Monday, March 29, 2010

Yosemite National Park

Today we headed up to Yosemite National Park and had an awesome time! The KOA is about 23 miles from the entrance to the park, and then you follow a loop around the park, through Yosemite Valley that’s about 10 miles long or so. Following this loop, we first stopped at Bridalveil Falls which is one of the most prominent falls in Yosemite Valley. It is 617 feet high and runs year-round.

Along the way we stopped and saw El Capitan, which is a 3000 foot vertical rock that is a favorite of rock climbers. It's an awesome sight!

From there, we stopped at the Senteniel Beach and the Swinging Bridge, which spans the Merced River…the weather was beautiful and the water was clear and clean. Yosemite is in the middle of a renovation project to restore the shores of the Merced River, so parts of the shore were roped off, but there was ample room to enjoy the scenery.

We continued on to Curry Village, which is a fairly populated area containing several campgrounds, one of which consisted of elevated tents called Camp Curry, two others called the Upper Loop and Lower Loop that had tents, as well as RVs. We had tried getting reservations in one of those campgrounds, but apparently you have to reserve spots 11 months in advance! But after the drive into Yosemite Valley from Mariposa, we were glad we’re staying at the Mariposa KOA! Anyway, we saw where Corinne and Patrick will be staying in Camp Curry and the tents are very nice structures. They’re on elevated wood floors, with actual doors with locks, and outside each tent is a locked metal bin for food so the bears don’t get it. Yes, there are bears in the area, although we didn’t see any while we were walking around.

The loop continued on to the Yosemite Falls, which consists of 2 falls, with a combined height of 2425 feet. You can walk up to the top of the upper falls, but it’s a 6 to 8 hour hike so we chose the short hike to the lower falls instead. The combined falls is the world’s 5th tallest falls.

After our visit to the Yosemite Falls we drove through Yosemite Village and past the Yosemite Lodge, and then started our drive back out to the entrance.

Before entering and after leaving the Park, we ran into a stretch of road that had been hit by a landslide that literally buried the road! We had to take a detour bridge over the Merced River and back again to get around the landslide…pretty interesting!

Tomorrow, if it doesn’t rain, we’ll take a scenic drive along Route 49…about a 30 mile drive that takes 1 ½ hours each way due to the winding, curvy road. But there are all sorts of little towns to stop at along the way and the KOA manager said it’s definitely worth seeing. Wednesday we leave for San Francisco and more adventures!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Mariposa CA and Yosemite Nat'l Park

We left Morro Bay on Saturday and since I didn’t know how long it would take to go 230+ miles through the mountains and curves, we had planned on stopping at a Walmart in Los Banos, CA overnite and drive the last 88 miles to Mariposa on Sunday morning. Well, since it was only 1:00 when we arrived in Los Banos, we decided to keep going on to Mariposa so we could get another day in at Yosemite. The entire drive from Morro Bay to Mariposa was beautiful. We were on state roads most of the time, driving through hills and farmland and the scenery was beautiful! A big contrast to the deserts of NM and AZ, where we had spent the last few months! The last 15 miles or so were a little hairy…I’m not a big fan of driving up and down mountains and U-curves! But Ed’s a pro and we got there in one piece! Now we just have to get back out…well, that’s a worry for another day!

We’re staying at the Mariposa KOA and it is definitely one of the nicest KOAs we’ve stayed at. It’s 28 miles from Yosemite and you feel like you’re there already. I wouldn’t be surprised to open a window shade a see a bear staring back at me!

We decided to drive back down to Mariposa last night to go to the 6:00 mass for Palm Sunday. The church was small but beautiful and the service was nice. We asked one of the members for a restaurant recommendation and he directed us to Sal’s Mexican Restaurant…a great choice!

Today, we’ll catch the UConn Women’s Basketball team play Iowa State in the NCAA Championship…they play at 9:00am here! Then we’ll head back down to Mariposa and window shop. Tomorrow and Tuesday we’ll spend in Yosemite and then on to San Fran!

More later!

Morro Bay, Cambria, and Hearst Castle in San Simeon

I think I’ve found my favorite area so far….from Morro Bay up through Cambria and San Simeon. We arrived in Morro Bay on Thursday and we stayed at a place called Cypress RV Park…not very big, but well maintained and the manager was very friendly and helpful. The RV Park is right on Main Street so we can walk to anywhere. After settling in, we took Emma for a walk down along the ocean. It’s a boardwalk type atmosphere with restaurants, shops and fishing docks all along the water. After our walk I did that never-ending chore…laundry! I found a clean little laundromat right down the street so the whole process was pretty quick and easy. Later that night we walked down to a restaurant for dinner…the food was delicious!

