Day TWENTY FOUR & TWENTY FIVE

We are in sunny San Diego! Last night I didn’t have access to wi-fi so I postponed my blog post from our day cruising the PCH. So here goes:

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Two days ago we drove from Yosemite to Modesto to meet with another of Kara’s cousins for breakfast, Letitia Senechal and her son Russell. We had a fabulous time getting to know Russell and playing some improv games with the kids menu at the restaurant. Unicorn for the win!

Once we drove around the Soberanes Forest Fires it was about 4:30pm and we finally made it back to the coast. We figured we still had enough time to cruise up the coastline to the Big Sur area and that was one of the things I was most excited about when we started planning this road trip many months ago. Along the way, this photo is how the skies looked to the right side of the car.

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Looking off the left side of the highway you wouldn’t know anything was happening at all.

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Once we got a little further up the coast we saw a number of base camps for the forest fire fighting crews and huge scores of fire trucks flying up the highway.

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We also got to see a score of firefighting helicopters flying overhead, refilling their water buckets along the coastline and soaring back into the wilderness to drop their payloads.

The latest news we’ve heard about the fires is they don’t expect to have it all contained until about September 30th.

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Once we were clear of the fire crews the light was perfect for some vista shots along the coastline. Kara took over the driving duties for the entire drive from Yosemite to Big Sur heading north. I got to take over driving heading south and it’s definitely an adventurous drive to take once, let alone back to back.

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So now the sun had completely set and we still had about an hour and a half of driving left to do. Little did we know that when the light is gone on the PCH, the driving goes from adventurous to dangerous. In about 20 minutes it was completely pitch black and all you could see was the yellow reflectors in the middle of the road about 20 yards in front of the vehicle at a time.

So if you look to your left, blackness. Look to your right, blackness. And we still had at least an hour of technical driving to do with windy, cliffside roads. The speed ranges from 45 mph down to 20 mph around every bend. Sometimes down to 15 mph around particularly sharp curves. The kinds of turns you need to judge out the driver side window rather than the windshield. Kara was a trooper. There was only one instance where she let out an involuntary moan/yell when we got quite close to the guard rail. It was such a strange noise that it made me laugh for a good 30 seconds. It came from somewhere deep inside her and it wanted out.

We survived. It was an adventure for sure. One that we didn’t intend to take and one that I’m sure we won’t do again anytime soon!

Yesterday was a whole lot more mundane. We drove from Morro Bay down through Los Angeles traffic and some San Diego traffic too. I didn’t even take out my camera for the first time this trip.

Don’t worry, I got plenty of shots here in San Diego today, I will try to post something tomorrow morning.

Day TWENTY THREE

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Yesterday we arrived in Yosemite Valley. I’ve been more excited to see this park than any other because I’ve seen so many photos over the years. I also know many of the stories about what makes Yosemite special.

It’s one thing to see these mountains in photos and quite another to see them in person. The valley in the canyon is about 20 degrees warmer than the tops of the surrounding mountains and the elevation changes at least 4000 feet vertically. Yesterday it was hovering in the upper 80’s for most of the day, if the late afternoon clouds didn’t come rolling in then it would have been real uncomfortable.

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One of the really cool things I learned about the park is that it completely transforms from season to season. There are a huge number of waterfalls in the spring and early summer but by mid-summer and fall they have completely dried up. Even lakes and rivers will give way to the sun and heat and become grasslands later in the season. Once the winter snows and storms return, so do the streams, waterfalls and rivers.

Knowing this it makes me want to return at different points of the year to see how much the landscape changes.

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We haven’t quite reached the point of the season where there is no water, but there didn’t seem to be any waterfalls (at least in the areas we explored). But we did get to see some incredible vistas and more wildlife than I expected.

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On the walk to Mirror Lake. While walking along the trail there was a section of giant granite boulders that had collapsed on one another leaving these small gaps between them. When you stopped and stood near the gaps you could feel cool air that had rushed through the valley and deep into the hollows between the boulders before reaching this outlet. It was all natural air conditioning! We needed it at that point too, it was during long hike (for us) and we were starting to get pretty warm!

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The dry river bed below Mirror Lake.

