We just got back from a busy, fun-filled 15 days on the road. It’s been 6 years since we’ve gone on a road trip. It was time to get out there & show our kids the grand ol’ U.S of A. We went to 5 National Parks, 2 theme parks, a few big cities, slept in 10 different hotel rooms & put 3500 miles on our car. It was awesome & I would have liked to have been gone one more week. But, responsibilities were calling our name. I have only two complaints about the trip: #1: While in Disneyland it was HOT. One day it was almost 100º. That’s too damn warm for my Pacific NW body. #2: The fog at the beginning of the trip made it so we couldn’t fully enjoy the coast – because we couldn’t see it. Those being our only downfalls of the trip means we had a fabulous vacation. Here’s the quick version of our trip:
DRIVING TO THE REDWOODS
REDWOOD STATE & NATIONAL PARK
The first major destination we visited was the Redwoods.
Left: This particular redwood looked as if it had been struck by lightning. It was hollow. We went inside & explored. Thankfully no bear came out to eat us and no spider fell on my head (that I know of).
Top Right: The sun’s rays were beautiful all throughout the park.
Bottom Right: Paul Bunyan at the Trees of Mystery
Our main reason for going to San Francisco was to see the rainforest at the California Academy of Science. I knew the kids would love it. And they did. We also drove through town to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Top Left: The Painted Ladies. As a Full House fan, this was a treat.
Middle Left: The living roof at California Academy of Science. Among other environmentally friendly features, this roof keeps the science center 10 degrees cooler than a typical roof. I could do an entire post about this science center. I loved it.
Middle: Rainforest at the California Academy of Science
Still foggy. There was some kind of surfing competition going on when we were there. But, it was hard to get a decent surfer pic because of the fog. The kids loved it here. There were many pelicans on the pier & we played on the beach for a bit.
I have never driven this stretch of highway before. It was beautiful. But, what really caught my attention was the parking. There were a few state parks to park at – for a price. But, it seemed most beach goers just park along the highway. Highway, meaning the drivers are going 55 – 65mph and there are cars coming in and out as you go along. Seems quite unsafe. Luckily we found a perfect spot to park with a little more space between us & the fast moving cars. There are also homes right along the highway. I can’t imagine having to back out of my driveway right onto a busy highway. I guess it’s worth it just to have beach front property in Malibu.
My being an out of towner really showed this evening. I thought we could take a quick detour to see the Hollywood sign before heading to our hotel in Anaheim. That quick detour turned into hours. Blah! We drove to the Griffith Observatory, which was a great place to see the sign. However, it was not worth the time it took.
The one surprise of the trip was Disneyland.
Top Row: Splash Mountain & Pirates of the Caribbean are my two favorite rides in Disneyland.
Middle Row: We spent one evening trick or treating in the park at Mickey’s Halloween Party.
I was very underwhelmed with Legoland. The ride lines were long for crummy rides. And, it was kind of dirty. However, I did really enjoy the landscaping and all the lego displays.
JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK
I honestly hadn’t heard much about Joshua Tree National Park. The only reason we went was because it was something to see while we were driving from the west coast of California to the Grand Canyon. I was pleasantly surprised. There was lots to see & investigate. Farmer John says this was his favorite park.
DRIVING TO THE GRAND CANYON
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
THE Grand Canyon. I had never seen it before & it is grand. It is huge and wonderful.
Top Left: The Grand Canyon is beautiful at sunrise.
HOOVER DAM & LAS VEGAS
After leaving the Grand Canyon we stopped at the Hoover Dam and stayed one evening in Las Vegas. We stayed at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street. The kids said it was their favorite hotel we stayed at because it was “fancy.”
DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK
Top Left: Isn’t this exactly what you’d picture Death Valley to look like. It’s dry & hot. Death Valley is the hottest, driest & lowest of all our National Parks. It was nearly 100º degrees when we were there, but we didn’t go for any long walks so it wasn’t too bad. We mostly drove around in our air conditioned car & got out for short amounts of time. I really enjoyed it here.
Top Right: Death Valley is surrounded by beautiful mountains. If you are somebody who is in to rocks, this would be your heaven. I can’t even guess at the number of different types of rock in these mountains. It seemed that every time you looked somewhere else, you were looking at another kind of rock.
Bottom Right: Up on a mountain over 5000 elevation, looking down into Badwater Basin which is 282′ below sea level. A park ranger told us that this distance is deeper than looking into the Grand Canyon. The sun was setting & it was cold up on this mountain, which just seemed strange to be chilly in Death Valley.
DRIVING TO YOSEMITE
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
We didn’t do much exploring in Yosemite, but we did stay long enough for the kids to earn their Junior Ranger badges & play at a creek. We saw so many different landscapes on this trip & Yosemite gave us more new things to gauk at. There was a huge dry meadow, many trees & gigantic rocks. This made me realize just how much rain we do get in the Pacific NW. At our house, nearly every natural free space is filled with a plant or flower or tree or fern or moss. There’s certainly more growing in Yosemite than in Death Valley, but in between all the trees seemed to be more rock than plants. At home, we have more plants & less rock.
COLUMBIA STATE HISTORIC PARK
Along Highway 49 are a number of cities celebrating their Gold Rush roots. In Columbia they have a whole little section of town that looks like it did in the 1800’s. This was our last fun stop before heading home.
It was a fabulous trip with many memories made.