road for part of the way back down the hill, then took some stairs down to the corner of Filbert and Kearney Streets. Rather than heading back toward Washington Square Park, we decided to zigzag toward the northwest. We had seen a nice area with lots of outdoor seating along Columbus Avenue just before we got off the bus, and wanted to walk back toward that area for lunch. We decided on a place called Calzone’s Pizza Cucina. The food and service were very good. We felt recharged after lunch and decided to walk down Columbus Avenue toward Lombard Street. The famous Lombard Street hill was only a few blocks from the intersection with Columbus Avenue. We got the mandatory group picture at the bottom of the hill.

All of us below Lombard Street San Francisco

Then we walked up the hill, for the experience, but also because the cable car stop at the top of the hill is a good place to be able to find a short line to get on the cable car combined with lots of people getting off the cable car. The hill is steep, but it’s not too tough of a climb. Although it has lots of winds, the sidewalks go straight up which is steeper, but shorter. If you get short of breath here are lots of reasons to stop for pictures. One of my favorites is the house with the largest Bougainvillea I’ve ever seen climbing the front of the house.

The largest bougainvillea I've ever seen

The view from near the top back toward Coit Tower is pretty impressive too.

Looking down Lombard street with Coit Tower in the distance

As we had hoped, there was just a short wait for space on a cable car. The location of our condo, just a block from the Cable Car museum really simplified getting back there. All the cable car lines pass fairly close to the museum, which also houses the motors and wheels that move the cables! We took a short break at the condo, then decided to take the car out for a ride to a couple of other sights. We started with a drive down Lombard Street with the top down.

Riding down Lombard Street with the top down

Then we headed to one of our favorite places in San Francisco, the Palace of Fine Arts. If you’ve never been there, you’ve probably seen it in the movies, like Bicentennial Man and The Rock. The one thing that is hard to grasp in both movies and pictures is the scale of the place. The structures are huge, especially the domed rotunda!

Palace of Fine Arts

We strolled around the pond taking the structure in from several angles. Even with us in the picture it is difficult to see the massive size of the structure.

Jenny and Eric Rial at Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco

We took our time and enjoyed the park like feeling around the pond, including this shade.

Jenny in the shade at the Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco

Although I took dozens of pictures, I think this is the only one that lets you see the size. Notice the people walking under the dome. They are dwarfed by the size of this place.

Fountain in the pond in front of the Palace of Fine Arts San Francisco

Although we had ridden our bikes up there yesterday Wendy and Dave had not stopped at the Golden Gate Bridge yet, so we also drove up to the park. It was starting to cool down, so we made it a quick visit. We walked down the hill a ways from the parking lot for a few pictures at a different angle. This shot shows the Golden Gate over Fort Point.

View of the Golden Gate from Battery Park

A little further up the hill I took this picture of Dave and the two ladies.

Wendy Dave and Jenny in front of the Golden Gate Bridge

When we got to the top Jenny and I took another picture in the same spot we had taken pictures when visiting for our honeymoon.

Jenny and Eric Rial at the Gold Gate Bridge 2014

After the Golden Gate we headed down to Fisherman’s Wharf for dinner then back to the condo for the evening. This was our last day in San Francisco. We had a great time and look forward to another visit in the future. There are still lots of things we want to do in and around San Francisco. The next morning we headed to Reno and Tahoe to spend a few days there at a car show in Reno – Hot August Nights, and to spend at least some time enjoying the lake. I’ll do another post for that part of our trip sometime soon.

In Part 1 of our bike ride we had ridden from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. As we left Sausalito we realized that the map the bike shop gave us was missing a few details when it came to the rest of the trip. We stopped at a Vons to get water and snacks, to ask for better directions, and to come up with a plan. It was still pretty early in the day and we wanted to make the most of it. There were actually two different routes/destinations on the biking map: Old Mill Park in Mill Valley slightly to the west, and Tiburon. We decided there would be time to visit both if we hurried. Old Mill Park is not a big park, it was actually a little bit of a letdown for us, but I think that is only because we did not have time to explore our options from there.

Old Mill Park

If we had wanted to (and had time) we could have hiked up the hill above Old Mill Park on a combination of roads and trails to the larger trail system in Muir Woods. It is only about a mile walk from the park to the edge of the Muir Woods National Monument area. Although that sounded very appealing to me, this was not the day. We would be meeting our friends for dinner in a couple of hours, and that did not leave enough time to take a hike.

