Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

Rain forest blurs by on the Road to HanaOn Day 3 in Maui we got up early to hit the Road to Hana!  This is a tourist must do, so if you’re a tourist… you do it.  It is a road in fairly poor condition.  That is probably because all those tourist keep driving on it and wearing it out!  But it is far from a tourist trap, it is well worth the drive.  It takes you through and to some of the most beautiful parts of Maui… if you’re one of those people who like tropical paradise anyway.

We got up early to head to the other side of the island.  The goal was to get to Paia and the start of the road to Hana before the traffic got too heavy.  We planned to drive fairly straight through to the end so we would have time to hike the Pipiwai Trail.  Then we would stop on the way back if there was anything else we were interested in.  The traffic was not too bad as we headed from Lahaina to Kahului.  There were some low clouds on the mountains, but it was a pretty clear morning otherwise.  We decided we would want to stop at Paia on the way back, it looked like a nice small village with several interesting shops.  We kept driving steadily until we got to the halfway point.  We didn’t stop along the way but we definitely enjoyed the drive!

Nice view from a very wet Road to Hana

There is a sign at the halfway point along the road that is also “conveniently” right beside a roadside stand that sells snacks and different varieties of banana bread.

Near a fruit stand halfway to Hana


We got snacks, drinks, and Wendy got some very tasty banana pineapple bread.  We wanted a little longer break from the car so we decided to sit on some picnic tables near the stand.  I got there first and noticed a small beautifully colored bird on a small wall beside the picnic tables.  I managed to get one good picture before he flew away.

Red Crested Cardinal as we took a break halfway to Hana

Then it was back on the road!

Zipping along the Road to Hana

I took a few quick pictures of falls on the way by, like this drive by shot of the three bears falls, but we did not stop again until we were past Hana.

Drive by view of the 3 bears falls on the Road to Hana

The temperature and humidity were big factors in our day again.  It was well over 80 degrees and very humid by the time we started our hike along the Pipiwai Trail.  We took a wrong turn at the beginning… I’ll take credit for that… and ended up on the 7 pools trail.  I realized we were headed toward the water instead of inland after less than a quarter-mile, so we turned around quickly, but it had been all down hill to this point, so it was all uphill on the way back.  By the time we got to the start of the trail we were already very hot and sweaty!

Heading up the start of the Pipiwai trail

The trail continued uphill through the Oheo Gulch.  The first sign I noticed was quite a serious warning.

Warning sign on Pipiwai trail near Falls of Makahiku viewpoint

As I looked up the trail past this sign I saw that my friend Dave had obviously ignored the warning as he was standing right on the muddy edge of the cliff.

Dave looking out at a water fall on Pipiwai Trail Maui

My first thought was, “What could possibly be worth standing there?”.  As I walked up to see what he was looking at I realized it was indeed worth looking at, although I stayed a little further back and still got a great view of the falls of Makahiku.  Although it is hard to put this picture in perspective, the falls are about 180 feet high!

Falls of Makahiku

Next we came to a quite impressive Banyan Tree.  Unfortunately my camera had began to act up.  Between the humidity and sweat it began to have issues focusing and was taking mostly terrible pictures.   I did get one more decent picture that I snapped quickly as we walked by of a double falls below the trail.

Small double falls beside the Pipiwai Trail in Maui

After that picture I ended up taking better pictures the rest of the hike with my Samsung phone.  One of my favorite places of all time came next, it was a huge bamboo forest.  The trail cut through it up the hill, but you could see very little beyond a few feet off the trail.  I really didn’t get as many good pictures as I wish I had, but I’ll share a few.  This one was near the start of the trail.

Jenny and Wendy near the start of the Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai Trail

I took a ton of pictures on this part of the trail.  The lighting was amazing, but I never quite got the picture I was shooting for, this was one of the trail…

Photo stop in the Bamboo Forest on the Pipiwai trail

and this one looking up, where the best I could get.

Bamboo Forest Pipiwai Trail Road to Hana Maui

This last one was actually on the way back later but I like it because we are all in it and it also shows the wooden pallets that were on parts of the trail.  There were also a couple of bridges.  You can tell we were on the way back because Jenny and I were soaked to the bone.  We were sweating, but not that much… we had decided to take our chances and go under the water fall at the end of the trail.

All of us in the Bamboo


After the bamboo forest, the trail continues though a very lush jungle.  It was actually a few degrees cooler in the bamboo than on the rest of the trail.  We missed the coolness as we finished up this last part of the hike up to Waimoku Falls.  We stopped just before the falls to have lunch on some rocks in a small stream.

Having lunch on the rocks in the stream near Waimoku Falls

There was an easy trail to a place to view the falls, but while Dave cooled off in a pool below the rocks, and Jenny and Wendy got the lunch together I decided to explore downstream.  The stream came to a merge point with another stream coming from the direction of the falls, so I decided to head that way.  After a little boulder jumping I got to a place where I could see the falls through the trees.

Sneak peak of Waimoku falls

I was ready for lunch, but my curiosity got the better of me so decided to continue on to get a better view from this angle.  It was a very nice view and worth the effort.  I headed back the same way I had come after admiring the 430+ foot falls for a bit.  It was time to have a sandwich and relax a bit.

Waimoku Falls

After lunch we all headed to the regular trail to the falls.  The trail stopped well back from the falls with a lot of warning signs to stay out of the area below the fall.  I imagine when there is heavy rains this area could fill with water very quickly.  We decided to go “a little” closer.  The path to the falls crosses the stream early then you walk along a very rocky path.  From this angle the view of the fall is not bad either!

Waimoku Falls as we approach on the trail beyond the warning signs


I tried using my phone’s panorama mode to get a picture of Dave and Wendy near the base of the falls.  It turned out OK… they were a bit blurry, the falls are a bit distorted, and the whole picture is a bit over exposed, but I still love this picture.  Waimoku Falls is very impressive from this angle.

Dave and Wendy under Waimoku Falls

Jenny and I decided to take a little more of a risk and go in the pool below the falls.  Rocks and branches can come over the falls easily with the water, so I don’t recommend this to anyone.  We definitely cooled off though. Initially we both went under the falls.

Taking a shower under Waimoku Falls

I could not tell if Dave got the picture so I came out to ask. There was definitely no way to hear under the falls.

I came back out to ask if Dave had gotten the picture

Just to be sure I went back under one more time.

Enjoying a shower under Waimoku Falls at the end of the Pipwai trail

We enjoyed the hike back out nearly as much as the hike in, but everyone was glad to get back to the air-conditioned car by the time we finished.  Although we had planned to do more stops on the way back, very few places were open, and we were ready to get back to civilization.  I did get a couple of nice pictures on the way back though.  We all decided if we moved to Hawaii we wanted this to be our front yard!

Beautiful trees and yard along the Road to Hana


I also liked this view of this small village just off the Road to Hana.

View of a village by the sea on the Road to Hana


We decided to stop in Paia for dinner.  We had heard great things about Mama’s Fish House, but we were definitely not dressed for it.  We decided to go much more casual and eat at the Flatbread Company.  It was a bit warm in the restaurant, but heck it was warm everywhere, but the pizza and cold beer were great.

