In January 2017 I planned a road trip up most of the coast of California, including Big Sur. We wanted to enjoy another “top-down” road trip up the coast again for our 5th anniversary. Five years ago we rented a Volvo convertible for a trip up the coast through Big Sur. I loved the plan I came up with, but long needed, but “too much all at once” rains made the plan impossible to follow. Highway 1 through Big Sur will be closed this summer due to a collapsed bridge and landslides. There is no telling when it will open again.

Since we can’t do the original plan, I’ve decided to do more than just adjust the route, I’m going to make changes to the goals. First we will still be visiting some of Big Sur, but only what we can get to by driving back south from the north. Second, we will not be going all the way to Crescent City (northern most point of California). We’ll still enjoy plenty of driving up the coast, but we’ll spend more time in a couple of places and only go just past San Francisco to wine country.

Like the original plan we will drive up to LA the evening before the road trip starts. So day one will be the drive from Los Angeles to the Santa Barbara wine country.

Day 1.

Driving Time:  2.5 Hours
Places to explore:
Beaches from Malibu to Point Magu State Park
Ventura
Santa Barbara
Solvang

Although the original plan had us staying near the southern entrance to Big Sur, I now don’t see a good reason to drive past Solvang. This will make the drive shorter and give us more time to explore the beaches of my wife’s childhood. I’m really looking forward to more stories that being there will bring to her mind. Also it will make going past Solvang unnecessary so we will be able to enjoy the wineries in that area without having to worry about driving on to Moro Bay. We will likely do lunch in Santa Barbara now, but still plan to get to Solvang early enough to check out some of the wineries like in the original plan. Some of the best rated (on Yelp) wineries/tasting rooms in the Solvang area are: Carivintas Winery (they donate profits to animal charity, so part of the rating may be animal lovers), Shoestring Winery, Bella Cavalli Farms & Vineyard, or Cali Love Wine.  There are lots of other choices, but these are the ones that jumped out at me when looking at the reviews for the original plan.

Day 2.

Driving Time:  4 Hours (Most of this drive will be away from the coast as Highway 1 is not open all the way to Big Sur River Inn)
Places to Explore:

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Hurricane Point View
Bixby Creek Bridge
Rocky Creek Bridge
Point Sur State Historic Park

Changing the Day 2 plan is the biggest disappointment of the revised plan. I was really looking forward to this day of the original plan. Now instead of driving through Big Sur we will be driving up Highway 101, an inland route. We’ll definitely have to make up for this change on other parts of the trip. The day is not a waste though as we will still drive along the coast from Carmel to Big Sur River Inn. It will give us a chance to explore some of the areas that we originally planned for Day 3 on Day 2. We’ll get a second chance to explore these same areas on the drive back to Carmel on Day 3, but will not spend as much time exploring Big Sur as in the original plan.

Day 3 & 4.

Driving Time:1 hr
Places to Explore:

Second chance for the list from Day 2
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Berwick Park
Casanova Restaurant Carmel by the Sea

As part of the changes to the overall distance we are covering on this trip we will now be staying in the Pacific Grove for 2 nights and have one full day to revisit some of the places we enjoyed 5 years ago, and plenty of time to get to know the area even better. One of the options in the original plan was a bike ride along the Monterrey Bay Coastal Trail. That was pretty high on our list, but is now off the list as I injured my arm and will not be able to ride a bike this summer. We’ll have to save that for next time!

Day 5.

Driving Time:  3 Hours
Places to Explore:

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Natural Beach State Park
Coast Dairies State Park
Shark Fin Cove
Pescadero State Beach
Half Moon Bay State Beach
San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge
Sausalito
Muir Woods
Wineries near Santa Rosa and Sebastopol

(Day 5 is unchanged!)Leaving the Monterrey area it would be nice to drive along the coast as far as possible, stopping in Santa Cruz for breakfast, but if we sleep in we’ll probably take the fastest route past San Francisco to Muir Woods just north of San Francisco to explore. This has been on my list for a while, and I would love to be able to hike some (or all – it’s only about 6 miles) of the trails in Muir Woods. We had lunch in Half Moon Bay five years ago and really liked the vibe of the place. But then there are lots of cool places around here. Sausalito was another favorite on that trip and during our later visit to San Francisco when we bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Either place would work for lunch before hiking in Muir Woods.

Then the second big change in our trip happens. Instead of a quick drive through visit to the Russian River wine country, we will be spending a couple of nights and one full day. The original plan was to stay in Sebastopol, but on the advise of our friend Eleanor, who has visited this are many times, we will be staying in Windsor.

————————–

Day 6.

Driving Time:  0 Hours
Places to Explore:

Russian River Area Wineries (Lynmar Estate, Iron Horse, Gary Farrell Winery, Korbel Winery, and others)

Day 6 will be the last full day of our trip before the drive home. We plan to take a driving tour of several wineries. The details of that are not worked out, but we will not be driving ourselves. Our first choice is a private sedan tour of the area. Then we’ll end the day with a nice dinner near our hotel. After all the wine tasting, a good dark beer at a nearby Irish pub sounds great!

Day 7-8

Driving Time:  5-6 Hours to LA on Day 7, and another 2.5 hours home on Day 8

The next day the top would go up for a long drive on I-5 to Los Angeles. Then the next day we’ll head the rest of the to San Diego.

I did not like deleting the section of the trip above the Russian River area, but we wanted to drive less and enjoy a couple of areas for longer times. We will look to do another trip that takes us the rest of the way up the coast from San Francisco another time. Since there are lots of camping options up there, maybe we’ll take the Wrangler instead. Still a great vehicle for a drive along the coast.

This was my fourth time in Yosemite in 6 years and fifth time overall. Although the place was the same, each visit was unique. This trip was planned early in 2016 as a quick car camping trip. Although our trip in 2011 had been in August, and this was just one month later, we knew that the visit would be much different. In 2011 there had been tremendous amounts of snow, so we had to delay our planned July trip to August to allow the snow to clear from the back country trails we planned to backpack on. With all that snow, the waterfalls were still roaring in August. We knew that 2016 would be very dry as we were coming off not one but four years of drought. We love the waterfalls of Yosemite, but that is not all we love. Yosemite valley is the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited and that was no different in September 2016 than it had been any of my previous visits.

The reason for the timing of our trip was that our friends Wendy and Dave Claman were coming to Southern California to visit with family at Disneyland. We would meet them immediately after their visit to Disneyland and drive together to Yosemite. We had car camped in Yosemite in 2010 and 2016 at a campgrounds well outside the valley, Hodgdon Meadow. In fact the campsite these 2 years were right next to each other. Hodgdon is about 20 miles from the valley, but it is a beautiful campgrounds and was, at least in 2010, a beautiful drive to the valley. By 2016 two major fires had devastated the areas both north and south of Hodgdon Meadow campground. However, we made reservations there again as that was the only campgrounds available when we finally decided to “do it” and worked out the details.

When we arrived in Yosemite’s southern entrance we had to skip seeing the Mariposa Grove of Sequoias again as the grove was closed for renovations designed to protect the huge trees. I’ve seen the other 2 groves of Sequoias in Yosemite the Tuolumne and Merced Groves, but wanted to see the Mariposa Grove one of these days. We planned to head straight to the valley, but decided at the last minute that we would turn toward Glacier Point before heading to the valley.

Glacier Point has some of the most spectacular views anywhere in Yosemite. It is almost surreal all of the spectacular things you can see from there. It is hard to put a scale to all that you are seeing. Of course Half Dome catches your eye right away.
Half Dome Tenaya canyon and Clouds Rest from Glacier Point

To the right of Half Dome you can see well into the distance many of the high Sierra snow-capped peaks.

Take a closer look lower in the same view and you can make out both Vernal and Nevada Falls and parts of the Mist Trail.

Although I’ve been to Glacier Point before, it was usually a quick trip or the start of a hike or backpacking trip. I’ve never taken the time to explore Glacier Point beyond the area right in front of the gift shop. That first area you walk up to from the parking lot is actually the trail head for the short paved trail to Glacier Point. The views don’t change much as you walk toward the point, but there are “things of interest” all along the short trail if you walk back toward the true “Glacier Point”.

The first stop on the short hike is the Geology Hut. It is a small stone structure with awesome views.

Wendy-and-Jenny-at-Glacier-Point

Dave-and-Wendy-kissing-Glacier-Point

If you watch close along the trail you are likely to see some wildlife even though it is a paved trail with tons of people walking on it. I got a good shot of this raven taking a rest.

Raven-with-a-view

There are lots of opportunities for pictures when you get to the actual “Glacier Point”, but you’ll have to squeeze in to the crowd.

There are a few places to pose for pictures that are less crowded, like the famous overhang rock just a short walk off the end of the Glacier Point trail.

Overhang-Rock-at-Glacier-Point

I found another way to cut the crowd out though…

Glacier-Point-view

and as you can see with the “crowd” back in the shot, it was much safer than overhang rock.

https://herestoafulllife.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/safer-than-overhang-rock.jpg

Jenny humored me and posed on a flat rock between the upper and lower viewing areas at Glacier Point.

Jenny-Rial-Glacier-Point

While at Glacier point we decided to see if there was any “space available” at the Bridalveil
Creek campgrounds which is beside the road on the way back down from Glacier Point. That was a very good idea! Since we got there relatively early on a Thursday we were able to choose from quite a few camp sites. We got a nice site near the middle of the campgrounds, but very private. Bridalveil Creek campgrounds is a very nice place with plenty of large trees and some areas of rocks that are pretty cool too. We initially wanted a site by the rocky area as they seemed even more private, but they were also smaller and we had two vehicles to park and planned to set up 2 fairly large tents for the 5 people in our group. But in the end we loved the site we finally selected. There was plenty of room to park, level ground for our tents, and a reasonable walk to the bathrooms.

Bridal-Veil-Creek-Campground

We set up camp, collected some fire wood for the camp fire, made dinner, and settled in for the night. I love sitting around the campfire sharing memories and making new one. I’ve been friends with Dave for more than 40 years, so there are lots of memories to talk about. One other thing was a bit unexpected about this trip and this campground. It can get really cold at Bridalveil Creek Campgrounds at night in September. The unexpected cold weather cut our campfire time down a bit, but still a great time. We would head down into the valley in the morning, but I’ll do a second post for day two.

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

Happy to see my wife and daughter in law on the Marine Corps Marathon Route
When I completed the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2013, I was very over trained and dealing with an injury that popped up 2 weeks before the Marathon. The worst over training issues affecting me were large bumps on both of my Achilles tendons. I was definitely ready for a break. At that point I figured I would need to take it easy for 3-6 months and then I would be ready to run again. I was in great shape and wanted to stay that way. I really felt like I could run for hours… in fact I had been running for hours at a time for the months leading up to the marathon. I wasn’t running fast, my training log for the Marine Corps Marathon shows that my longer runs (15-20 miles) averaging just over 10 minute mile pace and my shorter runs (5-6 miles) averaging around a 9 minute mile pace. Unfortunately the injury a couple of weeks before the Marine Corps Marathon, during a shorter run, brought my pace down to 12 minute mile pace for the marathon (very disappointing). I really felt that pace was well below my potential. In fact I did not feel stressed by the pace during the race. It was just that I started the race limping and was not able to run smoothly until about the 10 mile marker. Now that the marathon was over I was hoping that if I could heal from the injury and get rid of the nagging over training issues I would be able to quickly get back to running. My goal was to be able to run some more half marathons and maybe take another shot at a marathon if it felt right.

So I took a few months off and went back out for a shorter 5-6 mile run by the beach. It was definitely not time yet. My leg injury still nagged my if I pushed off at full strength and my Achilles tendons were also still sore and swollen. I took another shot in 3 more months. The leg was feeling much better but the tendons were still sore and swollen. I did not just want to go back to training hard again and have these persistent issues continue indefinitely, so I decided it might be a year or so before I could get back to running longer distances. I continued going out a couple of times a month during 2014 but not as regularly as I had been running.

I was training for a hike across the Grand Canyon at this point and decided the hiking was more important than the running, so I decided not to try to do too much running until after the big hike.. I intended to get back to running once the hike was finished.

The 2014 Grand Canyon hike was great, but I could tell I was not in the same shape I was in the first time I did the hike. I felt it especially on the way up Bright Angel trail. To be fair I had pretty serious cold and laryngitis, but that was not the only issue. I had let my overall conditioning go down hill significantly. I was hiking, but not in the gym and not running and I was feeling the effects of that.

I continued to run occasionally through 2015, with some occasional burst in activity to train for a 5K run I do every year in March. By September 2015, the Achilles tendons were completely better. By this time I had lost all my conditioning. I was still able to go out and run 3-6 miles with no problem, but it did not feel as good as it had. I definitely didn’t feel like I would be able to run longer without significant training. Then I started to have knee issues. I’m not sure why this started. I had knee surgery in high school, but I had never had issues with that knee since. Now it was giving my significant issues. After September, I let running go again, except for an occasional once or twice a month 3 mile run.

In 2016, I decided to set a goal to hike more often, but let running go almost completely. We hiked a lot in 2016, but almost no running. I also started to have serious issues with my right foot. I had foot surgery in 2009 and I thought the initial problem was coming back. But when I finally went to the doctor in the summer of 2016, he found that the metal plate put in for the surgery in 2009 had shifted and was now about an 1/8 of an inch above the bone. It was irritating the flesh and causing quite a bit of pain. So I decided to have a surgery to remove the metal plate. This was a very good idea and the surgery in January 2017 went well and the recovery was very quick. My foot quickly felt better than it had in years. Unfortunately the lack of exercise during 2016 had left me in pretty bad shape and the surgery kept me from doing any training before my annual 5k in March 2017. I was in such bad shape I did the family fun walk instead of running for the first time in 8 years.

I realized during my recovery from the surgery that I had let myself get in the worst shape of my life over the last couple years. I was overweight by at least 20 pounds, and had not been in the gym regularly for well over 18 months, probably longer. I decided to do something about it, starting with a 30 day diet and exercise challenge my nephew suggested. No alcohol, bread, sweets, white rice, potatoes (etc) for 30 days. Nothing from a can or package. No sugar and no artificial sweetener. Only fresh meat, fresh vegetables, and fruit. In addition, some sort of physical activity every day, a hike, walk, run, or the gym. I started the diet and exercise on 20 March and as of 21 April I’ve lost 15 pounds and I’m no longer in the worst shape of my life. I have no intention of going backward from here. I will continue the diet, with a few modifications, and I will continue to exercise at least 5 days a week.