Our route from Old Mill Road to Tiburon was a little less direct. Highway 101 gets in the way, so we had to loop back south to cross it. We cut through a nice neighborhood to get out of Mill Valley, and then across a park, which was fairly nice although the bike path was not well-marked through the park. The next mile we shared the road with traffic on fairly busy roads beside California 101. This was our least favorite part of the trip. We were glad to get back to a less busy route on the other side of 101. At this point the marked bike trail took us on a small road that runs parallel to Tiburon This was our least favorite part of the trip. Not far up this road we came upon a sign for the Richardson Bay Audubon Society and Sanctuary.

Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary

We decided to stop for drinks and snack, and because the Audubon Center had a very inviting gate…

Very inviting gate into the Audubon Center

we decided to take our break inside the fence. The grounds were large and there were large areas of natural vegetation. There was also a very cool house…

House inside the Richardson Bay Audubon Center

and a great view to San Francisco across Richardson Bay and the larger San Francisco Bay beyond the house.

View to San Francisco across Richardson Bay

We enjoyed our break and the views. I took lots of pictures. However, it was eventually time to continue our ride. Dave and Wendy were done at the emergency room, were back at the condo changing, and then would be driving over to meet us in Tiburon for dinner. If you do the ride to Tiburon, I would recommend stopping here for the unique views. The place seemed fairly deserted on the day we visited, but there may be days when there are more things going on. Regardless it is a beautiful place.

Just a short ride further up the smaller road that runs beside Tiburon Boulevard and we came to a bike path that runs near the water beside Richardson Bay.

Bike Trail to Tiburon

The day had turned into the perfect day for a bike ride. Not too hot, not cold, and we could see well across the bay. The tops of the Golden Gate Bridge towers were visible across the bay as we rode along the path.

View of Richardson Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge from the bike trail to Tiburon

The bike path eventually moved closer to Tiburon Boulevard, and then joined with it a couple blocks from the ferry landing. We got there ahead of Dave and Wendy, so we locked up our bikes and checked out the options for dinner and the ferry schedule. The view to San Francisco from the ferry landing in Tiburon was amazing.

View to San Francisco from the end of Tiburon Boulevard

There were a few options for dinner that were right on the harbor. We decided to check out Sam’s Anchor Cafe while we waited. It was a casual place, and we got seats on the back dock overlooking the marina. We were hungry, but wanted to wait for dinner before getting food, so we decided to have a couple margaritas while we waited.

Margaritas at Sams Anchor Cafe

The view of the marina was surreal in the early evening lighting.

View of the harbor and San Francisco from Sams Anchor Cafe

Although we were very relaxed at Sam’s, we thought the view would be better back at the place nearest the ferry landing, Guaymas Restaurant. We were more in the mood for Mexican food and we wanted to be sure not to miss the last ferry. It was a relaxing dinner, the food was good, and Dave and Wendy seemed much more relaxed now that Wendy had been thoroughly checked out. We were not rushed, but we also weren’t quite ready to leave Tiburon when the ferry pulled up to the dock. We had no way to carry the bikes back other than the ferry, so we grabbed our bikes and boarded the ferry for the trip back to San Francisco.

The ferry from Tiburon heads toward Sausalito first. The sun was getting lower causing more shadows on the shore, some pale red light on the island behind us, but it was still high enough to light up the scattered clouds above us.

Ferry from Tiburon to Sausalito

The view of the Golden Gate Bridge was still from a distance, and the unusual lighting made it tough to get a good clear shot. It looked much better in person!

View of Golden Gate Bridge on ferry from Tiburon to Sausalito

We had plenty of time to check out the views while we were docked at Sausalito. A couple of other ferries passed by and there were several other boats in the area too.

View from Ferry at the Sausalito dock

As we pulled away from Sausalito the marine layer was coming over the ridge line. The road we came in on earlier in the day is visible in this picture too. We hope to spend more time in Sausalito on a day that is less busy.

Ferry pulling out of Sausalito marine layer coming over the ridge

Even though the sun was lower, we were much closer, so I was able to get a better picture of the Golden Gate Bridge as we headed toward San Francisco on the ferry.

