I had the opportunity of a lifetime. I got to take a group of WLOX viewers on the Holiday Vacations California Explorer trip. It was such a great trip! I still can't seem to comprehend all that I did and was able to see in just a week's time. We flew into San Francisco and went to Yosemite National Park and Napa Valley to end up back in the City by the Bay, San Francisco.
Day One: This is going to be an amazing trip! The flight out is stunning so far. As I type this, we are cruising at 45,000 feet (I think I heard this wrong. It's probably 35,000 feet.) over the snow covered Sierra Nevadas. It is breath taking. I almost screamed "SNOW" when I saw it, but refrained.
I am with a very vibrant group of people from the coast: eight ladies and three men. We'll meet up with another group and then start our trek to Yosemite. I'm very much looking forward to seeing everything there is to see. I heard the waterfalls are going to be amazing because of all the recent rain and winter snowfall. I already feel like a kid on Christmas Eve, and it's only going to get better!!!
Oh, and it's 61 degrees in San Francisco right now. It is cloudy and maybe some rain, but I'll take the break from the 100 degree weather. Y'all can have it for the week!
Day Two: This Holiday Vacation tour has been wonderful so far. We are driving through the San Joachim Valley on our way to Yosemite. We have passed thousands of Almond Trees...so cool! We've also seen tomatoes (mostly grown for canning), corn, apricot trees, olive trees, cotton, carrots, walnut trees and fig trees.
Some interesting things I've learned: It takes four years for almonds to produce a first crop of almonds, and it will produce for 25 years. And you have to have bees to make an almond produce. It takes a year and a half to pollinate in the spring. A tree will produce about 20 pounds of almonds a harvest, and there are 100 trees per acre.
A pistachio tree takes five years to produce a first crop, and it will produce crop for 80 years. Such interesting things I'm learning today!!! More once we make it to Yosemite!
Once we got through the Valley and to Yosemite, it was so beautiful! The climb takes a while because it take a bus a while to get to 5,000ft. When we got there, we saw some snow pack hanging around. I decided I needed to play in it and take some fun pictures! That actually came after our mile and a half hike to see some of the most amazing trees I've ever seen in my life! They were ENORMOUS!!! I got to stand at the base of a petrified sequoia and have a pretty awesome picture taken. Then up, up and away to see 'The Bachelor and Three Graces.' Their roots are so intertwined, if one fell, the other three would follow suit. Then there was this one called the Grizzly Giant. One of the off shooting limbs is seven feet in diameter! It's counted as the 25th largest tree in the world. These trees were so massive. I kept hiking and got to the tree with the hole cut out of the base. That was pretty cool! The hole was cut in it for stage coaches to pass through back in the day. We went to check into our hotel, and then we had a wonderful dinner at Ducey's on the Lake on Bass Lake. It was wonderful!
Day Three: Now, I'm enjoying breakfast on my balcony with a gorgeous sunrise and delicious breakfast! I'm looking forward to seeing those waterfalls today!!! Pictures to come!
It has been a spectacular day! We got up early to head to Yosemite National Park (YNP), and it is hard to believe what you are looking at is REAL! I would just stand in awe of the majestic waterfalls and enormous rocks! It still blows me away just thinking about it!
I ventured off on my own today. I went by the Ansel Adams museum, and it was pretty cool. I went in the Yosemite History museum. Then I got on one of the free shuttle buses and headed to stop number 16 Happy Isles (fitting for me, huh?!). From there, I hiked the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. Now, it was only about a 1 mile hike and 400 ft elevation to the bridge where I had a very nice view of Vernal Falls. The sign said the top of the falls was only .3 miles...well, logic should have told me that it would be pretty steep, but I'm not a hiker. So I didn't even think about it. I just thought, 'Well, I've made it this far, why not go to the top!?!?' So, I proceed on my solo journey, and the trail is pretty packed because it was such a gorgeous day (sunny, hi 72!)! I can't even count how many times I wanted to stop. I'd look up and say, 'NO way! This is crazy! I'm going to die, if not from falling over, then from breathing too hard!'
I climbed and climbed and climbed. I got drenched with really COLD water! So then I figured I should push through for the sheer fact that I needed to dry out from the mist. Well, through random and fellow hiker's encouragement, I MADE IT! What a sense of accomplishment I have! I sat on the enormous rock where the falls cascade over and actually make Vernal Falls. Then I had my sack lunch provided by Holiday Vacation on the rock! It was so nice and relaxing!
Out of all of the accents and languages I've heard today from all around the world, I can certainly spot a Southern accent! I met a family from just outside of Hattiesburg up there, and they were NOT with the group! That's pretty crazy!!!
I was worried about the way down, too. I had to make it back down those wet, uneven and STEEP steps, but I made and in good time! I still CANNOT believe all I have done in just two days here! It's fantastic!
