Monday, March 30, 2015

CA Adventure Part 2 - Pinnacles National Park

 

We drove through the flat farmlands, with just the gentle rolling hills on the East side of us, wondering where these ‘pinnacles’ could possibly be, and how big could they be? But if it’s a National Park, there must be a reason, so we drove up into the hills in search of it. As we drove along the narrow, winding, one-way road, we started getting peeks at a rough, rocky area sticking up above the soft curves of the hills, something clearly out of place.

 

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Finally we rolled up to the ranger station at the park entrance and the parking lot was pretty much empty.

 

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We went in and paid our fees and the ranger said she had a short video we could watch on the history of the park, and it was only about ten minutes, so that seemed like a good deal, since we had never even heard of the place before that morning. It’s nice to have a little context while we walk around it. Pinnacles National Park. It turns out there is hiking, rock climbing, and caving to do in the park, plus there’s a chance to see California Condors!

 

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She pointed us up to Chaparral trailhead, which it turns out is where all the cars were. Not that it was exactly busy, but there were a few folks there hiking around. We decided to head off to the Balconies Cave Trail, which was supposed to be .6 miles from the parking lot. We figured that would be pretty easy and give us a closer peek at some of this park.

 

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On the way up the trail we kept seeing these little lizards hanging out on the fence rails. Lizards! There’s something you don’t see at home!

 

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The view from the parking lot was jaw dropping all by itself. It’s hard to express how big this wall of rock is! It reminded me of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. It was really amazing!

 

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Around every bend were more amazing sights!

 

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All these rock walls were like mountains. And in fact they said they were the remains of a mountain that had been torn apart and crumbled.

 

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This rock wall probably was a hundred feet high, at least.

 

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Giant boulders were everywhere, having fallen off the crumbling walls.

 

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The trail wound through scrubby treed areas, and back into clearings with more fantastic views.

 

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Sometimes we got to walk under the boulders! You didn’t even have to watch your head in this tunnel (well, I didn’t anyway).

 

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Wildlife spotted #2 – a cleverly camouflaged squirrel. He was hanging out in a dry creekbed munching on something. Sadly, because of the drought all the creekbeds were dry. I think this place would have been even more beautiful if they had water in them!

 

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We finally got to the entrance to Balconies Cave, and peeked at it, but decided we were not equipped for any serious caving. A nice European couple had just come all the way through it, and said it was a fun hike. They were resting on the rocks before heading back.

 

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The views on our walk back were just as amazing. Huge rock spires jutting up out of the green woods.

 

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The clouds looked like they were threatening rain, but no such luck. This place was pretty dry and it stayed dry during our visit.

 

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More wildlife – a turkey! She (I think) trotted along the road ahead of us, occasionally looking back to see if we were still following her – though we stayed quite a ways back.

 

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She finally headed up the hill above the trail to get away from us.

 

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We were quickly back to our rental – a red Ford Edge. When offered an upgrade at the rental counter, they offered a bunch of high end cars, but I thought we should take the Edge. Since it was basically the same as our Ford Flex, I thought it would seem familiar and comfortable, and I was worried if we drove a Volvo around for four days we’d come home with Volvo Fever!

So that was the end of our little side trip. I could definitely come back here again and explore more. It was beautiful and spectacular and really different from any place I’d been. And we only saw a tiny bit of it. This was an unexpected treat on our journey!

 

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Our grand trip to Fresno! Part 1

 

A few months ago we decided to take along weekend in March. My work requires us to use up our vacation time from the previous year by the end of March, and I get a Birthday day-off in March as well, so I put those together and made a 4 day weekend on my birthday. The only thing we had to figure out was where to go. We had done a really fun trip several years ago to San Francisco, and drove down to Hearst Castle, so we were thinking maybe after all our trailer travels, it was time for another Fly n’ Drive adventure. Dave set it all up – a spectacular weekend in Fresno, California!

Although I enjoyed watching everyone’s reactions went I told them we were taking a vacation in Fresno, where it sounds like most people would only stay at by force, we had a good reason: It was a short plane flight away, surrounded by interesting possible destinations, and in the center of Fresno is a little attraction Dave has had on his to-do list since he saw it on one of those Extreme Home shows many years ago – an underground home that’s open for tours! I’ll admit I was a little more excited about it’s proximity to Yosemite.

So we headed to PDX at o’dark thirty in the morning, and caught a plane to San Jose. And for the first time ever, I got to walk out on the tarmac to board!

 

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As an airplane geek, that was actually really cool!

 

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Well, it’s dark, and quiet, nothing but the drone of the engines, might as well catch some sleep.

 

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Somewhere over southern Oregon…

 

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It looks like the clouds are on fire.

Then I look out the window and what do I see way off in the distance? No way…

 

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Well, Golden Gate, we’ll be seeing you again later…

 

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First stop: Monterey Bay Aquarium

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The Aquarium was awesome, but expensive. And pretty crowded for a weekday. It had a lot of really great exhibits though.

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I could watch the jellies all day.

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On to the BIG tank.

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There was a big round tank with a school of these little guys, Sardines maybe? Just going around and around.

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These penguins were hanging out in the viewing area, which I thought would make a nice picture…

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Until they started ‘getting it on’!

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Aww, they look happy.

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Cuttlefish!

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The hidden Octopus.

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Well, that was fun, but it was time to move on, so we headed towards the valley of Central California, where we saw lots and lots of this:

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While studying a map over breakfast I had seen Pinnacles National Park. That sounded promising, so we headed for that as our next destination. The landscape sure didn’t look like someplace where you would find anything called Pinnacles though. We were in for a treat.

 

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Friday, March 20, 2015

Beach Weekend

 

A couple weeks ago Dave and I dropped the pups off at Scott & Sherry’s and headed for the beach. I was too lazy to de-winterize the Airstream, so we just headed over that way, and figured we’d find a place to crash for the night once we got there. By the time we got in it was about 10pm, and a nasty rainstorm was hitting the beach pretty hard. We ended up at the Surftides in Lincoln City. Conveniently close to a Casino Dave wanted to hit!

The next morning we still weren’t rich, and the weather looked like this!

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Yuck! Well, it didn’t stop us from exploring. We headed down the beach towards Newport, stopping to take pictures along the way. Dave protected me and the camera with the big umbrella while I got the shots. This is one of my favorites!

 

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I jokingly told a coworker that there is a sign 500 ft from this rock stating that all tourists are required by law to take a picture of it, or face a fine. Maybe it just seems like that. It did come out pretty nice though!

Once we got to Newport, we headed down to the waterfront. We had one destination in mind, and we could hear them barking as soon as we stepped out of the car:

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They built a nice system of floats for the Sea Lions to hang out on. It seems like every Sea Lion in town had heard about it, because they were barking and fussing at each other, with everyone trying to squeeze onto the floats, knocking others off!

 

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They are just so endearing when they are laying in giant sleepy piles all cozy with their eyes closed…

 

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This guy in particular looked like nothing in the world could phase him.

 

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What could be better than an afternoon nap in the sun with your buddies?

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We then headed out for a walk in between downpours to get some shots of the bridge

 

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I liked this stormy view of flags on the beach overlooking the Marina.

 

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The Flex was our choice for this trip.

After we had enough of hiking around the bridge, it was off to The Chowder Bowl, our favorite place on the beach. We like to park at the parking lot at the bottom of the hill overlooking the beach, get our food to go and go back to the car and stuff ourselves silly while watching the beach activities, the waves, and the seagulls. Since we’re safe in our car they never even know we are there.

 

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Oh Hi, Do you have some food in there?

 

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Mine?

Good thing we were protected by a windshield!

 

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I was very happy with this shot of the gulls all hanging out on the pylons.

 

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And of course there’s always someone who comes along and starts throwing food to them, and it turns into a free-for-all.

(I particularly like the guy on the roof. Mine?)

Off to Yaquina Head Lighthouse. I just wanted to take some pictures of the lighthouse, but we got there just in time for the last tour of the day, so why not? It was SUPER WINDY out by the lighthouse. He’s not even making that up!

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I didn’t get any great pictures inside the lighthouse. How about a grainy view up the iron steps

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And a peek out the window in the tower on the way up. Note: That’s not converted to black and white, it was just a really grey day!

 

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Back outside I got a classic lighthouse shot,

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Followed by my favorite shot of the day, a lone tree out in a field of grass, with dark storm clouds. I love it!

On the way back to Lincoln City we swung by Fogarty Creek (I think) and actually got a little sand in our shoes.

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Then we had dinner at the Surftides restaurant, which was very good, but they had a guy in the lounge playing 80s covers. He was good, but it was just too loud for the small space. Luckily they were able to move us to the farthest back corner so we could finish dinner without suffering significant hearing damage.

The next morning we had to get moving. I looked out our window at the beach and saw all these seagulls grounded. They were probably tired of fighting the storm. I thought it was funny they were all pointed in the same direction.

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I walked outside to get a picture of the cool mid-century pool house at the hotel. I figured I’d walk out to the road and get a pic of the sign in front of it…

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But by the time I crossed the road the most sudden drenching downpour I have ever experienced struck. It was literally like being in a shower! This shot was the best I could do with the camera mostly under my coat and getting soaked!

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That was pretty much the story the rest of the way home. It was like the second coming of Noah. It was like the clouds were dumping all their rain for the whole winter at once. Maybe they were, because since then we’ve actually had super nice weather. I guess it’s nice to get it all over with!

Dave and I had a fabulous time as always. He enjoyed some Casinos, I got some pictures, we both enjoyed some good clam chowder. I good time was had by all. We enjoyed our little spontaneous beach vacation!

 

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