Sunday, 30 September 2012

San Francisco!

Thurs - Saturday - Sept. 27-29th

Three nights and two days in San Francisco- we were in full tourist/vacationing mode and it was great! There are so many other tourists in San Fran.. it almost felt the city revolved around us and so many of them from Europe.  There is definitely an absence of children in San Fran and a more dominant presence of dogs.. our tour guide on the bus trip we took said there are more dogs in San Fran than kids. At the corner near our motel there was a doggie day care and we saw dog walkers everywhere, so it made sense for us. We took the tourist bus trip on Friday which was fun, cold, but still fun and we got to hear about odd facts and info that we wouldn't have normally have known. We stopped at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art  (SFMOMA) along the tour - the boys were actually up for it and they had fun - they had their favourites and there was a family section where the boys got to play on the computer and make their own art so Eric had a chance to go back through the permanent collection and really enjoy it.  Saturday was Liam's birthday (how special to say you had your 7th b-day in San Fran!) and we wandered around the Fisherman's Warf area.. went on a tall ship and submarine, ate at the overpriced restaurants on the warf, saw a movie ( Hotel Transylvania   - Liam wanted a movie and pizza for his b-day), saw the sea lions on Warf 39 and overall enjoyed the very carnival like atmosphere on the warf. We finished the day at a  stop at a candy store, aptly named It's Sugar!   

Full two days of being a family on vacation in San Francisco - total fun!

Our big build up to see the Golden Gate bridge.. and this is what we got.


San Francisco!

Cable Car..packed with tourists

Our chilly bus tour of San Francisco

Engaged..loved it!

Sean telling us how it looks the the sky after the sun has set over the water

We did a view of the bridge on our bus tour


and  add the sounds of fog horn to this scene

Today (Sunday) we leave and Eric has his sights on a tour of an aircraft carrier across the bay and then venture east towards Yosemite. The boys are very excited that we are "heading home".. taking the eastward route now. And Eric and I are hoping we'll get the heat we had envisioned for the southern portion of the trip on the eastern journey (Death Valley area) 

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Hippies to KOA

Sept. 26th - Wednesday

We woke the next morning fairly rejuvenated.. Eric's muscles in his shoulders were still a bit tense from the scary drive the night before but otherwise it was  fine morning. Our only neighbours in the camp area came over and offered us brewed coffee.. can't go wrong with that kind of start to the day!  Our neighbours were self proclaimed hippies (they said "hippies like us")  who have been travelling the coastal highway from Washington to Calfiornia for several years. Their camper van looked like it should have belonged in a scrap yard but it was still going (had duck tape to hold the antanea up) and it had a "Jesus loves us" hand painted on the side.  As we chatted with them in the early morning fog and everyone at their site was starting to wake up.. people were popping up everywhere.. a kid out the window.. then another.. than another dog.. than a person out of a very grimy tent..and after we parted ways and thanked them for the coffee.. I noticed that there were still more people emerging.. from not sure where! I think there must of been about 7 adults, 2 kids, and 4-5 dogs.. all in a not so big trailer! The one  young girl, maybe 5 years old, had tangled hair and dirt smeared face, the "hippies" we were talking with also had dirty smeared faces and filthy clothes and I noticed the very friendly lady who offered us the coffee had the grimiest fingernails. I felt so clean and proper compared to them.. in my Gap jeans and fleece.. and pre-packaged oatmeal for my kids (they had a huge pot (also dinged and dirty looking) of communal oatmeal that the kids, maybe ages 4 & 5,  just ladled out themselves.. and here I was making Quakers Apple and Cinnamon instant oatmeal for my 9 year old.) I didn't even venture to ask about homeschooling for the kids.. just seemed too mainstream to start a conversation about that.

But it was a beautiful morning with fog and sun fighting it out to see who would win. Before breaking camp, Liam and Eric ventured down to the beach (Sean was feeling protective of the van and didn't want to leave it and seemed to sense the more interesting action would be at the camp anyways with the unusual campers next door )  Eric and Liam came across a dead seagull which Liam wanted to bury.. then later when when he was back at our campste, he found a flower that he wanted to place on the seagull's grave and was quite adamant about  it.. so Eric and he returned to the beach. Lucky thing too (or was it Karma?) as they ended up seeing a sea otter!  Liam said it looked like a weasel at first. He was very excited and kept re-telling the story about how it all happened.

campsite.. not even sure where.. Hwy 1

 Our morning starts.. Eric up first to get coffee...

Can you see the sun trying to burn off the fog behind Eric?

Liam really liked watching the waves..
it has the same effect as watching a fire
Liam taking my picture

exploring on the beach and burying a seagull

We left camp about 10, wished our friendly neighbours safe travels, and drove south along Hwy 1 on the coast. The northern California coastline.. this was it.. the full day of driving to see it all.. soak it in… and we got fog … the whole day… and more tense driving for Eric.. the road really hugs the coast line! So. though it was interesting.. I wouldn't say it met the build up in my mind..  .. and Sean was getting car sick with all the twists and turns. We had a picnic lunch at a look out (Vista Point 1/4 mile.. the signs say).. and we got a full blanket of grey. But at one point on the drive we did see a group of seals up on the beach.. we were able to stop and Eric said "they are dead!".. they were all just lying there.. beached.. but we got the binoculars out and saw some movement.. not much.. and decided they couldn't all be dead.. they are just sleeping.. but they really did look dead!

Seals.. don't they look dead?

