Muir Woods – Day 7

We woke up on Friday with the sad remembrance that it was our final day of vacation. However, thanks to a red eye flight, we pretty much had the entire day to do some final exploring!

Chris fixed breakfast for us again on our final morning at her lovely home. This time we had bagels, fruit, ham, sausage, eggs, and hashbrowns. It was yummy!

From her house we drove a couple of hours over to Atwater to visit the Castle Air Museum. Andrew loves aviation and he was super excited to visit this place. I don’t remember the exact number of planes they had, but it had to have been over 30? 40?

The admission price was $15 which I don’t think was worth it. Everything was outside in the boiling hot sun which definitely detracted from the enjoyment level. They also had a small museum you could walk through. It again was okay, but nothing special.

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 10.46.27 AM

Perhaps the coolest thing they had (IMHO) was Air Force One!

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 10.46.51 AM

Anyways, by this point it was around 12:30pm so we started trekking back to SF to figure out what to do with the rest of our time. During this point we decided we were going to try and visit Muir Woods!! We had heard so many good things about it that we knew we had to at least make an effort to see some coastal redwoods.

It was a long drive but got there around 3:30pm or so and were able to find a parking spot. Our suggestion is to visit early in the morning or a couple of hours before close. Parking is scarce and the popularity of this place continues to increase.

We were SO glad we decided to visit. I mean, check out these trees. Beautiful!

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 10.47.24 AM

Muir Woods also has a few different trails you can hike on, but we weren’t really prepared for that. We stuck to the main loop and walked slowly taking in all the scenery. It’s hard to believe that Muir is so close to San Francisco because it feels other worldly.

Screen Shot 2017-07-22 at 10.47.53 AM

After hanging out there for a couple of hours we decided to head back to SF. Andrew was tired of driving and truth be told, we mainly wanted to just get rid of the rental car. As nice as it was, it was also a hassle and we didn’t want to deal with parking in SF.

We returned it and then decided to head to the airport early since we had nothing to do with our suitcase. We got to the airport around 7pm, did security, and then ate dinner at one of the sit-down restaurants since our flight wasn’t leaving until midnight.

I know, I know, we could have spent more time in the city. But we were pooped so we were fine with chilling in the airport and taking it easy.

We finally made it home around 2pm the next afternoon. We were tired, but so thankful for our time in California! It was an unforgettable trip!


Yosemite National Park – Day 6

The big day had finally arrived! After months of planning and reading numerous blogs, we were going to Yosemite National Park! (Side Note: Earlier this summer I finished a three-book series on Teddy Roosevelt, so that also added to my excitement)

We woke up at 6am on Thursday morning so that we could get ready, pack our hiking bags, etc. Chris had breakfast on the table for us at 6:30…and what. a. spread.

She fixed waffles, pancakes, ham, sausage, eggs, and fruit. It was marvelous. And a good way to begin a long day of hiking!

We then left the house around 6:50am as we had a one hour drive to the gate. We again drove on very narrow, winding roads and I think I had my arms on the dash in pure terror the whole way. My husband is a saint for dealing with me.

We made it to the gate around 8:05am and headed straight for Tunnel View. We got there and were surprised to see that it actually wasn’t all that busy. We took some photos, but they can’t even begin to do that view justice.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 7.55.30 PM

I actually took this photo later in the day around 5pm when we were passing back by. But, Tunnel View is awe-inspiring at any point in the day!

After enjoying this view, we went chasing waterfalls (and it wouldn’t be the last time that day either). When you leave Tunnel View, you can drive a couple miles back down the road and stop at Bridalveil Falls. We were so excited and then we saw it!

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 7.58.43 PM

Don’t get me wrong. Bridalveil was lovely. But man, just wait until you see the photos down below.

Once you leave Bridalveil, you’ll re-join the road that leads into the main part of the Valley where you can park. We chose a parking lot near to the Visitor’s Center. There were plenty of spots available and we had no trouble parking. Remember: Gate by 8! Do this and you should have no problems.

We then walked around for a bit to get ourselves oriented and then hopped a shuttle bus to the Happy Isles shuttle stop. The shuttle was easy and not crowded early in the morning.

