Tag Archives: California

Pinnacles National Park and Monterey Peninsula

IMG_2924.JPG Our visit to the newest U.S. National Park, Pinnacles NP, was a fun adventure.  The park is located about 20 miles south of our campground and around 40 miles south of Hollister, CA. There are actually two sections to the park and we visited via the eastern entrance.  The western entrance is quite a bit farther from us and the two sections of Pinnacles aren’t connected by road.  After seeing the visitor center we drove on to where the road ends and began a 20 minute hike to Bear Gulch Cave from there. This is a talus cave which means it was created by boulders and rocks falling and choking the narrow canyons creating ceilings, passages, and rooms (http://www.sfnps.org/talus_caves). The trail to the cave is fairly easy in spite of there being a few narrow passages and moderate inclines. We were only able to go into the lower half of the cave.  The cave is home to Townsends Big-Eared Bats, a protected species in the State of California.  This time of the year there are still bats in the upper portion of the cave so the public is kept out of that area.  We did see two bats on the ceiling in the public area of the cave.  There are many hiking opportunities in this national park, several appear to be rather challenging.  The short hike we took, though, is only considered to be “moderate” and, really, most any reasonably able person should be able to do it.

PHOTO_20140919_120043.jpg Our other sightseeing adventure was a day trip to the Monterey Peninsula.  The area is only 25 miles or so directly west of our campground.  However, because of the mountains it is actually a 60 mile drive on some rather busy highways.  We started our tour at the Museum of Monterey. The admission is free for the month of September. The first floor is filled with works by local artists. I especially liked the stained glass pieces of art. The second floor has historic memorabilia from the early Native Americans and other early settlers and immigrants. The Maritime historic memorabilia is quite impressive. There’s a captain’s quarters, items used on the sailing ships, and a variety of scrimshaw that is interesting.  Nearby is Old Fisherman’s Wharf with several restaurants, whale tours, and shops. Of most interest to us were the many sea lions that are resting on the supports of the wharf and also swimming below us.

PHOTO_20140919_142110.jpg After having lunch we took a leisurely drive along Ocean View Blvd. stopping at several public access places along the way to watch the ships, wildlife, and the waves. The views are amazing and there are many places to stop and soak it all in.  We saw more sea lions, a few dolphin, and a wide variety of birds.  At Asilomar State Beach we took a stroll down to look at the tide pools.

This was our last visit to the Pacific Ocean on this trip before turning east and beginning our slow journey back to Texas.


2014 – A day in San Francisco, CA

PHOTO_20140910_130317.jpg We’ve been looking forward to seeing San Francisco and it lived up to its billing. As much fun as being there was using the excellent bay area public transportation systems for the entire trip. After driving through morning traffic to San Jose we paid $5.00 to park in the SAP center then walk the short distance to the Caltrain station where we paid the $18 senior San Francisco round trip fee. We rode in a nice commuter very full of people and families, hearing lots of chatter going on around us. I noticed that the seats with tables are very popular and then realized those seats have electric plug-ins available, very nice for those using electronics. Although we stopped at every town along the way I enjoyed the view; seeing the homes, businesses, and some lovely train depots that have been there for many years. Upon arriving we bought day passes on the San Francisco MUNI.

100_3241.JPG We took the street cars from the Caltrain station to Fisherman’s Wharf. There are many restaurants, shops, and street performers. We walked along the boardwalk and looked over the bay. We could see nearby Alcatraz, ships and boats of every kind, and The Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. It’s an awesome place! Pier 43 is the National Liberty ship Memorial. We walked past saw the USS Pampanito, a WW II fleet submarine, and the SS Jeremiah O’Brian which is one of the last remaining WWII Liberty Ships.

We toured the National Park Service’s San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park Museum. It has lots of memorabilia from historic San Francisco dating from the early Native American inhabitants up through the 1800s. There are several dioramas, films, and audio stories of the early settlers. Hyde street pier, which is part of the park, contains Historic Ferries and vessels including a square rigger sailing ship. Walking toward Ghirardelli Square we saw the Aquatic Park Historic Landmark District where people were sunning on the beach and swimming in the bay.