When we got back to Lahina, we were ready to just shower, hang at the condo, relax, and visit.  We decided to get back to the beach the next day.  Our third day in Maui had been terrific, but it was also quite a workout.  We were ready to do a little more relaxing and there’s no better place to do that than in Hawaii!  I’ll continue in another post soon.  Hopefully I’ll finish this before we go back!  (Dave and Wendy were actually back in Kauai just a couple of weeks ago on a trip Dave won at work… very jealous.)

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


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.

We had covered a lot of ground on our very early morning 3 hour walking tour of Copenhagen. After I dropped my coworker at the airport and turned in the rental car, I took the train back to the hotel for a nap. I knew I would be limiting my options for the rest of the day, but it had been a long week and we only had about 4 hours of sleep before going out to walk around that morning. Although I planned to nap for 2-3 hours it was closer to a 4 hour nap and after 1 in the afternoon before I got back up. A shower cleared away the grogginess from the nap. It no longer looked like rain, but there was a cool breeze as I walked back over to the train station to head back downtown Copenhagen. I decided to ride past the first downtown station at Kongens Nytorv and to get off at the Nørreport metro station. As I walked out of the station I was surrounded by an overwhelming number of people on bikes and bikes parked everywhere. If you’ve never been there, it is hard to explain just how many bikes there are in the city of Copenhagen. I’ve looked through all my pictures and none of them come close to showing the sheer number of people on bikes and the number of bikes parked in every part of the city. Just outside the metro station there were several two level bike racks. This is a picture of just one of the bike racks nearby.

One of the bike racks in Copenhagen

The Nørreport metro station is near Rosenberg Castle, but it was nearly 3 before I got there and I didn’t want to take the time to do a tour, if I could even get in one at that point. I decided to check out some of the other parks/gardens we had not walked through during our early morning walk. The first one I walked into was Botanisk Have (Botanical Garden). There is an amazing variety of plants in this garden including waterlilies in the pond near the center of the garden.

Waterlilies in the Botanisk Have pond

I could also see the reflection of what looked like a large greenhouse on the pond. I later found out that this is one of the Faculty of Science buildings for the University of Copenhagen.

University of Copenhagen Faculty of Science building on the grounds of the botanical gardens

My favorite part of the Botanical Gardens was a fairly large hill with a meandering cobblestone path, a man-made stream (water feature), completely covered in very unique plants. I took several pictures the showed the paths and stream close up…

View of the path and stream Botanical Gardens Copenhagen

and with a wider perspective.

Wider view of the path and stream Botanical Garden Copenhagen

Most if not all of the unique plants in the Botanical Garden were labeled.

Most of the plants were labeled Botanical Garden Copenhagen

I wasn’t keeping notes, but I don’t remember seeing the same plant twice. There was quite a large variety of plants.

Large variety of plants Botanical Garden Copenhagen

As I walked along the winding pathway…

Long meander path Botanical Gardens Copenhagen

I discovered favorite clusters of plants…

One of my favorite hillsides Botanical Gardens Copenhagen

sneak peaks of the unique buildings…

View of the buildings from the hillside Botanical Garden Copenhagen

and wider views of the unique buildings over very unique looking plants!

View of the University of Copenhagen Faculty of Science building Botanical Garden Copenhagen

As I made my way toward the Kastellet the next park I walked through was Østre Anlæg. There was a long angled pond in the middle of the park surrounded by trees. A much less formal and more kid friendly park than the Botanical Gardens.

Østre Anlæg

As I exited Østre Anlæg I crossed the street to a market area near a metro station. I decided to go in a get a sandwich and drink to enjoy as I walked around Kastellet. As usual there were tons of bikes parked in front of the metro station.

Bike rack in front of the Metro and market across from Østre Anlæg

I crossed the street again to the park path around Kastellet. I found a bench not too far along the path and had a seat to enjoy a late afternoon snack. I had a pretty nice view of the old windmill inside the fortress.

Windmill at Kastellet Copenhagen

Although we had walked partially around the Kastellet on our early morning visit we had not walked all the way around and it had been too early to walk inside at 5 in the morning. I started my walk about where we had left off earlier and walked across the moat bridge…

Kastellet moat bridge to south entrance

to the south entrance.

South Entrance to Kastellet

I carefully read the brief description of Kastellet, its history, and the fairly long list of rules for visitors.

Kastellet History and Rules Plaque Copenhagen

Inside the fortress walls are cobblestone streets between old red barracks.

Barracks inside Kastellet Copenhagen

and at the other end of the street a view of the Commander’s House.

The Commanders House Kastellet Copenhagen

Rather than walking out the south entrance, where we had already walked in the early morning, I decided to walk up the ramp to the eastern fortress walls. At of the five points of the star-shaped Kastellet, well at least the two I visited, is a cannon for defense of the fortress! This is a view of the cannon from the point of the Prinsessens Bastion.

View from Prinsessens Bastion of Kastellet

Not only was there a cannon, but they were prepared with a neat stack of cannonballs, just in case!

Kastellet cannon with a stack of rounds

You can walk all the way around the bastions of Kastellet, but I decided to just walk the eastern portion of the fortress from the south entrance back around to the north entrance where I had entered. I took my time and enjoyed the views inward and out across the moat. There were several types of wild flowers including these red poppies.

Poppies on the Bastion of Kastellet Copenhagen

My Grandmother was in the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary for 50 years. I remember wearing a red Remembrance Poppy wrapped around a button on my shirt every Memorial Day growing up. Poppies have been a symbol of remembrance for soldiers who had sacrificed their lives in war since World War I. A poem “In Flanders Field”was in large part responsible for this association. Seeing these poppies growing on the sides of the Kastellet’s bastions brought a lot of memories back.

As I write this post it also brings up other fond memories of my Grandmother. My Grandmother, Mother, and my Aunt Betty visited us in Oahu in the early 90’s. We had a great time, but two things stick in my mind in particular. The first was a visit to the North Shore. It was the winter so they got to see the really huge surf that the North Shore of Oahu is so famous for. On the one beach we visited my Grandmother asked me if I would be going in for a swim. I looked at the waves which were very strong 6-8 feet swells with a big shore break and said that I better not. About 30 seconds later a young local girl walked past us. She could not have been more than 10 years old, maybe younger. She walked right into the water and swam out past the break to ride the swell up and down. I looked at my Grandma and said, “Well I guess I probably could go in…” She smiled and I got in the water. It looked a lot worse than it was. At another beach it was an even a little calmer and my Grandmother, in her late 70’s got her feet and legs wet in the water also!

The second story involved her service in the Women’s Auxiliary. While they were visiting us we went to the main Air Force Exchange at Hickam. In those days, they checked ID’s as you entered and you had to sign in guests if they did not have a military ID. As I signed them in, the woman at the door let them know that they could not buy anything and that I would get in trouble if they tried to. I’m not sure what we were looking for, probably just getting a few things for the beach. Anyway, after about 15 minutes I heard my name called over a public announcement, with instructions to come to the checkout area. My Grandmother had tried to buy a few things, nothing big. The clerk was explaining why she could not pay for her stuff and my Grandmother was explaining that she had been in the American Legion Women’s Auxiliary for 35+ years and she thought it would be OK. I bought the stuff for her, she got to share the pride of her service, and I got a warm and lasting memory of my Grandmother!

There was a different model of cannon at the Gevens Bastion, and a view of St Albans Anglican Church where we had started our walk that morning.

