I added “Hike at least 250 different trails in San Diego County” to my Bucket List in 2014. I’ve had good and bad hiking years since then, but I’ve stuck to the goal, and plan to achieve it regardless of how long it takes. In fact, I’m not in a huge rush. A few weeks ago I passed the century mark for trails and today I passed the century mark for completed hikes. The difference between those 2 things came to be on my 99th hike. I messed up on the navigation and we only completed a little over half of the 7 mile hike. We’ll go back one day soon to fix that mistake, but until then I’ll have a half of a hike on my list.
I’m following the list of hikes in the book Afoot and Afield in San Diego County. The list was started using the 4th Edition that had 250 unique hikes in it. The current, 5th Edition, has 282 unique hikes. I have not updated my Bucket List or tracking page, Afoot and Afield in San Diego County Hikes, but I will one of these days.
I don’t always go with the same people, my wife and youngest son are usually there, but not always. Occasionally we have a bigger group, but not often. I’ve only done 1 or 2 alone, but not long or remote ones. I don’t “redo” trails very often. Before I set the goal, I repeated several of the more popular trails in San Diego multiple times. Cowles Mountain, Iron Mountain, and Mount Woodson to name a few. These are gorgeous and popular trails, but the goal is to explore new trails, so that is what I’ve been doing. A few of the hikes in the book are loops that take you back over at least part of a different trail in the book. But in general I have not done a lot of repeat trails since starting the Bucket List tracking.
I tried to pick a meaningful hike, and of course a special place for my 100th trail. The hundredth trail ended up being Batiquito Lagoon. A very worthy hike in a beautiful coastal lagoon area. We had volunteered to clean up there a few years ago. Usually going out on the water is prohibited but for this special event volunteers are allowed on the water for the cleanup. We kayaked out onto the lagoon to collect garbage. The kayaking was fun and I was pretty proud of the tire I brought back to shore!

Batiquito Lagoon Cleanup September 2011

Batiquito Lagoon Cleanup September 2011

And as a trail for the 100th hike, it was up to expectations as well.

Red Wing Black Bird on Batiquito Lagoon trail

Red Wing Black Bird on Batiquito Lagoon trail

California Least Tern with stretched neck on west side of Batiquito Lagoon

California Least Tern with stretched neck on west side of Batiquito Lagoon

Dusk view of Batiquito Lagoon

Dusk view of Batiquito Lagoon

Jenny and Eric near the end of the Batiquito Lagoon hike

Jenny and Eric near the end of the Batiquito Lagoon hike

I will continue to get out and hike in San Diego regularly. Not every available weekend, I have other things I want to do, vacations, projects around the house, and of course friends, 6 children and 3 grandchildren to hang out with. Like any goal, I want to finish it, but it has to fit into my life, and I think I’m good to go to continue hiking for at least another decade and hopefully more!

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Facebook should not be held up as a bad actor in our society without Facebook users looking to how they use Facebook.  Facebook doesn’t make us post, read, or respond to anything.  We are in control of Facebook not the other way around.  So I plan to do my part to reduce the negative/divisive impact Facebook can be by not posting, reading, or responding to divisive political posts.

I’m not saying to not voice your political opinion.  Facebook could be a place to actually discuss politics.  However, that is not what is happening when most people share divisive political post on Facebook.  These posts are easy to recognize.  They aren’t designed to persuade anyone, they attack, make fun of, or belittle people or ideas.  They are “gotcha” posts that really only do one thing.  Appeal folks who support a political idea, and are designed to turn off folks that don’t agree with them.  That is not a formula for change, it is a formula for conflict.  A formula to polarize people not bring them together to solve issues.

These are the types of posts that some foreign actors used to divide us more than ever during the 2016 election.  Not all the sources of posts are being driven by foreign actors, but I do question the motives on these sites/pages that constantly post divisive content.  I understand being passionate about a topic, but when I’m passionate about something I want to convince others to see things my way, at least in some small way, not to fire up the people who already think the same way as I do and turn off the rest.

