Saturday, June 30, 2012

Day 34 -- Oregon Coast

Sea Lions on Oregon Coast
Today we drove along the Oregon Coast.  We started the morning in Waldport, OR (between Florence and Newport) and then drove back south first thing in the morning to see the Sea Lion Caves.  I don't think I'd ever been there, and I know David and the kids haven't been there.  It is a natural sea cave where the sea lions come to sleep.  Then right outside of the cave there is another big rock formation where even more sea lions lay out in the "sun."  (It was actually fairly sunny that morning which is very unusual for the Oregon Coast.)  It was an interesting experience and worth the money for the attraction, even though it was a bit "touristy." 

After that we started north up the Oregon Coast toward our destination of Astoria (which is on the very northern tip of the Oregon coastline).  As we drove in to Newport everyone said they were hungry, so we stopped as Mo's.  Mo's is a coast tradition.  I've been going there ever since I was a kid because they have the best clam chowder.  Everyone got clam chowder and liked it (well, Daniel said that it was edible, but David loved it).  David also got a seafood pasta that he said was wonderful and Bow and Erin got shrimp skewers and pasta.  Daniel and I avoided the seafood and got chicken fettuccine (total wimp-out, I know).  But, it was all good!

Then we drove further up the coast and stopped at some of the beaches and interesting areas.  At one point I took everyone out to look at the tide pools and they got to see all sorts of sea creatures.  Daniel also got to climb some of the rocks along the beach, so he was happy.  By mid-afternoon it started to rain and was no longer warm, so no one wanted to linger on the beaches for very long (typical weather).  But, we did get some good pictures!

We also stopped by my dad's property along the beach (he inherited it from my grandparents).  The trailer is still there but everything is so overgrown you can't even get to it (see photo).  Also, when I was a kid there were stairs down to the beach and those have all washed away.  I still have memories of going there as a kid and the motel next door is exactly the same.  But, the rest of the ares is different because there are houses to the south of it that were never there before. 

One of the highlights of the day for me was the stop at the Tillamook Cheese factory.  We got to sample a variety of cheeses and bought Tillamook Ice Cream.  Yum yum!

Late in the day we got close to Astoria and we were very proud of ourselves that we might get to the KOA before it closed.  But, then I had the bright idea to go watch the new Disney movie "Brave" at the Seaside theater (which is the scariest looking movie theater I've ever seen -- it looked like an abandoned factory).  Bow really wanted to see it before she left for Thailand and our kids wanted to see it as well.  So, we ate some popcorn for dinner at the theater and watched it.

The interesting thing is that the KOA office was still open when we got there, even though it was after 10 pm.  They were open until 11 pm!  This KOA was really big (David kept joking that it was as big as Piedmont), but overall it was pretty nice.  The cabin smelled a bit musty, but that is to be expected at the coast, but David was unimpressed that when he moved the queen bed away from the wall a bit it looked like no one had ever swept over there.  It rained all night, so I'm very glad we had a cabin!
Water shooting through
Water coming up a hole in the rock

Days 32 & 33 -- Oregon Caves & Grants Pass

California Redwood
Days 32 & 33 (June 26-27) -- The goal for today was to drive to Klamath Falls and get back onto our route over to Crater Lake and then back to the Oregon Coast.  We started out going through more redwoods (David's famous words are "last chance to see redwoods" and then we'd see more). 

Northern California Coast

Cave formations

One of the things we saw that was along our detour was the Oregon Caves.  I had never been to Oregon Caves and Bow had never been in a cave at all, so we decided to detour that way.  It looked like a short detour on the map, but it was quite the winding road, so it took longer than we thought.  By the time we got up there the next available tour time was 5:15 (tickets were first-come first-served).  We hung out in the gift shop playing a memory game with all of the national parks on the cards (Bow won) until our time came up.  Then we went into the cave.  It was a unique cave because it was a marble cave (the whole cave was made out of marble) which is very unique in the world of caves.

