Yosemite’s High Sierras

Tioga  001Tioga  002Tioga Road (Hwy 120 East) is the gateway to Yosemite’s High Sierras and the only eastern entrance to the park.  It is the highest elevation highway in California. The next road to cross the Sierra Nevada is located 200 miles to the south. Tioga  058

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El Capitan

El Cap  005Yes, it’s a rock. A very big rock. A rock that has captured the imagination of many. It’s one of the largest pieces of exposed granite on earth. The holy grail of climbing worldwide.  El Capitan (El Cap).

El Cap captivated me when I arrived in Yosemite and never let go.  It is so massive that you can’t really capture the scale in photographs.

But Hector wants to try 🙂El Cap  001 el cap  040And, as if the rock itself isn’t interesting enough, between spring and fall there are dozens of people climbing it at any given time.  Rock climbers climb other “big walls” in Yosemite; Half Dome, Lost Arrow (a spire by Yosemite Falls), and the Royal Arches are some other epic climbs.  But El Cap is the crown jewel.

The cliff is divided into the southeast and the southwest faces, separated by The Nose, a blunt prow that rises from its’ low point to its summit. There are many routes to climb its 3,000 vertical feet.  The Nose is the most popular and historically famous route, and is considered a classic.


Over 70 routes have been mapped up the face of El Cap

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Moonlight over Yosemite

Although we didn’t plan it, shortly before traveling to Yosemite National Park, we realized that we’d be in the park during the next full moon.  We were going to experience moonlight over Yosemite, very exciting!Full moon  001

Full moon  011When we arrived we proceeded to research where the moon was going to rise and where we should go for the best views and photographs.

And that place was Glacier Point, a high cliff on the south side of the valley sitting high above Curry Village.  It also has a great view of Half Dome from about the same elevation.  A very different perspective than from the valley floor.

The road to the point is steep and windy so it takes about an hour to get there. And there’s a short but steep walk to the point once you arrive.  But it’s well worth the effort.Full moon  009 Continue reading

Yosemite Valley

“But no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite. Every rock in its wall seems to glow with life.”– John MuirYosemite Valley  038

Some of you have been there. Some have seen beautiful images of Yosemite National Park by that famous photographer, Ansel Adams. Some may have read some of John Muir’s inspirational writings about the park.Yosemite Valley  047

As for me, this is the end of my California tour down memory lane. I was here with Hector once over thirty years ago. I remember wishing we could have a billboard on top of our rental car that spelled out WOW! And so my description of this place is simply WOW!

Yosemite Valley  037Hector was smitten on that first trip long ago and has returned several times since.  This is and always has been his favorite national park. And as we approached, he was jumping out of his shoes with excitement.

Excitement about being back and about finally bringing me with him.  I was excited too. This park has so much to offer – towering giant cliffs, waterfalls, a beautiful river, high sierra, sequoia groves, and an enormous valley, meadows, flowers, wildlife…Yosemite Valley  014Yosemite Valley  002Yosemite Valley  005

Yosemite Valley and Mariposa Grove became the first protected land in the U.S. on June 30, 1864 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Yosemite Grant Act.

After the National Parks movement began, U.S. Congress proposed creating a new federal park surrounding the old Yosemite Grant and in 1890, Yosemite National Park became a reality.

There are four entrances to the park.  One from the east at Tioga Pass and three from the west.

After a somewhat harrowing curvy drive from the coast, we reached our campground, five miles from the northernmost west entrance called Big Oak Flat.

Angel was exhausted after the drive and enjoyed one of her favorite perches.

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The City by the Bay

San FranGolden Gate

San Fran  002We planned our visit to San Francisco to coincide with friends’ arrival from Miami. Al and Bonnie flew into the City by the Bay to visit their daughter Natalie, who is a poet and was about to get her Masters in Fine Arts in Writing.

They stayed with us in Island Girl for a couple of nights at the (not) luxurious Candlestick RV Park. Well, it was basically a parking lot but very clean and the only centrally located park in the city.

It’s fun to meet friends at different places, and it so happens that San Francisco is our favorite city. In fact, we considered moving there many years ago.

San Fran  004Our first day there, we visited Natalie, who lives in the Mission neighborhood, and sampled one of the breakfast places nearby.San Fran  011San Fran  005 Continue reading

The Pacific Coast Highway

Big Sur  005Big Sur  030The Pacific Coast Highway south of Monterey climbs towards Big Sur,  yet another very cool place along the coast.  This section of the coastal drive is stunning.  And this is the same drive we took many, many years ago on one of our very first “big” trips as a married couple. Big Sur  010Big Sur  003Big Sur  007

That long ago trip began in San Francisco and ended in Los Angeles.  With a memorable stop in Big Sur.Big Sur  001 Continue reading

Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

Elkhorn Slough  036

On one of the warmer days in Monterey, we went to the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR) to kayak by the seals, southern sea otters and other wildlife.

Warning:  This post contains many photos of adorable sea otters.

Elkhorn Slough  034You can enter the reserve via a harbor located in the fishing village of Moss Landing.  It’s the largest fishing harbor in Monterey Bay and partners with marine research and education to provide full access to the environment.  The fee to park and launch on the beach was $5.00, a cheap date.


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Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos  020Point Lobos  002One of the most special places we discovered in Monterey was the Point Lobos State Reserve, referred to as the “crown jewel” of California’s state park system.Point Lobos  013

The history of this land is quite complex.  With several Native American sites and evidence of an early settlement of Chinese fishermen and their families.   The Chinese built residences there, including the Whalers Cabin, which still stands on the grounds.Point Lobos  012Point Lobos  010

In 1769 Europeans arrived and used the land as pasture for livestock.  Between 1862 and 1879 Portuguese whalers used it as a whaling station, attracted by the gray whale migration.  They used the now stunning Whaler’s Cove to slaughter and process the whales.  To quote the museum’s docent: it must have been a disgusting sight.

Next it housed a Japanese abalone cannery (in a partnership with Mr. Allan) and then became a shipping point for coal mined nearby.  The land was sold many times, and was once the pot in a card game.Point Lobos  027 Continue reading


Monterey  002Monterey  028Monterey was a place that we visited 30+ years ago on one of our first vacation trips after we got married. On  a more recent visit, Hector discovered a place where you can kayak with sea otters.  So he wanted to bring me here to kayak with the sea otters.Monterey  003Monterey  006

But our tour began with a visit to Monterey’s Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row area.  It was almost as touristy as San Francisco’s wharf, although we did find a great seafood market there.

And we continued with several visits to the beautiful coast.  There were ice plants blooming everywhere, and other wildflowers as well.  We were drawn to the coast time and time again.Monterey  010 Continue reading

Kings Canyon National Park

“In wildness is the preservation of the world.”

Henry David Thoreau

Kings Canyon  014

Kings Canyon  001By now it’s pretty obvious that we love the national parks.  So while visiting Sequoia National Park we planned to also visit Kings Canyon National Park, as the two are contiguous and administered jointly.Kings Canyon  003

Kings Canyon National Park is a massive park that protects a total of 461,901 acres.  But the road into Kings Canyon was still partially closed while being cleared of rocks and debris that fell during winter.  So we had to alter our plans.Kings Canyon  021

Kings Canyon  049Kings Canyon  002Kings Canyon  023Fortunately the Grant Grove, the grove in Kings Canyon National Park that contains the world’s second largest tree, was still accessible.  And, since we’d just seen the world’s largest tree we had to see the second largest as well.

So we planned to make a day of it driving out to the Grant Grove and then as much of the rest of the road as was open.  We figured that the drive on the part of the road that was open would be scenic.   With a little mystery since we didn’t know what exactly we’d see.

But it would also be a long drive, since our campsite was near the entrance to Sequoia, not Kings Canyon.  A hint for future visitors is that the entrance from Fresno is much closer to Kings Canyon.

The day of our visit was a cool day, so we took Angel along, knowing that she’d spend a brief period in the car while we walked to the General Grant Tree, since it was pretty close to the road.

As we entered the path, I ran across a man with a beautiful parrot, which I of course had to hold.  He said something about her being Queen of a Galaxy far away…  All righty then.

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