I’ve decided that I probably can change what Facebook has become for everyone, but I can change what it is for me.  All I have to do is just one simple thing.  Every time I see a shared political post on my news feed from a source I would not normally trust (an actual news organization) I’m going to permanently hide all content from the source.  If it is from a news organization, even if I might not agree, I’ll leave it, but not respond to it in a “gotcha” or divisive way.  But if it is from some other source, regardless of the posts point of view and whether or not I agree with some or all of the post, I will make the following 2 clicks to permanently hide content from that source from my news feed.

  1.  Click those 3 little dots in the upper right corner of the post.
  2. Click “Hide all from “.

Caution: Be sure you are not hiding all posts from your friend. The point is to hide divisive content that is shared on Facebook, so look for the source of the content, not your friend’s name.

It might not make America a less divided country than it has become over the past decade, but it will give me back what I want to see on my news feed.  Real news from my friends and family.  It has already given me some level of peace of mind while I’m on Facebook.

We were home in Iowa in October 2016 and overheard my brother, Tracy, talking about a trip to the Caribbean, possibly Jamaica the following spring. My wife, Jenny, and I had talked many times about tagging along on one of Tracy’s vacations. We thought it would probably be a Caribbean cruise (one of their favorites), but an all-inclusive resort sounded even better. Around the end of November Tracy called to work out the details. They had found a brand new all-inclusive resort near Playa Del Carmen Mexico and thought it was a good deal for a great looking resort. The resort would open in December and we would be there in March. We were all in!

There were some initial so-so reviews when they first opened in December/January, but we figured they would work the kinks out before we got there.  We did some last-minute planning including a couple of excursions, and scheduling the shuttle from the Airport to the resort about a month before the trip.

Our flights were terrible.  I’m used to red-eye flights to Europe, and have done a couple to the East Coast for business, but I don’t plan to do that again for a vacation on the East Coast.  The only benefit is we got to the resort early and got to enjoy the “all-inclusive” stuff for several hours before check-in.  My brother his wife Chris, and the other couple joining us Eric and Nicole got in very late about the time we were ready to crash for the night.

I’m going to do this post a little different from most I’ve done.  In this first post I’m going to describe the resort and our stay.  In a couple other posts I’m going describe the 3 trips we took out in to the local area for fun.

Ocean Riviera Paradise opened just a few months before our visit.  The resort was shiny and new, but had most of the bugs worked out.  I guess the first thing to describe is food!

There was one central buffet for dining for any meal, but for breakfast we also had a separate restaurant, based on the part of the resort we were in to have a full service breakfast.  The full service breakfast was good and the wait staff very friendly and helpful.  Jenny asked for salsa with her omelet, and they said they did not have any, but the waiter said he would make some fresh salsa just for her.  It was great.  With service like that we could have gone back every morning.  The only thing that stopped us was that the breakfast buffet was amazing.  It is hard to describe all the options available.  Self serve mimosa bar, cook to order eggs, tons of fresh fruit, pastries (my weakness), European style breakfast meat and cheese station and more.   We did the full service breakfast a couple of times, but we were at the buffet the other 5-6 mornings.

For lunch there were a couple of options, the main buffet again, and the beach club also had a lunch buffet and there was another BBQ style buffet near the beach pool.   Full disclosure, on the days we stayed at the resort we took full advantage of the beach, pool, and unlimited drinks! I think every day that we stayed at the resort we ate at the beach club or BBQ style buffet near the beach pool, except maybe one visit to the main buffet for lunch. Staking out a seat in the shade by the beach was a daily routine when we spent the day at the resort.
Shaded lounge chairs by the beach Ocean Riviera Paradise Resort
These lounge chairs were in an awesome location to enjoy the beach, pool, and the beach club food and drink, but there were not very many of them.  Don’t forget your water shoes as the beach is very rocky soon after entering the water.
Limited availability for shade at the beach

The pool was beautiful and the location great.  Be sure to bring plenty of waterproof sunscreen!  If you go out to stake out locations early be sure to bring your camera as the morning is a great time to photograph the pool.  No one will be in it and the morning sky can be gorgeous.

Ocean Riviera Paradise beach pool at sunrise

The funnest time we had in the pool by our building, the El Beso, was on Thursday during the “don’t miss” foam party.  It’s a big pool and gets very foamed up for the party.

Foam party at the El Beso pool Ocean Riviera Paradise

Also plenty of party music and drinks and the pool bar.

Aftermath of the foam party and the pool bar at El Beso in Ocean Riviera Paradise

It’s a good time for a group picture… this is the group minus one.

Group picture minus one at the foam party

For dinners we hit all the restaurants.  My favorite was the Italian Restaurant across from our rooms, the least favorite was the only one we needed reservations for, Sakura a Japanese Hibachi style restaurant.  Even that was pretty good.  The service overall throughout the resort was great.  Being new, the buildings and grounds were terrific.  We loved the vacation, and would consider an all-inclusive resort on another trip in the future.  Here are a few more pictures of our favorite location at the resort, the beach!

Ocean Riviera Paradise beach club

Ocean Riviera Paradise beach club

Pelicans over the roof of the Ocean Riviera Paradise beach club

Pelicans over the roof of the Ocean Riviera Paradise beach club

Sunrise from the beach at Ocean Riviera Paradise

Sunrise from the beach at Ocean Riviera Paradise

Swim-out pool outside our room

Swim-out pool outside our room

Full moon at the Ocean Riviera Paradise

Full moon at the Ocean Riviera Paradise

We did a few excursions during the week so I will follow-up with one of more posts about those.

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

How has America managed to survive so long when one person’s rights can so violently conflict with the rights of others?  The only answer I’ve managed to come up with to that question is through patriotism and selflessness.  Of course there is a more cynical answer as well… By allowing the “rights” of the powerful step all over the “rights” of the less powerful and keeping them “in their place” by exploiting their hope, patriotism, religious beliefs, and fears.

The first answer to the question that I came up with clearly places me in the “less powerful” group and shows the “hook” by with I can be exploited.  I do believe the ideals that America was founded on are worthy of patriotism.  The hope that America will some day live up to those ideals is worthy of sacrifice, but not acceptance of things that so clearly defy those ideals.
So how would we deal with conflicting rights in an ideal America?  My mother taught me that lesson long ago.  My rights only go to that point when they take away someone else’s rights.  Rights are an individual thing.  Your freedom of religion is your right to believe and practice your religion on an individual and person level.  If you believe that your religion says that homosexual behavior is wrong, then apply that belief on an individual level.  You, not engaging in homosexual behavior, is as far as freedom of religion goes.  Add in freedom of speech and you can share those beliefs in any way you want.  But there are limits.  If you take it further than that you risk taking away the rights of others to their religious freedom.  We are not now nor have we ever been a homogeneous society.  In a time when Catholics and Protestants were violent in other parts of the world they lived peacefully in America.  Catholics did not refuse to sell Lutherans goods and visa versa just because they did not agree with the other’s beliefs.
As I said earlier, we have never fully lived up to the ideals our country were founded on, and there are lots of examples of our failures.  There are also lots of examples of our successes.  Pointing to either our failures or successes should not distract from a recognition of areas where we are failing or make us ignore the solution.
We manage to balance other individual rights against the greater good.  But for some reason we are currently having issues with apply freedom of religion and the right to bear arms as individual rights.  There are groups that would hold these rights as supreme rights that trump all other rights.  We would rather lock a man up with psychological issues than have a law that gives police the power to take his guns away.  A person can be locked up for a number of days with probable cause but in many states their guns can not be taken away.  Not sure how we have gotten to this point.  How is the right to “bear arms” seen as more important than the right to be free.  We are also “O.K. with background checks” but only as long as there are so many loopholes that the law may as well not exist.
We have a concept of street legal vehicles to maintain public safety but rail against restrictions on gun ownership and where they can be carried and used.  Guns that clearly have the potential to impact public safety, need to have restrictions on ownership, storage, and usage.  The argument that people need assault rifles in case the government needs to be put in check does not hold water unless you want to allow individuals to also have tanks, attack jets, and nuclear weapons.  The acceptance that the right to bear arms does not include these types of arms shows that we can accept reasonable limits to this “right to bear arms” at some level.  There has to be a limit somewhere.  Assault weapons are not toys.  They are not hunting rifles.  They are designed with one purpose in mind, to overwhelm the defenses of lessor armed people and to kill them.  Give a security guard a pistol and give an attacker an assault rifles and there will be no contest.  Give three security guards assault rifles and body armor and they are still vulnerable to a larger force or surprise.  Unless we want squads of armed men patrolling our streets we need to rebalance the right to bear arms against the greater good the way we do with every other right.
I saw a graphic on Facebook that said, “We don’t blame cars for drunk drivers, why do we blame guns for violent people.”  I think this is a total valid point.  We should treat gun ownership and use just like car ownership and use.  All guns that are not licensed should be taken away.  Gun owners should have to have a license not just for the gun, but a license that shows they have been trained to use a weapon and meet the physical (and mental) requirements to use them to continue to own guns.  If police see a dangerous situation they should be able to impound a person’s guns just like they can impound their cars.  Gun owners should be required to have separate insurance for their guns, just like they have to for their cars.  Both property insurance and liability insurance.  They should have to show proof of this insurance to renew their license to be qualified to own/use guns.  If they don’t have this insurance, then their guns may be impounded.  I think anyone who does not want to have gun regulations, should quit putting this meme up on social media.  Car ownership and the ability to drive a car are highly regulated for the same reason gun ownership and the ability to use a gun should be, because it impacts public safety.
Our Constitution and government institutions are strong.  They will stay that way only as long as we value them and support them.  We can only truly value them by accepting that all rights need to be applied at the individual level and that there are limits to individual rights when public safety and the greater good are impacted.  Not just for some of the rights in the Constitution, but all of them.

Blog 7th Year Collage

My blog is now seven years old. This is my 237th post in the past 364 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 at least 1 post a month on average for the last two years.  I don’t have posting goals any longer, but I do track my other goals here on the blog. The main list of goals is on my Bucket List.  Although I have checked a lot of things off, I think I’ve added more than I’ve checked off and I have some that I thought I would have done by now that are still there on the “Still to Do” list. I’d love to knock about 30 off the list in the next year… but 5-6 is more likely based on “past performance”. If I planned the year right I could easily knock out 10-12 as there are a lot of things that are all around northern Arizona and Southern Utah, but we honestly have not decided exactly what we want to do in the next year. The only plan we have is for a trip to Hawaii that is coming up soon. It’s been nearly a decade since I’ve been back to Oahu. That is way too long for me to be away. I loved our visits to Kauai and Maui, but need to fit Oahu in more regularly. Maybe every other visit?

The things that motivated me to start this blog, a nearly empty nest, and a search for new ways to fill all the time that came with are still motivating me to continue the blog. Although all our kids are grown, they are starting their own nests nearby and we can’t get enough time with them and the new little ones. There are also still several weekend (and bigger) projects around the house to tackle, so trying to fit in too many adventures can start to take away from other equally or more important things right here at home.

I’d also like to catch up this year on the blog. I just finished posting a trip we did just after the blog turned 6! Maybe I can cut that backlog down to 3-4 months by next August.

With 7 years gone by since I started this blog I also have to acknowledge the undeniable feeling of time flying by way too fast. Retirement is getting closer, and so is what comes after retirement… and I’m not talking about bad investments and having to go back to work. With that in mind healthy living is becoming more and more important. The routine visits to the gym are not as routine as they should be. The diet is not what it should be. My goal to get back to running is not progressing as quickly as I wanted it to. Injuries are more frequent and take longer to heal than they used to. We are preparing ourselves for a happy well-funded retirement, I want to be around to enjoy it as long as possible. So I will think about ways, beyond the hiking goal list, to use the blog to set and achieve goals.

I’m looking forward to the fall and lots of local hiking around San Diego county.  Even with my foot surgery this spring I expect this year will be my best hiking year since I started the blog. I’m likely to need surgery on an arm in the next year, but hope that won’t slow me down too much. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the tendon won’t detach the rest of the way when I’m able to go back into the gym! Yes, getting old is no fun… but it is a great motivator!

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

On our second day in Yosemite, we got going at a reasonable time. It was still pretty cold in the morning until the sun had a chance to warm the place up a bit. Bridal Veil Creek Campground is at an elevation of 7000 feet so expect it to be a little colder than some of the campgrounds at lower elevation. We had coffee and a warm breakfast to help us warm up though.

The plan for day two was to head down into the valley to explore and to do the short hike up to the bridge below Vernal Falls. This would be our only full day in Yosemite for this quick car camping trip so we wanted to make the best of it. Our first stop on the way down to the valley was at the iconic Tunnel View stop. Don’t pass this parking lot up if you are coming in to Yosemite from the south. If you are not drive up here anyway. No visit to Yosemite is complete without seeing the valley from this angle!