I’m still not able to run “pain-free” after my foot surgery.  In addition to removing a plate the surgeon shaved a bump off the top of the bone my big toe moves on.  This bump was preventing full flexibility in the toe and might be to blame for some of my Achilles tendon and knee issues.  It was definitely affecting my walking and running gait.  I will have to take it easy on running until that joint is fully healed.

Running Goals:

  • Continue to let my foot heal while I diet and exercise in the gym.
  • Run no more than 3 mile distance until I’m under 200 lbs. I don’t lose weight when I run long distances I just eat more.
  • Prepare to run a local half marathon in San Diego in early 2018.
  • Run the Monterey Bay Half Marathon (formerly the Big Sur Half Marathon) in November 2018 (has been on my Bucket List for a few years).
  • Then reevaluate my goals after that.

We woke up early in Jackson, Wy on the last full day of our Yellowstone and Grand Tetons vacation. It had been a quick 3 day visit, but we had seen a lot. We had both visited the geysers and pools on previous trips to Yellowstone, so we spent the first two days checking out the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River area and taking a great hike on the Garnet Trail in the midst of the Tetons.

We really enjoyed Jackson Wyoming and hope to visit this area again soon. Our cabin at the Cowboy Village Resort, was comfortable and authentic. It reminded me quite a bit of the cabin we stayed at that the North Rim Lodge at the Grand Canyon.

cabin-at-cowboy-village-resort

It is a single room, and has a few more modern conveniences, but still a true log cabin.

bathroom-and-kitchenette-in-cabin-at-cowboy-village-resort

We were ready to head back to Yellowstone and have a relaxing day hanging out at the Old Faithful area. We would be driving through Grand Tetons National Park again, and we knew we would be stopping along the way to check out the sights. Because we wanted to see things from a different angle we headed west out of Jackson and turned north on highway 390. This goes by the Teton’s ski area, Teton Village and eventually connects with Teton Park Road. Although we loved the panoramic views we got of the Grand Tetons on our way to Jackson Wyoming, we were hoping to get a closer look than we had coming in on US 191 the first day. We weren’t disappointed. The mountains were definitely closer and in more detail as we drove into the park.

a-closer-approach-to-the-tetons

Every bend in the road gave a different look at these magnificent peaks. All of the views were spectacular, but some were a bit overwhelming.

grand-teton-straight-ahead-on-the-road

We were just one car of many winding our way toward the Grand Tetons that day.

cars-winding-their-way-toward-the-grand-tetons

Our first stop would be Jenny Lake. The views across this lake are well work the stop and a bit of scrambling to get down to the water.

jenny-lake-panorama

We spent a little more time and had lunch at our next stop, the Jackson Lake Lodge. This lodge was built in 1955 and is very impressive. The view out the lobby windows alone was worth the stop!

view-from-the-jackson-lake-lodge

We would definitely consider staying at this lodge on a future visit. It was a beautiful day, but for some reason not many of our pictures really captured the feeling. This one panorama shows a 360 degree plus view and comes closest to what we experienced.

360-panorama-of-jackson-lake-lodge

After stopping at Jackson Lake Lodge it was time to make some good time and make it to the Old Faithful area while we would still have some time to explore. We arrived around 3pm and headed straight to the main show. We grabbed a spot on the edge of the wooden viewing platform and waited for Old Faithful to do what Old Faithful does. After plenty of steam and anticipation, we were not disappointed!

Old Faithful

It was too early for dinner, but just about right for a snack so we headed over to the cafeteria. We just beat the majority of the crowd to line up at the ice cream shop! I took my ice cream out on to the patio facing Old Faithful and Jenny went in to look around and check out the gift shop. She planned to be back in time to see the next big show. We enjoyed the slightly different angle kicked back on a couple of rocking chairs on the Cafeteria’s porch!

view-of-old-faithful-kicking-back-on-the-cafeteria-porch

After the second show we got a little more ambitious and decided to tour the pools and geysers of the upper geyser basin. You cross the Firehole River first. It is obvious that this is not a hospitable place right away!

crossing-firehole-river-to-upper-geyser-basin

It was a partially cloudy, breezy day. A sunny calm day would be the best to get clear pictures that show the pool colors. But I’m not really complaining, we enjoyed the stroll around the pools and geysers, and got plenty of nice pictures. I found the beehive geyser to be pretty interesting.

bee-hive-geyser

I would love to see it erupt, but we only got to see steam. We didn’t feel the need to stick around the 10 hours to 5 days necessary to see the geyser erupt.

beehive-geyser-facts

give yourself plenty of time for this walk. The placards get lots of interesting information about what you are looking at. Although this place is visually interesting, the story behind the formations is even more interesting. Before we headed off Geyser hill to take in more of the trail, I zoomed in to get a picture of this formation.

castle-geyser-from-a-distance-zoomed-in

We commented that it looked like a castle. I guess we were not the first to think so, as this is called the Castle Geyser. We would pass right by the other side of this geyser near the end of our walk through the pools and geysers.