100_3238.JPG Although they no longer make the chocolate here nearby Ghirardelli Square has a variety of shops and restaurants along with several Ghirardelli Chocolate shops. The Ghirardelli shops sell their chocolate as well as dipped ice cream and coffee to drink now and buy for later.

100_3248.JPG We headed back to the Powell-Hyde cable car where we waited between 15-30 minutes to get on. We were lucky enough to be allowed to stand on the back with the driver and see the view as we went up. It’s an amazing ride that I would do again. We got off at Union Square where you can find Macy’s and similar shops and then caught a bus and rode through China Town where we walked a little and got some lunch. It’s an interesting area with open front stores selling a variety of Asian foods as well as items for tourists.

100_3254.JPG After another short bus ride we walked up an extremely steep hill to the bottom of the very crooked and steep Lombard Street, nicknamed the “Crookedest Street in the World” and spent a few minutes watching cars turn and twist their way down.

PHOTO_20140910_165514.jpg We then took a couple of buses to get to the Golden Gate Bridge. The weather was considerably cooler there with wind and a foggy mist coming in. The bridge is an amazing structure and you can read about the history and construction in park right beside it. I was very pleased to know that the Golden Gate Park is under the care of National Park Service with rangers ready to help you with information about the park. From there we began our trip clear across town back to the Caltrain station, taking the bus and then a streetcar/subway. It was supper time and we stopped to eat. Once we got back to the train station we saw that there is a Panera Bread restaurant right beside the Caltrain and wished we had waited and gotten sandwiches to eat on the train. The train we caught was an evening train which was about full but emptied out as we continued the hour and a half to San Jose.

All in all it was a very enjoyable and tiring day. Some may prefer doing the more costly on/off bus tours around the city, especially for a one day visit. Really, with so much to see, a person could spend several days in San Francisco and not see it all.


Campground review: Morgan Hill, CA Thousand Trails

PHOTO_20140912_100056.jpg This campground is a mixed bag. The location is handy, just 25 miles south of San Jose and the southern bay area. The campground facilities are pretty good. I’d say that the center piece is a large, nice pool. There’s also mini-golf, horseshoes, volleyball, and other nice features, all in pretty good shape.

PHOTO_20140912_100603.jpg On the other hand the campsites are average at best. None have full hookups and many are rather crowded with campsites basically back to back with no room between them. The 50 amp section not only has a $5 surcharge but those campsites are pretty tight. The section across the road from the pool is, I think, the best. It has larger campsites and is handy to much of the activity section of the facility.

Several campsites are being leased to annuals and we felt that there was a larger percentage of older trailers in the campground than we usually see. Of course they are mixed in with the usual mix of 5th wheels and motorhomes. There are also three sections set aside specifically for tenters.

PHOTO_20140908_161252.jpg We’re in a 30 amp site and in the afternoons voltage drops into the 107-108 volt range. We’ve kept an eye on the more power hungry appliances and been careful to not double up on them. With September afternoon temperatures hitting the mid-90’s we’ve given the air conditioner priority. Usually by late afternoon the temps drop and overnight we’ve slept under blankets.

I think most people who want it manage to get a satellite signal and our Verizon is getting a 2 bar usable signal. In the booster cradle it hits a solid 4 bars.

WIN_20140913_180149.JPG Our weekend was interesting. As we arrived we found that many sites had signs on them saying the site wouldn’t be available over the weekend. On Friday a large group from a local school began to arrive. This all school camping trip is a longtime annual tradition. By evening there were tents, kids, and adults everywhere. Our campsite was right on the edge of the group and when all was said and done we were surrounded by tenters, with one tent pitched almost under our bedroom slide and two right outside our back window! However, the group was friendly and happy and we enjoyed them enjoying the campground. If every camping experience was like this we wouldn’t like it very much. However, for just two nights it was no big deal. It exposes a lot of people to the camping experience and I’m sure it generates a lot of income for the campground. Anyway, if you are planning a visit to Morgan Hill you might want to keep this second weekend of September annual event in mind!

If I were grading Morgan Hill Thousand Trails I’d give it a “B” on facilities and a “C-” on campsites. It’s a commitment but San Francisco is within striking distance for a day trip.