Week 18 of our trip
10.07.2009 - 18.07.2009 22 °C
Having arrived in San Francisco in such style – the car roof down and music playing as we crossed the Golden Gate Bridge – the trip has continued to get even better. This last week has involved a trip to jail, canoeing on crystal clear waters, a Beyonce concert and some of the best hiking I have ever done. The US is superseeding anything I hoped to see, climb or eat – already planning a return trip to this part of the world!
View of San Francisco from the boat to Alcatraz
The classic Yosemite view of El Capitan and the Half Dome
San Francisco is a beautiful city, filled with steep roads and buildings that grip onto the hillsides at some impressive angles. We drove down the wiggliest road in the world (27% incline) – good thing that Americans generally drive automatics otherwise all those hill starts would be a recipe for chaos. Our time in the city started with a surprise (for me) night out to a Beyonce concert in nearby Oakland. It was an awesome evening of sparkles and glamour, and explains why we were listening to her new album all the way up the Big Sur!
The world's wiggliest road
We continued our all-American experience, going to see the local baseball team San Francisco Giants beat the San Diego Padres. Coached through the match by a patient Rowan explaining some of the finer points (i.e. the basics), it was a really good night out – the atmosphere was very relaxed and it seemed to be almost more about the food and talking with fellow fans, than the match itself. Highlight was probably meeting the Giants' mascot Lou-Seal!!
Lou-Seal, the Giants' mascot
In between sampling the culinary delights of the city (ranging from sushi, clam chowder and a Pakistani curry) we went out to Alcatraz, the infamous 'inescapable' island jail where some of the most famous American gangsters have been incarcerated. Rowan can now be added to the list...
Rowan in Al Capone's cell...
The buildings are now a bit run down, giving an air of neglect and you could imagine how awful a place it would have been. The tales of attempted escape using canteen spoons as digging tools and demonstration of how all the cell doors could be locked brought it alive. I was quite glad to leave!
We picked up our next hire car and headed inland towards the Lake. The temperatures soared! Camping in Emerald Bay overlooking the shore we got beautiful views of this special place, before taking to the water the next day in a canoe. It was perfect paddling conditions with crystal clear water and nothing to disturb the peace, apart from the occasional attempt by Rowan to capsize you!
Attack on the starboard side!
After such a short visit to Tahoe we headed into Yosemite for five days of hiking. As we will be visiting at least five National Parks we are now the proud owners of an annual National Parks pass for the value price of $80. I have been very impressed by how well set up the Parks are and how accessible they make the various trails and activities. The only setback with the Parks being so popular is that campsites and permits need to be booked up to 6 months in advance.
Perfect conditions for a stroll in the hills
Armed with our wilderness permits, a bear canister (containing our food, not a bear), and as much mosquito repellent as we could carry, we headed out. We based ourselves in the eastern area of the Park, Tuloume Meadows, which is a bit less touristy than Yosemite Village but still gives access to fantastic treks. Our first trek took us into the classic Yosemite landscapes, with big rolling hills and boulders covered in either forest or lush meadows (where the mosquitos mainly lurked). The second trip took us into more of the backcountry area where the hills get steeper, with sharp descents into valleys where the only way out seems to be up the other side!
Down one side of the valley and then up the other... the Ten Lakes pass
It was really stunning walking – lovely weather conditions and fantastic views. No sightings of a bear (much to Rowan's disappointment/my delight) but we did see some bear paw prints if that counts!
Laying the bear canister (unusual outfit is my 'mosquito defence kit'!)
On leaving Yosemite, we spent sometime with friends we met in a queue for clam chowder a couple of weeks previously, and who kindly welcomed us into their home (even though we were rather smelly after 5 days in the hills!). They shared with us a wonderful introduction to life in their home town Reedley, seeing a local theatre production, and eating a proper American brunch before drifting down a river enjoying the views. We left their beautiful home very reluctantly, and feeling incredibly lucky to have been able to share such a lovely weekend with them, but the next stage of the adventure bekons with enormous trees, the hottest place in the world and the chance to win back some of the cost of our trip....
Drifiting down the King's River
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