Once at Happy Isles, we found the trailhead for Vernal Falls and began our hike on the Mist Trail. We were accompanied by a lot of other people as this is the signature hike in the Valley. I definitely understand why. After you hike .8 miles, you come to the footbridge.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.02.29 PM

I can’t quite remember if this photo was at the footbridge or not, but I had to post it. From the footbridge it’s another .7 miles to the top of the falls. You begin ascending stone steps that are right next to the falls…hence the name the “Mist Trail.” Here’s the thing though. This year, Yosemite got way more snow than usual. The waterfalls are typically drying up by this point in the summer. However, thanks to the snow, it’s more like the “Shower Trail” as the snow is still melting and the waterfalls are all raging. It was awesome and I am so thankful that we were fortunate to get to go this year!!

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.05.33 PM

As you can see, I came prepared with a poncho! That’s the falls right behind me!

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.13.13 PM

Now THAT’s a waterfall! It was spectacular! And the view from the top was pretty nice also.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.14.58 PM

We hung out at the top for a bit drinking water and eating some snacks. Even though the hike up wasn’t too far, it was really hot and we wanted to practice smart hiking.

Once at the top, we decided to continue to Nevada Falls so that we could then connect in with the John Muir Trail for the descent.

Nevada Falls is also incredible. The hike thinned out people-wise at this point too, so we actually felt like we were in nature and not on a field trip. This hike had some shade, but it was mostly in the sun as you traversed rocky switchbacks. Fear not though. Mostly anyone can do this hike. Just take it slow and make sure to take breaks. You’ll be fine.

We made it to the top of Nevada Falls and again took some time to drink water and eat some snacks. The top was incredible, but I think I enjoyed it too much. I didn’t take nearly as many photos. No regrets.

We decided then that we should start trekking back down to the trailhead. We connected in with the John Muir Trail which actually makes this hike longer, but the benefit is different scenery and you don’t have to traverse the wet steps of Vernal Falls again as lines of people continue to clamber up. You also get this spectacular view of Nevada Falls and Liberty Cap on the way down.

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.18.16 PM.png

Man. I love nature!

The only downside of our day at Yosemite was waiting for the shuttle bus once we got back to the trailhead. There were a ton of people waiting for the bus so we had to watch a few go by before there was space for us. Once on, it was highly crowded and we got stuck in Valley traffic on our way back to the Visitor’s Center. All in all though, we didn’t mind too much. It was nice just to be out of the heat. Plus, it was nice to see so many people enjoying nature.

Once we made it off the bus we decided to eat at Degnan’s Deli for lunch. By this point it was already 4pm so the plus side was no lines! We both ordered pizza at the kiosk and then bought Gatorade to accompany it. The pizza wasn’t too unreasonably priced and it was really good! We both ate our whole pizzas.

We then headed back to the car so we could drive out to Glacier Point. It’s an hour from the valley and you pass by Tunnel View on the way. The roads are once again super curvy and narrow so I didn’t enjoy that, but I knew it would be worth it.

We had originally planned to hike out to Taft Point which is really close to Glacier Point, but then Nevada Falls happened. We had planned to turn around at the top of Vernal but decided that Nevada would also be cool to see. So unfortunately we didn’t have time to hike to Taft. I’ll certainly do it next time I’m there though.

We got to Glacier Point around 6:15pm or so. I know I’ve said this a lot, but the view was incredible!

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.26.29 PM

This was Andrew’s favorite part of the day and that made me happy because by this point, his ear was screaming at him and he was tired of driving. We both really enjoyed Glacier Point and I’m glad we made the trek out to see it.

As we were leaving we were stopped by two guys from NY who asked if we could give them a ride back to their car. They had parked at McGurk Meadow which was 8 miles down the Glacier Point Road and had spent the day hiking their way to Glacier Point. We told them to hop in and had a nice chat about life, hiking, and Germany (random, I know). They were nice dudes and it made for a nice Yosemite memory too.

Once we dropped them off we headed back to our AirBnB. We got there around 9pm and chatted with Chris for a bit and listened to her tales of backcountry camping and snowshoeing Yosemite in the winter. Seriously, please stay at her house if you go to Yosemite. You can find a link to her listing in my previous day’s post.

