Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Yosemite and Discovery Bay November 2013

 All Pictures at the bottom!

 67 days until I summit Mount Kilimanjaro, or should I say I hope, I summit Mount Kilimanjaro.
While I have been hiking at least twice a week, I am not getting the elevation changes in I would like. I need to find an area with steeper hiking terrain if I expect to make it to the top of Kilimanjaro.

Now that I can fly for free (click here to find out how to fly for free) I decided Yosemite National Park is the place to go. I have been to Yosemite many times though always in the summer. Late fall should give me a whole different experience.

Dan The Man heard about my trip and asked if he could join. He is in training for the runting event last year, this year Dan The Man is hopeful for first place. I will not be able to make the challenge as it conflicts with the Kilimanjaro climb.
Krispy Kreme Challenge, you may remember we did this

Dan The Man had been wanting to try a bacon fried doughnut topped with a maple apple glaze and bacon bits at Dynamo Donuts and Coffee. Dynamo Donuts and Coffee is located in the mission district of San Francisco. Though not a Krispy Kreme, Dan The Man thought the diversity in doughnuts would help him for the up coming race.

We all flew out from Washington Dulles, Dan The Man decided to bring his kids so I
brought Margarite. It's Thanksgiving week, Washington Dulles was the only airport we could find a flight that had six empty seats, that we could print fake boarding passes for. To top it all off it was a 6 AM flight.

Once nice thing, we arrived in San Francisco at 9:37 AM, we had the whole day ahead of us. I never check my bags, Never, NEVER, NEVER EVER, check bags. Never say never, everybody else was checking so I checked. As we got to the baggage carousel our bags were the first off. Bag number 1, bag number 2, bag number 3, bag number 4, bag number 5. First 5 bags were ours,
unbelievable luck? There were 6 of us and 6 bags. You guessed it, my bag was missing.

No problem United said they would deliver it later to our hotel. Dan The Man had rented a full size SUV from National rental car, National is one of Dan The Man's  runting sponsors so they treat him very well. We decided take BART (BART) into the city and pick the car there. On arrival at National, Dan The Man was greeted with the fan fair only a celebrity of his stature could be offered.

They gave us a black GMC Yukon XL with black tinted windows. There was no way the paparazzi
would get a picture of Dan The Man in this vehicle..

First stop, Dynamo Donuts and Coffee, a stop well worth it. Who would of thought a bacon fried doughnut covered in maple apple glazed topped with bacon bits could taste so good. We all had seconds and thirds and fourths and so on and so on.

Now that we had our doughnuts we decided it was time for lunch. We were all getting a little hungry, we decided on Rocco's Cafe.

Our first meal in California and we were loving the food but had to get moving. We had a large list of
things to do in the city each on of Dan The Man kids got to pick a site to see.

Dynamo Donuts and Coffee was Daniel's choice. Next was Bizzy, she picked the painted ladies and The Full House house.

What are the painted ladies? you ask, they are a grouping of Victorian homes painted is beautiful pastel colors. These homes can be seen on the TV sitcom The Full House. We stopped at the painted ladies took some great pictures and then
proceed to The Full House house. This is the house the family lived in. Bizzy enjoyed her pick almost as much as we enjoyed the Doughnuts.

Next was the Golden Gate Bridge, this was Kathryn's choice. It was getting close to sun set. As we looked south east toward downtown San Francisco the sun was lighting up the building. At the same time the setting sun was giving the bridge a certain glow that only the Golden Gate Bridge can have. Perfect timing.

After several pictures, we took at walk out onto the bridge.

As the clock struck 5:30 we realized we had all been awake and moving for over 16 hours. We were still an hour from our hotel in Santa Rosa, it was time to get going.

The drive to Santa Rosa was uneventful. The girls and Dan The Man were beat so they retired. Daniel and I were roommates for the night so we choose to head out on the town. Being Daniel's first time on the left coast I knew he had to experience an In and Out Burger. No need to describe, the name says it all. After a Double Double burger and milkshake for me and a Double Double Animal Style for Daniel we
decided to call it a night.

Sunday morning, and we had a long day ahead of us. First thing on the agenda, church. We chose the Saint Rose Catholic Church just a few blocks from the hotel. What a lovely church and parish. After the mass we met with the priest. We had heard he is an avid Yosemite hiker and could pass on some great local knowledge. Father did not let us down.

We were all getting a little hungry especially those that had skipped dinner the night before. We found a great breakfast place called Omelets Express, the name does not even come close to doing this restaurant justice. The food, service, and atmosphere were all off the charts, great. Do not
pass up the homemade salsa for your eggs.

Why are we in Santa Rosa, let me remind you of what the date is. November 24th, did that help? One more hint Charlie Brown. Yep, you got it! It is Charles M. Schultz's birthday, the creator of the peanuts. On Charles M. Schultz birthday the entrance fee to the Charles M. Schultz museum is free. What a deal!