Smith River in Oregon -- super clear
Interesting rocks along Smith River

By the time we finished we knew there was no way we'd make it to Klamath Falls and no way we'd make it to Crater Lake the next day.  So, we stayed in Grants Pass, OR at a Shilo Inn and slept in the next day until 12 pm.  David and I were so tired that we just passed out.  But, it felt really good to get caught up on our sleep.  After we checked out of the motel at 1 pm we found a local restaurant for lunch called the Circle J.  It was a very eclectic restaurant and we had fun there.  The owner came out while we were finishing our food and talked to us for a bit.  She asked where we were from and David said Alabama.  Then she asked him a bunch of things about the South, like -- Do you always have red velvet cake and coconut cake there?  He said, "yes" and that made her laugh.  She and I conversed a bit about Southern culture and Western culture and she made me feel a bit better because she reaffirmed that Westerners ARE different in the way we say things (much more straightforward and honest, rather than roundabout and subtle).  It was nice for me to be around people who are much more like me.

Sunset over a marsh outside Eugene, OR
Heidi standing along Smith River
After lunch we made our requisite Walmart run.  Erin needed a new duffle bag because hers bit the dust (it fell apart and I duct-taped it together several times before it became unsalvageable).  Bow also needed another suitcase because she had bought so many souvenirs and her suitcases were already overweight.
Moon over Florence Beach in OR

Twilight near Florence, OR beach

After that we drove up I-5 to Eugene, looked around at the University of Oregon a bit, ate dinner at a KFC and then drove to the Oregon Coast.  We got there after sunset when it was still twilight and we got a couple of pictures of the Ocean before the sun went down.  We drove to our KOA in Waldport, OR and, as usual, were the last people to check in.  I'm used to the lone envelope pinned to the night registration board with "Dempsey" printed on it.  We unpacked, brushed teeth, and then headed to bed by 11:15 or so. 

Friday, June 29, 2012

Day 31 - California Redwoods

Day 31 -- Well, according to our map, we are supposed to be headed inland in California to go to Lassen Volcanic Park.  However, Daniel and David were so taken with the giant sequoias they wanted to compare them to the California Coast Redwoods.  So, we modified our trip to drive up the coast from San Francisco on Hwy 101 and see the giant redwoods in Humboldt State Park (following the Avenue of the Giants) and the Redwoods State and National Park.

After we headed out of San Francisco, we stopped briefly across the Golden Gate Bridge to take photos of the bridge and city and then we headed up through wine country to the coast.  The redwoods were very pretty, but not as impressive as the Giant Sequoias.  I guess it is because they are taller, but do not have as massive of girth.  Thus, it is harder to tell how much taller they are than the surrounding trees.  But, you can definitely tell that they are bigger than those around them (and have bigger girths than surrounding trees).  We took several of the trails around the tree groves and saw the largest redwood (which had fallen several years earlier).

After driving through the trees in Humboldt State Park, we came to our cabin at an RV park in Fortuna, CA (yes, we did listen to O Fortuna from Carmina Burana then next morning on the way out of town).  This cabin was laid out exactly like every other cabin we've had, EXCEPT they had Tempurpedic mattresses on all the beds.  That was a very welcome change!

Largest Redwood (now fallen)

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Days 28 to 30 - San Francisco

Downtown SF viewed from Alcatraz ferry
Days 28 to 30 (June 22 to 24) -  As we came down from Yosemite, guess what David wanted to do.....yep, you guessed it....get more fruit.  This time we found one fruit stand and bought cherries, apricots, blackberries, blueberries, and peaches.  David is so excited about the fruit out here.

Our other memorable accomplishment -- we passed 5,000 miles of driving while in San Francisco.  Thus, we should be about half way through our trip in terms of mileage.  Its well over 100 hours of time in the car, so that is a whole lot.  We kept teasing Jaeyong that he was leaving our of San Francisco and flying about 5300 miles to get home to Seoul and it would only take him about 12 hours of flying and it had taken us over 100 hours to get that far in the car.