The Cannon guarding Grevens Bastion Kastellet Copenhagen

As I left the star fortress of Kastellet, I turned east toward the water’s edge, then south to walk back toward Nyhavn on a slightly different path than we had taken on our earlier walk. As I approached the summer palace of Amalienborg, an impressive building to the east across the narrowing channel caught my eye. I later learned that this was the Copenhagen Opera House.

Copenhagen Opera House

As I turned and walked toward the entrance of the square in the center of Amalienborg, I stopped at a fountain to get this picture of the water rising from the fountain with the Marble Church visible on the other side of the square.

Marble Church viewed from the fountain on the east side of Amalienborg

I didn’t enter the square as we had been in there already, but I wanted to see Nyhavn with businesses open, and filled with people. Actually I couldn’t get enough of Nyhavn, before I left Copenhagen I would visit there at least 4 times. The skies were still cloudy, but the buildings are so brightly painted it is hard to tell.

Nyhavn Copenhagen

I walk the length of Nyhavn this time, and checked out some of the history of the place. One of my favorite places was this Gelato Shop!

Gelato shop Nyhavn Copenhagen

After the Gelato, I decided I needed to walk some more so I walked through the Strøget shopping district. Although these shops were open also, I was more in a walking mood than an shopping mood. I enjoyed the architecture and fountains of the Strøget area…

Fountain in the heart of the Stroget shopping district

and there were some unique coffee stands.

Interesting Coffee shops Copenhagen

However, I decided to just pass through and check out another park before the sun set. Ørstedsparken was one of my favorite parks in Copenhagen. It may just have been the early evening lighting, but I found the park relaxing, and very beautiful. I decided to head toward a walking bridge in the middle of the parks large pond.

Walking bridge in the distance in Ørstedsparken - Copenhagen

As I walked toward the bridge I was glad that it had drawn me deeper into the park. The views as I passed around the pond/lake were spectacular. On one side of the lake the dark greens of the plants and their reflection on the water contrasted with the white buildings in the distance.

Dark Green vegetation surrounding one end of the water in Ørstedsparken

As a passed the bridge and continued my walk around the entire lake the greens brighten, there were more flowers. This looks like a completely different place, but it is was just a different side of the same park.

Lighter green plants and blooms on the other end of Ørstedsparken

I had to cross the bridge before heading out of the park to see more of Copenhagen.

Crossing the bridge in the middle of Ørstedsparken

As I left the park it was starting to get darker, but I was not ready to head back, so I decided to head toward the Metro Station at the Forum which was past a series of lakes. When you see these on a map it looks like a portion of a river. It even feels like you are crossing a bridge over a river as you pass between the lakes on the road. As I passed between two of the lakes on a broad road I noticed an older lady feeding some swans. I don’t think I’ve every seen this many swans in one place before!

Swans in Peblinge Sø - Copenhagen

The rest of the walk to the Forum St Metro Station was pretty boring. I got on the train intending to head back to the hotel, but when I got to Metro stop at Kongens Nytorv I decided to take another look at Nyhavn. It had started to get very dark, but I was able to get this photo of the large anchor at one end of Nyhavn.

Nyhavn Anchor at night - Cpenhagen

Then it was time to head to the hotel for a good night’s sleep. I had a long flight the next day. Since I turned in so early I woke up fairly early again the next morning. I decided to check out of the hotel, check my bag with the concierge and head back to Nyhavn one more time to get that coffee I hadn’t been able to get the day before. I got off the train at Kongens Nytorv (Kings New Square) station again. The metro station is on one side of the square and Nyhavn is on the other. There are some beautiful building around the square. Because there was construction going on in the center of the square it was hard to capture the beauty of the whole place, so I took some close-ups of some of the buildings. The metro exit is very close to the Hotel D’Angleterre.

Hotel D'Angleterre - Copenhagen

I crossed the square on the south side and got a closer view of the front of the Royal Danish Theater.

A closer look at the inside of the domes on the front of the Royal Danish Theater Copenhagen

The coolest part of this building were the domed ceiling above the second story balconies on the front of the building. Very ornate.

Royal Danish Theater - Copenhagen

I walked down the “less busy” side of Nyhavn and found an open cafe. I had a pastry and coffee and talked with a mother and daughter from the US who were heading out on a cruise later in the day. The weather wasn’t forecast to be good, but they had booked months ahead! I wished them luck on the weather and started heading back to the metro station. It was time! I got a couple more good pictures with my phone. One showing a very nice docked sailboat.

Nice sailboat docked in Nyhavn

Then a final picture of the colorful buildings lining this small harbor.

Colorful Nyhavn

My one day in Copenhagen had absolutely been worth the delay in heading home and the few hundred dollars it cost me to stay an extra night and day. The city of Copenhagen is beautiful, and the culture is very different from San Diego’s. I had planned to hit a few of the main tourist spots – Kastellet, Nyhavn, and Strøget. Kastellet and Nyhavn were awesome, Strøget was OK, but since I wasn’t planning to do a lot of shopping, not on the top of my list. I would definitely like to visit Copenhagen again. Maybe as part of a trip to Norway and Sweden! The big surprise to me was how much I enjoyed the city’s many gardens. They were well maintained and very lush for a place with such a short growing season! I highly recommend a walking tour of Copenhagen’s gardens if you are lucky enough to spend some time there.

Jenny and Sean cross the first bridge on the North Kaibab descent
Our hike into the Grand Canyon started early on the morning of 2 June. The best times to do this hike, the way we did it, would be the last two weeks of May and the first two weeks of October. So we were just outside this “prime time” window. The North Rim lodge doesn’t open until the 15th of May so if you want to stay there, you have to go after 15 May. This is an incredibly popular time to schedule a Rim to Rim hike. If you also want to stay at Phantom Ranch in either a cabin or one of the bunk house, then good luck to you. It is very difficult to get through to the reservation line on the 1st of May a year+ earlier. Even for our June trip it took me over 45 minutes of dialing to get through to make my reservations. Although I would have preferred to go on the 17th of May, in order to have the best chance of cooler weather, the reality is that it can be very hot even then. To satisfy my curiosity I looked up the weather reports for the last two weeks of May and the first week of June for Phoenix. It is hard to find a good source of accurate weather for Phantom Ranch, and Phoenix is a very good (but not perfect) match for the weather you’ll experience at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Amazingly it will be 30+ degrees cooler on either the North or South rims. So for May 2014 the weather for the last two weeks would have been… Phoenix May 2014 Temperatures So if I had gotten really lucky and gotten my first choice for reservations at Phantom Ranch, the 17th of May (giving us 2 nights at the lodge), the temperature would have been 104 on the day we hike in. The temperatures for June 2nd were only slightly higher at 110 degrees. Phoenix Temperatures June 2014 Remember these are actually Phoenix recorded temperatures. I think the highest temperature we saw hiking in was 105 degrees, in the shade. The interesting thing is we could have hiked even as late as 21 June without seeing significantly hotter weather. But when you are scheduling a hike like this you want to play the odds, and you have a better chance for cooler weather in May than June. There were some days as low as 90 degrees.

It doesn’t matter whether it is 90 or 115 degrees when you do this hike be sure to be careful, it is not an easy hike, and it is very easy to get in trouble with those temperatures.  If you think you can just “charge on” even if you are feeling the effects of the heat you’re mistaken.  It won’t cool down for a long time! If the heat starts to take a toll on you or anyone in your group, slow down, take advantage of the shade and cool streams next to much of the trail. Manage your time, especially if you are on a schedule, but if you can wait it is much cooler and there is a lot more shade around 4 pm. You should also get a very early start. Before sunrise once there is enough light to see the trail is perfect.