The next day we drove up Route 1 to San Simeon and the Hearst Castle…the shoreline was beautiful and the Hearst Castle was unreal! There are 4 guided tours that you can choose from. We chose Tour 1, as that is the one recommended for first-time tourists and it shows the main rooms on the first floor, such as the dining room, the lounge, and the game room, as well as the indoor Roman Pool and the outdoor Neptune Pool. The tour also included the main guest room…I can’t imagine being a guest there…the castle is just so over the top! At the end of the tour, there’s a movie that takes you through the story of William Randolph Hearst as a little boy, and his dream to build this castle on the land he inherited from his father, George Hearst, who owned 250,000 acres. Prior to the Hearst Castle construction, the location was known as Camp Hill, where the family retreated to 'rough' it in huge tents with wooden floors. Hearst's ideas for the castle came from his year-long European tour with his mother when he was a little boy, and much of the castle is built around what he saw then, in the Mediterranean Revival style. He and his architect, Julie Morgan, spent 28 years building the castle, beginning in 1919 and completed in 1947. He often made changes that required already built structures to be torn down and rebuilt. The main house has 165 rooms, 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways, and 3 guest houses. He entertained many Hollywood movie stars, as well as anyone who was famous or interesting during his lifetime. We were going to take Tour 2, which shows the upstairs bedrooms and Hearst’s private suite, but for each tour you have to start at the visitor center and take the tour bus up to the castle and then back down again…5 miles each way…and once you’ve seen the first tour, you become numb to the extreme opulence. If we’re ever back in this area though, I would definitely take all of the tours! Although the Hearst Corporation still owns much of the land, the Castle and guestrooms belong to the State of California and is an Historical Monument.

On the way back to Morro Bay, we made a few stops. The first was to walk on the rocks along the shore. We had seen several people out on the rocks and went out to see what was going on. It turned out to be bus loads of kids on a class outing and they were soaked…and having a great time! This particular area along the rocks is where sea lions rest and we saw several sunning themselves. From there, we stopped and had lunch in a quaint little ton called Cambria, with shops and restaurants lining the main street and cottages lining the hills above the town.

When we got back to Morro Bay, we took Emma and drove out to Morro Rock (too far to walk but hardly far enough to drive), which is a 581 foot tall volcanic plug that looks like it came right up out of the ocean millions of years ago. We drove around it till we found a spot that we could run with Emma…she loves the sand and getting her feet wet!

Next stop, Mariposa, CA and Yosemite!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Santa Barbara, CA and Morro Bay, CA

Yesterday was our last day at Hobson County Park, so we decided to visit Santa Barbara...good decision! Our first stop was the Santa Barbara Mission, which was founded on December 4, 1786 and is the 10th of the California missions. This mission holds the title of 'Queen of the Missions' and is the fourth church to be constructed on this spot. The third mission was destroyed by the earthquake of 1812 and the existing mission was damaged by the earthquake of 1925. Renovations were completed in 1927. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish and the mission, the land from Malibu to San Luis Obispo was inhabited by the Chumash Indians, who were hunters and gatherers. When the Franciscans arrived, they taught the Indians agriculture, consisting mainly of wheat, barley, corn, beans and peas, as well as orange and olive trees. The mission had cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, mules and horses. When the Mission period was over, the buildings were used for a number of purposes, including a highschool and junior college. In the front of the mission is a huge basin with slated sides and a fountain at one end. The Chumash Indians used the basin sides to scrub the mission laundry and the fountain to rinse it.

After our tour of the mission, we headed into downtown Santa Barbara with the intent of taking the Red Tile Walking Tour, which consists of 22 street blocks and 17 different buildings. Our first stop was the Courthouse, which was built in 1926 and is an amazing display of paintings and murals and tile work. From the tower on the 4th floor you can see the entire city of Santa Barbara.

That was our first and last stop on the Red Tile Walking Tour! We were sidetracked by all of the shops and restaurants and people that lined State Street and had a thoroughly enjoyable time window shopping and having a late lunch at a little outdoor cafe.

Today, we drove 138 miles north to Morro Bay where tomorrow we'll tour the Hearst Castle in San Simeon. I'm thinking that we should've planned on at least a 2-day stay to get in more than one tour, but alas, we have one day to see the castle so one tour will have to be enough!

The trip up the coast was uneventful and very pleasant...alot of rolling hills and farmland. Hopefully the trip to Yosemite will be just as pleasant.

More tomorrow after our tour!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Downtown Ventura, CA

Today we headed into downtown Ventura...a quaint town that has a main street very similar to Mystic, CT, but on a much larger scale. Our first stop was the San Buenaventura Mission, which we had attended on Saturday night when we first arrived, but didn't take pictures then. It was founded in 1782 by Padre Serra and the church we attended is the third one built on this site. An interesting item is that there are three Padres buried behind the mission. Here is the link to more mission history:

Here's a little video of the Mission courtyard:

After our tour of the mission, we strolled along the main street and window shopped. We stopped at a local brewery and had a very nice lunch, and Ed was able to sample to local beers.

Thought I'd add a few pictures of Hobson County Park, where we're staying...

Tomorrow we're driving up to Santa Barbara and then Thursday we take the RV and head up to Morro Bay to see the Hearst Castle.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sunset at Hobson County Park...

I had to share this sunset with was breathtaking: