My Travel Map

My Travel Map

27 August 2010

Grand Canyon, AZ

Short post words, or pictures, can do this place justice. It is massive beyond human comprehension and really must just be witnessed in person to recognize this. Oh, and the snow was a nice touch too.

26 August 2010

California Road Tripping: Yosemite and San Fran

Yosemite National Park. Missy and I took an epic drive to get out here from Colorado in two days. We were supposed to stop at Zion National Park in Utah along the way since we had to bail to the southern route around the Sierras because of the weather. However, it was snowing like mad with practically zero visibility at Zion, so we kept driving. It was pretty wild seeing the farms and greenery in California's central valley, and then transitioning into this as we drove higher and higher towards the park. We stopped and bought some chains for my tires since these were a requirement to use the road into the park. Fun times...I normally hate driving in snow, but the chains really work and made it a lot more comfortable.

What's this? Giant trees or toy picnic tables? Giant trees... sequoias that is...or coast redwoods. I was totally in awe of these behemoths. Missy kept making fun of me for how infatuated I was with them. Oh well, I thought they were amazing.

It had been snowing the past few days in the park and was just starting to clear. The snow gave the place an incredible feel, and the park was practically empty, which is quite different from the norm.

More giant trees and our lovely road conditions.

A different view of El Capitan and the Yosemite Valley. "El Cap" is a 3000 foot (1000 m) monolith of granite that is just one of the more impressive of the granite faces that seemingly erupts out of the Yosemite Valley floor. No wonder this place is so popular with rock climbers, when it isn't snowing that is.

Water is still flowing apparently. It actually wasn't that cold at all, and I was amazed the snow had accumulated as much as it had.

On the valley floor, we would just get these ghost-like glimpses of the massive rock faces here and there as the fog and clouds changed. It was pretty spectacular in its own way. Down here the weather was much nicer too. The random snow stopped, the roads were clear, and it was much warmer.

As always, these pictures do no justice for the shear size of these rock formations. Remember, a lot of these trees are redwoods that are being dwarfed by these rocks.

Clearer roads along the valley floor.

So, at this viewpoint, we had quite the little adventure. I decided to hurriedly (we were behind schedule thanks to the snow and all the unexpected stops) stop the car, and just hope out to grab some pictures. I didn't stop the engine since Missy was staying in with Bailey. So here I am snapping away, when I hear Missy's door shut and realize she's doing the same beside me. No problems until we both hear the sound of all my doors locking. One feature of my power locks is that when you lock the driver side door manually, it automatically locks the rest. Bailey, in her panic at us leaving her alone in the car, freaked out and jumped over to the driver side door since that was the side we were on. She then managed to hit the door lock, which of course locked us out of the car...while it was running. I shouted some obscenities, which echoed in the valley around us, and we waited for a ranger or some other soul to drive by. Cont. below..

What luck! A ranger truck coming down the road. I knew from seeing others having their cars broken into by park rangers that all rangers carry break-in kits. So we flag down the truck, which seemed reluctant to stop and started talking to the two women driving (both of whom are in park uniforms). Pretty much right away we realized something wasn't quite right. The women seemed totally confused by the situation and said that it was a Sunday and that we were going to have trouble finding someone to break in. I said that all I needed was a ranger, and I was totally thrown off by the fact that they wouldn't just call one on their radios. So I hop into the truck with them and agree to ride back to a ranger station, even though they aren't sure if a ranger is working. I was positive there would be a ranger on duty. Like police, there is always someone on duty. So on the car ride, I found out that these two were not rangers, they were just park staff...janitorial staff. They were super friendly, but obviously a few lights were out upstairs or something. Why they didn't just use the radio in the car is beyond me. Cont. below..

So I end up finding a ranger and explaining our terribly embarrassing situation. She understood, even though I was told this was the first time this one had happened to her, and she broke into my car for us. That was the last time we left Bailey alone in a running car.

Things continued to clear up as we were leaving, but we were running out of time and had to get to San Fran that night. Farewell Yosemite...until next time. The drive out was spectacular. We followed the valley, and wow, it was beautiful.

Chinatown, San Fran. I love this place. Some of the best food in the city too!

For more on San Francisco, see one of my previous posts on it.

Mmmmm fresh seafood. I can't get this in Colorado.

From big trees to big trees. We've come full circle. Well, not really. This is now in Muir Woods just a short car ride north of the city. It is a valley that is blessed with several redwood groves. Once again, I'm obsessed with these giant trees...they are spectacular and really make you feel like you're on an alien planet (or Endor...anyone see any ewoks?)

Missy taking off ahead of me on the trail. She wasn't nearly as impressed by the trees as I was, but even she admitted that this was cool.

See the person? These trees are huge!!!

We drove out to a little beach on the Marin coast for sunset...I really do love California.

California Road Tripping: PCH

The Pacific Coast Highway, the PCH. Ever since I heard about this great drive, I've been itching to do it, and this road trip out to Cali was a perfect time to do so. Missy, Bailey, and I took two days to drive from San Fran to L.A. down highway 1. It was beautiful beyond words, and of course, these pictures truly can't do it any justice. We lucked out on weather the first day, and the second day was quite overcast. However, the gray skies gave it a much more rugged and remote feel, which was very cool in its own way.

Just south of San Fran...surfers galore down here, and plenty of beaches for it with some spectacular backdrops. Now if only the water wasn't so cold and well-known as hunting grounds for great white sharks...

We only did a section of the PCH... and a small section at that. It runs north of San Fran on highway 1 as well along most of the Northern California coast. When 1 ends, you can switch to US 101 and drive the rest of the way up the coast, hugging it the entire way, until you reach the Canadian border. Now that we know we'll be out in L.A. for the next few years at least, I'm going to make sure we make an epic trip out of that. L.A. to Vancouver anyone?

After our fiasco in Yosemite, we learned not to leave Bailey in the car with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. Here she is keeping a close eye on Missy and I with one of the many, many farmers fields along the coast in the background. Did I mention this is in December? California really is a naturally blessed state.

Pidgeon Point...this is where Missy and I got engaged.

Santa Cruz. Missy fell in love with this pleasant little city by the shore. It did seem pretty picture perfect and a straight up beach town.

Further down the coast things just got more spectacular..

This was one of those drives where we perpetually fell behind schedule thanks to sooooo many unplanned stops to check out the incredible views. There are pullout points all along the road and a ton of spectacular viewpoints...each one seemingly better than the last.

We stopped and set up camp at a little place just south of Big Sur... it was spectacular and we were treated to a lovely sunset.

The setting sun just lit up this cloud that was slowly but surely creeping down the mountains and threatening to engulf us in glowing pink splendor.

Missy setting up the tent so we could hide from the glowing pink splendor. She was one hell of a trooper...considering we got engaged that day, she had no problem camping out and enjoying a dinner of microwaved burritos and Bud ale. Well, I guess that's why I'm going to marry her, eh?

Like I said above, the next day was quite dreary and overcast, but that just totally created its own feel and didn't at all ruin the spectacular feel to this stretch of highway. It did limit the visibility a bit though.

It's no wonder that the PCH and Australia's Great Ocean Road are compared so frequently. They are very, very similar. I'm not going to pick favorites either...they both have their perks, and I can't think of too many points for either on the down side.

There is a huge elephant seal colony and Piedras Blancas near Hearst Castle. These things were almost hunted to extinction in the past, but their population is rebounding thanks to safe havens like this beach and the efforts of countless volunteers at seal rescue centers along the coast.

These things were enormous! You would have to be totally crazy to go down on that beach with them...the big males would have no problem crushing a human.

Wait....what's this? Why does it feel like we're in Denmark all of the sudden? What happened to the mountains and the ocean and hippie California? Welcome to Solvang...a little piece of Denmark smack dab in south-central California! Settled by Danes originally, Solvang (that name just sounds like a dark fortress you'd find in a place like Mordor or something) is now a wine-enthusiasts hot spot. Being just northwest of Santa Barbara, it is surrounded by vineyards and there are wineries galore in the town and surrounding countryside. It was a pretty neat little stop, though I have to admit, quite bizarre.

They are very, VERY proud of their Danish heritage in Solvang. They even have a statue of Hans Christian Andersen.

We stopped into this place on the corner for some wine tasting. You could spend days going to all the various places offering wine tasting in Solvang, which I'm pretty sure a lot of people go there to do.

Another sunset... at Malibu this time.

What trip to L.A. for a first-timer (Missy) is complete without a trip to beautiful (ha) Hollywood!

When I first went to L.A., Hollywood was one of the things I hated most about it...the place is tacky like the city of Niagara Falls. Oh, and what's this? Scientology! Yay. But seriously people...seriously? L. Ron Hubbard (who has a shrine devoted to his life and legacy here in Hollywood) wrote science fiction and has a well-known quote that goes something along the lines of "the way to make a million dollars is to start a religion"... can't argue with that. Then there is that rumor about him betting Carl Sagan that he could start a religion that people would actually follow... I guess Sagan had a naive sense of faith in humanity. Should I get started on dianetics? No...I should not... look it up though. That is some crazy sh..

Oh Hollywood...ok I'm done infuriating myself.

Pasadena, now this is what I'm talking about! A beautiful little town with an intelligent population thanks to Cal Tech and JPL being located here. We stayed with our friend Stefan, who has this amazing little pad right downtown there. The thing that blew my mind is it has this small town feel yet it is smack dab in the heart of L.A.'s sprawling mess. I liked it.. a lot, and it has done a lot to change my original all-around dislike of L.A.

That's it for stop Grand Canyon