The first pool we came to after walking off Geyser Hill was liberty pool. We agreed this, like most of the area, was not beautiful in the traditional sense, but it was eye-catching. I like the way I got the reflection of the tree line in the picture.

reflection-of-trees-in-liberty-pool

The next feature was the Sawmill Geyser. It was erupting as we passed by. It does not go high, but it puts out a lot of steam and makes quite a bit of noise. You feel a bit concerned passing so close to it as it erupts (although Jenny doesn’t look too concerned here).

jenny-in-front-of-the-sawmill-geyser

Then comes the Spazmodic Geyser, which is much more calm, but it has two small pools and some interesting ground formations.

spazmodic-geyser

There are a few other smaller pools along the way. This is one of my favorite, although I don’t have its name.

clouds-reflecting-off-pool-upper-geyser-area

The last two we checked out before turning back toward the bridge over to the Castle Geyser and the path back to the lodge were the Beauty Pool…

yellowstone-beauty-pool

and the Chromatic pool.

chromatic-pool-yellowstone

I assume these pools change over time, although my pictures don’t do them justice, I’m not sure this was their best day either!

We planned to have dinner at the Lake Lodge and then check in to our room so we felt we needed to start heading back toward the lodge and the car rather than continuing down the pathway even further. There was a shortcut bridge that takes a path past the Castle Geyser. Although I think my zoomed in picture taken earlier from geyser hill looked the most like a castle of any angle, the formation formed by the Castle Geyser was still impressive up close.

castle-geyser

Last pool we passed as we approached a paved path back to the Inn was the crested pool. I liked the way this pool looked.

crested-pool

It was an easy walk back to the Old Faithful Inn from the Castle Geyser area. This lodge is very unique, with a very large and impressive log lobby area.

old-failful-lodge

It is even more impressive on the inside.

grand-log-lobby-in-the-old-faithful-lodge

There are stairs to platforms around the lobby, unfortunately an earthquake in 1959 destabilized the structure of these stairs and other parts of the lobby, so you can no longer climb above the second level.

We decided to have a beer out on the second level deck above Old Faithful and managed to walk out onto the deck just in time to catch a third Old Faithful eruption from yet another angle.

view-of-old-faithful-from-the-old-faithful-lodge-balcony

The drive to the Lake Village area is long, and after dark it is slow. The speed limits go down at night to prevent accidental wildlife strikes. Although we found the slower drive a bit tedious, we soon found out why it was necessary when we came upon several cars stopped in the road. A very large Elk was grazing on the side of the road. I stayed well back from him, and it was very low light, so the picture is not great, but you can tell that this was one big guy!

elk-on-the-side-of-the-road-at-dusk

After a few minutes enjoying the beverage and the view we headed back to our car and drove to the Lake Lodge. Unfortunately when we arrived we found that my memory (or understanding) of where our rooms were was faulty. Our reservations were actually on the other side of the lake at Grant Village. We decided to have dinner at the Lake Lodge, which was awesome, then head to Grant Village.

We would have much rather stayed at the Lake Lodge, it is a beautiful and historic hotel. We also were not looking forward to another long slow drive after dark. We arrived at Grant Village very late. There was no parking near the building our room was in so I had to make several long walks. After getting to our room we were even more disappointed that we were not staying at the Lake Lodge. The rooms at Grant Village appear to be very quickly and cheaply built. It is fairly low quality but reasonably priced. We are unlikely to stay there again or to recommend it. We did not spend any time in the area, so there may be good reason to stay here, but for just an overnight, it was uninspiring.

The next morning we had to head back to Bozeman to catch a flight back to San Diego. We decided to see something new, so we headed toward Yellowstone’s north entrance/exit. Not far before the exit is Mammoth Hot Springs. We stopped near the top of the Hot Springs and walked most of the way around the formation. Like many things in Yellowstone, this place is interesting, and somewhere between ugly and beautiful. The water flow moves around so some parts of the formation are dry and crumbling.

visitors-center-in-the-valley-below-mammoth-hot-springs

The parts with water flowing were the freshest and most attractive.

mammoth-hot-springs-water-flowing-from-formation

The view from the lower southeast corner of the Hot Springs was the most impressive, at least this year. The water was flowing fairly steadily and the pools and falls were in impeccable condition.

mammoth-hot-springs

After the drive out of the mountains the rest of the drive to Bozeman is pretty ordinary. It is worth it to go this way to see Mammoth Hot Springs, but if that is your main interest you may want to find out how much water is flowing for that year/season.

This 3 day trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons had been a quick visit, but we saw a lot. Each day had incredibly different sites to see. I hope we find the time to visit again, especially the Jackson Wyoming and Grand Tetons area. There are so many other things to see though, so I guess only time will tell. If this was our last visit to these areas, I feel like we made the most of it!

pigeon-point-light-house

About 5 years ago I planned a road trip from San Diego to Big Sur.  We ended up going all the way to San Francisco and getting married along the way.  After we were done we knew we wanted more, so this summer for our 5 year anniversary we will head back up the coast for more!