View of the Golden Gate on the ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

The sun was low enough in the west that the clouds had turned red in the skies above San Francisco bay.

Red sky on ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

Although I took many pictures on the ferry, not very many of them turned out. It’s hard to take pictures when you’re moving fast, the ride is bumpy and very windy, and the light is very low. I did get one more that I like – this shot of the moon behind a cloud over Alcatraz.

Moon over Alcatraz on ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco

It was completely dark by the time we got to the dock in San Francisco. We unloaded our bikes and carefully road back to the bike shop. They have a fairly straight forward after hours turn in process. Then we headed down to the Hyde Street Cable Car “end of the line”. The line was reasonable, so we waited and road the Cable Car up the hill toward our condo. We got off at the Cable Car Museum and had just a one block walk to our condo.

Riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge had been on my bucket list since our visit to San Francisco in 2012, when we did not quite have enough time to do it. We’re really glad we were able to get it in this time. There are lots of other things we would like to do in San Francisco, but I would not hesitate to do this again.

We had one more day in San Francisco to look forward to before heading to Lake Tahoe for a few days. We decided to explore on foot and on the cable and streetcar lines. I’ll cover that in the next post for this trip.

Panoramic photo from the northwest side of the Golden Gate Bridge
We woke to bad news on day 3 of our visit to San Francisco. Wendy’s health issue had worsened during the night. She was experiencing significant pain and even though she had some idea what the problem was and had been told it was not life threatening, she was feeling quite a bit of understandable anxiety. There was no way she would be able to enjoy herself until she knew that everything would be OK and could get the pain under control. So we made some tough choices. Dave and Wendy would go to the emergency room of a nearby hospital while Jenny and I went ahead with our planned bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge. If all went well we would meet on the other side of the bay for lunch or dinner before taking the ferry back to San Francisco.

We walked down the hill to the bike rental shop. I had pre-purchased the bike rental at half price on Groupon during the final planning for the trip. The deal was for the bike rental company Blazing Saddles. Although I’m no longer a big fan of daily deal sites, I do sign up for deal emails when I’m traveling to a “touristy” place. Although this saved us money, Dave and Wendy were unable to use theirs, so it was a wash overall. That is always the risk when you prepay using a daily deal site. The remaining Groupon will never expire (this is because of a California law), but I’m not sure when we will ever use it.

Blazing Saddles has a very efficient operation. They started with a brief and a video describing the ride we were planning to do. They provided optional Ferry Tickets for the return trip that we could use or return with our bikes. That saved us some time later. The bike issue area was also very efficient, and was well staffed with helpful folks. They helped adjust the bike and helmet to smoothly get us ready to ride. We were out the door very quickly and they reminded us on the way out how to get to the bike trail. We were told to walk our bikes down the hill past the Hyde Street Cable Car turn about, then a left on Jefferson would put us right on the San Francisco Bay Trail. The route is fairly well-marked once you get on it. Although it is mostly flat there are a couple of hills to deal with. The first hill came much sooner than we expected, about a half mile from where we started riding. Although it was a small hill there were several people walking their bikes up it.

Riding up the first small hill on our Golden Gate Bridge bike ride

Since everyone else was stopping at the top we decided to make a short stop to check out the view…

View from the first small hill on our bike ride

There were low clouds covering the top of the bridge. Although this a very frequently the case, I never tire of this view!

One of the good things about this bike ride is that there are very few times that you are actually sharing the road with cars. There are a few stop lights though. I took advantage of one of the stop lights to snap a quick picture of Jenny with the Palace of Fine Arts in the background.

Stopped at a light on our bike ride and snapped a picture of Jenny and the Palace of Fine Arts

We were familiar with much of the rest of the route to the bridge because of our last visit to San Francisco in 2012. Crissy Field has awesome views of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Today we rode most of the way through this area but couldn’t resist stopping for one picture under a small group of trees near the beach.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field on our bike ride

We realized when we were planning this ride that the ride across the bridge would be only a small part of the bike ride, so we were open to opportunities to see other things along the way. Before we headed up the hill to cross the bridge we decided to take a small detour to Fort Point, a Civil War era fortress built to defend the Golden Gate bay entrance.

Taking a short detour to Fort Point on our Golden Gate bike ride

The Bridge is actually built right over the top of the fort, preserving a unique and interesting bit of history. We actually didn’t decide to go into the fort right away. Jenny got this picture of me on the rocks just outside the fort. The rocks protect the seawall from erosion by the rough waters near the entrance to the bay.