The museum was all you would expect, what a talent, not just a great artist, but a great story teller. The museum has a lot of things for the kids to do, like drawing and creating real comic animations.

It was 11:30 AM and we still had a full day ahead of us, next stop theJelly Belly Factory. Before we hit the factor we had to stop at Schellville Grill (http://www.schellvillegrill.com/)

What a great experience the Schellville Grill is situated at a cross roads, just outside of Napa. This Restaurant is run by a divorced couple. The wife runs the front of the restaurant while the ex-husband / cook runs the back. If you think they fought when they were married you should see them fight now. Topics of some of the fights while we had lunch:

How did he drop half a hot dog on the floor. Why did one lunch take longer to cook than another. Where is the second sandwich I ordered.

The banter back and fourth was entertaining. If you are near Napa this is a much see / eat kind of place. The food was fantastic.

We arrived at the Jelly Belly Factor at 3:10 PM the next tour was at 3:30 we browsed the company store until the start of the tour.

On a scale of one to ten, I would give the tour a three. To be fair it was a weekend and the factory does not operate on the weekends. It would of been nice if this was mentioned on their web site. I am sure if the factory was in operation the tour would have been more enlightening.

After the tour we loaded up on sugar and headed toward Yosemite. We decided to stop in Stockton, it had been a long day we were only three hours from Yosemite but it was getting dark, and we would be on small country roads, not worth the risk.

Daniel and I hit the grocery to stock up on supplies for our hikes. I was curios why Daniel wanted to join me, until he insisted on stopping at the In and Out Burger, he was hooked on these burgers.

We departed Stockton at 7:55 AM first stop Krispy Kreme after all Dan The Man and Daniel are in training, they not only need to be getting miles on their legs they need to be getting doughnuts in their bellies. We ordered several double dozens.

As we departed Stockton on Route 4 a heavy fog set in, pea soup kind of fog. Besides the fog the ride
into Yosemite is beautiful. We overwhelmed by the fire damage we saw from last summers fires.

We will be staying at The Ahwahnee right in Yosemite Valley. Dan The Man had arranged for us to meet his college roommate Dave Banducci, Dave and his family were traveling north to Oregon for the holidays. Dave is a very successful used car sales person in Southern California. We had an overpriced under served lunch at The Ahwahnea dining room. Would not recommend it.

We had a very scary moment Dan The Man had some kind of allergic reaction to the 8 Krispy Kremes he had eaten on our drive in. He felt light headed and nauseous. This could be the end of Dan The Man runting career. Dan The Man decided to take this issue serious laid down for a nap while the
rest of us went for our first hike.

We decided on an easy hike as a warm up, leaving from The Ahwahnea and heading out to Mirror Lake. This was a perfect hike. Flat 3 miles round trip. I have been to Mirror Lake many times, though this time was different. The summer had been so dry that Mirror Lake had dried up, it gave us a different perspective of this area. The views of the valley walls, Half Dome and El Capitan no matter how many times you see them, they are always breath taking.

As the sun was setting it started getting cold, we decided to head back. We had a great time and the kids enjoyed their first sampling of Yosemite.

The morning air was crisp as we headed out for what we thought would be an easy level hike. The hike we were about to embark on will take us by Vernal Falls and continue to the top of Nevada Falls. We decided to drive to the trail head rather than take the shuttle bus. While this will extend our hike by a mile we felt the flexibility on our return would be worth it (not having to wait for the shuttle).

The elevation at the Yosemite Valley floor is 4,000 feet, the walls of the valley rise to over 6,000 feet. Though it was 9:30 AM it will be sometime before we saw the sun and the air will warm up.

The first half mile of the hike from the parking lot to the trail head was a great warm up, flat and easy. That was the last time easy was used to describe today's hike. From the trail head we seemed to gain as much elevation as we gained distance. I was very excited we had picked a trail perfect for Mount Kilimanjaro training. Some points of the trial were not even trails but granite steps, hundreds if not thousands up them. What a glut workout. The name of the trail is the Mist Trail. One might wonder why the Mist Trail, currently it is the dry season and this year it has been unusually dry. The trail is as dry as dry can be, under normal conditions both the Vernal and Nevada Falls would be flowing at much more than the trickle we were observing. The heavy flow would create a mist that covers the trail, thus the Mist Trail.

As we reached Vernal Falls we decided to take a short break, though a light flow of water, it was still
a beautiful place to hang out and take in. Looking away from the falls you could see the depth of the valley. At 5,000 feet we were about half way to our final elevation of 6,000 feet.

The sun had crested the valley walls the air was warming. We all started taking layers off as we warmed up. Every turn gave us a new perspective of the valley and the granite walls, a perspective that was even more breath taking than the last.

