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California Adventure

Anaheim, California

August 4, 2003

Disney's newest park in the Disneyland complex in Anaheim was a good day visit. While we were there they had a special X Games Xperience to promote the upcoming X Games IX which is being held in Los Angeles. The top X Games competitors demostrated their skills in the half pipe and in Moto X freestyle (where they are jumping motorcycles over 95 feet in the air and doing backflips.)

We really enjoyed three of the rides and the park in general. The roller coaster, California Screamin', was a long ride with some great elements. The Grizzly River Run was raft ride that got us all a bit wet and had some steep drops and a cool spin. But the best of all was an attraction called Soarin' over California. In this ride you sit in a suspended seat in front of an Imax like screen and it simulates you flying in all different types of aircraft from a helicopter to a hang glider. Wow!

Overall the park is a bit tame but these three rides made it worth the trip.

Hearst Castle

San Simeon, California

August 5, 2003

William Randolph Hearst built this during the 1920's based on his European travels. It is five miles from the coast with spectacular views of the Pacific and the mountains to the east. His father, George, bought the property in the late 1800's after hitting it big with a silver strike. They originally owned over 300 square miles of land including about 50 miles of the coastline. When W.R. was a boy they would come here to camp and when he inherited the property he chose to build his own "camp" here. He separated from his wife, who chose to stay in New York and he lived most of the last 30 years of his life here.

There are five different tours of the Castle. We took tour 1 which takes you through an overview, past the Neptune pool, the gardens, a guest house, through the entertainment areas of the main house, and to the indoor pool. Not only is the architecture beautiful but all of the art that he collected is also still here.

A must see.

Route 1

California Central Coast

August 6, 2003

An unbelievably beautiful drive. This time of year most of the hills are maize with dark green trees making for a wonderful contrast (though not quite as nice as it would be if the trees were blue.) The dark blue of the pacific and the white foam of the breakers crashing on the rocky coastline makes for another great contrast. The sunset over the water filled out the rest of the color palette with reds, oranges and purples.

The other great thing about this drive is the driving. The twists and turns are a lot more fun than the straight interstate driving that we've done on most of the trip.

As an added bonus, we found a great restaurant in Big Sur called the Big Sur Restaurant and Bakery that was almost worth the drive by itself.

17 Mile Drive

Monterey, California

August 6, 2003

Lone Cypress is the signature shot along this gorgeous drive on the Monterey Peninsula. We past all of the great golf courses (Pebble Beach, Spy Glass, and Spanish Bay and Poppy Hills) and it was tough to keep Sam and Max in the car instead of out on the links. At one of the stops we saw about 20 harbor seals on the rocks and playing in the water. The drive takes about an hour to an hour and a half and is great.

Yosemite National Park - Valley Tram Tour

Yosemite, California

August 7, 2003

This is a great way to get an overview of the Yosemite Valley. It is a two hour ride on an open air tram (read trailer with seats) that makes its way all over the valley. It is particularly good for the normal driver of the car as the roads need attention and many of the sights are missed.

Yosemite National Park - Vernal Fall Hike

Yosemite, California

August 7, 2003

A strenuous hike of about 1.3 miles from the valley floor to the top of Vernal Fall. Most of the hike is on the Mist Trail which covers the hiker with water during the wetter times of the year (when apparently the falls are much bigger than in mid-August). The final part of the hike is up over 300 stairs along the side of the falls. At the top there is a great overlook for everyone except those that are afraid of edges!

Yosemite National Park - Nevada Fall Hike

Yosemite, California

August 7, 2003

Continuing from Vernal Falls for another 1.3 miles is the trail leading to the top of Nevada Fall. The first mile is relatively flat but look out for the last .3. It feels like you are going straight up. The more adventurous can continue from here to climb Half Dome. We came back down on the longer John Muir trail that runs along the base of a giant granite face. I learned afterward that in 1996 an 80,000 ton slab of that wall fell traveling down into the valley at 160 mph. Nature can be awesome.

