Point Reyes Peninsula

No visit to the San Francisco area would be complete without spending some time on Point Reyes peninsula.

It juts out into the Pacific Ocean about 20 miles, and is part of Point Reyes National Seashore.

We made a quick run in the late afternoon, and found nothing of real significance, although the sundown was nice.
DSC_7916_aThe lighthouse at its point does not occupy the high ground, but is at the tip and down 300 feet from the land mass. Turns out that was a good move, because fog is frequent and it generally is more dense the higher you go. This placement ensures the greatest opportunity for its light to be seen by ships on the water.

The wind is so terrific at the lighthouse point (they’ve recorded a gust of 133mph!) that trees just don’t grow until a mile inland. Fog is ever present, and temperatures seem to be 10 degrees cooler than the mainland.

The lighthouse was closed when we were there, and I wasn’t impressed by the lighting for a shot from 300 feet away…down the cliff….

Didn’t I start this post by recommending a visit?

Well, we read up about Point Reyes, and decided to made a return visit.

Good move.

First of all, it was a sunny day, so photos were more fun and stopping along the way was more worthwhile. You learn so much more when you slow down….
DSC_7847_aThe peninsula is about 20 miles wide near the mainland, and really has some convoluted topography with pretty dense forest in several areas. But the trees get interesting nearer the point where they quit growing.
DSC_7823_aDSC_7853_aDSC_7915_aThis last photo shows a line of trees that have managed to grow near the lighthouse point in the lee of the lightkeeper’s residence. They cling to the edge of a precipice with this strange posture!

Back from the point a ways, the ground drops down near the ocean level.
DSC_8545_aOne of us went closer, to capture the waves in a more personal way….
DSC_8692_aAll of this was interesting enough, but then we came back from the point a couple miles, and went over to a protected cove on the north side.

Elephant seals!
DSC_8430_aDSC_8465_aWe were kept back from their beach by signs and topography, but we could hear their roaring noises when the alpha male was displeased by the approach of another male from the water! The two smaller seals in the second photo were playing with each other, under the watchful eye of a seemingly amused older male.

But wait, there’s more!

The park undertook an effort in 1970 to assist in bringing back from near extinction one of the two types of elk that are found only in California, Tule Elk. They have done well here, growing from 10 animals to about 450.

The light was perfect, and this small group was grazing near the road. They were magnificent animals. Click on each picture to see it with full detail!

Turn slowly, face north

It actually wasn’t hard to leave San Francisco….there’s soooo much loveliness to see beyond it!

This time we turned our attention north. From Mount Tamalpais, we previously showed you the San Francisco Bay environs. Just turn around from that vantage point and you see this.
DSC_7770_aThe hills continue, usually right up to the coastline, where you encounter the famed Highway 1. On the way to the coast from our campground, we passed numerous farms, many of which are simply called vineyards, but which change emphasis the closer you get to the coast.

The one below seemed to grow almost everything…from cattle to olives to grapes to who-knows-what. Some farms appear to be very successful exotic niche growers while others seem unlikely to even scratch a subsistence. This one had the moon rising….
DSC_7821_aOur trips to the coast were nicely interrupted one evening by dinner along Bohemian Highway in the town of Occidental…at Bistro des Copains, an exquisite place owned by Michel and Cluney, two friends of ours from waaaay back!

In fact, we experienced the finest meal in memory that evening! Ahhhhhh…..

Oh, back to the coast.
DSC_7472_aDSC_7529_aDid you see the two fishermen in the last photo? Speaking of animals (just kidding…), the wildlife was interesting.
DSC_7398_aDSC_7605_aThe birds were almost unafraid of us, but the seals were protected from human interaction by signs and fences that kept us well back!

We just had a good time on a cloudy day winding our way along Highway 1.

They really pack ’em in

DSC_7782_aNever thought of it before, but hills are an excellent way to get more housing in a small space.

We’ve all seen the sharply sloped streets in San Francisco….they make high drama for car chases on tv….but they enable packed-in housing!
DSC_8253_aThis is the second most densely populated big city in the country. While they manage to use every square inch, right down to the water’s edge, it’s all done quite nicely…with parks scattered every few blocks, and lovely trails and green areas along the waterfront.

The suburb of Sausalito is a classic collection of all types, often portrayed as the home for artistic types and free spirits.
DSC_8224_aI think their claim to fame should be the floating homes gathered there….over 400 of them….after all, it was while staying on a floating home here that Otis Redding wrote “Dock of the Bay”!

These photos are dreadful in that we were there at low tide, so the mud flats surrounded everything. But high tide carries these small palaces about 5-6 feet higher, and provides the ability to take your boat or kayak directly from the front door out into the bay! Very remarkable multi-story dwellings that reflect the personalities of their residents!
DSC_8189_aDSC_8191_aDSC_8213_aBut wait, there’s more….

In the gorgeous boat marina right next door, among the tall masts there are some power boats….that house some permanent residents! Which isn’t surprising, given that the median rent for San Francisco is over $3400 per month, but a slip in the marina is $235…
DSC_8210_aUltimately, San Francisco is a very large, beautiful collection of diverse people. Speaking of which (whom?), I must say that the visit with Dennis and Heller on the occasion of their wedding reception in Point Richmond along the bay was a very special event!

In closing the posts on San Francisco as we head north, I leave you with this….click on it to enlarge, wait and do it again so it’s full size….the streaks of light in the sky are airplanes for SFO which is almost dead-center of the photo.