On our last trip we splurged a bit and rented a Volvo convertible for the trip. This is nearly perfect road trip in July with a convertible. We loved it so much my wife’s next vehicle was a BMW convertible. We’ve had the car a few years and just feel like we have not taken advantage of the car, the sun, and the coast enough. This will put that situation back into balance as we plan to do most of the trip up the coast or on back roads through other beautiful areas. Perfect places to put the top down and fully enjoy the drive.

The coastal drive from San Diego to LA is awesome, with both Laguna Beach and Santa Monica being on our favorite places list along this part of the coast.  However, we can do that drive on any weekend, so to get the most out of this trip we will bypass the coast between San Diego to Los Angeles.  We will likely drive up that far the night before we start our trip and stay in the Los Angeles area so we can start our drive along the coast bright and early.

Day 1.

Driving Time:  3.5 Hours
Places to explore:
Beaches from Malibu to Point Magu State Park
Ventura
Santa Barbara
Solvang
Pismo Beach (Cool Dunes)
San Louis Obispo (A favorite local musician Damon Castillo here)
Moro Bay

We don’t go beyond Los Angeles as often, and want to drive through Big Sur and add to our experiences in that area on this trip, so we will stay near the coast north/west of LA.  My wife, Jenny, grew up in San Fernando valley and spent many weekends and summer days on the beaches north of Los Angeles.  On our last trip she shared some stories that driving past this area brought back for her.  On this trip I hope we can make some time to visit at least her favorite beach (probably Leo Carrillo State Park) so we can enjoy her reminiscences again.    For lunch I would like something fun and romantic, but new.  We’ve eaten on Stearns Wharf in Santa Barbara several times, so although I’m sure we would love it again, I want to do something different.  I’ve never been to Solvang, so that is an option.  We could do lunch and throw in some wine tasting, but will have to take it easy as we plan to drive a little further after lunch.  If we like a wine we can pick up a bottle or two for that evening.   Some of the best rated (on Yelp) wineries/tasting rooms in the Solvang area are: Carivintas Winery (they donate profits to animal charity, so part of the rating may be animal lovers), Shoestring Winery, Bella Cavalli Farms & Vineyard, or Cali Love Wine.  There are lots of other choices, but these are the ones that jumped out at me when looking at the reviews.

After Solvang we’ll likely be looking for a place to stay, the lodge at Vandenberg is the price winner, but I’ve stayed there a couple times and I’m thinking we could make it a bit further north.  So maybe we’ll look to stay in Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo or what I think would be best, based on the goal of the trip would be to stay in Moro Bay.

Day 2.

Driving Time:  3 Hours (approximately… Google maps would not give an estimate in January 2017 as Highway 1 was closed due to a mud slide.  Hope that is cleared by July!)
Places to Explore:

Moon Stone Beach Park
Hearst San Simeon State Park
Hearst Castle (San Simeon)
Lots of stops along the way at: Elephant Seal Vista Point, Point Piedras Blancas, Ragged Point, Salmon Creek Falls, Willow Creek Beach, Limekiln Falls, and at least 50 view points.
McWay Falls

Hikes:
Partington Cove Trail
and either:
Tanbark Trail loop (at the same trailhead as Partington Cove)
or
Ewoldsen trail (Same trailhead as McWay Falls which would be nice to visit again)

Leaving Moro Bay in the morning we would be driving the final stretch of California Highway 1 before Big Sur. It will be a great stretch of highway to put the top down and enjoy the drive along the coast.

On our last trip to Big Sur we stopped and toured “Hearst’s Castle” or San Simeon. There are multiple tours to do here, but this trip is about doing different things, so again I think we will drive past San Simeon and look for a hike or two further up the coast. We could drive right through Big Sur and keep going, but depending on what the rest of the trip plan is, I think one good option would be to spend the night again, so that we have time to check out some things we missed last time. We stayed at Big Sur Lodge in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park last time. It is a definite option again, but there are several other places in this area worth checking out too, like Deejens Big Sur Inn, Big Sur River Inn, or for a bit of a splurge Glen Oaks Inn, or if we want to spend a huge chunk of the vacation budget in one night… Post Ranch Inn.

With 2 days to explore we’ll have time to see some things we did not check out last time.

Day 3.

Driving Time:  Places to Explore:

High Bridge Falls
Andrew Molera State Park
Hurricane Point View
Bixby Creek Bridge
Rocky Creek Bridge
Point Sur State Historic Park
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve (lots of walking here too)
Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Berwick Park
Casanova Restaurant Carmel by the Sea

We’ll have a second day to explore Big Sur. Many of the sights are quick stops, but I think we will want to spend more time exploring Point Lobos, and possibly bike parts of the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail. I don’t think we will want to go too far up the coast after a full day exploring so our next night could be in Carmel by the Sea, Monterey, or if we are more ambitious Santa Cruz. Since we were married between Carmel by the Sea and Monterey, I think we’ll want to revisit some things there (especially the pretty little cove in Berwick Park where we were married) and explore some new things before we leave.

Day 4.