We timed our departure perfectly and reached the top of Nevada Falls just in time for lunch. We found a rock clearing to set up our lunch and stretch our legs. We took an hour break, not just to eat, but to take in the sights and enjoy the beauty of the valley below.

We had hiked 3 miles and climbed 2,000 feet. More of an intermediate hike than a easy to moderate hike. We had two options to get down from the top of Nevada Falls:

1) Go back the way we came. 2) continue onto the John Muir Trail. The John Muir trail would return us to the trail head, by a different route. Rather
than 3 miles we would cover 4.5 miles giving the trail a more gradual slope.

Of course there was a third quicker option, that was to go over the falls. We voted and option 2 was the choice. They was down was just as beautiful as the way up, though the views were different.

We covered the 7 miles of hiking in 6 hours including breaks. Our elevation gain was over 4,000 feet. We went form 4,000 to 6,000, but the trail had a lot of ups and downs to double the elevation gain.

We were all plumb worn out, we decided to stop at the general store for junk food (we earned it). Once back at the Hotel we all just vegged out with junk food, after noon tea, and cookies, lots of cookies.

Today is our last day in Yosemite, we decided to head out the southern entrance in order to get a look at the Giant Sequoias. Before leaving the valley floor we wanted to get one more hike in. We picked the Yosemite Falls Trail. Because of our time constraint we did not expect to make it to the top of the falls. Our destination would be Colombia Rock or one hour 30 minutes which ever came first.

Today's trail was just as, if not steeper than the Mist Trail. While we are all in good shape and had trained for this trip our muscles were slightly fatigued from the day before. Thirty minutes into the hike and it was break and snack time, not to mention a great view of Half Dome.

We continued on and made it to Colombia Rock in one hour 28 minutes with a full 2 minutes to spare. The view of Half Dome from Colombia Rock was well worth the effort. As we started our
decent toward the valley floor, we were advised to continue up another 20 minutes to see Yosemite Falls. We took the advice, made a U turn and continued up. Eighteen minutes into the extended hike we came upon a bend in the trail, as we rounded the bend there it was, Yosemite Falls. We took a few pictures before heading back down and on to our next activity.

The Mariposa Grove is an hours drive from the Valley. As we left the valley on route 140 we approached the Tunnel Overlook. From the overlook you can see down the entire length of Yosemite Valley. From this vantage point you could see how the glacier carved the valley out of the granite.

Once we reached the Mariposa Grove we hiked to several of the famous Sequoias. We are not sure why but this part of the park was significantly more crowded than the valley. In the valley we felt like we had the park to ourselves. Here in Mariposa Grove it felt more like being on a busy city street.

I have seen the Giant Sequoias before, each time I feel as if I am in the movie Land of the Giants. These trees tower over everything in the forest. Hundreds if not thousands of years old. We could see a lot of the fire damage from the summer fires.

It was now time to leave Yosemite. Everybody had a great time, though like every visit to Yosemite
there is never enough time.

It was the day before Thanksgiving our plan is to have Thanksgiving with Margrite's brother's family. They invited us to join them on Turkey Dinner at their mansion in Discovery Bay, California.

We had a 3 - 4 hour drive. Our hope was to make it in time for the pre holiday diner, diner. They were serving taco salads.

For the past several years Margarite and I had been spending Thanksgiving spoiling ourselves in South Beach, Florida, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012. We decided it was time to change it up so this worked out perfectly.

We made it in time for our taco salad dinner.

Thursday (Turkey Day) was perfect. The Adults (if you can call us that) all chipped in with the
cooking while the kids sat next to each other texting and chatting with friends hundreds of miles away. Modern technology has made it so kids can no longer talk to the person next to them (I think their vocal cords have atrophied), but they can text for hours with kids across the country and around the world.

Finally the phones / screens were band from the house and we all had some fun with a little paddle board challenge. AA-Ron crushed the challenged, I swear her feet were duct taped to the board. She never even came close to losing her balance.

She beat me by a large margin in both races, one time knocking me off my board. Falling into the water normally would not be so bad, with the water temperature at 50 degrees, there were a lot better things I would have liked to have been doing than swimming.

Dinner was awesome, lots of great food and desserts. After dinner the food comma's set in.

Friday Margarite set up a three team scavenger hunt. We had three hours to find 10 items / locations. Our team won, but Margarite gave first place to the second place team, as she could not bring herself to letting me win anything. I felt bad for my teammates but they knew they were the real winners.

We had a little birthday Party for Kathryn it was her twelfth birthday.

Saturday was an early flight back to the East Coast.

Next week I am off to Colorado, want to get some high altitude hiking in as part of my training. Might even do some skiing, I hear the snow has been fairly good.




No comments: