Monthly Archives: March 2013

Cool Lighthouse at Point Reyes National Park

About an hour north of San Francisco is Point Reyes National Park.  Once you arrive, you can drive about 30 minutes more to the Point Reyes Lighthouse.  During the drive up, you cannot see the lighthouse.  In fact, you have to hike to the top of the point and ascend down the backside of the point to see it.  The only other way to see it is from the Pacific Ocean.

Point Reyes Lighthouse

Point Reyes Lighthouse

As we hiked up to the lighthouse, we shot some incredible pictures.

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

 Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

v

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

To reach the lighthouse, you have descend down 400 stair steps.  That’s the easy part, coming back up is more of a challenge!

400 steps

400 steps

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

When we reached the lighthouse, we saw several whales swimming around.  I was not able to catch any great pictures of it, but it was really great to see.  You could hear them blowing through their blow holes.  Incredible!

Whale

Whale

After visiting the lighthouse, we took a couple of hikes in other areas of the park.  One of the things we saw as we were driving to the hikes was something that looked like a cross between a kangaroo and a deer.  Jackalope perhaps?

Deer? Kangaroo? Jackalope?

Deer? Kangaroo? Jackalope?

We first hiked the Earthquake Trail.  This is set right on the San Andreas fault.  This was a little unnerving!

Earthquake Trail

Earthquake Trail

Our second hike was the Kule Loklo trail, a brilliantly reconstructed Miwuk village that sheds light on the daily lives of the region’s first inhabitants.

Second Hike

Kule Loklo Hike

Second Hike

Kule Loklo Hike

Lynn almost stepped on this!

Lynn almost stepped on this!

We stopped by Drake Beach and stumbled on to a beautiful seagull.

Drake Beach

Drake Beach

Drake Beach

Drake Beach

After a long day of hiking, we made it back to San Francisco to find that the fog had settled in. What a great way to end a day!

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

San Francisco

Advertisements

Driving the Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma Coast is north of San Francisco, about a 4 hour slow ride along scenic highway 1.   We began our trip at Bodega Bay — this is where Alfred Hitchcock shot the iconic film “The Birds“.  There is not much evidence that the movie was shot here but you can recognize the area.  As you can see below, the coast is beautiful.

The Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma Coast

As we drove the twisting roads along the coast, it reminded me of Maui, Hawaii.  If you have ever driven the road to Hana and kept driving past Hana to the other side of the island, it looks a lot like this.  You will see cows sunbathing and enjoying the day.

Cows on the coast

Cows on the coast

Cows on the coast

Cows on the coast

After about 4 hours, we made our way to Point Arena to see the famous Arena Lighthouse.  As you can see, the views are incredible.

Point Arena

Point Arena

Point Arena

Point Arena

Point Arena

Point Arena – Ski Jacket and Flip Flops!

Point Arena

Point Arena

Point Arena

Point Arena

Point Arena

Point Arena

As we made our way towards the Sonoma wine country, we saw a lot of really cool farms.

Cool farms

Cool farms

Cool farms

Cool farms

After an hour on a long and winding road, we made it to the Navarro winery.  This is a cool winery that has some great white and red wines.  When we got there, we were famished, so we bought some wine and cheese and had a little picnic.

Navarro Winery

Navarro Winery

Navarro Winery

Navarro Winery

Picnic at Navarro Winery

Picnic at Navarro Winery

Navarro Winery

Navarro Winery

Our final stop for the day was Yorkville Cellars, a winery that uses sheep to groom their grass and fertilize the grapes.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen sheep in a vineyard before but hey, if it works…

Sheep providing fertilizer

Sheep providing fertilizer

xx

Yorkville Cellars

A couple of days in Napa Valley

We spent the past 2 days in Napa Valley seeing the awesome landscapes and visiting the wineries.  Anyone that knows me knows that I like wine but I am not a sophisticated wine drinker.  But I did learn more about wine during this trip.

We made it to Napa!

We made it to Napa!

First of all, I learned that when you go to dinner and order wine and they allow you to taste it before pouring a full glass that it has a reason.  I always thought it was to determine if the wine tasted good.  Nope.  Wine that has a cork can actually have a fouled cork which causes the wine to go bad.  If that happens, it tastes like wet cardboard or wet dog.  Yep, I said wet dog.  So the small pour is to allow you to detect if the cork was fouled and if so, you can send it back.

Robert Mondavi Winery

Our first tour was the Robert Mondavi Winery.  Here we learned how making red wines are vastly different than white wines.  With red wines, they ferment with the grape skins which gives them the red color.  They normally ferment twice in oak barrels for a time span of about 18 months.  With white wines, they press the juice out of the skins and they are also fermented twice, once in oak barrels and again in steel canisters.

Mandovi Winery

Mondavi Winery

Red wines fermenting

Red wines fermenting

After visiting Mondavi, we were famished. We had lunch at the iconic Mustards, the food was incredible.

Mustards

Mustards

Inglenook Winery

Our next stop was the Inglenook Winery.  It is owned by Francis Ford Coppola, the creator of the movie “The Godfather”.  The winery has a museum that is free to visit but the wine tasting was spendy — $50 per person.  We decided to just visit the museum, but the grounds were incredible.

Inglenook Winery

Inglenook Winery

Inglenook Winery

Inglenook Winery

Sterling Winery

We were told that Sterling was the Disney World winery because it sits atop a mountain and you must take a gondola to visit.  It met that criteria and also had incredible architecture.  It has a very Mediterranean look, you feel as if you are in Greece. Their tour is self guided and really well done.  Because it is audio/video, it puts images to the stories told by other tours.

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery

Sterling Winery – shot from the gondola

Beaulieu Vineyard

This was probably our favorite winery in terms of taste, their reds really have a nice flavor.

BV Winery

BV Winery

BV Winery

BV Winery

Domaine Chandon

We started day 2 with a champagne tasting.  This was our first taste of bubbly and was a good place to start.

xx

Domaine Chandon – The Bubbly

Rutherford Hill Winery

Our next stop was at Rutherford Hill.  They store their wine in a cave for fermenting so it was really fun to visit.  They also have a link with the show The TopChef, so it was interesting to hear that they shot some episodes there.

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery – The Caves

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery – The Caves

They had a special class of wine called Episodes.  The cost is $200 a bottle, but you could taste it for $10.

Rutherford Hill Winery

Rutherford Hill Winery

Frogs Leap

Our final wine tasting for the day was Frogs Leap.  It had the best tour, as it is an organic winery where they don’t use pesticides or irrigation.  Everything is done naturally and very methodically.

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

The grounds were incredible, they keep their fermenting barrels in a barn.

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

Frogs Leap Winery

The wine maker’s dog went along with the tour, she was very sweet!

Castello di Amorosa

Our final stop for the day (no wine tasting) was at a castle. It was really beautiful, we just visited the grounds.

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Discovering Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park.

After visiting the Sequoia National Park, we made our way to Yosemite National Park.  We stayed in the Yosemite View Lodge, right at the entry to Yosemite.  Our hotel was a bit dated but backed up to the rushing river. That was really cool because you could hear the river at night.  Makes for some great sleeping.

Our river view from the hotel

Our river view from the hotel

I have always been a big fan of Ansel Adams.  He is the world famous photographer that grew up in San Francisco but lived most of his life in Yosemite National Park where  he became famous for his black and white landscape photography.  His gallery is in Yosemite and we were able to schedule a 1.5 hour “camera walk” where a professional photographer from his gallery took us to some of the spots where Ansel took his iconic pictures and explained light and composition.  This was WAY cool.

In the spirit of appreciation, here are some pictures I shot in black and white during our trip:

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

The colors in the spring are incredible, so I can’t leave you hanging without some color.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

DSC_0175

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Giants in Sequoia National Park

As a kid growing up in south Georgia, I spent a lot of time hunting in the Georgia pines.  Spending most of adult life in Colorado, I’ve skied through forests of evergreens.  But I’ve never seen anything like this.  Sequoia National Park in California has incredible redwoods that defy logic. They are huge.  Incredibly surreal.

Huge redwoods

I look like an ant next to this Sequoia

The root system of these giants are large.  Notice the guy walking to the left of these roots.

Incredible root system

Incredible root system

We started our trip into Sequoia National Park by hiking up 400 steps to Moro Rock.  The reward for this challenging hike is the spectacular views of the western half of Sequoia National Park and the Great Western Divide.