We didn’t start late, but we did start after sunrise. We took the early shuttle from the North Rim Lodge to the North Kaibab Trail trailhead. After a group picture at the trailhead…

Group picture at the North Kaibab trailhead

we hit the trail.  We were all carrying extra water because a leak in the transcanyon pipeline made it very likely that we would have limited water stops on the hike in. We were told that only the first water stop at the Supai Tunnel and if we wanted to go out of our way, the water stop at Roaring Springs would be reliable.

Although starting early is smart, if you start before sunrise you will miss some of the most beautiful scenery on the entire hike.  The start of the trail is a gentle descent, with a sandy/dusty soft trail surrounded by trees and the canyon walls.

Jenny and Sean ahead of me near the start of the North Kaibab Trail

It was cool, clear and the lighting was perfect.  Great day to start our hike.  For me this was a familiar trail, but for everyone else there was a new discovery around every switchback.

Jenny and Sean one switchback ahead of me on the North Kaibab trail

Even though we had left the North Rim behind, we still had a few Aspens to walk through.

Jenny hiking through the Aspens near the top of the North Kaibab trail

I stopped at a large flat overlook just off the trail to catch this view to the South Rim and beyond. Except for being just a little lower, and the terrific morning light, it looked about the same as it did from the lodge.

Large overlook along the North Kaibab Trail

A little further down the trail and we came to one of my favorite photo spots. There are large pillars of sandstone at a couple switchbacks in a row. A good place for a group picture!

A favorite photo spot along the North Kaibab trail

This picture shows the obvious transition from one layer to the next. These layers are what make the Grand Canyon the Grand Canyon. Based on where we were, still fairly near the top, I believe the top layer is Coconino Limestone, and the bottom layer is the start of the Hermit formation.

Obvious division between a limestone and shale layer

You can find more on the geology of the Grand canyon here.

My last Grand Canyon rim to rim hike was in the fall of 2010. I expected a lot more blooming plants this time. We had seen a lot of blooms during our training hikes in San Diego. Although it was greener this time, I only saw a few blooming plants. This New Mexico Locust (best guess) was the most impressive.

A blooming New Mexico Locust on North Kaibab trail June 2014

As we descended further, leaving the rest of the world behind, we noticed one reminder of the modern world…

X marks the spot

Our progress was only slowed by one thing… we were camera happy. I knew this was one of my favorite parts of the trail, and I had really built it up to the others in the group. Two of us were carrying the cameras, me and my cousin Mike. It didn’t take long for the two of us to fall behind!

Mike posing for a picture camera at the ready

The first break was at the water stop just before the Supai Tunnel.

Supai Tunnel water and bathroom stop North Kaibab Trail

Our water was still nearly full as it was cool and downhill to this point, but we topped them off anyway (anticipating unreliable water access due to the leak in the pipe). Unless you are carrying very small water containers this stop is not very necessary on the way down, but I’m sure it is appreciated by anyone going up the North Kaibab trail.

Even if you don’t need to, check out the stairs to the restrooms… it’s the prettiest toilet entry I’ve ever walked through and Jenny looked lovely standing at the top of the stairs too!

Jenny on the stairs to the restrooms at Supai Tunnel

After taking the mandatory group pictures in the tunnel…

Jenny Sean and Mike in the Supai tunnel

Eric Sean and Jenny in the Supai tunnel

We continued down the trail. This was one part of the trail where my memory failed me from my previous hike. When I pictured the trail just past the Supai Tunnel, I pictured it as very red and curved. But that part of the trail was actually 15-20 minutes below the exit from the tunnel. The rocks and trail were red, and beautiful…

Red rocks below the Supai tunnel

and we soon could see the first bridge on the trail below us.

First glimpse of a bridge below us on North Kaibab Trail

After passing a cool overhang,

Jenny and Sean passing under a large overhang on the North Kaibab trail

lots of switchbacks,

Switchbacks on on the North Kaibab descent below Supai tunnel

and some steep descents,

Looking back up a steep descent on the North Kaibab Trail

we finally came to the curved red rock path. It’s obvious why that part of the trail was so strong in my memory. It is definitely one of my favorite parts of the North Kaibab Trail descent.

Curved trail cut out of red rocks North Kaibab Trail

After another 20 minutes of descent we paused for this picture above the first bridge on the trail.

Jenny just above the first bridge on the North Kaibab Trail

I waited just above the bridge to take a picture of Jenny and Sean crossing the bridge, which is the picture at the top of the post. As I crossed the bridge I took this picture of the canyon below the bridge. I can imagine the water roaring over these rocks in the spring as the snow melts. I’d love to get that picture!

View of the canyon below the first bridge on North Kaibab trail

We paused for a break in the shade just after the bridge. The trail was switching sides of the canyon and we would be in the sun much more of the time after this break. We started to feel the heat more and began regretting all the pauses for pictures! We headed back up hill for a short distance and then followed the trail as it hugged the side of the canyon.

Eric Rial on the North Kaibab Trail June 2014

One curved section of the trail is obviously being formed by water pouring down the side of the canyon.

Kaibab trail passes  by an interesting formation in the side of the canyon

The rock formation has multiple drops forming ledges that you can climb up or down onto. I climbed up a level, and my cousin Mike climbed down a level to pose for this picture.

Mike stepped down a level for this photo

Then we came to one of the two parts of the trail where my “somewhat dormant” fear of heights kicked in last time… and again this time. I knew this part of the trail was coming and had intentionally dropped back to get this picture.

Jenny and Sean taking a break along the North Kaibab Trail

I shouted ahead for Jenny and Sean to stop so I could get the picture. Sean shouted back that they should be taking a picture of me… that I should see what they were seeing. After a few exchanges of “you should see what I see” with my youngest son, I walked over to hang out with them. As Mike came around the corner, I agreed with Sean that the view he had been seeing was pretty cool too!

Mike pauses along the North Kaibab Trail

Although it was getting hotter, the views were still slowing us down. Another favorite part of the trail for me was next. It is a switchback that goes out away from the canyon wall toward a rock monolith…

Jenny walks toward a switchback near a rock monolith on the North Kaibab Trail

then back toward the canyon wall. This forms a nice platform for taking pictures of people as they go under a rock outcrop and walk along the trail following the curve of the canyon wall.

Jenny and Sean walk under a rock outcrop and along the curved canyon wall on the North Kaibab trail

A little further down the trail I noticed a familiar and memorable view. It was at this point on Day 1 of our October 2010 Rim to Rim hike that I thought I saw a woman carrying an old fashion parasol. Then she seemed to disappear. Although I was still sick (laryngitis) and it was hotter, there were no phantom visions this time.

North Kaibab Trail winding along the canyon wall

The lower you go the warmer it gets! The warmer it got the happier we were to spend a little time in the shade!

Resting in the shade on the North Kaibab Trail

Although we were getting closer to the bottom, the canyon walls and rock formations had not changed much yet. We passed another rock formation formed by water just around the corner after our shady resting place.

Another water worn rock formation on the North Kaibab Trail

About a minute later as I snapped this picture of my son Sean about to round a corner I noticed a large patch of green trees just ahead. We were just about to see Roaring Springs!