It was a hazy fall day, so the valley features are blurred, but if every picture I took from this place was under the same conditions it would be a bit boring. So I love this picture as much as any I have taken from Tunnel View. Also take note of the yellow/dead trees in the foreground. Although the main Yosemite Valley area was mostly unaffected by the bark beetle when we visited in September 2016, the surrounding areas were affected and some areas you could see from the high roads leading into the park from the south were absolutely devastated. As I write this there is a huge fire, the 2017 Detwiler fire is raging west of Yosemite. Although I fear this fire could easily rage through these areas damaged by the bark beetle I have mixed feelings about it. Some area have 50% or more dead trees and so I don’t know what else could clear this many dead trees. I feel for the residents in this area who may lose their homes and I hope everyone involved stays safe, but unfortunately large fires in California are inevitable over the next several years until these large swaths of dead trees are cleared.

Our plan for our only full day in Yosemite was to hike up the John Muir/Mist Trail to at least the bridge below Vernal Falls. This part of the trail is fairly easy and paved to the bridge. It does have some steep parts, but walking up through the rocks and trees is worth it.

Heading-up-John Muir-Mist-Trail

We came down at the end of our 2010 Panorama Trail hike in 2010. I thought back to that hike when I saw Dave walking backward up the trail.

Dave-on-the-Mist-Trail

In 2010 we had not done much training to prepare for the Panorama Trail hike, and we were really feeling it in our calves by this part of the trail. The youngsters (Sean and Matthew) were doing fine, but Dave, Richard, and I were feeling it. I don’t have pictures of us lower on the trail to Vernal, but I do have a picture of the 3 old guys on the Mist Trail just below Vernal Falls.

Dave - Richard and Eric near the top of Vernal Falls

We would not go that high on the trail on this trip, and there would be much less water on Vernal, but this is a beautiful trail no matter what the conditions are. This time there would only be a trickle of water coming over Vernal Falls and even that was barely visible from the bridge.

We had our lunch on the rocks just past the bridge. As usual the squirrels, and birds were very interested in our food. We headed back down from this point and back to where we parked at Curry Village. Yeah I know they renamed it to Half Dome Village, but I’m not interested in what it says on the signs! It will always be Curry Village to me.

We did some souvenir shopping at Curry Village and the Main Yosemite Village stores, and then decided to get Pizza. It was fortune for us that the Pizza Parlor at the Yosemite Village was closed, because that lead us back to Curry Village to the Pizza place there. The pizza was good, but the real win was the lighting on the canyon walls when we got ready to leave. We stopped on the side of the road just outside Curry Village. From there we saw quite a show. Half Dome and North Dome were lit to a Golden Glow.

Golden-Half-Dome-from-and-North-Dome-from-road-near-Curry-Village

A deer was grazing on grass just a little ways off the road.

Deer-looks-up-from-grazing-near-Curry-village

And the moon was just about to set behind Glacier Point.

With a little zoom, it was much more impressive…

Moon-setting-over-Glacier-Point-from-Curry-Villiage

As much as I love those pictures, my favorite picture of the trip would be a drive by picture at Tunnel View on our way back to Bridal Veil campgrounds. It was getting late and we still had a ways to go to get back to our campsite, so no one really wanted to get out to look take a second look. I snapped this picture from the car.

Normally I try to get up to the wall and leave everyone out of this picture. What I like so much about this picture is the people. The smiles, the families… this is really what I love most about Yosemite, sharing it with family and friends.

The lighting was great though, so I parked and ran up for one more picture, without the people.

Beautiful, but I like the first one better. We got back to camp, started a campfire and braved the cold for a few hours of visiting. Unfortunately we would be breaking down camp in the morning and heading home. It was a short, but fun trip, and we are always glad to hang with Dave and Wendy! We will definitely be back to Yosemite and I would love to stay at Bridal Veil Campgrounds again. I think our next visit is likely to be a back-country trip though. The High Sierra Camps most likely (just added that to the Bucket List not long ago). All the joys of a backpack trip without the backpack!

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.

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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!