On the rocks near Fort Point below the Golden Gate Bridge

We got an update from Dave on their progress (slow) and decided we would have time to do a quick walk through of the fort. Fort Point is run by the National Parks Service. It is completely free to enter the fort and all the activities there are free as well. We headed right for stairs to the top-level of the fort for the best views. There is a large courtyard in the center of the fort and several cannon mounting points on the bay side walls. On the back walls there are more mounts that were raised to provide even more firepower.

View of the courtyard and perimeter walls of Fort PointAs we walked around the top of the outer walls there were terrific views in every direction.  A seagull flew overhead just as I took this picture in the direction of Land’s End.

A seagull soring away from Fort Point toward Lands End

We also had a nice view under the bridge toward the Marin Headlands where we had gone the day before.  It looked like the low clouds might be completely covering the highest parts of that area today.

View from Fort Point of the Marin Headlands obsured by low clouds

There was also a unique view of the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge passing over Fort Point

I had Jenny get up on the most northeastern cannon mount to get the picture.

Jenny standing on a cannon mounting location on top of Fort Point

Even though I already had so many shots of the Golden Gate Bridge, I couldn’t help taking and apparently can’t help sharing this image of the flag over Fort Point with the bridge in the background!

View of the flag pole atop Fort Point and the Golden Gate Bridge

There was also a very nice view of the bay and city to the east.View back toward the city from the top of Fort Point

We headed back down the stairs to the second level and did a quick walk through of some of the rooms.  I snapped this picture of the Hospital Stewards room/exhibit before we made our way out of the building.

Hospital Stewardsroom and exhibit in Fort Point San Francisco

We will definitely return to Fort Point for the views and hope to spend more time there next time learning about the history of the fortress.  For now we had a bike ride to do!

It was short ride back to the longest uphill section of the ride. The hill up to Battery Park is steep, windy, and you share the road with cars.  Near the top we stopped at a clearing for some more views of the bridge before riding across.  The weather was a bit cloudy, but we could see some sun hitting the other side of the bay.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin County from the East Battery Trail

We walked around for quite a while in this area, but eventually headed up toward the visitor’s center. There were tons of people there, so we got off our bikes to walk, but made a beeline toward the gate to the bridge’s east sidewalk. The day before, when we were heading back from the Marin Headlands, bikers had been on the west sidewalk. It would have been a lot less crowded, but the view would not have been what we were hoping for. For a schedule of which sidewalk is open for bikes and pedestrians see this link.

Once we got through the gate, the sidewalk was crowded. There were north and southbound pedestrians, runners, and bikers all sharing a fairly narrow sidewalk.

Crowded at the beginning of our ride across the Golden Gate Bridge

We were able to ride most of the way through this crowded section, but had to get off the bikes once when an emergency cart (half the width of the sidewalk) came along. The views of the city…

View toward the bay and city from the east sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge

and of the bridge…

Approaching the south tower on our ride across the Golden Gate Bridge

made the crowds seem less important. Most of the people were very polite and everyone seemed to be willing to share the road (sidewalk). We had to get off our bikes as we approached the south tower because the sidewalk narrows and curves around the towers. There also seemed to be more people congregating here also. The center section of the bridge, between the towers, was much less crowded. It was in this part of the ride that we actually got to experience “riding a bike” across the Golden Gate, not just dodging other people. It is obviously less crowded in this picture near the midpoint of the bridge.

Midpoint of the ride was less crowded

A little past the midpoint we decided to pull over to get pictures “on the bridge”. As I pulled over I finally met one rude guy. I looked over my shoulder before I moved to the right, but as I pulled over a guy behind me yelled, “Hey watch where you’re going.” I didn’t say anything as there was no collision even though he had flown by on my left at a pretty good clip. However, he wasn’t done. He managed to stop about 25 feet further along the bridge. He looked like he had just teleported in from the Tour de France. Expensive road bike and corporate sponsors on his shirt. Obviously he was in the middle of training for his next time trial. I guess I should have been thankful that he was able to take a few minutes out of his training to give me some pointer on watching where I’m going. I’m a pretty polite and calm person, but in this case I decided to exercise the “F*** you” technique. He would yell something about watching out for other people and I would simply yell back those two words. This went back and forth several times. He would lecture me on how to ride my bike and I would exercise the technique! Eventually the technique worked. He went back to training for time trials on a busy little sidewalk, and I got my picture “on the bridge”.