Sean about to round a corner with evidence of Roaring Springs just ahead

As we got closer we could see the trail down to Roaring Springs just to the right of the green grove of trees.

The trail down to Roaring Springs to the right of the green trees

This “optional” trail is about a half mile long. Usually by the time you get to this point “optional” trails have lost any appeal they may have had during planning. However, things were different this time. The last status update we got on water stops before we left the North Rim was that water access was not likely to be available beyond the spigot at Roaring Springs. So our 14 mile hike on Day 1 would be extended to 15 miles, and we would get a chance to see Roaring Springs a little closer.

On the way down the “optional trail” I snapped this picture of Roaring Springs (zoomed in quite a bit).

View of Roaring Springs from the trail - zoomed in for a close up

Unfortunately this would be the best picture I got even though we got closer. It’s amazing to me that Roaring Spring flows year around out of the side of the canyon wall. In fact it is the main source of fresh water for the resorts on both rims and There is a fresh water pipe along all 23 plus miles of trail and a series of pump houses used to pump the water up to the resorts. Click this link (An Investigation of Energy Use, Potable Water and Wastewater Treatment at Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona) for a good explanation of how the process works.

The extra time we spent walking to and checking out Roaring Springs meant that it would be later/hotter for the rest of the hike but I’m glad we took some time to investigate the area while we were there. Jenny and Sean had some snacks and hung out in the shade while my cousin Mike and I worked our way through some dense (and creepy crawler infested) plants along and across an informal trail that meandered toward the falls below Roaring Springs. We were persistent enough to at least get to a small side falls before we turned around. The transcanyon pipeline cut through the area, but it was still a cool place.

We snapped a few pictures – this is the best one of Mike…

Mike on a rock below Roaring Springs

and Mike took this one of me.

Eric Rial below Roaring Springs Grand Canyon National Park

After we scrambled back along the overgrown path to the watering stop, we filled all of our containers and continued on the trail toward Phantom Ranch. I’m going to continue describing Day 1 of our hike in my next post. My favorite part of the entire hike was behind us, but by no means is the rest of the hike disappointing. It’s just that the North Kaibab trail between the North Rim and Roaring Springs is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to!

Next post in this series: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike (Day 4 – Part 2: Roaring Springs to Phantom Ranch)

List of all my posts for the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim: Grand Canyon Rim to Rim Hike Posts (Oct 2010 and June 2014)

Wide angel view of Avalon from Garden to Sky Summit

We woke fairly early on Saturday. The plan was to go on a walk, and if the weather was good to extend the walk into a hike. After breakfast we headed inland on Sumner, the up the hill on Avalon Canyon Road toward the Wrigley Botanical Gardens and the Wrigley Memorial. William Wrigley’s wife Ada oversaw the creation of the gardens after his death. At the entrance to the gardens we decided to do a longer hike so we grabbed a couple waters. We are usually much more prepared for hikes, with water bladders and snacks, but we weren’t expecting this to be too long of a hike.

The botanical gardens focus on native Catalina plants, and other plants that thrive in this climate. At the top of the Gardens the Wrigley Memorial rises above the valley. It was constructed of mostly native materials, except for some marble surrounding the original resting place of William Wrigley. Although the inscription is still there honoring him, his remains were moved to Pasadena during World War II. There’s a great view from the memorial back toward Avalon.

View from Wrigley Memorial toward Avalon

Here’s another picture from the same spot with me and Jenny in it. There’s a big shadow on the wall, but I didn’t want to crop out the view!

Jenny and me at the Wrigley Memorial

The weather was terrific for hiking, sunny with a cool breeze. Even though we had only brought a couple of granola bars for snacks and only had one bottle of water each, we decided to continue the hike. Memorial Road continues up the hill to the right of the Wrigley Memorial. It is only a 1.2 mile hike from the Memorial to the Garden to Sky Summit. The views get better and better as you climb the hill. It was still fairly early so the sun was low and we were walking in shadows for much of this part of the climb.

This picture Jenny was taken looking back toward Avalon as we walked up Memorial Road.

Jenny Hiking on the Memorial Road to Garden to Sky Summit

When we got to the “summit” there was a fork in the road. There were two signs, one letting us know we had made it!

We made it to Garden to Sky Summit

And the other describing the distance to Avalon on the Divide Road to East Road.

Long hike back on East End Road

We decided that, although it was tempting, we weren’t prepared for another 6.0 miles, so we had a choice of going back down to the Memorial or taking Break Road in the other direction. There was no sign describing where you would end up if you headed the other way on Divide Road, but we knew based on a hand drawn map from one of Jenny’s coworkers that there was another trail leading back to Avalon if we headed that way. There was another younger couple weighing their options and trying to decide which way to go also. Luckily they had a better map, so we were able to determine that it was about 2.5-3 miles to take the loop further up Divide Road to Hermit Gulch Trail. This trail would take us back to the Hermit Gulch Campground. When I got back home I plotted our trail on the map using some route mapping tools on Here’s a map of the whole trail.

Avalon to Wrigley Memorial to Divide Road to Hermit Gulch Trail to Avalon.bmp

Round trip from our hotel it was about 7 miles with a 1300+ foot elevation gain/loss. Before we left Garden to Sky Summit I took a picture in each direction. At this point you could see ocean in the direction of Avalon…

View of Avalon from Garden to Sky Summit

and in the opposite direction also.

On the Break Trail Above Avalon looking away from Avalon

As we headed further up Divide Road toward the upper trail head for Hermit Gulch Trail I snapped this picture looking back toward Garden to Sky Summit. The signs are posted at the road junction near the low point of the road. If you continue to the right, it is 6 miles to Avalon via the East Road, if you take the road to the left it is 1.2 miles to the Wrigley Memorial.

On the Break Trail above Avalon looking back to Junction with Memorial Trail at Garden to Sky Summit

The upper trail head of the Hermit Gulch Trail is marked with a covered raised planter that offers some shade and a place to rest for a bit. This was the highest point we hiked to and the views were terrific. After resting and a quick snack we headed down the Hermit Gulch trail. Up to this point we had been on dirt roads. This is a well maintained trail and the terrific views continued all the way down the trail.

View toward Avalon as we near the bottom of the Hermit Gulch Trail

By the time we got back to Avalon we were very hungry for late lunch – early dinner. After we ate we decided to hang out at the room and enjoy the view. After the sunset I snapped this picture of Avalon Bay from our balcony. I love how well my camera (Nikon S9100) handles low light pictures. In this picture I love the trail of light the moon is making across Avalon Bay and the shooting star on the right hand side of the photo.

A Night view of the moon and a shooting star above Avalon Harbor from our room

Sunday Morning we decided to just hang out in Avalon and enjoy the day. We checked out the small museum in the Casino. It focused a lot on Marilyn Monroe, but there were lots of other bits of information too. The history of the Lookout Cottage was pretty interesting. Built by a bachelor for him and his soon to be wife, but she didn’t like it, they never married, and he stayed a bachelor for the rest of his life. But he got to live in a really cool house!

Lookout Cottage

For lunch we decided to try out the El Galleon Restaurant on Crescent Avenue. The fish and chips hit the spot. It is a uniquely decorated place with lots of character. There was a buffalo head hanging above our table and great views of Avalon Bay.

