Location: BINNA BURRA, Australia
Back home again after a very long night across the Pacific. Packed flight,but we survived,although I hate the way you are loaded and unloaded from cattle class through the business section, it's akin to rubbing salt into the wound!
We will have a few very busy weeks ahead of us-with all the rain and the February heat, the "gardens"are doing their jungle impersonation.
It's great travelling, but it's also great to be home again.
Hope every one enjoyed our journey.
Location: SAN FRANCISCO
Well folks-last entry. Have just spent the last couple of hours packing, re-packing, rationalising and swearing blind that we arent the only things that have gained weight. Of course, if all the books that we cant help buying were taken out-there wouldnt be a problem!! Big clean up in the morning, then taxi to the airport and home to morrow night via Air New Zealand and Auckland. Thank God the haul across the Pacific is easier than the long haul when we flew to NY.
Have spent the last couple of days making up for any lack of walking over the past couple of months. The weather has been glorious and so we covered quite a few kms. Yes, including up and down Lombard St (although going up was almost a hands and knees job) and kms along the waterfront- Fishermans Wharf etc. And by the way, its official-California has had its warmest winter on record-while the east coast is being buried under snow. How lucky have we been!!
So catch up with every soon. Back to reality in a couple of days.
Location: SAN FRANCISCO, North America
Sadly we took our leave from Yosemite for the final leg, the journey back to San Francisco. Came back down out the Merced valley and this time in the interest of speed and theoretically an easy drive out to the coast stuck to major highways. Cant say we enjoyed the days drive-very heavy traffic all the way into Emeryville where we stayed the night before returning the car and moving into the city by taxi and that would have to be the best ride. Apart from the fact that Arthur didnt have to drive and I didnt have to attempt to navigate, the driver was cheerful and knowledgeable and gave us a great commentary as we drove into the city.
We are staying in the Marina District, on the Golden Gate Bridge end of Lombard St. At this point Lombard is part of the Highways 101 / 1-the main coastal north /south route. Of course it is busy and noisy and lined with the old run down budget chain motels (one of which we are staying in). However, step back a block and the streets are lined with beautiful San Franciscan, ornate Victorian and Mediterranean style homes and apartments and village shops-bookstores, delis and bakerys. There is a bus stop outside the motel door and for 75 cents we can travel anywhere (aint it great being a Senior?).
We are also only a 15/60 minute walk from the Presidio and the bay with views of GGB. Havent been running hither and thither, just feel at the moment we want to spend the time exploring the local area, climbing hills (think car chases) and spending time around the bay which we didnt do before. Today caught the bus to the Botanical Gardens (very peaceful) and stopped off at the GGB as the sun had finally come out, but didnt stay long as the place was overrun with bus loads those **## selfie toting Asian tourists. The week end promises to be sunny so we will get out there early before they get out of bed.
Weather wise it is warm and although the mornings are overcast, it hasnt rained and the sun comes out by lunch time. We have been enjoying park bench picnics. To morrow its off to Fisherman' Wharf and if I can make up the hill, the crookedest part of Lombard.
No photos at the moment.not that Arthur hasnt been taking any-but nothing startling or dramatic.
We left a warm and snow free Lake Tahoe for a beautiful drive down the mountains and turned south for the drive to Yosemite-about 300km. We had two choices of highways the quick but blah route on the I/state 5 or the SH 49 that runs parallel through the foot hills of the Sierra Nevada. Of course this is the one we chose and found ourselves climbing hills and switch backing into valleys, only to switch back out again. This made for a slow but picturesque days drive. Once we were out of the mountains we found that Spring had sprung-in the middle of winter-trees were starting to leaf up, fruit trees were in flower and daffodils were popping up everywhere. Turned back into the Sierras and began the climb back up to Yosemite Valley. Unfortunately, a lot of this route was through hills burnt out by the disastrous Rim Fire of 2013. This fire was so extensive and hot a lot of the sequoias will never recover. At last into Yosemite park- our very favourite National Park. We treated ourselves to 3 nights at The Lodge at the Falls-literally within sight and sound of Yosemite Falls. Fiercely expensive but as we discovered the next day a good move and worth every cent. Ive told Arthur this is his 70th birthday present!! The only other accommodation is the Ahwahnee Hotel, one of the old classic NP lodges and if you have to ask about the rates, you cant afford it. The other accommodation option was to stay at El Portal about 10 km out of the park and not much less expensive. Being a week end and unseasonably warm weather (around 28C once the sun cleared the valley wall) most of America decided to visit. The place is over run, no parking and the queues of traffic exiting the park at night fall are amazing. This is a taste of what the park must be like in summer. The driver of the shuttle bus commented that the grid locking is so bad that it is quicker to walk. Unfortunately a lot of the services food outlets etc are closed for the Season-which means everything else just is not coping with the demand.
However despite this, Yosemite is as beautiful as ever, even though our planned snowy visit has not come to pass. The waterfalls are running but because there is not much snow in the high country, not as full as when we were here in April 2013. We were very lucky last trip that there had been reasonable snow over winter and Yosemite Falls was in full spate. We were even lucky enough to have an overnight storm that dusted the valley in snow.
We have enjoyed these 2 days because we havent felt the need to quarter the park, charging up this trail, or visiting that waterfall. We have just wandered the trails, taking LOTS photos.
Hard to believe it is so warm here and the East coast is being inundated with snow.
Big packing up job tonight, onto San Francisco tomorrow to return the car before moving to Lombard St for last few days.
Keep your fingers crossed that our run of good weather holds.
Addit -have tried to upload some photos, but there is so much demand on the i/net it is not going to work-will try in the morning. In the meantime refresh your memories from 2013 (which are prettier photos anyway)
MONO LAKE, BODIE STATE PARK AND LAKE TAHOE
Lake Mono is a large shallow lake,(and getting shallower) the main feature being the large rock towers made of calcium carbonate formed from springs rising from the lake floor. These towers or tufas are fantastic shapes along the lake shore- and out in the middle of the lake.
We spent a couple of hours out there-the lake was so calm the reflections were beautiful. Considered staying until sunset, but then the reeel serious photographers started to arrive with their reeel serious equipment, and we knew that it was time to go. There were already 3 guys out in the lake itself in waders with their tripods. Anyway we were happy with our photos with out getting too technical.
Bodie is north of Lee Vining, about 16km off the highway the last 5 of which are bone rattling unpaved corrugations, and sits at 8000 elevation. Difficult access after rain and impassable with snow. The park is usually closed at this time of the year unless you are on skis or have a snowmobile. Two years with out snow and here it is. We got there early and as usual had the place to ourselves.
In its hey day in the late 1800s the gold mines supported a population of 10,000 in the most isolated spot with the worst climate. 60 saloons and a red light district with street names like Bonanza, Maiden lane and Virgin St It was a real lawless wild west town, with a very colourful reputation-murder, gunfights and mayhem on a daily basis. The story goes that a little girl, when being taken to Bodie by her parents, wrote in her diary Goodby God, Im going to Bodie
Spent over 4 hours there-much larger area than Animas Forks .the ghost town in Silverton. Two thirds of the town burnt down in the 1930s and the buildings that remain are kept in a state of arrested decay-that is, there is no attempt to restore, just to stop the buildings from deteriorating further.
Very late leaving for the 200km drive north to Lake Tahoe. This turned out to be a long and tortuous journey as there is no direct route to South Lake Tahoe. Madame Lash tried to take us almost all the way north to Carson City and when we found ourselves driving down country roads around the back of fair grounds, I had to revert to the old fashioned method od navigating.. Thank God we had a Road Atlas. Im sure ML was on the right track but I didnt trust her, especially as she tried to take us out of Bodie on another unsealed road.
Late and just little stressed by the time we got to our motel.
We had intended driving around Lake Tahoe to day, but just felt we needed a car free day. Once again, no snow on the ground and not a huge amount on the slopes. Took our lunch down to the beach below the motel- a private beach if you dont mind, all fenced off, although today the gate was open and there was no one round to take our money-not that we would have paid, just on principal. However it was sunny and hot and very pretty with the mountains around the lake.
Another long days drive tomorrow to Yosemite. Three days there then turn the car in and six days in San Francisco. before we head home. Hope we dont get punished in SFO for all this beautiful weather we have enjoyed, by having 6 days of rain.
Will have some photos of South Lake Tahoe next time.
DEATH VALLEY REVISITED
Our return to Death Valley was a little hotter than expected, -not much cooler than when we were here before!. Spent the 1st day doing the drive out to Badwater (lowest place on earth etc, etc,) but again too hot to dally. Stayed the night at Stovepipe Wells-grossly over priced,-because they can!. Everything in the Park is expensive. However it was a comfortable bed with a/con, good thing because it didnt cool off much over night. Also spent a couple of frustrating hours trying to use the I/net. This was a holiday week end so DV was very busy- a bit of a shock to the system, we are used to having the parks to ourselves.
Up early to catch the sunrise over Mesquite Dunes, then a visit to Mosaic Canyon on the way out of the park. Beautifully coloured canyon walls, and actually reasonably cool . The big decision we had to make when we left DV ultimately our destination is Yosemite on the other side of the Sierras, was whether to head south around bottom of the Sierra Nevadas (boring route) or north via Lake Tahoe as there is no way across during winter. So as the weather has not posed any threats, north it is.
A very relaxed drive out of the Panamint Valley. (the road is still a bikers must do-and they were) followed by a lovely drive north up the H 395. The snow capped Sierras on the left and the White Mts on the right. Overnighted at Bishop (just a place to stay) then we continued onto Lee Vining- again a spectacular drive-BUT- 6000 elevation and no snow. Spent the afternoon at Mono Lake and because there is no snow will be able to access Bodie,a ghost town usually not accessible during winter. This was on our hit list last time.
