I love big cities. D.C., New York City, Boston, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia…  So, it probably doesn’t surprise anyone, Scott included, that when I was plotting our road trip from Pinnacles NP to his Nana’s north of Sacramento, I insisted we “swing by San Francisco” for lunch on our way.  It was an hour drive out of the way (plus whatever time we spent in the city) but I really, really wanted to do it.




San Francisco is one of my favorite cities.  I knew we couldn’t do it all with the kids in a few short hours, so I made a short list of what I wanted to do.   We had to be quick because our main objective was to get to Nana’s…

We started with a drive down the crookedest street in the world, Lombard St. 


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From there we headed to Pier 39.  We all enjoyed seeing the sites and walking around in some of the specialty shops.



The Golden Gate Bridge was covered in fog.




We LOVED watching the sea lions.  Their antics were so amusing.





We looked out at Alkatraz 



and posed in front of a heart.




Next we enjoyed some San Francisco sour dough bread for lunch…. shaped like a turtle (thanks to  cousin Jenna for the recommendation).




Before leaving Pier 39 we posed in front of two Wyland’s whaling walls.  We have a thing for whales.




Then it was off to Chinatown!!!

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Our oldest daughter has been wanting to visit China since she did a report on the country in the first grade.   We couldn’t get her to the Great Wall this vacation, but we were excited to take her to one of the bigger Chinatowns that we knew of.  She had saved her money to buy some souvenirs here and she enjoyed shopping.



There wasn’t time for a cable car ride but the kids enjoyed watching them go through the streets… our 6 year old read the book ‘Maybelle the Cable Car’, while driving in the streets of San Francisco (written by the same author as Mike Mulligan’s Steam Engine).




We headed for the Golden Gate bridge, hoping the fog had burned off.




It hadn’t, but the kids were thrilled to actually drive across it on our way to Gana’s house.






I love San Francisco and will eagerly leap at any opportunity to spend a little time in that fun and pretty city. We saw what we came to see, had fun, and were on our way to visit Scott’s nana, four hours after we arrived in town.

During our trek across California, we wanted to also make time to see some of Scott’s family that live here.  Scott’s aunt, uncle, and his cousin and her family live a few hours from Pinnacles National Park and graciously offered to meet us there and spend time with us at the park.


We met at a restaurant called Togo’s… we had never heard of it before, but Scott’s cousin described it as “like subway only better.”  She was right!  It was delicious.  Every time we have passed a Toga’s since the kids call out, “TO-GOs!!”  with great excitement.  I wish we had remembered to snap a picture during lunch but we were too busy chatting and eating and having a blast.  Just imagine 13 people gathered around small tables talking and laughing and eating and catching up on life.  It was great.


After Togo’s we drove to the the park (about 40 minutes away) and found ourselves taking an extended time at the visitor center talking and catching up some more.  Some of it had to do with the fact that it was 108deg outside, but mostly it was just because family is great.  Eventually we made it to the trailhead.





This was our first time meeting Scott’s cousins’ husband Henrique and their daughter.  But, thanks to facebook, I felt like I new them somewhat already.

Their daughter is the happiest, smiliest, most easy going baby.  What a delight!



We all took a hike of the Bear Gulch trail together…  all the surrounding rocks were very distinctive, clearly volcanic, and had lots of smaller rocks mixed right into them like chunky cookie dough.


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It was hot but our hike went through some caves which made it much more doable…  It was actually quite amazing how, as we approached, it was very notable natural air-conditioning. 


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We saw some wildlife in the cave.  We spotted a red legged frog in the cave (a threatened species under the Endangered Species act). 




Some other trail hikers helped us spot some bats!




After the cave we almost doubled back to re-enjoy the air conditioning but instead we decided to complete the loop trail.  I’m really glad we did as the rock formations were pretty along the far side.




As we hiked along, Henrique was ahead of us and found an awesome spot to do the Lion King pose.  Jenna’s response was so awesome, as she cracked up.  She is a WAY cooler Mom than I am.  The spot was perfect… We didn’t see animals gathering in reverence below but I assume they were.


Scott says this was totally safe and not as close as it looks


How could I not let my whole fam join him for a group pic?  I opted to take the photo though. 




Once we were back to the parking lot, we bid farewell.  It was such a fun time, and Scott and I both commented on how we just wish we could have had more time with them all. 




Still, we are so grateful for all the effort they went through to meet us and spend the day with us.  Family is awesome. 


After they left, we decided to take a hike uphill to try and see some of the Pinnacles this park was named after. 




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As we hiked further up the mountain we could really smell and see the smoke from a nearby wildfire.  It seemed to get progressively worse the higher we went, though the fires were miles away. 


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The smoke actually blotted out the sun.




Sadly, given the time of day (the sun back lit the Pinnacles) and the smoke from the fires, it really wasn’t an optimum time for viewing the pinnacles.   We did get this shot of one of the smaller pinnacles.




Our time at Pinnacles was shorter than other parks this trip, but a good time was had by all.




IMG_0888Scott had been hoping for us to take a hike down from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley.  It would be our longest hike, but it would have been all down hill and we would pass both Nevada and Vernal Falls.  Given our kids fascination with water falls, this seemed like a fun hike.  Unfortunately, we learned too late that there was no shuttle from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point, and the only way we could do this plan was if we had pre purchased tickets for a special shuttle that left early in the morning. 

So, we opted for plan B, which we weren’t as excited about, but ended up being great.

We took advantage of our campsite in Yosemite Valley and hiked through the woods behind our campsite to the beginning of a trail which would lead to Vernal Falls.  Unlike plan A, this trail went UP from the valley to the falls.  Because it was an upward hike, we were planning to go to the footbridge at the base of Vernal Falls and then maybe see about hiking all the way to the top, if we felt like it. 


The climb to the base of the falls was pretty steady and we stopped for water breaks many times.  In my head I thought, “yea, I think we will be fine just stopping at the footbridge.”  Only when we got to the footbridge, the falls was still a long way off and it really wasn’t an impressive view.  We all agreed we must press on.  

You didn’t have to hike too much farther to get a MUCH better view of the falls.  We stopped here for a snack.  And since I am not really a fan of heights, I was thinking, “Yea… I am good…. no need to go further.”  But, the rest of the crazy bunch was eager for more. 




To be honest, I was a tad grumpy for this next section.  It was a rather steep climb, I felt like all I could do was watch the step in front of me and try not to freak about the kids.  In truth, the kids and Scott were all great.  They weren’t going too close to the sides.  They were fine.  I was just a grump.







And Vernal falls was very beautiful and worth it.




It is also very large.  If you look carefully, you can see a person on the right side of this next photo…




We had hit another decision point.  We were basically at the top but there was that spot on the right… and to get to be where that spot was you had to go on up the last part which was a cliff side incline.


IMG_0958As you may have gathered, Scott and I have different personalities.   And I am the wimp of the two of us.  But, in our 15 years of marriage, I really feel like we have learned to work through these differences well.  Sometimes, I just bow out.  I know my limits and I recognize when no I can’t just push through and doing so just to be with the rest, will only ruin their fun b/c I will be a complete spazz the entire time.  Sometimes I sit on the side and Scott takes the kids to overlooks.  And I am ok missing the view.  And Scott gets it and doesn’t even give me a hard time.  Othertimes, he (and the kids) inspire me to push past the fear and share in the experience with them.  Scott gave me an out here.  He told me “Look, you can sit here, the kids and I will go to the top and then we will come down.  I get that you wouldn’t want to do it.”  But, this time, I didn’t want to miss the experience.  I chose to dig deep and press on. 


The view at the top wasn’t that spectacular.  We all agreed the falls were prettier from below.  But, that feeling of accomplishment of having pushed passed my fear, was so much grander than the view.  And this shot of all 6 of us together at the top became quite valuable to me.



Once we reached the top, we learned we could go down another route.  Scott and I were both quite happy to skip out on going down those steep sandy steps.  Even though it meant climbing higher to another point and then taking a longer descent down so we could go on a switch back trail.    So after lunch in the shade where the kids could dip their feet in a little pool of water and climb on rocks, we set out to finish the trail.  As an unexpected bonus, it took us to an overlook of Nevada Falls.  We got to see them both after all!

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IMG_0989It had us climbing quite a bit in the sun.  The kids did awesome.  We took it slow and steady.  This was Scott’s turn to be nervous as he was concerned about our water supply.  We hadn’t originally planned to go this far (the path we chose was less dangerous but was longer).  We were OK, but we were short and had to manage things a bit closer.  The entire hike we were surounded by the beautiful Yosemite Granit Canyon.





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IMG_0770We made it back to the campsite 5 hours after we set out.  Our feet were tired, but we were all pretty happy.  When we got back and looked at the pictures we had taken from Glacier Point the night before, you could see our hike… Here it is in red in the picture beside us. We chilled at the campsite for awhile and then took an evening drive around the valley.  We ate our dinner in a meadow.  On one side we faced Half Dome and the other was Yosemite Falls.  Pretty wonderful dinner view.







Yosemite Falls - Late July 2016 

The state of California has been suffering from severe drought the past several years.  All I can say is the circus fam did their part to conserve water.  You can count on 1 hand the number of showers we have had since entering the state.  I am good with not showering every day… however, I have determined that 4 days is my limit.  Momma gets a bit cranky after 4 days of not showering and will pay pretty much any price for a hot shower.  $5 was a steal of a deal.   The kids cleaned off in the river bed.  The ice cold river bed.  At least it got the layer of dirt washed off of them. 




It was a long but fun day and we went to sleep that good kinda tired.