Driving Time:  3 Hours
Places to Explore:

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
Natural Beach State Park
Coast Dairies State Park
Shark Fin Cove
Pescadero State Beach
Half Moon Bay State Beach
San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge
Sausalito
Muir Woods
Wineries near Santa Rosa and Sebastopol

Leaving the Monterey area it would be nice to drive along the coast as far as possible, but even better to take the fastest route past San Francisco to Muir Woods just north of San Francisco to explore. This has been on my list for a while, and I would love to be able to hike some (or all – it’s only about 6 miles) of the trails in Muir Woods. We had lunch in Half Moon Bay five years ago and really liked the vibe of the place. But then there are lots of cool places around here. Sausalito was another favorite on that trip and during our later visit to San Francisco when we bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Either place would work for lunch before hiking in Muir Woods.

Then it would be good to head up the coast for a ways then turn inland to explore the Russian River wine country. Maybe dinner at a winery and then spend the night on the east side of this area, say in Sebastopol.

Day 5.

Driving Time:  3-5 Hours
Places to Explore:

Russian River Area Wineries (Iron Horse, Gary Farrell Winery, Korbel Winery, and others)
Highway 116 along the Russian River back to the coast
Sanoma Coast State Park
Fort Ross (Historic Russian Compound)
Stillwater Cove Regional Park
Salt Point State Park
Bowling Ball Beach
Point Arena Lighthouse and Museum
Point Cabrillo Lightstation
Westport Union State Beach Park
A beautiful drive by the coast with the top down!
Drive Through Tree Park

Then the next day take California state route 116 back to the coast along the Russian River. There are tons of places here to eat lunch. All of them are rated well, so we’ll just stop somewhere that looks cool once we get hungry. This day will mostly be about driving along the coast but I’m sure we will be stopping to check out some things along the way. That evening it would be nice to get to an area just south of Redwood State and National Parks. I think Myers Flat would be a good stopping point so we can enjoy the Avenue of the Giants drive the next day. There is an Inn and camping available in this fairly small town. Depending on how far we want to drive, we may want to stop sooner, either along the coast maybe Fort Bragg, or at a forest area before Myers Flat like the Redwood River Resort.

Day 6.

Driving Time:  3-4 Hours
Places to Explore:

Avenue of the Giants
Humboldt Redwoods State Park (Humbolt Redwood Hikes)

Del Norte Coast Readwood State Park (Damnation Creek Trail, Mill Creek Trails)

From Myers Flat it is only about 3 hours or less drive to Crescent City, but there are lots of places to explore. I would like to pick a couple easier hikes rather than one tough hike so we can explore different areas of the Redwood State and National Parks.

That night we could stay in Crescent City or continue on through some more Redwoods to Grants Pass Oregon.

Day 7.

Driving Time:  8-14 Hours

The next day the top would go up for what could be a very long drive on I-5 all the way down to San Diego. Optionally we could spend the night in Sacramento to break it in to a two-day trip.

Update (2/22/2017):  Highway 1 through Big Sur is not looking good for the summer of 2017.  So I’ll be updating the plan.    Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge has been condemned.  I’m pretty sure it will take more than a few months to replace that bridge.

Update (6/30/2017): I have posted a new plan to adjust for the road closure and other things that have come up: Updated Planning for a California Coastal Road Trip (2017 Revised Big Sur Plan)

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.

On day five of our trip to Maui, we had scheduled to do a bike tour down from Haleakalā crater. This had been on my list of things to do since I lived in Oahu in the early 90’s. We had bought a “Things to do in Hawaii” VHS tape with the plan to visit the other islands while we lived there. I hate to admit it, but we never visit one of the other islands. We were there 4 years, but expected to be there a couple more years. Our tour was cut short when my billet went away during the downsizing of the Marine Corps after the first Gulf War. So this was my chance to do something I had wanted to do for quite some time.

The tour company, Maui Mountain Cruisers, got us to the top of Haleakalā well before sunset. Since we all got up very early it was a quiet trip. A few lucky folks even got in a nap. I rested, but was awake for vans sprint up the curvy road. Just before the park the caravan of vehicles pulled to the side of the road to disconnect the trailer with our bikes. We would be returning to this point, just outside the park to start our bike ride down the mountain, after a visit to the crater to see the sunrise. At the crater, everyone got out quietly, stretched and visited the restrooms in the visitor’s center. It was dark and cold, but calm. We had separated with no designated rendezvous location, so it took a few minutes to reconnect. Even though there as a large group of people around, the calm quiet and dark surroundings gave me a sense of peaceful loneliness and other worldly isolation. Once we reconnected, Jenny and I looked for a good place to observe the sunrise. All of the spots close to the crater were 3-4 people deep, so we headed up hill to find a clear view. Although it was very dark around us, the clouds below us were bright with the pre-dawn light.

Haleakalā crater at sunrise

This picture shows some of the people waiting for the sunrise. We had separated from Dave and Wendy. They were likely down closer to the rim of the crater.