So, we ended the day inland (got real tired of the road and the fog).. at the Petaluma KOA just an hour north of San Fransisco. What a contrast to campsite we just had that morning.. the setting, the neighbours.. everything! Our VW van looked so small and old and I was really conscious of the boys being out of school in the middle of the day just goofing around at the playground. We had the grimy towels drying out.. old plastic tubs as storage.. compared to our clean, orderly, in control neighbours (one had a nice sleek Airstream). The KOA was big time!..Cable tv hook ups… huge pool.. bouncy thing.. petting zoo.. basketball court.. huge kids playground.. and even a playground for dogs - they had everything you needed (even a little store fully stocked with anything you might run out of). 

It was kind of nice, easy.. to have  all the amenities around us at the KOA, but I really liked our morning camp spot.. the booming waves, the realism of the the dead seagull along side the playful sea otter, the drifters of society offering their neighbours a warm coffee, and the sun and fog battling for control... it all seemed more real... 

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Fern Canyon and crazy drive

Sept 25th - Tuesday

We are sort of getting used to the cold camping.. but not really.. we all are seeking heat (I keep thinking of our beautiful summer camping across Canada!) But we venture on! We drove to a place in the park called Fern Canyon.. a bit of a drive (towards the beach side of the park),  including some small river crossings.. but it was worth it.. really magical, like elfs and fairies should be around.. a river canyon with walls covered in ferns.. we walked along the river bed basically (and this is the section where Jurassic Park 2 was filmed.. the scene where the bad guy gets eaten by little raptor-like dinosaurs).. the boys loved being there and re-enacting the scene. I wanted to see the tailed frog that lives in the area (rare.. so I was hoping but not really thinking we would see it)..but we did see the reg-legged frog! That was cool. The whole fern canyon (a very short hike.. less than 1 mile) was like stepping into the past. 

Fern Canyon - Redwood National Park

natural facial mist!

American Dipper
(it actually does this funny little bob in the water and dives under!)

Red-legged Frog
On the drive back out (dirt road, river crossing) we saw elk!  I kind of imagine Elk in woods or fields, so to see this one on the beach was kinda mystical  (with the fog and crashing waves behind). 

can you see the waves?

Then the rest of the day we drove and drove.. through more amazing Redwood forests (but broken up between native reserves and little towns.. so not as impactful).. one section of the drive was called the Avenue of the Giants. We stopped at McDonald's to use the internet and try to sort out where we were going to stay in San Fransisco (just a few days away) and got a bit of a wake up call with hotel prices and lack of we decided to do more driving than planned so we could get to San Fran a day sooner (so we weren't there over the weekend). We  ended up driving through a very twisty, crazy road as the sun was setting. 

The  road just didn't give up (on the map it looked like a short drive to the coast).. it got darker and the road got more twisty, switchbacking up and then back down .. the brakes were squealing, Eric was hunched over the wheel hoping there weren't cars coming our way (the turns were soooo tight!), my hand was on the handle holding on with every turn, anxious that were were going to tip over or drive over the edge (no guard rails around here!)  we saw deer on the side of the road and luckily didn't hit them.. and just when we were thinking this has got to stop (we were at the stage of laughing that it was so ridiculous!).. we hit the coast and things leveled out but still more twists and turns .... with the road on the edge of a steep cliff and the sound of angry crashing waves below! No way!  I was thinking we could just camp at one of the pull outs, but just a bit further down the coast we found a campground.. ahhh.. a flat spot! It was actually a beautiful night.. moon was out..we were camped right on a bluff,  could see the white foam of the crashing waves and hear the boom  as they hit the shore.... all added to the excitement of the night! 

Redwoods, Redwoods and more Redwoods

Sept. 24th - Monday - Redwood National Forest, California

Our campsite was right in the midst of the forest, so it was cold camping  - had the gloves and hats on in the morning (I think I saw a sign with min. temps at 10 C) but our walk warmed us up and seeing the morning light coming through the forest ..... amazing! .

morning at campsite

The Coastal Redwoods used to reach south of San Fransisco (before the logging in the late 1800's) but now there is just a stretch in northern California and with state parks and National preserve, this patch of Redwoods have been designated a world heritage site - the trees truly are amazing and it felt very special to stroll amongst these ancient giants.  At one point Eric commented that his neck was getting sore from looking up.. the trees were so tall, so immense.. and after 4 hours on our hike (the boys were real troopers once again!), we actually started to loose perspective on how big the trees were. Then at the end of the walk we came across The Big Tree which is 1500 years old! Now, that was a big tree! But really they all seemed so tall.. 300 feet was common.. (imagine 30 floor office buildings ). Sean drew in his journal  a picture of a tree reaching out beyonds the limit of earth and stretching up into space and I believe he described the trees as "big fat trees". I loved all the ferns on the forest floor and the immense trunks standing so stately and strong. It  was quite, peaceful, on the trails..the benefits of being off season, though Sean and Liam's  immersion in  Jurassic Park 2 themed play along the trail didn't keep things too quite. But the solitude, the forest smells, the ancient feel… I kept thinking on the walk how this was like one big mental health vitamin.. replenishing the mind and soothing the soul.

Editing was hard, but  basically they are all pictures of Coastal Redwoods with us in there to give their size perspective!


Inside a fallen giant!

Can you see Sean and Liam at the base?

The Twisted Tree they call it 

The hike took longer than we thought, so we are staying one more night here and tomorrow we will venture on and go to Fern Canyon area of the park (where a scene from Jurassic Park 2 was filmed) , drive south and stop in Eureka to stock up on groceries again (we don't have much storage space so we shop almost every second day), find a McDonalds to send out these blogs and re-connect to the world, and then onward to the next State Park to camp for the night. That's the plan as it stands for now.