So more of Mono, Bodie and Lake Tahoe next time. The weather is unbelievable and we are hoping it will hold for a few more days.
LAS VEGAS REVISITED.
Well, Las Vegas hasnt changed in the last couple of years-just as brash, crowded and frenetic as ever and so difficult to get around. The streets are packed with pedestrians, yet trying to get from 1 side of the Strip to the other-6 lanes of traffic + median strip is almost impossible. Few pedestrian lights and the occasional over pass. We caught the bus that shuttles up and down the Strip to get a photo of the Welcome to Las Vegas sign-about 3 km south of Circus Circus, -this also involved a further 15/60 walk. Reverse the process with a half hour stop at The Bellagio to watch the fountain display-and we finally got back home 4 HOURS later! Even the route from the entrance of Circus Circus to our room almost needed a packed lunch. As I noted last trip, you could die in this huge rabbit warren and no one would ever find you!
Had dinner at the Buffet, along with a wedding party,(there is a chapel on one of the floors)- about 25 of them, obviously just a family group, the girls and guys still in their gear, enjoying a meal to gether. I thought, what a great idea-$20/head,-usual buffet selection, all you can eat, and no arguing about whether you actually wanted fish instead of chicken.
We spent last night just out of Death Valley-in a reasonable hotel, but had considered staying at the Armagosa Hotel-put off by the price and glad we were-the place is a literally crumbling pile, built in the 1920s. Way out in the middle of the desert. Has an Opera House-where ballet and other performances are still held. Were shown around by the resident factotum. Interesting history of a ballet dancer/ artist but somewhat depressing and disturbing. Once again Google "Armagosa Opera House
Now in Death Valley, and it is so hot-about 32C, and very glary and uncomfortable with the sun lower in the sky
More of this later.
Just lost the connection halfway through uploading the photos-will try again when we get out of the park
Location: ZION NATIONAL PARK, USA
ZION NATIONAL PARK-REVISITED
Nice run down to Zion National Park from Bryce. Zion really is a canyon and we had forgotten how dramatic-almost overwhelming it is for a relatively small Park. Only a narrow floor-just wide enough in places for the Virgin River and the road and less than 10 km long, however what it lacks in size it makes up for with WOW factor ,with its towering red and white cliffs. Last time we were here I found it almost claustrophobic and couldnt get over the difference to Bryce with its 10 mile vistas. from the overlooks.
Anyway, had a pleasant and very energetic day-even more so because we havent had much exercise over the past week. At this time of the year there are not too many people and you are allowed to drive your car into the Park-high season, shuttle busses only. So it was good to come back but 2 nights were enough. Check out the posts for 2013 for more photos and info.
Now in Las Vegas for 2 nights. Staying at Circus Circus again-this time in one of the Casino accommodation blocks . 21st Floor, although not looking over the Strip-still the lights are something, Cant get over how warm it is we were here in early Spring last time and it was VERY cold.
It may be a few days before I send off any more photos-Internet is patchy in Death Valley and I'll send off photos from Zion Tomorrow
BRYCE CANYON NATIONAL PARK
Well, the timing with the weather has been perfect, and we were only too happy to miss out on slot canyons, after the beautiful day we have had in Bryce Canyon. Sunny day and the road out to Rainbow Point-the highest and furtherest view point of the canyon had only been cleared yesterday PM.
As I said previously, the drive from Page was also beautiful-200 km, skirting the The Grand Staircase Escalante, which is a huge wilderness area in southern Utah, The front section of this area is called Vermillion Cliffs,-which really are- these then step back in technicolour steps-cliffs of white, gold and pink. We noticed on the map a 10 km dirt road leading to the old Paria township, once mining and now a ghost town with an old film set from one of the 1950s Westerns. Thought this would be a great diversion and set off down what started out to be well graded gravel. However as we descended further into the valley, the gravel turned to dirt and the dirt to sticky mud from the rain the previous day. Finally after going around 1 corner sideways, running out of tracks from other cars who had attempted the trip and being faced with a very steep downward slope, we decided that was enough, cleaned cms of mud off the tyres, did a 16 point turn and very carefully pussy footed our way back out. Disappointed, but it was a very isolated area and didnt fancy spending the night there. We did however get some beautiful photos.
Up at dawn this morning for sunrise photos from Sunrise Point (where else) . Very cold, but we had the place to ourselves. Last time we were here there were so many photographers jostling for places to set up their tripods.
After going back to the hotel for breakfast and a chance to warm up, we drove the 20 odd km out to Rainbow Point, and spent the rest of the day slowly working our way back, numerous photos from each overlook. Couldnt do any trails down into the canyon-too much snow, but we did that last time. This was another tick on our bucket list-snow capped hoodoos.
Onto Zion National Park tomorrow-now on our way west again and only about 3 weeks left of our trip.