Yosemite National Park - Bridal Veil Fall Hike

Yosemite, California

August 8, 2003

A short hike of less than 1 mile roundtrip to the base of Bridal Veil Fall. Beyond the end of the trail the base of the falls is covered with rock fall and while a bit dangerous made for a challenging extra adventure.

Yosemite National Park - Glacier Point Drive

Yosemite, California

August 8, 2003

From the valley floor this is about a 20-25 mile drive up to an Glacier Point where you can see many of the features of the park. In the distance in this picture is Half Dome, Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. From another direction you can see El Capitan, Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls and the whole floor of the valley. This is well worth the drive and the easy walk to the point from the parking area.

Yosemite National Park - Tuolomne Grove Hike

Yosemite, California

August 8, 2003

This was a mile hike in to a grove of sequoias. The trees are truely magnificent but there are only about 15 or so of the really large trees in and amongst the other trees and the hike is pretty tough. I guess we were getting a little jaded by the readily accessible beauty of Yosemite so we were a little disappointed.

Marc Chagall Exhibit, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

San Francisco, California

August 10, 2003

The only stop in the US for an exhibition of Marc Chagall's work. A beautiful collection spanning his entire life. While the boys would not admit to being excited to spend time in an art museum, I think that Max really enjoyed the paintings.

The museum itself is very special architecturally and had a varied collection.

Alcatraz

San Francisco, California

August 11, 2003

The rock is a great place to visit on a tour. I can't say that I would have liked to spend much time as a guest of the Federal government. You have to book this trip well in advance as tickets to ride the ferry sell out over a week ahead. It is a short ferry ride to the island and then a short walk up the hill to the cell block. A short movie entitled "Secrets of Alcatraz" starts the trip - I don't think we learned any secrets.

The walk through the cell block is an audio tour narrated by former prisoners and guards, takes about 30 minutes and was very well done. We also had the chance to listen to a Park Ranger give a talk about infamous prisoners of Alcatraz, including Al Capone, Robert Stroud (the Bird Man), and Frank Lee Morris. You probably didn't know that Al Capone was responsible for the lobbying effort that led to freshness dating on milk.

This is a "must do" part of any trip to San Francisco.

 

Agate Beach, Patricks Point State Park

Trinidad, California

August 13, 2003

This is a spectacular beach just north of Eureka. There are cliffs with caves on one side, the beach which stretches a long way and has agates scattered along it and a rocky section with at least a hundred starfish readily visible.

We spent an hour and a half here collecting stones, throwing the baseball, and exploring. A truly beautiful spot.

Lady Bird Johnson Grove

Orick, California

August 13, 2003

An interpretive trail about a mile long through the redwoods. There are many redwoods here and the hike is an easy loop. These giant trees are very impressive and there are a lot of them here, including a number of unusual trees, some with hollow trunks others that are dead on top with growth below and a pair that look like giant Q-tips with green tips.

This is one of the nicer groves that I have ever been to and worth a stop if you are in Northern California.

The Oregon Helbig Clan

Springfield, Oregon

August 13, 2003

We had a great visit with Nikki, Ed, Teanna, and Kayla, including a great dinner and some late night conversation. They have a beautiful house complete with nice porch, hot tub, and pond with koi.

If you're related you have to stop.

Pike Place Market

Seattle, Washington

August 15, 2003

A fabulous market of fresh fruit, flowers, seafood, vegetables, meat and assorted restaurants and shops. The flowers were unbelievable, particularly the sunflowers. The seafood stalls are very impressive and entertaining. The vendors in the seafood stall work as a team and throw the fish around with a series of repeated yells.

We had lunch here. I had a fresh salmon fillet sandwich, Max had a Cajun Andouille sausage sandwich, Sam had wings and Pattie had a chicken teriyaki skewer all from different shops. We ate it in a public area overlooking Puget Sound. Awesome!

Be sure to go to the market during the day when the place is all a-buzz.

Harbor Cruise

Puget Sound, Seattle, Washington

August 15, 2003

A fun, hour long cruise around the Seattle Harbor. The tour is narrated and takes you past the piers and downtown, Bainbridge Island, the Todd Ship Yard, the port ship loading/unloading facility, a Russian submarine, Safeco Field and Seahawk Stadium.