Moor Rock

Moor Rock

Our next stop was the General Sherman tree.  The National Park Service lists the General Sherman Tree as 274.9 feet tall and 102.6 feet in circumference at its widest point. It is not the tallest tree, or the widest, but in sheer volume it is the largest tree in the world. Its trunk consists of 52,500 square feet of wood.   And the tree is over 2,000 years old!

General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree

After visiting the General Sherman tree, we took the Canyon Trail hike, a 2 mile hike through the giant sequoias.  Here are a few pics we snapped along the way.

Canyon trail

Canyon trail

Canyon trail

Canyon trail

Canyon trail

Canyon trail

Canyon trail

Canyon trail

Canyon trail

Canyon trail

We finished our visit of the Sequoia National Park by driving through the log tunnel.

Tunnel Log

Tunnel Log

No trip to California is complete until you visit the world famous In-and-Out burger.

In and Out Burger

In and Out Burger

The cost of gas in California is definitely higher than Florida, check out the cost per gallon:

photo1

On  the way to Yosemite, we spotted this interesting tree house.  I would like to have one of these!

Your next house?

Your next house?

On the Road Again

After our 3 month South American trip last fall, we settled into our Florida home for the winter.  Florida had a mild winter, so I played a lot of golf, fished a lot and enjoyed boating.  Now that the winter is coming to a close, we are about to hit the road again.

Something that dawned on us was that it would be great to rent our condo during the peak Summer season so that we could use that income to further fuel our travels. We hired a property manager to manage the listing so that we don’t have to hassle with it, you can see the listing on VRBO here: http://www.vrbo.com/456233.

Yesterday, we went fishing and caught a nice mess of fish.  We cleaned them and gave them to the staff at Runaway Bay to cook.  They were excellent, we had them fry some and blacken the others.  Enough to feed 4 of us and as fresh as you can get!

Fish to feed four

Fish to feed four

Fishing from our ski boat!

Fishing from our ski boat!

Other than fishing, the past month has been consumed with readying our place for the summer rental season.  We’ve been packing up personal items, spring cleaning, and getting rid of items we have accumulated but no longer need.  Goodwill loves us. We’ve been visiting them every week for the past month.  It is very empowering to get rid of stuff.  Stuff we don’t use or need.  Goodwill is great because we know it will go to someone who needs it more than us.

Next Friday we hit the road for a month.  We plan to spend a week in Colorado with our boys. We hope to do some fun things — visit some museums, do some site seeing and maybe even head up to the mountains.   From there we head to California.   We have always wanted to go to Napa Valley, so we plan to do that and more.  I love photography, so we plan to go to Yosemite National Park and take the Ansel Adam photography tour, seeing many of the great shots he took there.  We also plan to hike up to the awesome waterfalls in Yosemite.

Then we plan to head to Napa Valley for a few days of wine tasting.  We visited the Colorado wine country last year and had a blast, so I am sure this will be even more impressive.    We will then head up to the Redwood Forest National Park to see the huge redwoods.  Then we plan to drive down the Pacific Coast highway to San Francisco for a few days.  We really want to visit Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf.

We will then head south to San Diego, stopping off in Carmel for a while.  I’ve always wanted to see the San Diego zoo, so I am very excited to see it.  On the way back, we plan to stop into Las Vegas to see a show and then visit the boys in Colorado for a few days before heading back home.  On the way home, we hope to visit our friends in Dallas.

When we return mid April, we will only have a few weeks before we hit the road again. We plan to spend the summer in Seattle, Victoria Island (Canada) and Vancouver Canada.  We may even do an Alaskan cruise.  We still have some planning to do for the summer, let us know if you have some cool places you’ve visited on the west coast.

Finally, in January, I started thinking about a cool smart phone app I would like to create.  We were doing some travel earlier  this year and I stopped at a hotel and forgot my Hilton’s rewards card.  I thought it would be cool to have an app that I could use to retrieve that information at the touch of a button.   In fact, it could hold website passwords and any other personal information that is useful to have at your fingertips. To be very cool, it would need to work on your desktop, web browser, tablet and smart phone — and the data would have to be encrypted to be secure.

So I built a business plan, figured out it was viable and started working a few hours a day to create it.  Here is the prototype for the web interface.  The cool thing about software product development is that you can work as little as you want, it does not interfere with travel, and it allows you to keep your mind sharp.   Let me know what you think!

aMemoryJog - the new app

aMemoryJog – the web version (smart phone and tablet coming soon)