Then, it was time for the big finale to our day: we each had a nice soak in Chris’ old-school bathtub AND IT WAS GLORIOUS. I could feel my body aching by the bath was so soothing. Then, it was off to bed.

Our big day in Yosemite had gone far too quickly, but we left feeling that we had made the most of it.

Have you been to Yosemite? What was your favorite part?


San Francisco to Sequoia – Day 5

On Day 5 we said goodbye to San Francisco and hello to the start of a journey to 2 National Parks.

We checked out of our hotel and headed over to City Rent a Car. Their location was a couple miles from our hotel so we got over the pretty quickly. We definitely recommend using them for your car rental needs. The guys at the front desk were super nice and another bonus is that you can return your car after hours. That was a major selling point for us considering that places like Enterprise did not offer that option.

So, we headed out in our Nissan Sentra and were able to easily navigate ourselves across the Oakland Bridge. Since it was around 8:30am we thought we might hit morning traffic, but nope. It was quick and easy!

And so began our long drive to Sequoia National Park! We skipped breakfast this morning (oops) so we decided lunch at 11:30am wasn’t too early. Andrew had never been to In-N-Out so that’s where we decided to eat.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 10.58.25 AM

We both got the double-double with Animal Style fries. This was my second time eating there and I still don’t fully understand the hype? Don’t get me wrong. I definitely enjoyed my meal, but west coast people always talk about In-N-Out like it’s the best food EVER. Perhaps their love for this place is similar to east coast people’s love for Shake Shack? Anyways, I did enjoy my lunch. Promise!

From there we kept trekking to Sequoia. We made it to the entrance gate around 1:30pm or so. Unfortunately, nobody told us it would still be another 1 hour drive to the parking lot in the Giant Forest. You ascend something like 3,000 feet and it’s switchbacks the whole time. So needless to say, the speed limit was low and slow.

BUT, we eventually rounded a corner and then the big trees began:

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 11.01.57 AM

At this point, my excitement level started to grow! You may not think seeing big trees is something to get excited about, BUT IT IS! These trees were magnificent, and things were only just getting started!

We eventually parked the car and hopped a shuttle bus to see General Sherman – the largest tree by volume in the WORLD. Seriously, it was incredible.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 11.03.59 AM

How can I describe the wonder of this tree with words when I can’t even fit the whole thing in a photo?!

We spent a couple hours just hanging out and wandering around through the trees. I had hoped to also do the Moro Rock hike because it is also incredible I’ve heard, but we just didn’t have the time. We still had a 2.5 hour drive to our AirBnB for our trip to Yosemite the next day, so our time was crunched.

In hindsight, we should’ve probably skipped Sequoia. We didn’t give it the appropriate amount of time it deserved and it made for a lot of car time while on vacation. On the other hand though, I am still thankful for even a small amount of time to gaze at these skyscrapers called trees.

Screen Shot 2017-07-19 at 11.09.21 AM.png

Like I said, once we left Sequoia we still had a long drive ahead of us. We didn’t make it to our AirBnB until around 8pm. At that point we still needed to go back out for gas and dinner.

Our AirBnB was absolutely incredible though. We stayed with Christine who is 73 years old. She is climbing a 14,000 foot mountain in September, but it”s casual. WHO AM I KIDDING?! It’s incredible. She’s incredible. What am I doing with my life?!

Well anyways, if you plan on going to Yosemite, stay with her. I cannot recommend her home enough. Click HERE for her AirBnB listing. She makes you breakfast each day of your stay and it is legit. Pancakes. Waffles. Eggs. Hashbrowns. Bagels. The list goes on and on. Plus, she also stocks your room with drinks and snacks galore! It was heaven.

I digress though. Once we settled in, Christine gave us directions to the gas station and the town of Mariposa. We ended up eating at Burger King because we wanted something fast and simple. The town was quaint, but it was a 30 minute drive from where we were staying.

We got back around 9pm and were in bed by 9:30pm or so. Our next day would involve conquering the Yosemite Valley and we had an early start to the day to get ready for!

San Francisco – Day 4

Tuesday was the 4th of July and we were super excited! Neither of us had ever been in a big city for fireworks so this was quite the change of pace.

The morning started out pretty casually with Andrew doing some work stuff for an hour or so. After that was done we were headed to Mama’s on Washington Square to meet up with our friends for brunch.