Kids at Golden Gate Park after Jaeyong left
Before we left Yosemite, we sat in the Happy Burger diner for about 2 hours while we had internet to fix a mistake of mine.  So far everything has worked as far as timing hotels, but I finally had a major screw-up.  I was a bit surprised when I got an email from Colter Bay Tent Camps in Jackson Hole, WY telling me what they had available for my upcoming visit.  Yes, I was planning to be there, but not until July 13 (and this was like June 5).  Then one June 15 I got an email thanking me for my recent stay at Colter Bay.  That's when I knew I was in trouble.  I checked the reservation and, yes, I did make it for the wrong month.  So, I went to make new reservations in July and they are sold out.  In fact, most of Jackson Hole is sold out.  So, we are going to have to cram into an overcrowded Super 8 in Jackson and one unlucky kid is going to have to sleep on the floor unless we can get a roll-away bed.  But, at least we have something, which is good because we have a sunrise float trip on the Snake River scheduled for the following morning.

Driving toward SF from Yosemite
Once we got on the road, the trip to San Francisco was uneventful.  My mom's best friend was allowing us to stay at her house, we we were happy to have a place to crash.  She even fed us dinner, let us do laundry, and bought us food for lunches.  It was great!  She was a blast to spend time with and hear about her kids (which I remember from childhood).

Alcatraz view as you pull up to the dock
On June 23 we had tickets to Alcatraz so we headed to downtown San Francisco to catch the ferry on Pier 33.  We were unlucky with traffic (Candlestick Park was backed up for miles), but finally made it downtown.  Once we bought some souvenirs it was time to get lunch (we ate wonderful sandwiches that Renee had bought all the fixings for).  The trip to Alcatraz took only a few minutes on the ferry and then we had a great tour of Alcatraz.  It was interesting to hear the stories from there and see the park rangers demonstrate how the cell door operated mechanically.
Bow is in jail! :-(

David's and my favorite things were the rules from the Alcatraz handbook which they had printed up on magnets (which, of course we had to buy).  Rule 5 -  You are entitled to food, clothing, shelter and medical attention. Anything else that you get is a privilege. Rule 30 - Loud talk, shouting, whistling, singing, or other unnecessary noises are not permitted.  Rule 23 - Any groundless complaints for the purposes of creating dissatisfaction and/or stirring up trouble...will be subject to disciplinary action.  Thus, our favorite new sayings are to say things like, "Daniel -- Rule 30."  Erin also got a new passport book to replace the one she lost on the trail.

The kids have also created interesting nicknames for each other on this trip.  Bow acquired the name Raven by Jaeyong.  Then she turned around and called him Mockingbird.  Then we had to come up with names for Daniel and Erin.  Daniel is either Turkey Vulture or Woodpecker (my favorite one).  Erin is flamingo (obviously for her spindly legs).

Painted Ladies (remember Full House?)

Favorite Diner!
After we got back from Alcatraz, we wanted to take a city tour so Jaeyong could see some of San Francisco before he left the following day.  So, we did the red double-decker open-air bus tour.  First we did the downtown day tour and then right after that we did the night tour.  It gave us a decent overview of the city, but the first tour guide seemed to be more interested in people watching then telling us about the buildings, regions, and history of the town.  The second tour guide was much better.  One interesting event that was going on that weekend was the gay pride parade.  They were having a bunch of events leading up to it on Saturday and then Sunday was the actual parade.  They were expecting something like a million people to come to it.  We, we decided to avoid downtown the next day because we knew that traffic and tours would be a mess downtown and it would be crazy to try to get around.  We finally stopped for dinner around 9 pm.  We went to a place recommended by our tour driver called Tommy's Joynt.  It was really good food and every inexpensive.  They just have and food line like a cafeteria and you tell them what food you want and they throw it on your plate almost before you finish the sentence.  David got corned beef and cabbage (which he hadn't had since the Palya's served it at their house and he LOVED it).  Daniel got sweet-and-sour ribs and the rest of us got buffalo stew over rice which was wonderful.  Also, we got a sourdough roll (a SF standard).  Such good food!

City buildings all lit up for gay pride week

Jaeyong leaving at the airport   :-(
So, the next day we got up moderately early and helped Jaeyong get packed.  He go everything put into suitcases and then we took him to the airport.  Of course his bags were overweight (because he had stuffed so much into them), but the lady was really nice and told him if he took a few things out, like a book and sweatshirt,  it would be enough.  He did that and placed it in an extra bag he had and she was nice enough to say that it was fine, even though it was still overweight.  Korean Air is much nicer about things than Delta!  We watched Jaeyong go through security (all of the ay through the long line) and kept waving to him every time he came into view.  I think Bow will miss him the most because she was closest to him.  Daniel and Erin still have Bow and each other to pick on.  But, Bow will probably be okay when she gets home to her friends and family.  We got a facebook message the next day letting us know that he was home, so we know he arrived safely.

After he left we headed back downtown, but this time to Golden Gate Park.  We ate lunch right outside the park in a little Vietnamese restaurant called Green Bamboo.  No one else had eaten Vietnamese before (other than me), so it was a new experience for them).  It is similar to Chinese and Thai, but a bit different.  David and Daniel got the 5 spice chicken which had interesting seasonings (ginger, anise, clove, etc.) and I got the curry chicken (which was really spicy because it had jalapeno peppers in it), and Erin and Bow got a pork soup with noodles.  Erin ate all sorts of things in that soup that we didn't know she ate (onions, tofu, etc.).  It was fun to watch, but she took forever to try to get the noodle out with chopsticks (Bow, of course, was an expert at it).

Our bicycle contraption
After lunch we tried to find parking (nearly impossible) and finally got a space.  Then we rented one of those 4-seat surries which you pedal and drove it around the park with Daniel steering and being in charge of the brake (that part was a bit scary!).  After an hour and a half of that (only having one gear and having to drive uphill from the beach) we headed back to Renee's house for some dinner and laundry.

At the beach by Golden Gate Park
Overall San Francisco was fun, but I still prefer natural areas and small towns to cities.  However, it was absolutely the best weather I've ever seen in San Francisco -- sunny, warm, and clear!  

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Days 25-26 Yosemite

Half-Dome as seen from Yosemite Valley
Days 25-26 (June 19-20) After visiting Sequoia and Kings Canyon, I don't think David had very high expectations for Yosemite, especially since he knew that more people went there (Sequoia was relatively uncrowded for a national park during peak tourist season). He loved the tall trees and didn't think there was much in the way of natural beauty which could top it. That's what he thought until we reached Yosemite, anyway.

Driving in to Yosemite
The two parks aren't that far from one another, but you have to go down the mountain from Sequoia (elevations ranging from 6,000 ft to over 14,000 ft -- Mt. Whitney is located there and it's the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states) cross a bit more of the San Joachim Valley though Fresno (elevation 296 ft) back up to Yosemite Valley (elevation 4,000 ft). David wasn't too upset though because (a) the road we were coming down on wasn't quite as curvy as the one going up and (b) going back to the valley meant the opportunity to get more fruit.

That's a granola bar hanging out of his mouth!
Once we reached the valley floor we stopped at the first fruit sand we saw and then the second.  We got more apricots, nectarines, pluots (a hybrid of apricots and plums), plums, and boysenberries.  The boysenberries were wonderful!  Boysenberries were brought to the front by Mr. Knott (of Knott's Berry Farm fame).  They are a combination of blackberries, raspberries, and loganberries (themselves a combination of blackberries and raspberries).  The kids loved them!  Daniel really took to the plums and I loved the pluots and nectarines.  David and Erin just loved all of them!