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So Mirror Lake is mostly dried up now and replaced by Mirror Meadows. The deer here didn’t seem to mind, this one was only about 20 yards away from me and could not have been less interested in me taking photos.

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Peek-a-boo with the local squirrel population. Although I think this is technically a Chickaree, still looks like a squirrel to me though.

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Proud mountain squirrel

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Reflection in the Merced River.

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Most of the afternoon the mountains were covered by clouds. As soon as it turned to 5pm everyone packed up and headed for the exits. I was astonished. How could you just drive away from this? It was just starting to get good!

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Late summer wildflowers/funky plants. Where’s Giunta when I need him?

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I love how this shot looks like there’s a swirl from the grass right up through the mountains and across the sky.

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Pinecones are bigger out here – it took me minutes longer than it should have to get this to stand upright.

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Funky pinecones

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Funky berries… Giunta can you hear me?

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Doesn’t get much better than that

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I should also mention, the drive into the valley is a blast. Windy roads with no guard rails, drops of at least 1000 feet and these cool little tunnels.

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Book your trip today! Someday I’m going to hike up to the top of Half-Dome. Until then, these photos will have to do.

This morning we got an early start and had a pretty full schedule. I’m wrapping up this post late after our PCH Drive. Tomorrow we head for San Diego and through LA. Hopefully I will have enough time/energy to put together my PCH post from our adventures today!

Day TWENTY TWO

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Yesterday we spent the morning south of San Francisco in San Mateo to watch Jennifer Senechal’s son play in a soccer tournament. They won by a lot and we got breakfast at a nearby Whole Foods – which are way better out here.

Jenn then gave us a guided tour of the city from the south side. Here’s a panorama from the morning through the fog.

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Our first stop of the day was the mission area. They have two alleyways that serve as a rotating mural gallery.

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This one was my personal fave – “Be Dangerous, it’s Careful Out There”

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Even the streets are covered in art.

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We also checked out this store that specializes in taxidermy, rare stones and air plants. It was way cooler than I expected. We got some lunch at an excellent Indian Street Food Cafe and hit the streets. The rest of the photos today were shot from the backseat of a moving vehicle. We cruised through the Castro and Haight Ashbury areas on our way out of the city. In no particular order are some of my favorite shots from the afternoon cruise.

I just really like the architecture (and the weirdness) in this city.

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Last but not least I wanted to show off our accomodations for the past two days.

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Kara and I had never slept in a camper before, we’ve passed plenty on the highways this trip but it was our first time inside one. It was so much more comfortable than we expected! Also about twice as spacious and comfortable as our Chicago stay.

I want to say a huge thanks to Jennifer, Brian and Kian for being such wonderful hosts. We loved our short time in San Francisco!

Now we are outside Yosemite and it’s supposed to be a hot one. I am very excited to finally check out this park!

Day TWENTY ONE

The past two days have been a whirlwind and I have fallen behind on my blog schedule. I will keep this brief because we are getting up early tomorrow to do Yosemite.

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San Francisco morning fog, view from the Land’s End hike. That’s the Golden Gate in the background if you are having trouble making it out.

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Dogs waiting patiently outside of the coffee store we ate at after our hike. Fun fact, I put my sunglasses on the roof of the car while taking off my hoodie and then we drove away. Now I don’t have sunglasses anymore. (We tried going back to the park after I realized what happened, they were nowhere to be found).

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Land’s End is windy.

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Cable Cars, we didn’t actually ride them, just watched them go past.

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I know Lombard Street is super touristy but we couldn’t resist. Yesterday we did all of the San Francisco touristy things.

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Kara driving Lombard St with no hands!

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Fisherman’s Wharf

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Unlucky crabs

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Fisherman’s Wharf fisherman’s boats… before doing fisherman things

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I remember this place! No, I haven’t eaten there yet this trip. Saving that for San Diego.

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Ghiradelli Square

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Downtown San Fran

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View of the skyline & Alcatraz from the Golden Gate vista point

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Golden Gate from the same point. Today we watched a youth soccer game in the morning, got a driving and walking tour of San Francisco from Jenn Senechal, had an awesome indian lunch, packed up and headed for the mountains. I’ll try to post something tomorrow, no promises.

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