We decided to take the bus to get there and all was going fine until we got to a bus stop in Chinatown. At this point 2 transportation officers boarded the bus asking to see everyone’s proof of fare. I showed them my Visitor Passport on my phone and they asked to see the QR code. As fate would have it, my phone chose this moment to then take a million years to generate the code.

In the meantime, one of the officers commented that my Passport had been activated on July 1st and was making it seem that I didn’t have appropriate fare. I pointed to the top of the phone where it clearly said that the Passport expires on the 7th.

It felt like years but the code finally popped up and they told me I was good to go. They then pulled a mom and her two small kids off the bus. I think she had fare but her kids didn’t. I understand they were doing their job, but it still made me sad to watch them walk off the bus.

We finally made it to Mama’s – one of the best brunch places in SF we had read. It had over 3,000 Yelp reviews so we figured it could be trusted. It was no surprise then that there was a long line out the door when we arrived.

We hopped in line with our friends and after about 20 minutes we started debating whether or not we should go elsewhere. After a fruitless search for another restaurant on Yelp, we decided to stay put.

Remember in an earlier post where I questioned who would ever want to wait 2 hours in a line?? Well, I became that person. We waited for 2 hours, but we kept our spirits up and it actually went pretty fast.

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 11.40.46 AM

Once inside we made it to the counter to order! I got the delicious french toast sampler (orange cranberry, lemon berry, and one other I can’t remember) and Andrew got their Monte Cristo which they are famous for. They were both sooo good!! I highly recommend eating at this place if you’re in San Francisco, but get there early so you don’t have to wait as long as we did.

After that, we decided it was a good day to explore Golden Gate Park so we hopped in an Uber and headed that way. We walked through the park for a bit which was great since the weather was a bit warmer and we felt like we were away from the crowds.

We headed towards the water so that we could see the Dutch Windmill in the park. It was certainly a site to behold!

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 11.43.01 AM

See what I mean? I know, I know, it’s just a windmill. But we really liked it!

From there we walked down to the beach and then on up around by the Sutro Baths and Lands End.

People. If you go to San Francisco, I cannot recommend walking around Lands End enough. It is technically a hike, but I had on TOMS and was fine. The views are amazing AND we got to see 10-12 whales out in the water. We enjoyed it so much we sat down on a bench at one of the overlooks and just watched them for about 30 minutes.

Whales were an awesome bonus and we also got to see the bridge too:

Screen Shot 2017-07-18 at 11.43.35 AM

This was probably my favorite afternoon that we spent in the city. It was laid back and we felt more like locals than tourists. Except, you know, when we started taking photos of the bridge.

After that we stopped by a local coffee shop and then headed back to our hotel to hang out for a bit before dinner and fireworks. I will admit though that on the way back I made Andrew go in a gas station with me so I could buy an It’s-It. It’s-It is an ice cream sandwich with two oatmeal cookies and ice cream (vanilla, cappuccino, strawberry, mint, etc.) sandwiched in between and then covered in chocolate. It’s a SF tradition so I had to get one. And you guys! It was so delicious!! I tried to find one later in the week at two separate gas stations to no avail. They aren’t sold anywhere near me either, so now I’m questioning if I should have them shipped to my house?!

Anyways, after that we really did hang out at the hotel for a while. Then we took an Uber to a place called Nick’s Crispy Tacos for dinner. They were having a special that night- $2 street tacos, $2 nachos with salsa and guac, AND $2 margaritas! That’s a deal wherever you are!!

This place was bumping too. And I don’t necessarily mean with people (although there were quite a few of them). There was a DJ set up in the back and he was cranking out the tunes at quite the loud level. The lighting consisted of chandeliers and the seating was mostly these huge semi-circular booths. It was quite the set up and we had to show our ID’s before heading in.

Regardless, the food was good and I really enjoyed the guac. I would eat there again for sure. Especially with such cheap prices!

After that was done we headed down by Ghiradelli so we could watch the fireworks. We were so excited at first and then we were so disappointed. As you know, SF is on the bay. The bay brings in a lot of fog. The 4th was a very foggy evening. So, the fireworks were shot into the fog and then not much was visible. Sure, there were some fireworks that we could see and they were nice. But overall, this was a disappointing end to our time in the city.

After that, we walked about 1.5 miles back toward the hotel, called an Uber, and went to sleep shortly thereafter. All in all, it was a great day!

BUT, the fun isn’t over! On day 5 we rent a car and head out for some national park action. Stay tuned!


P.S. If you have questions about transportation, food, things to do, etc. let me know! I am by no means an expert, but I am more than happy to answer any questions you have.

San Francisco – Day 1

Our flight out of Louisville was scheduled to leave at 6:09am Saturday morning. So, our day started around 3:15am. We got ready in a daze and headed to the airport around 4am or so.

We got there a little earlier than necessary because we were going to leave our car in long-term parking and were unsure of how long that might take. It didn’t take long at all. As we began going through security, we realized that I had somehow received TSA pre-check. Because of this perk, I didn’t have to take my shoes off or wait in a long line of people. I just scooted on through. Great start to the trip!

We then boarded the plane and were headed for Chicago where we would have a 90 minute layover before finally flying to San Francisco. We flew United and I must say, I love that they give Stroopwafels out for their snacks. I love those things so much.

Anyways, the morning was pretty uneventful until we were on the plane in Chicago. At that point, we were delayed an hour on the tarmac because of a low ceiling in SF. They weren’t letting planes in or out. A bit annoying, but we finally got moving.

On this flight, we dealt with a screaming 2-year-old the whole time, but I can’t be mad at him. I suspect that his ears were not feeling so great. In the end though, we finally touched down in SF and collected our suitcase.

I highly suggest taking the BART from SFO to the city. It only costs $8.95 (depending on where you are headed) and it was a nice experience. We took it to the Civic Center station and then hopped an Uber to our hotel.

We chose to stay at The Metro Hotel in the Haight-Ashbury area of the city. If the Wharf is super touristy, this area is the opposite. The staff was friendly, our room was adorable (albeit small), and the price was spot on for SF.

By this point it was 2pm and we hadn’t had lunch yet, but I already knew where we were heading first: Bi-Rite Market 3 blocks up the street for some ice cream!

We both went with the single cone which allowed us to choose 2 flavors. I got the chocolate peanut butter and the blueberry buttermilk. It was so good and only $4.50 per person which is comparable to ice cream prices in Kentucky.

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 12.13.26 PM.png

Alamo Square Park was right around the corner from Bi-Rite so we thought that would be a great place to enjoy our ice cream. It sits atop a hill and has great views. Additionally, this is where the famous Painted Ladies houses are. If that doesn’t sound familiar to you, you may know them better as “The Full House houses.”

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 12.16.27 PM.png

Sure, this was a touristy thing to do, but they were so close that I had to take a photo. After we finished our ice cream and sang the Full House theme song, it was time for lunch.

Andrew had heard about this place called Ike’s that was supposed to have some pretty good sandwiches so we looked it up and realized it was only about 1.2 miles from where we were. After sitting on planes all day, we decided walking didn’t sound so bad.

Once we arrived, we were greeted with so many tasty (and crazy) sandwich options! Andrew got the “Chased and Confuzed” and I got the “Menage a Trois.” My sandwich was pretty tame considering, but Andrew’s was insane. It had bacon, flamin’ hot cheetos, ranch, red pesto, and stuffed jalapeno poppers. It was a pretty good sandwich, but they were HUGE. We would’ve been much better off splitting a sandwich, but we had no idea about the size prior to ordering.

Screen Shot 2017-07-15 at 12.17.02 PM.png

Andrew in sandwich heaven.

At this point in the day, it was around 4pm or so and we were starting to feel really tired. We purchased our Visitor Passports and began figuring out a bus route to get back to the hotel. The Visitor Passports can be bought for 1, 3, or 7 days and give you access to the buses, subways, cable cars, and trolleys. Basically, you can ride any kind of transportation except for BART.

We got back to our room around 5pm with plans of grabbing dessert with our friends who were in town later in the night. But by 7pm, we knew that going back out wasn’t in the cards. We rescheduled with our friends and decided we would get together for breakfast the next morning.

We were in bed and asleep by 9:30pm. No regrets. At that point, we had been up since 3am EASTERN time, so we were pooped needless to say.

On Day 2, things really get going! Stay tuned!