This is a great overview of Seattle and when the weather is nice (as it was for us) this is a great trip.

Roosevelt Gate

Yellowstone National Park

August 16, 2003

After driving 800 very scenic miles from Seattle we arrived in Yellowstone as the sun was setting. The arch makes an imposing entrance and is a fitting match to the beauty of the park.

In 1988 there was a terrible forest fire that burned about a third of the 2.2 million acres of Yellowstone and the effect is still visible all across the park with many of the previously forested areas burned out. But, in all of those areas there is 6-8 foot high new growth of pines and aspen.

Yellowstone has a great mix of wildlife, wildflower covered meadows, gentle peaks, geothermal areas (geysers, mud pots, and hot springs), the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and water falls.

While Yellowstone doesn't have the concentration of impressive sites like Yosemite it is still a fabulously beautiful park and worth the visit.

Roosevelt Lodge

Yellowstone National Park

August 17, 2003

The four of us went on an hour long horseback ride through the plains in the northern part of Yellowstone. Max rode Decker, Sam rode Eric, Pattie was on Crow and I rode Travis (who had a reputation for being lazy and having a mind of his own.) The ride was beautiful and we just beat the rain.

I think that our butts were more used to the padded seats of the Navigator and something other than four hooved independent suspension. We sat down in hard bottomed chairs a little more gingerly that afternoon.

The wranglers, Sarah and Chris were exceptionally nice and Chris snapped this shot of Pattie and I. No cameras allowed on the ride for safety reasons!

This was good fun and a nice change of pace from the car and foot.

South Rim Trail

Yellowstone National Park

August 17, 2003

Sam, Max and I walked a mile along the South Rim Trail of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to Artist Point where we met up with Pattie and the car. The primary view is of the canyon, the Yellowstone River and lower Yellowstone Falls. Because of all the geothermal activity the canyon walls are brightly colored with yellows, reds, greens and blues.

This is a great spot and one of the three or four must see spots in Yellowstone.

Old Faithful

Yellowstone National Park

August 17, 2003

Yellowstone is full of geothermal elements including geysers, mud pots and hot springs. Old Faithful is not the largest of the geysers but the one that erupts the most frequently. It is very impressive as are all the other geothermal features. Parts of Yellowstone look like something straight out of a science fiction movie, with a stark bubbling landscape, with puffs and hisses of steam and a sulfurous smell.

At Old Faithful is an incredible Lodge built of logs with a huge stone fireplace. This is nearly as impressive as Old Faithful itself and worth a stop inside.

Jenny Lake

Grand Tetons National Park

August 18, 2003

We took the water shuttle across Jenny Lake. It's a $5, 15 minute ride with an unbelievable view of the Tetons from the lake. This is a great way to see the Tetons (and it cuts the hike to Hidden Falls in half.)

This is a must do if you are in the Tetons and a reason to go to the Tetons in the first place.

Hidden Falls

Grand Teton National Park

August 18, 2003

After the water shuttle across Jenny Lake we hiked the half mile to Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point and then the 2.5 miles back to the parking area. The Tetons seem to rise right up out of the lake and tower above you on this hike. The hike is relatively flat (except up to Inspiration Point) with great views of the lake, mountains, and the water running down the mountains to the lake.

Arch

St. Louis, Missouri

August 23, 2003

The gateway to the west is the tallest monument in the United States at 630 feet tall. Both the Statue of Libery and the Washington Monument would fit under it. We rode to the top in the tram, which consists of 8 little capsules that each hold 5 people in very close quarters for the 4 minute ride to the top. This picture is the shadow of the Arch on the Mississippi.

This is an engineering marvel and a nice addition to what looks to be a fun midwestern town.

Truman Presidential Library and Museum

Independence, Missouri

September 9, 2003

A great chance to see the challenges that Truman faced as a President from dropping the bomb to recognizing Israel. The movies are well done but the short film is almost all contained in the longer film.

We spent a couple of hours and could easily have spent another couple.