We did a little shopping and found a nice little memento to put above our cabinets in the kitchen. At some point we decided to head back over to the Descanso Beach Club. As we meandered over there I snapped this picture of Avalon Bay. The large Mansion on the hill (Mount Ada) was where William Wrigley lived in in Avalon. You can now stay in there – for a price…

Avalon Bay with old Wrigley Mansion on the hill

We picked a couple of chase lounges that were still in the sun, had a couple drinks, and enjoyed the warmth of the sun and the view.

Relaxing the last afternoon at the Descanso Beach Club

Then it was time to head to return ferry. I took this picture of Old Ben, a very friendly sea lion who lived in the area from 1898-1920. He was most likely friendly for the food! I guess he was quite a mooch!

Old Ben statue on the way to the Ferry Landing

We were a bit late and ended up sitting outside on the ferry for a chilly ride home. But had a great time in Catalina. We hit some of the things we wanted to do from the top of our list, but still have many more things we’d like to do in Catalina. So we’ll be watching for another Groupon, or possibly a meetup group doing the Trans Catalina trail.

Until then, here are a few more pictures of our last 2 days in Catalina.

Me on Memorial Road hiking from the Wrigley Memorial to Garden to the Sky Summit.

Eric Hiking on the Memorial Road to Garden to Sky Summit

Another moonlit photo from the room.

Night View of the Moon over Avalon Harbor from our room

View of the Casino and the Descanso Beach area from the rocky sea wall near the Casino.

View of Casino and Descanso Beach Area

I took this picture of the Hamilton Bay Villas from the same place. I would like to stay in these on a future trip if we go with a larger group.

Hamilton Cove Villas

Sawtooth Mountains

After the very busy 4th of July rafting and biking, we were ready for a relaxing road trip. The drive to Stanley is beautiful most of the way. There were some areas that had been affected by recent fires, so the trees were destroyed, which takes some away from the pristine beauty.

We stopped in a historic gold mine town for ice cream that is on the way, and got to Stanley fairly early in the afternoon. The picture at the top of the post shows the view of the Sawtooth mountains from our hotel rooms. Stanley is a small town, in a beautiful valley. After a brief nap in the hotel, we headed to the small downtown for dinner and some fun.

We played some pool… much better than we had a couple of nights before in Boise. The band was playing country music, so we decided to try out the other bar in town, about a block away.

Playing much better pool in Stanley Idaho

That bar also had a country band, so we decided to just give in to it and enjoy ourselves. By the end of the night I was trying to dance the two-step with Jenny, but I’m sure even as simple as the two-step is that what we were doing was not even close! We played dismally bad darts at the second bar. Thankfully no one else was interested in the darts because we were still on the first game about 90 minutes and several drinks later. I did manage to close out, this was right after closing out my last bulls-eye, but I was behind on points and we eventually gave up on the game.

Playing Really Bad Darts in Stanley Idaho

In the morning we enjoyed the spectacular view from the hotel again.

Enjoying the view of the Sawtooth Mountains from in front of our hotel

We slept in a little and all swore to never drink again… or play darts!

Eric and Dave Stanley Idaho

We got a recommendation for breakfast from the hotel owner, and headed over to eat at the Stanley Baking Company and Cafe. Stanley is a small town, but the cafe had a big line, so we headed to another place on the main road. It wasn’t the “recommended place” for breakfast, but it worked. After breakfast we headed over to the store to get some bait to do some fishing. We got the bait, some directions to a good fishing spot, and a few beers (just in case we changed our minds about drinking).

As we drove north to the recommended fishing spot we drove along the Salmon River. The view of the river, the valley, and the mountains was spectacular.

View of the Salmon River along the road just north of Stanley Idaho

We stopped at a view-point just above the Historic Sunbeam Dam. The dam was built by miner in 1910, but had a short life… being partially demolished in 1934. The remaining portion of the dam narrows the river and there is a fairly steep drop off. This would definitely be a challenging spot to raft through. The raft you see in this picture…

Historic Sunbeam Dam

…here’s a closer shot of it…

A raft on the Salmon River just north of the Historic Sunbeam Dam

did not go through the section with the dam. There is a raft launch right below the dam.

The recommended fishing spot, looked like a fish hatchery. There were several small pools on one side of the gravel road, and a stream on the other side. We could have stayed there all day catching fish, but they were too small, and it was not a pretty spot to fish. We decided to head over to Stanley Lake to try our luck. It is a gorgeous spot to fish or just hang out.

Dave enjoying the water in Stanley Lake

We may as well have just hung out because we didn’t get even a bite. But the views were worth the lack of fish.

More of the Sawtooth Mountains across Stanley Lake

Sawtooth Mountains across Stanley Lake

I spotted a butterfly on the sand by my feet and put the camera into macro mode to see how well my camera would take closeups. I was only able to get one shot of the butterfly with its wings spread before it took off. I wasn’t completely happy with the focus and there was a shadow on the tip of one wing, but it turned out OK.

Butterfly on the shore of Stanley Lake

The macro setting came in handy about an hour later on our drive back to Boise. We hooked a beauty – my wife!

I hooked a beauty

She was a good sport, claimed it didn’t hurt and insisted that we enjoy the rest of the drive. We stopped to take some pictures along the South Fork of the Payette River.

South Fork of the Payette River

Then headed back to Boise to visit an urgent car. The see this kind of thing all the time in Idaho and had the process of removing a hook down pat. They had the hook removed and the tetanus shot delivered in about 10 minutes and we were back into vacation mode. We had a visit to a local winery, with an evening Jazz concert on the schedule, but we had finally reach our “OK… we can take a break now point”. So we went out for a quiet dinner near our friends home and relaxed the rest of the evening.

We were leaving the next day but got in one more bike ride along the Boise Greenbelt for lunch.

Pausing for a picture on the Boise Greenbelt

Then it was time to pack and head to the airport. We had a terrific time in Idaho with great friends. The next get together will be in San Diego, so the challenge is on to show them a good time.

Silouttes of folks getting a better look at Observation Point
Our trip to Zion National Park over Labor Day weekend went according to our plan, but not without a few glitches. We’re house shopping, but there’s a shortage of houses on the market in San Diego that have the things we’re looking for. When a good house does come up there are multiple offers within the first day or two, so we were a little nervous leaving town for 3 and a half days. Before we even got to the high desert there were several new house listings and two were in neighborhoods we are very interested in. On paper they weren’t exactly what we were looking for, but they were strong possibilities. We decided we would go ahead with the trip with one small change to the plan; we would leave Zion early Sunday to get back early enough to see the houses. This would give us one less day to hike the Narrows if the conditions weren’t good, but Zion is fairly close and we can always go back.

I’ve wanted to hike in the Zion National Park Narrows since I first visited Zion in the eighties. I love a challenge so I eventually want to hike from the top down in the Narrows, but I also like to get to know an area better before I go for the big challenge. I did lots of planning for this trip, and have friends and family who have hiked here many times. Regardless I wanted to experience hiking in the Narrows and learn a few things before doing the full 17 mile top down Narrows hike. We also planned to do at least one other hike while in Zion, on the Canyon Overlook trail. It is a short hike with a terrific view of the valley at the end. There are lots of other trails in Zion and we had them on the backup list if the weather conditions were not right for the Narrows.

We had a campsite reserved at Watchman Campgrounds near the entrance to Zion National Park. The reservation website allows you to see pictures of the campsites so you can see what you are getting. I picked one with plenty of shade, near the restrooms and water. What I couldn’t see in the reservation website’s picture is the great views we would have. Watchman Campgrounds is being renovated and our campsite was in pristine condition.

Our campsite in Watchman Campgrounds

We stayed in Mesquite Nevada the night before getting to Zion so that we could drive through the Virgin River Gorge (great drive) during daylight and have lunch with family in Saint George Utah. We got to Zion in the early afternoon, set up our tent and headed out for a drive and the short hike on the Canyon Overlook Trail.

My two oldest kids with me on Observation Point trail - 1987

My two oldest kids with me on Observation Point trail – 1987

Sean and Eric Rial on Zion Observation Point trail - 2012

Sean and Eric Rial on Zion Observation Point trail – 2012

I had hiked this trail in 1987 when my oldest two kids were young. My oldest daughter had been two years old at the time. What I didn’t realize until I was sorting out pictures for this post is we just happened to take a picture in front of what appears to be the same tree just about 5 feet further along the trail, and about 25 years later.

My memories of the trail seemed reliable, but as I walked along, the canyon next to the trail seemed much deeper than in my memories.

The Observation Point trail was higher than I remembered

When we got to the Canyon Overlook, it was also different than my memories. I wonder what other memories have become unreliable? I remembered it as a flat sandstone dome overlooking the valley. It is not flat…

Sean Jenny and Eric Rial at Zion Observation Point

Not a dome…

A view of the lookout at Observation Point

but it does have terrific views of the valley below.

View from Zion Observation Point

On day two we got up, ate breakfast, packed a lunch and prepared to head out to the Narrows Hike. We stopped by the visitors center to find out what the flash flood conditions were, and our plans hit the second glitch. The flash flood threat was high for today but low tomorrow. There was a 30% chance of rain and the park service was not taking any chances. So we decided to head back to camp, change from the trail/water shoes we planned to wear into the Narrow into hiking boots. This was a big disappointment for all of us. We got on a shuttle and decided to ride all the way up to the Riverside Walk trail first, then make our way back down the valley, possibly making the Angels Landing hike the new big hike of the day.

The Riverside Walk trail is gorgeous and is fairly flat and paved. It is a trail that just about anyone can handle. The canyon is narrow and the walls amazingly high. Not The Narrows, but still terrific scenery.

Jenny and Eric Rial on Riverside Walk Hike

As you can see in the above picture we have our hiking boots on, not planning to hike the narrows. But the sky was fairly clear, no thunderstorms in sight.

Riverside Walk Zion National Park

The start of The Narrows hike is at the top of the Riverside Walk. Nearly a third or more of the people on the Riverside Walk were continuing up the canyon on the river. We wanted to go at least a little way up, but hiking boots are a bad choice for the river. The water level is too high for “waterproof” boots, and they will get swamped. We decided to take a chance that the weather would remain clear and to head back down to our campsite and change into the gear we brought for hiking in the river. It is a long round trip, but the weather held and when we got back to the top of the Riverside Walk we decided to hike up the river at least to the start of The Narrows.

Mystery Falls was the first landmark we came to. The canyon is still fairly wide at this point, and there were still a lot of people in this area.

Mystery Falls Zion National Park Narrow Hike

We decided to stop for lunch just past Mystery Falls.

Eating lunch in The Narrows

After a quick lunch we continued up the river. The scenery is amazing as the canyon narrows and rises higher above the river.

Near the bottom of Zion A Narrows

Just past a very cool corner, the canyon narrows even more.

Interesting corner in Zion Narrows

Most of the hike is in the water.

We were in water most of the way in the Narrows

There are dry areas along the way, but there are very long stretches where you are in water all the time. While planning this trip we read several blogs that suggested light trail runners and neoprene socks. We went to Adventure 16 in San Diego to get our equipment. REI has great sales, but Adventure 16 always has great advice and terrific service. The salesman didn’t recommend the socks for this time of the year, saving us about $30 apiece. He was right. The water was cold, but not that cold. Our biggest issue was sand getting into our shoes and socks. We had to stop a couple of times to empty that out. We were all wearing lightweight shoes with mesh sides and very little padding. They worked well. The water is very clear in the area we hiked, so the shoes are still like new. I have seen videos of areas with murky water, so don’t count on clear water for every hike in The Narrows. I think an old pair of lightweight running shoes would have worked fine at this time of year for the hike we did.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures in the narrower section of The Narrows hike.

Jenny and Eric Rial Zion Narrows September 2012

Eric Rial Zion Narrows hike September 2012

Jenny and Sean hiking up Zion Narrows

Love this spot in Zion Narrows

We passed Orderville Gulch on the way up and considered heading up it for a ways, but decided to continue up the main channel.

Lower Entrance to Orderville Gulch

We finally decided that maybe we had gone far enough. Because of having to return to our campsite we had started later in the day than our original plan. We also knew it would get dark early in the canyon. A brief discussion about hiking this canyon in the dark with no flashlights or headlamps motivated us to turn around and move quite a bit quicker on the way down. My 18-year-old son Sean set a very fast pace for us on the way out. The fact that my son enjoyed this hike so much made this hike even more special for me. My wife also had a nearly constant grin on her face!

Jenny and Sean Rial loving the Narrows Hike

With the faster pace on the way back, I started to think about the best/fastest way to hike in the water. There were usually rocks just downstream of every corner. If you were able to cross the stream just before the start of the rocks, the bottom was generally sandy without being too deep. By following the path with the least rocks you might get a little more wet, but you’ll make much better time. I was actually surprised to see the bottom of The Narrows hike when we got there. We were all very happy we had decided to go on this hike. It was planned to be the highlight of the trip and it exceeded all our expectations.

It was completely dark and we were all very tired when we got back to the Zion National Park Visitor’s Center near our campgrounds. Rather than cooking dinner we decided to eat in Springdale. The town is just outside the gate and very convenient if you are staying in the Watchman Campgrounds. We were a little under-dressed for the Spotted Dog Cafe. We were also sweaty, dirty, still in our hiking clothes, and not so sure about our hygiene after a long day hiking. Just in case, we asked for outside seating. The food was interesting, but not awesome (we were very hungry so “not awesome” is saying something here). But we all felt better after eating and definitely ready to a good night’s sleep.

In the morning we packed it up quickly and hit the road for San Diego, certain we were on the way to finding our dream home. That didn’t happen (this time), but we had accomplished what we came for in Zion!

Sunset over Santa Barbara 1 July 2012-001
The first part of our getaway, wedding, and honeymoon was a road trip from San Diego to Big Sur. We drove up Interstate 15 initially, which isn’t the most scenic, but it did lead to a good visit with family. After catching up and getting lunch we headed west and picked up the Pacific Coast Highway at the end of Interstate 10, in Santa Monica, which is one of my favorite places. Even though we planned to stop, we changed our minds and decided to keep going to explore new places together. That is the beauty and freedom of a road trip!

The coast between Santa Monica and Point Mugu State Park is amazing. We had decided to splurge and reserved a rental car, when we picked it up we decided to splurge just a little more and get a Volvo C70 T5. It was an awesome car and perfect for this trip. There were 12 miles on the car when we started and over 1700 when we turned it in 8 days later! When we got to the Malibu area, my wife (fiancée at the time) who grew up in San Fernando Valley, recounted some of her memories of the beaches along this stretch of highway growing up. I had very different experiences growing up in Iowa. We’ve visited there a couple of times and I’ve had my shot at sharing memories. I was glad to hear some stories of her life growing up. It is amazing to me how quickly a place will bring memories floating back to the surface.

Highway 1 merges with the 4 lane Highway 101 in Oxnard and wanders back to the coast as you leave the city and head toward Santa Barbara. We decided to have dinner in Santa Barbara on Stearns Wharf. Dinner was good, but the view out the window was spectacular. I took the picture at the top of the post of the sunset over Santa Barbara from our table about half-way through dinner.

The night before the trip we had been playing around with my camera a Nikon Coolpix S9100 by taking some pictures in the dark near Del Mar California after seeing Train at the San Diego County Fair. On the camera’s screen the pictures had looked great, but they were darker and blurrier on the computer once I transferred them over. After dinner we decided to play around with the camera again to see if it could take low light pictures as well as it had appeared the night before. The pictures looked great again on the camera’s preview screen and this time they looked as good once we transferred them. I would recommend the Nikon S9100 if you enjoy taking low light pictures. I did not have a tripod, but I did brace the camera against whatever I could find in the area to get clear, steady shots. Here are a few examples of the pictures we took (none of these pictures were modified on the computer, except minor cropping).

In this first picture it is hard to tell that it is completely dark outside when I took the picture. The moon is in the sky not the sun. I love the warm color of the wood, and the distant shimmer of the moonlight on the water off the end of the wharf.

Stearns Wharf Santa Barabara after dark

In the second picture I tried to frame it so you could tell that it was dark outside. By putting more light into the original frame the background darkened. This gave the wood an even warmer tone, and I love the blue of the sky and the water. The glow of the moonlight on the water shows up again in this picture. This actually looks very close to the way we were seeing it with our eyes, which is what I was trying to capture.

Cool after dark picture off the end of Stearns Wharf Santa Barbara

This last low light picture is one of my favorites. It reminds me of an impressionist painting. The texture of the water is really cool and the moonlight on the water could not have come out better. I’m surprised by the variety and intensity of the colors under such low light.

Photo of the Moon after dark off the end of Stearns Wharf

On the way back to our car we had someone snap one more picture with us in it. I turned on the flash so you could see our smiling faces, but again some of the background came out surprisingly strong. I didn’t particularly want to leave the recycling bin in the picture, but didn’t want to cut the classic California glow through the palm trees on the horizon either.

We drove about another 90 minutes and stayed at the lodge on Vandenberg Air Force Base. Since I’m a retired Marine we stay on base lodging when it fits into our travel plans. This can save a lot of money. In this case, it was a very comfortable place to sleep and Vandenberg was located perfectly between day 1 and day 2 of our road trip.

On day two we drove over to Pismo Beach for breakfast. During planning I had noticed that there were a number of restaurants on Pomeroy Avenue right by the pier. This made it easy to just stroll down the street and pick one that looked good. For breakfast we had omelets at Chele’s Food & Spirits. Chele’s provided an ocean view, good food, and good service. After breakfast we decided to take a quick stroll down the pier to take some pictures. This first shot from the pier is looking back up Pomeroy avenue.

View from Pismo Beach Pier toward Pomeroy Ave

There was a Pelican at the end of the pier, and although he was keeping his eye on us, I managed to get close enough to snap this picture. .

Pelican at the end of the Pismo Beach Pier

We had slept in a bit, so we had just enough time in Pismo Beach to eat, snap a few pictures, and head north to make it to our afternoon tour of Hearst Castle’s Upstairs Suites. I love the stories of how Hearst Castle came to be, and I love the place. Not just the structures but the views, remoteness, and of course the Neptune Pool. Our time at San Simeon started with a tour of the Upper Suites including the private suites of William Randolph Hearst and Marion Davies.

We had two favorite rooms during the tour, the Library…

Library on the second floor of the Heart Castle

and William Randolph Hearst’s office.

William Randolph Heart office at San Simeon

The Upper Suites tour was fascinating and seemed to give a more personal insight into life at San Simeon, but it was the gardens, grounds, and views that we loved the most. If you take a tour at Hearst Castle be sure to schedule plenty of time to walk through the grounds after the tour before heading back down the hill, and be sure to layer so you can get down to cooler clothing. We dressed too warmly for the tour. It was in the low to mid-sixties near the ocean. But once we got away from the sea breezes and fog, the temperature climbed. The view of the “Casa Grande” from grounds is impressive as are the gardens and statues.

Casa Grande San Simeon

But we quickly overheated in our long sleeve shirts and headed toward the 345,000 gallon Neptune Pool.

Hanging by the pool

Unfortunately no one can swim in the pool and we weren’t dressed for it, but there are some comfortable lounge chairs in the shade of the colonnades near the pool.

Lounging in the shade of the colonnades by the Neptune Pool.

After cooling off we meandered around the guest houses and gardens making slow but steady progress toward the indoor 600,000+ gallon Roman Pool on the opposite side of the Casa Grande. We enjoyed the gardens, views, and a couple more lounge chairs in the shade on our way there. We caught the bus down the hill, ate lunch at the visitors center where we got a call from our wedding coordinator to wrap up some of the last minute details. Then it was time to jump in the car, put the top down, and head toward Big Sur.

The coast from San Simeon State Park to Big Sur Lodge in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, where we would be staying for the next 3 nights, can definitely be divided into two sections. The southern part of the drive is beautiful and relaxing with constant view of the coast beside California Highway 1.

Along the coast on California Highway 1 just north of San Simeon

The second part of the drive changes as the mountains come right up to the water and the road winds up and along the edge of some impressively steep drop-offs. The views of the coast and ocean are still right there… my knuckles were just a little whiter!

Leaving the relaxing part of the Pacific Coast Highway behind on the way to Big Sur

The Volvo handled like it was on rails and the 5 cylinder turbocharged engine had plenty of power to climb the steep hills. I can not say enough about this car, we loved it and have put it on a short list for consideration the next time we need a new car.

Loving the Volvo C70 T5 on California Highway 1 in Big Sur

The road trip from San Diego to Big Sur was everything we had hoped it would be. If you ever get the chance to make drive up the coast from Santa Monica to Big Sur – do it! This was just the start of our trip. I will follow up with a couple more posts; one to share the rest of our time in Big Sur and another for the quick trip we made to San Francisco before heading home. For now I can’t help sharing a few more pictures:

A view from Pismo Beach Pier up the California coastline.

View up the Coast from the Pismo Beach Pier

Some very happy California cows by the coast, and some zebra too – near San Simeon.

Happy cows and zebra by the California coast in San Simeon

Yes we dressed to warmly. No we didn’t layer. Don’t make the same mistake. It is not as cool on top of the hill as it is by the water.

Jenny and Me baking in the Sun at Hearst Castle

The “other pool” at Hearst Castle. The indoor Roman Pool was reportedly rarely used.

The Roman Pool at Hearst Castle

Hey I want to show my love for the Volvo too! What a place to drive with the top down.

Me loving the Volvo in Big Sur

What was the Plan? Big Sur – July 4th 2012 (Final Planning for Big Sur – Hiking, Carmel – Wedding, and San Francisco)

On to the second of three posts for the trip: Big Sur and Carmel California – Wedding, Hiking, Dining, and Driving (July 2-5 2012)