Erin at lower bridge (Vernal Falls behind)
We stopped at TGI Friday's in Fresno for lunch because Jaeyong wanted ribs for his birthday.  So, he got a half rack of ribs and a steak for his birthday.  After that we headed up to our campsite at the good old KOA.  Our KOA at Yosemite was actually in Midpines which was about an hour outside the park (only 24 miles away, but difficult to drive fast because of all of the curves and elevation changes).  So, the first day we managed to get to Yosemite (June 19) and do laundry.  We wanted to do laundry in LA, but the washers were all broken at our hotel.  So, we kept everything until Yosemite.  We took all 8 washers at the KOA to wash our clothes and I overfilled them so they weren't really that clean after washing them (a few items weren't even thoroughly wet).  Anyhow, they at least gave us some things to start with.
That's all we managed to accomplish that night.  After washing clothes (the kids swam while I washed) it was like 9 pm and we hadn't eaten dinner.  So we drove back to Mariposa (about 6 miles away) and grabbed some burgers at Burger King to go with our fruit.

View partway up Mist Trail
Stairs on upper Mist Trail
The next morning we headed up to Yosemite.  It took a while to get up there and get oriented to the park, but eventually we figured out what was what.  We ate pizza at Curry Village and then decided to hike one of the trails.  I got a new belt before we headed up to hike and it was wonderful.  It's made from the same nylon straps they use for rock climbing.  I can hang my water bottle off of it and it doesn't stretch at all.

We decided to go up the Mist Trail because I had read about it online before we got into the park.  It takes 1 mile of the John Muir trail and then goes off on its own to hike up to Vernal Falls and then Nevada Falls.  It is called the Mist Trail because it climbs right next to the waterfalls and you get mist off the falls as you climb.  The John Muir trail section was a pretty steep incline, but was paved.  After the 1 mile section you get to a bridge with a water filling station and rest room.  The water filling was a godsend because I needed water desperately by the time I reached that point.  That is the first time you can see the lower falls.  We weren't sure about hiking up there because we would climb another 800 feet elevation in 3/4 mile (we had already climbed 1000 ft. in 1 mile), but we decided to go for it. 

View from top of Vernal Falls
Kids at top of Vernal Falls
"Water ride" portion
Lower half of "Water Ride"

View along Mist Trail

The traffic thinned out considerably after the bridge because a lot of people give up at that point.  David's hip was hurting and my back was hurting, but we took some Advil and kept on.  After about 1/4 mile the trail turns into stairs.  The stairs last about 1/2 mile and you just climb.  At first they are sandy, then they are wet and rocky as you get close to the base of the falls and pass it on the side.  Then they get sandy again about half way up the falls.  Then you have to walk on a little rock ledge with a fence by the time you get close to the top of the falls.  Then you stand right next to the top of the falls and look down on everyone else climbing up.  Further upstream is a beautiful pool of water that is emerald green called, not surprisingly, Emerald Pools.  Then there is a section where the water runs down a rock like a giant water ride at an amusement park.  Since that was so pretty we had to keep walking up a bit more.  We came to the upper bridge where you could see the upper falls and we decided to stop at that point because we were afraid we were going to run out of light.

Long view of "The water ride"

Upper bridge
By the time we got down it was late and we were afraid we weren't going to get to eat.  We managed to get to a buffet at Curry Village before it closed and got some good food.  We watched a bit of a program there as I reminisced about staying in Yosemite as a kid. 

We made it home really late that night and stayed in bed late the next morning.  By the time we made it up to Yosemite the next day we didn't have a lot of time before things closed.  We hiked up to Lower Yosemite Falls, around the meadows, and then ate dinner in another food court by the Lodge.  Then we watched a program all about the Falls and learned about neat things that happen like frazil ice (makes the creek a bit like a slushie machine in mid-March or April).  It wasn't all I had hoped for on the second day, but that is one of the disadvantages of staying so far outside of the park (and being so out of shape when it comes to hiking).  David and I hope to come back sometime and stay in the park so we can do more things and not have to worry about the drive out of the park at night.
Rainbow on Mist Trail coming down

The only downside of the whole adventure was that Erin lost her national parks passport on the Mist Trail.  So, unless someone turns it in, she will not have all of those stamps from our previous destinations.  We will buy her a new one the next park we reach, but it's small consolation for having lost the earlier keepsakes.
View coming down Mist Trail
Yosemite Falls