Watching the sunrise at Haleakalā crater

After getting several photos of the clouds we decided to move down closer to join the crowd. Just before the sun rose above the clouds was the best time to get a good picture.

Sunrise above the clouds at Haeakala crater

I took a video of the sunrise. A couple of ladies led a Hawaiian chant as the sun rose. The chant definitely added to the experience, so I’m glad I took the video. The audio is much better than the video, so I won’t likely post the video. I did pan around the crowd of people watching the sunrise and happened to find Dave and Wendy finally in the crowd

People watching the sunrise at Haleakala Crater

The video stopped right as the sun rose above the clouds.

Sunrise above the clouds at Haleakala Crater Maui

After the sunrise the glare from the sun made it difficult to get a good picture. This one of the crater was one of my favorite.

View of Haleakalā crater

The pictures I took of people didn’t turn out very good. To much back lighting. This one of Jenny and Wendy with the crater in the background turned out the best.

Wendy and Jenny bundled up after just after the sunrise at Haleakala crater

Once the sun was fully up, everyone took advantage of the restrooms one more time, then we loaded back in the vans to head back down to the trailer with the bikes, just outside the park. Apparently several years ago, the park changed their policy about bike tours and all of the biking companies now have to start their bike tours from locations just below the entrance to the park. Only people who bring their own bikes up to the crater can ride from the top.

There are several options for tour companies. Some allow you to ride down at your own pace, but we chose a company that guides you down. The main advantage of that is that a van with a trailer drove behind the last bike in the center of the road so cars would not be able to pass us without warning. Every few miles we would pull over to let cars pass. This was much safer and let us focus on the road ahead and the view. This arrangement also allowed anyone who was not enjoying the steep downhill curves to opt out and ride down in the van. I can’t imagine doing that, but if you are not sure you will be good with this ride, this gives you the option to at least try.

At one of the most scenic pullouts, we did a few poses for the camera.

Eric and JeJust before the sunrise above the clouds was the best time to get a good picture. nny on the ride down from Haleakala crater

Dave and Wendy on the ride down from Haleakala

Although this was not my favorite thing I did in Maui (snorkeling with the turtles gets that prize), I’m glad we decided to do this tour. It was definitely a unique experience. There aren’t many other places in the world where you can watch a sunrise over a volcanic crater above the clouds and then ride a bike 20+ miles downhill.

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

My Blog is Six

Posted: August 22, 2016 in About the Blog

My blog is now six years old. I have posted 225 posts over the past 312 weeks. I kept a one post a week pace up for the first 3 years, three posts a month pace up for the 4th year, 1.5 post a month during my 5th year and just over 1 post a month of the last year.  Although I used to have goals for posting, I let those go last year, and I won’t have one this year either.  I definitely still enjoy blogging and I can say without a doubt that this blog has been a complete success for me.  It has helped me change my life over the past 6 years.  I live a very full and happy life with my wife, our 6 kids, 2 grandchildren and more soon I’m sure, and our terrific friends and family.  My goal when I started this blog was more than posting on a regular basis, it was to change the way I lived my life.  To grab life by the horns not the tail.  I can say without hesitation that I have done that and I give blogging about some of the things we do a lot of credit for this.  Not just posting what we do, but putting together goals, and tracking my progress on the blog.

A few years ago I set a goal to run the Marine Corps Marathon.  Tracking my progress against my plan on the blog definitely helped me achieve that goal.  I am currently tracking 2 goals on the blog, my Bucket List and my list of local hikes I’ve completed  from the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego.  I’ve been able to make steady progress on both lists and plan to keep working on both lists over the next year.

I also plan to add a new list.  We love going to National Parks and I’ve been to several, but we tend to keep going back to our favorites.  I don’t plan to stop going to Yosemite, or other parks I’ve been to, but I do plan to try to add some variety.  I’m not adding a goal to “visit every National Park in the United States”, but I do plan to track the ones I’ve been to and look for opportunities to see those I have not been to.  (Note:  Added page on the top menu for National Parks Visited.)

I still have some projects to get done around my house, but I also expect I’ll be busy helping our kids with there houses, and of course spending plenty of time with our grand kids.

 

 

Although it is hard to believe that I’ve been writing this blog for 6 years, it is also hard to remember living life any other way then I do now.   Life is definitely not slowing down.   Even though we don’t plan as many big things as we used to (intentionally), we rarely have a quiet weekend and home alone.  We plan some adventures, and we check some things off our lists, but our life just seems to fill in the rest.  We still find ourselves having to say no, or not that weekend too often, but it is not as bad as it was a couple years ago.

I’m looking forward to the fall and lots of local hiking around San Diego county.  I want to get back to running if I can early next year.  I have foot surgery toward the end of this year and I’m hoping that will help.  Next year we also plan to reward ourselves with at least one big item from the our bucket list.  Right now a vacation to Italy is what we are thinking but we have some more time to put together a plan for that.

Now it’s time to blow out the candles and eat the cake … Happy Birthday Blog!