Day Four: We left Oakhurst, which is just outside of Yosemite, this morning and ended up in Napa! We had dinner on the Napa Wine Train. The dinner was fabulous! The drinks weren't too shabby either. The train ride was about two hours starting with a wine tasting and hors d'Oveuvres and ending with dinner and dessert! When we got on the train the weather was so nice, about 73 and sunny, but when we got off the train, it was quite chilly, about 58ish! The weather here is so nice with VERY little humidity! Tomorrow, we are off the Bodega Bay on the Northern Pacific Coast. It'll be another early day, but it will be beautiful walking among the Redwoods, the state tree of California.
Day Five: It has been such an awesome trip! I still can't believe how much I've actually done and seen! We had a very nice day today. We started in the Redwood Forrest. The Redwoods are big, beautiful and also amazing! We took about an hour stroll through the forest.
Then went to Bodega Bay on the Pacific Coast. It was such a stunning site. The rocky cliffs and blue-green water crashing against the rocks. And the wind, oh the WIND, it was whipping!!!! I still can't believe how cold it was when got off the bus to snap a few pictures! The average water temperature is about 52 degrees, so the wind whipping off of that was VERY COLD to this Southern girl! We ate a delicious lunch at Lucus Wharf in Bodega Bay.
Then we had a free afternoon and evening in Napa. I got to visit with a friend of mine who lives in Sonoma, so that was fun!
Day Six: We got up and off to an early start heading to San Francisco. It is beautiful here! We went on a tour of the city on our motor coach with the greatest driver Gilberto Rios. Then we had lunch at Pier 39. They are known for their chowders. I have had so much soup since I've been here because I've needed to warm up! It's crazy chilly on the waterfront. After that, I got to walk around a while and do a little shopping. Then we went to see this musical called Beach Blanket Babylon, and it was FANTASTIC! The singing was so good and the acting was great! They have been going for 35 years and have sold out every night but two they've showed! It's a musical/comedy about 'Snow White' trying to find her prince, and it makes fun of everyone who is trending in the news and politics. I highly recommend this show if you are in the San Francisco area! I've got to get some sleep for my last full day here in California.
Day Seven: What a cool last day it was! We headed to Pier 39 again to get on a San Francisco Bay cruise. It was again...SO COLD!!! I could NOT get warm, so after about 45 minutes, I had to go inside the cabin! We went under the Golden Gate Bridge which I learned the color was the primer color, and everyone loved it. So they kept it. The color is called International Orange. Then we cruised around Alcatraz and under the Oakland Bridge. Once we got off the boat, we loaded up on the motor coach to head into downtown where Gil dropped us off at the cable car stop. Well, the system was broken, so we had to load back up and catch the cable car a little further down on the route. It was definitely a cool experience to ride the cable car. I met a nice man Vincent who has family in Moss Point and Gautier while on that cable car. The cable car stopped at the Buena Vista which is known for its Irish Coffee, so I popped in and had one of those. Then Gil and I hit the town for a quick tour. He has massive knowledge of San Francisco, so he showed me the ropes! We went to see the painted ladies and there was a cute little shoe garden in the park across from the painted ladies (the Victorian Row Houses you see in postcards, movies, etc). We hopped in a cab to head to Haight and Ashbury. There was a street fair going on with bands on both ends, so it was neat to experience that whole street. Then I stopped in Golden Gate Park to read a few paragraphs of my book, so I could say I did it.
Then we hopped in a cab to head downtown to Union Square. We went to the top of Macy's overlooking Union Square, then rode the escalator back down. There were these trees with these yellow trumpet flowers hanging down. They were beautiful! Then we hopped on another cable car and headed to Lombard (the crookedest street in SF, if not America). We hiked to the top of Lombard, and what a hike it was. It was a nice payoff though! Then we walked back down to head to the hotel to get ready for our farewell dinner at Neptune's on Pier 39. I was starving. I had only had a breakfast bar and then a corn on the cob at the fair. I had the Halibut, and it was yummy! After dinner Gil and Pam (tour director) took us over the Oakland Bridge to Treasure Island for some gorgeous sunset pictures of the City by the Bay! When we rode back over, the lights were on and the Giants were playing at AT&T park. It was really cool. Myself and Diane decided to get off for a quick peek at Chinatown. I'm glad we decided to do that. It wasn't crowded, at all. After about 45 minutes of shopping, we hailed a taxi and headed back to the hotel for some much needed sleep after a very long and fulfilling day!
Day Eight (Return Home): I am heading home from San Francisco, and it is truly bittersweet! I have had such fabulous trip. I am exhausted and again have seen way more than I could've ever dreamt of seeing. I'll miss the walking, the cooler weather and the traveling in general. I'll be home tonight and back on WLOX Tuesday! See y'all then!
I did not leave my heart in San Francisco. Although the trip was incredible, my heart was with me the whole time, and it is back where I belong on the Mississippi Gulf Coast!