Stopped for one picture on the Golden Gate Bridge bike ride

The least busy part of the bridge was just before the north tower.

Approaching the North tower of the Golden Gate Bridge

Once we passed that tower (we had to walk around again), we started to have more pedestrian traffic from the other view area on the north side of the bridge. The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the north is different, but no less impressive than the view from the south.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the north visitors lookout

This viewpoint is a favorite for tourist buses and cars driving along the 101. The first time I stopped here was in the late 1980’s. I remember it vividly, not because of the view, but because my oldest daughter was a baby at the time (almost 2 years old), and we had a little scare with her shortly after we left this view and drove north a few miles. She had a low-grade fever that day, teething maybe, but it was only about 50 degrees that evening so we bundled her up to get out of the car. When we got back in the car we only planned to drive a few miles before stopping for dinner and it had gotten chilly even in the car, so we left her bundled up. We stopped and parked on the east side of the 101 and walked across a pedestrian walkway over the 101 to get to a Sizzler. I checked on Google maps and the walkway is still there, but the Sizzler has been replaced by another restaurant. We left Monica bundled up and I carried her over the bridge to the restaurant. I remember it being cold and windy outside. When we got in to the Sizzler I held her away from me so I could loosen her coat. She was completely limp and unconscious. I set her on the counter to check her out, and could not detect any breathing. As I started CPR, the lady at the counter asked if there were any medical people in the restaurant. After just a few seconds of doing CPR I felt my knees give a little. I was very scared, in fact I’m getting a little emotional writing about it more than 25 years later! Luckily there were two EMT’s who came over to help. They moved her to an open table, removed the coat and other warm clothing we had on her and continued the CPR. She started breathing and regained consciousness very quickly which was a huge relief. We thanked the EMT’s then went up the hill to a nearby hospital to have Monica checked out. The doctor was pretty sure it was a seizure caused by her fever being held in by all the warm clothing, but felt she would be fine and we should not have to worry about this happening again. About 6 months later we were contacted by the local Marin newspaper for pictures. The two people who helped us were getting a civic award and they wanted a picture of Monica for the paper. A lasting memory and a valuable lesson for young parents – be careful about bundling up a baby with even a low fever!

On this visit to the Golden Gate, thankfully we had no scares, just a relaxing bike ride to enjoy. The hill to Sausalito is steep, curvy and is also shared with cars. Most of the way the road is wide enough to comfortably share the road, but it narrows just as you enter town, and so you have to really watch what you are doing on this stretch of the trip. We have been to Sausalito once before, during our honeymoon in 2012. We expected this visit to be much different. That time we had driven to Sausalito fairly late – almost 10 PM, and the town had lived up to its reputation as a sleepy little town! We had trouble finding a place that was even open so we could eat. Riding into town in the middle of the day was completely different. It is a bustling tourist location during the day. People drive here, are delivered by the bus load, take the ferry, and apparently a lot of people ride their bikes here – based solely on the number of bikes in the bike rack we used.

Large number of bikes parked in Sausalito

It reminded me of the bike racks I had seen in Copenhagen when I spent one day there a month earlier. The first thing we did was message Dave and Wendy to see how things were going. We wanted to see if they would be able to make it here for lunch. Unfortunately things were going slow for them. It was likely to be a few hours more. We decided that we should have lunch, check out some of the shops, and then continue our ride to Tiburon. When we returned to pick up our bikes there were already people lining up for the ferry back to San Francisco that would leave an hour later. These lines made continuing to Tiburon seem even more appealing.

Since Biking to Sausalito and taking the ferry from there back to San Francisco is an option, I’ve decided to put the rest of our bike trip in a “Part 2” post. If we had never been to Sausalito, we might have decided to stay for dinner and then ride the last ferry home. On this day the crowds were more than we were looking for, and we had the urge to keep riding! That is one of the things I like most about touring an area on bikes, your plan can be fluid and you can go where your spirit moves you!

Previous post in this series: A Few Days in San Francisco (Day 2 – 27 July 2014 – Pier 39 and Marin Headlands)