Friday, July 14, 2017

California Vacation

 I tried to narrow down the pictures for this post, but it turns out this June when I headed to Yosemite for my first visit....they just so happen to be having the best waterfalls in over fifty years thanks to some major snow this past winter....and I just can't narrow it down.
 I love visiting National Parks, and each one has it's own set of rules and ways of successful maneuvering.  I headed here at the beginning of June before a lot of schools were out, but it was already super crowded, and I know it only gets more crowded as the summer heats up, and the waterfalls decrease.  I can see why.
 We had rented a car and we took it down all the paved roads in the park and lucked into some spots, BUT they also provide a shuttle service for free throughout the park, which is definitely something I'd do in the more crowded months.  One stop we made a few times was the Majestic Dining room-it had a beautiful view.  They recommend reservations, but if you go at lunch they do have some openings and you can get on a list-we did that twice and were able to get seated within 20 minutes.
 We had better luck parking the first day when we arrived before the lunch reservations (about 11-the dining room opens at 11:30).  My favorite find was the vegetarian onion soup.  They are famous for this, and it was really delicious!
 My two favorite stops were at tunnel view (the view you get after coming through a long tunnel).  It overlooks El Capitan and a beautiful view of the valley below.
 Glacier Point also took my breath away-and Half Dome and more waterfalls.
 On our second day we hit up Toulumne Trail.  One of the park rangers told us to get there well before 8 b/c the parking lot filled up since some of the more famous sequoia groves are currently closed.  It was down an old paved roads cars and carriages used to drive down, but it was straight down.....and then alllllll uphill on the walk back, but very peaceful.
 It was a mile before the first Sequoia tree, BUT the famous drive through tree was just a few hundred yards up the road from the first tree, which was my main goal!
 We also went to a less frequented part of the park-Hetch Hetchy.  The winding roads were gorgeous (and a little frightening).  It ends at a dam where we got to catch a great double rainbow in the mist...a common sight around the park when the sun is just right.
 The easiest trail in the park is one called Bridalveil.  It leads to Bridalveil falls. Again, the parking lot backs up, but you can shuttle up there too.  We went later in the day and were able to snag a spot.  It was not too far up a hill before we caught sight of the falls that definitely did it's job soaking us with those sprays.  A lot of folks brought ponchos, but my camera and I just dared the damp.
 We did not spot any real wild life (a few deer, and a lot of squirrels), but one of the most fascinating things we spotted were the rock climbers on El Capitan.  There were often crowds, or even folks seated in chairs watching their climb.  I used my telephoto lense b/c I forgot my binoculars.
 This was my first trip to Yosemite and it did not disappoint.  I learned a lot about maneuvering through the crowds, but even with a lot of folks enjoying the same views, it managed to be peaceful and it did not detract from it's beauty.
On our way back to LA we decided to stop in Sequoia National Park as well.  It takes about an hour from the highway to get to the park, and then another full hour to get up to Giant Forest where General Sherman resides.
 I had never seen sequoias before this trip and when I had taken the trail in Yosemite I kept wondering if each large pine was a sequoia, BUT once I spotted my first I understood the magnitude of these beast.
 It's hard to capture in picture, but it's worth seeing at least once!
 To get to General Sherman (the largest tree in the world) you have to take a half mile trail downhill, but if you don't want to walk back up you can walk a few hundred more yards and catch a shuttle back up the road to where the trail started from the handicap parking section (just fyi).  Again....I couldn't even fit the tree into my lense....
 After the Giant forest we also took a small road near the museum that led to a tunnel carved out of a fallen sequoia you can still drive through.
 We weren't able to get over to King's Canyon b/c we wanted to head back towards LA to spend more time with family, but it was worth the stop.  Warning, the roads are really windy snaking back and forth, and there are some really sheer drops.  That makes me totally nervous, so I'm glad I didn't know before....and I'm glad I wasn't driving.
Back in South Pasadena I went to visit Olvera Street.  It's  small street that is where Los Angeles began.  There is a Mexican Market with merchandise and food up and down the street.
 We walked up and down and then headed on to the Griffith Observatory.
 There are all sorts of parks around this area, but at the top is this planetarium with an amazing view of LA and the Hollywood sign.
 In the evenings you can also use their telescope for free to check out space.
I spent the day with my cousin's kiddos and they were satisfied with these little scopes.
 Inside the observatory are all sorts of space exhibits and a show in the domed ceiling.  There are all different shows that last 30-40 minutes (kids 5 and older only after the first show of the day).
The kids and I really enjoyed the show.  The planetarium was one of my favorite places as a child, and they fell in love too and wanted to see the next show (the shows were only 5 for kids and 7 bucks a ticket for adults).  I've headed to California quite a few times since my family lives there, but each visit I try out new things, and this trip was one for the books and will be hard to top, which is a great problem to have.