I left my heart, in…

DSC_7978_aNo….not Alcatraz….

Don’t tell me, name’s on the tip of my tongue…
DSC_7985_aDSC_8002_aYeah, big bridge, Robyn was standing in front of it….San Francisco, that’s it!

The Golden Gate Bridge dominates the San Francisco skyline from many angles. It was interesting to compare it to the Mackinac Bridge…both are huge and imposing…Golden Gate is barely lit at night, but its red paint is impossible to miss in daylight, whereas the Mac tends to take on sky and sunbeam colors, but it’s a beacon of lights at night.

Surprised to see three inspectors walking the cables!
DSC_7984_aWe were close to the tower, and the lens really pulls them up closer. Here’s a shot to give you a better sense of the scale (see the inspectors waaaay down the cable?).
DSC_8022_aWe had fun watching the city “come to life” as the sun went down…with a nearly full moon already rising!
DSC_8071_aDSC_8120_aDSC_8124_aDSC_8129_aDSC_8132_aAs we took that last shot, we realized there was a parade of boats in the harbor that were all decked out in Christmas lights! We rushed down into the city to the marina and caught some as they docked for the night.

Merry Christmas!

Our first Christmas in the Big Taxi was spent on the Atlantic coast in South Carolina.

Our second Christmas was spent on the Gulf coast in Florida.

This is our third Christmas in the bus, and we’re having a blast on the Pacific coast in California!

Although we miss seeing your smiling faces, we enjoy the contact by your comments here and on Facebook!

We send our warmest wishes to you, the biggest hugs of the year, and the greatest hopes for your new year!

You’ll notice the newest member of our mobile family….

Tall, bent, colorful

Trees, bushes, and vines: the Napa Valley and nearby environs have some pretty spectacular ones.

Vino is always on your mind around Napa…the fields of vineyards go on and on, up over the hill to the next horizon, tucked into every available square inch, in neatly trimmed row upon row. All the industry in place to grow those clusters of grapes….
DSC_7370_aDSC_7387_aAlthough the Valley is probably just 30 miles from the Pacific Ocean, there are no straight lines to get there and we can’t fly like crows, so it’s more like 50 miles.

Worth every mile. Look at the trees you get to enjoy on the way!
DSC_7613_aDSC_7812_aAnd finally, along the coast, where the wind is so strong and constant from the ocean that trees have trouble growing branches on the side that faces the water….

From Yosemite to the coast

We came down out of the Sierra Nevada mountains, and headed to the western edge of the continent.

Not so fast…

There’s a fascinating place in between called the California Delta, which is formed by the confluence of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers. Quoting from Wikipedia: “In its natural state, the Delta was a large freshwater marsh, consisting of many shallow channels and sloughs surrounding low islands of peat and tule. Since the mid-19th century, most of the region has been gradually reclaimed for agriculture. Wind erosion and oxidation have led to widespread subsidence on the Central Delta islands; much of the Delta region today sits below sea level, behind levees earning it the nickname ‘California’s Holland’. Much of the water supply for central and southern California is also derived from here via pumps located at the southern end of the Delta, which deliver water for irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley and municipal water supply for southern California.”

More important for us, our friends Ed & Dora live with their sons Dave and Doug in the midst of the delta in the town of Rio Vista. We had to stop.

So glad we did! They showed us around, showed us a good time, and showed us that the challenges of life come without warning or instruction for handling…and the solutions are just as varied!

We had a wonderful day and couple evenings with them, and even got a special send-off with some great cookies baked by Dave and Doug…Laura, you have some serious competition!

Sorry, no pictures from this private event….

Farewell to Yosemite

What a 10-day feast Yosemite has been!

We saw & felt & breathed so much….and missed half the park because roads were closed!

We leave now to head up the coast, but we’re going to return here on our way back south in March. That may prove to be too early for access through the higher passes, but we can hope for an early spring!

We leave you now with photos of the different moods and views of Half Dome. The third photo is taken from below, almost straight up at the face….I was standing in the middle of Mirror Lake, which is dry this time of year….

Rockin, part deux

I mentioned the scale of Yosemite’s cliffs and domes.

Click on the photo below….and then notice the helicopter.
DSC_7280_aThe park is stunning, inviting, comforting, energizing, mesmerizing, raw, colorful, shadowy, blinding, grand, personal…and a national treasure of incalculable value.

Yosemite rocks!

For me, the granite cliffs and domes of Yosemite were actually unimaginable….

I was acquainted through the glorious photos by Ansel Adams, but the sheer scale was beyond anything I’ve experienced before. The first view of the valley from our campground was from 3000 feet up on the mountain rim. Half Dome looks like you can reach out and touch it…but it’s about 15 miles away!

From the valley floor, El Capitan rises more than 3000 with straight faces!

The other unimaginable part for me was how changeable the views could be. In warm sunshine, the rocks and valley floor were golden and inviting. In shadow, they were blue and cold. One photo below has both…with snow (actually a heavy hoar frost) on the meadow in the foreground.

We observed Half Dome creating clouds…the air was quite cold, the sun was quite strong, the breeze was constant, and in a matter of seconds little clouds would form, then curl into a line, then combine into a ring, then move down, then dissipate….

Rocks literally fall every day…we observed nothing dramatic…but you can see some dramatic results in the following photos.

After spending a week in the park, some of it is still unimaginable to me. We were unable to reach higher vantage points in several directions due to snow closing the roads, so we’ve missed seeing some lovely alternate views of the valley and domes.

Aw shucks, looks like we need to come back….