Our Awesome Yosemite & Monterey Bay Trip Report ~ 5/2009 ~ Lots of Pics! Completed!

Discussion in 'California & the West Trip Reports' started by disneyfaninaz, Jun 7, 2009.

  1. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    I am normally on the Cruise and Disneyland boards so I’m not sure if this is the place to put this report, but I don’t see any place better so here goes. I hope this report helps others planning a trip to Central California and the Sierra Nevadas.

    We are a family of 3.

    Myself, an anal and obsessive vacation planner
    DH, a willing participant
    DD, a well traveled almost 9 year old.

    Our trip consisted of 2 1/2 days in Yosemite and 1 1/2 days in the Monterey Bay area.

    Day 1 – Do you know the way to San Jose?

    We live in Arizona so we decided to fly to San Jose and rent a car rather than drive to Yosemite from home. We fly Southwest Airlines and as usual had absolutely no issues. We left on Monday, May 25th, Memorial Day. Our flight was a little under 2 hours. After retrieving our luggage, (Boy, I sure did miss Magical Express!) :sad2: we headed out to get our rental car. We rented from Hertz and again had no issues. We hit the road heading south towards Gilroy and stopped for lunch in Morgan Hill. We then started heading East. I couldn’t even count all of the fresh fruit stands we passed going through the Pacheco Pass heading towards the Sierra Nevadas. After about 3 hours we finally hit Oakhurst which is the largest town just South of the park. We stocked up on some groceries and gas and then headed towards our hotel. We stayed at the Tenaya Lodge in Fish Camp. It is about 10 minutes outside the South gate of the park. We really enjoyed this resort. :thumbsup2 We reserved a cottage. Tenaya recently acquired a little resort adjacent to their property so we had to walk a bit between our cottage and the main building, but it wasn’t bad. Our cottage had 2 queen beds, refrigerator, microwave and a gas fireplace. It was very quiet and comfortable.

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    After getting settled in, we went back to the lodge for dinner. We ate on the patio with the fire pit going. It was delightful. Tenaya offered flashlight nature hikes every night. I booked us for the one that night. There was really no moon to speak of, so I was looking forward to seeing the stars. I was not disappointed. We all met under the Port Coachere at 8:00 PM. Our guide, Jessica, started us out on what used to be the railroad bed of the Sugar Pine Railroad. While walking she told us about all of the plants, trees and animals that were indigenous to the area. Near the end of the hike, we turned off our flashlights and she showed us a few constellations. We were then given wintergreen lifesavers and were told to watch our partner while they bit into it. It created a green flash in your mouth that you could see really well in the dark. That was pretty cool. Then it was off to bed as we had a big day in the park scheduled for tomorrow.

    Next: Yosemite, here we come!
     
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  3. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    I had booked a full day tour of the park through Discover Yosemite. If you ever want to book a tour, and they have several to choose from, I cannot recommend this company enough.

    The tour bus picked us up from the Tenaya Lodge. They actually had enough people for 3 separate busses. Our guide was Marsha and she was excellent. She has been giving tours through Yosemite for 11 years and she knew her stuff. After she picked up our lunch, which was provided as part of the tour, we headed towards Yosemite.

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    After going through the gate we headed towards Glacier Point. Along the way we passed Wawona and were provided with interesting information about the history of the park, plants, animals and the Wawona Hotel and Pioneer Center along the way. When we reached the Chinquapin Junction, there was a traffic jam heading down to the valley. Fortunately, this was the turn off for Glacier Point so we avoided the stoppage. Evidently, a car had gone off the side of the road and caught on fire so they had to temporarily close the road. If we had been 10 minutes later, we probably would have been stuck like everybody else, but happily we were not and went on our way after a brief pit stop. Unfortunately, while I had brought motion sickness pills with me, I had forgotten to take them and they were back in the hotel room. They don’t do much good there. Anyway, the road to Glacier Point, as is the road down to the valley, is very windy and I was feeling it. Our first stop was Washburn Point.

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    This was our first view of Half Dome and Nevada and Vernal falls. It was awe inspiring to see the Sierra Nevada ranges all covered in snow in the distance as well as hear the magnificent water falls. Half Dome was so close, we almost felt like we could touch it.

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    We then headed further on up hill to Glacier Point. The vista from here was even more spectacular and we got our first glimpse of the valley floor.

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    We stayed here for about 30 minutes before we had to get back on the bus and head back down the winding road.

    By the time we reached the main road, the accident had been cleared and there was no traffic. We did, however, see work crews trying to recover the car off the side of the road as we passed. Marsha started telling us about how Muir designed the road to be built into Yosemite Valley, but that there was a huge granite mountain in the way and how they just decided to go through it. It was at that moment that we saw the Wawona Tunnel. We exited the other side and got the most amazing view of El Capitan and Half Dome.

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    We would stop later, we were on our way to Bridalveil Fall. Our first glimpse of this fall was after we came through the tunnel. It was even more breathtaking as we got closer. Marsha parked and let us get out to walk to the base of the fall.

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    Our DD loved getting wet. Fortunately, we had been warned to bring rain gear as the waterfalls were really flowing this time of year, and they were right. The trail leading up to the falls showcased the rushing streams of water coming down after the fall hit the ground. It was truly a sight to behold.

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    After the fall, it was time for lunch. Marsha took us to the El Capitan Meadow where we enjoyed our delicious sandwiches and an even more spectacular view of El Capitan.

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    We enjoyed spotting the climbers who were climbing the face of El Capitan. What an amazing feat. While we were watching climbers as eating lunch, we heard a loud rumble. Since there no clouds to speak of, we look at the road thinking that a large truck had rumbled by. Marsha told us that we just heard a rock slide. She even saw the plume of dust to the side of El Capitan. I guess these are common occurrences in the park.

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    After lunch we headed towards Yosemite Village. However, we made one stop at the Valley View turnoff along the Merced River and were rewarded with a spectacular view of El Capitan and Cathedral Peaks from the valley floor.

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    Our next stop was the Ahwahnee Hotel.

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    It was originally built for the rich and famous. However, now you don’t have to be famous to stay, but you still have to be rich as the lowest rate is $450 per night. Anyway, we were given about 15 minutes to look around and use the facilities. The inside of the hotel is gorgeous and they boast a fireplace large enough for an adult to stand in. They weren’t kidding as my DD posed for pictures standing inside of it. The grounds were equally as lovely.

    After the Ahwahnee, we were headed towards Yosemite Falls. Whoever designed this trail knew what they were doing as you walk straight towards the falls along a tree lined path that perfectly frames the falls. It was stunning.

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    You almost immediately start feeling the mist come from the falls as you approach the lower portion. There were trails to the top and middle portions of the falls, but those were for the more adventurous hikers. After enjoying the falls we loaded up the bus and headed back out of the valley. We stopped at Tunnel View and got an amazing view of the valley and the famous peaks.

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    Our next stop was the Mariposa Grove.

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    This is only one of two Giant Sequoia Groves accessible to the public within the Sierra Nevadas. Marsha explained to us how these humongous giants of trees come from the smallest of seeds and how it takes fire or the help of a tiny squirrel to help these trees survive.

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    Anyway, we stood in awe at these giants and got our picture in front of the Fallen Monarch. This tree probably fell hundreds of years ago and you can stand in front of the gigantic roots. People carved their names into the side of the fallen tree as early as 1934 that we could see.

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    After the Mariposa Grove it was a short drive back to the Tenaya Lodge and the end our day. It was the perfect way to be introduced to the park. Now we felt that we could go in ourselves and know what to expect and what to revisit on our own.

    Next: Another beautiful day in Yosemite.
     
  4. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    Our plan today was to spend most of the day down in the valley and to hike to Mirror Lake.

    We got a pretty good start and were on the road by 8:15 AM. Our first stop was to take the obligatory picture in front of the Yosemite National Park sign. It certainly looked well weathered.

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    We then entered the park and headed towards the valley through the Wawona Tunnel. Our first stop was Tunnel View to get the morning view of the valley. It was a little hazy today, but the view was stunning nonetheless.

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    Our DD wanted to see Bridalveil Fall again and get wet, so we made that our next stop. It was just as spectacular as the day before, but not as wet. All of the parking lots and turn offs were very easy to get in and out of which made our day a lot easier. We never had a problem finding a place to park or pull into, however, I wouldn’t want to try in the peak of the summer, if you know what I mean.

    As we headed into the valley, we stopped at the Swinging Bridge picnic area. We got some magnificent pictures of Yosemite Falls and surrounding granite walls. I also got some beautiful reflections in the water. This was a nice spot to stop.

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    We then made out way through the village towards Curry Village. We decided to park there and take the free Valley Shuttle to our destinations. Our first stop would be Mirror Lake. This is a very easy 1 mile walk along a paved road back to Mirror Lake which is really nothing more than a wide calm stretch of the Tenaya Creek that fills during spring and dries up during the summer. It used to be an actual lake but filled in with silt from all of the run off of melted snow. Anyway, the highlight of this walk is that you are rewarded with spectacular reflections from the surrounding cliffs. Depending on the time of day you can capture a reflection of Half Dome on the lake. We didn’t get Half Dome, but we got some great pictures regardless.

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    After getting our pictures and spotting some wildlife we headed back to the shuttle back to Curry Village where we had lunch at the Pizza Deck.

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    It was actually pretty good pizza. After lunch we took the shuttle back down to Yosemite Falls.

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    I couldn’t get enough pictures of these falls, they are absolutely gorgeous. We then went to visit the Visitor’s Center, where we got our National Park Passport book stamped. I also mailed some postcards from the Yosemite Village post office. We took the shuttle back to Curry Village to retrieve our car and then headed back through the valley on our way out. We stopped at Sentinel Bridge where I got some amazing photos of Half Dome.

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    We then climbed out of the valley and stopped at Tunnel View once again. The haze had cleared and we got some more pictures. Honestly, there isn’t a bad view anywhere in the park.

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    It was then back to the hotel for a short rest and then dinner.

    Next: Day 3 - Those are big trees!
     
  5. KCmike

    KCmike Never have fallen asleep on any

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    Loving your trip report. We just got back from our vacation to Northern Calif. and Disneyland. We loved Yosemite.
     
  6. lisah0711

    lisah0711 <font color=red>♥ <font color=royalblue>her Disney

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    Wow, Wendy, great report! Glad you had a good time and looking forward to seeing more pics. :goodvibes
     
  7. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    Thanks Mike! Glad to hear you loved Yosemite! You had a much busier itinerary than ours, hope you had a great trip altogether.

    Thanks! I hope to have more up soon.

    Just a side note. We had so much fun in Yosemite that we are now planning a trip next spring to Yellowstone and The Grand Tetons.
     
  8. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    Our plan today was to see more of Mariposa Grove and Wawona. We were then going to take the West exit out of the park along the Merced River.

    We got all packed up and checked out of the Tenaya Lodge. We entered the park, made an immediate right turn and went straight to the Mariposa Grove.

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    Since this was our getaway day and our my legs were tired, we decided to take the tram tour up the hill rather than hike. You are in open seating cars and they give you headphones so you can learn about the grove as you are driven through. It was actually very interesting. We saw the biggest sequoia in the grove,

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    we saw the oldest sequoia in the grove, the Grizzly Giant.

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    We learned about the Fallen Tunnel Tree and how tourists would come to drive their car through the tree until it fell in 1969.

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    and the California Tunnel Tree, which was carved out for the winter when the other Tunnel Tree couldn't be reached because of snow.

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    We also saw where lightning had taken out the middle of a trunk and they named it the Clothespin Tree

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    We even saw the Telescope Tree where the entire middle of the trunk was destroyed by lightning and you can actually look up through the trunk and see blue sky. These trees are amazing.

    We then headed to Wawona. We made a brief stop in the post office and general store and then headed over to the Pioneer Yosemite History Center.

    At the Pioneer Center and Mariposa Grove the park service put out separate brochures. They were yours for the taking and all they asked for was a 50 cent donation. This was the donation box at the Pioneer Center.

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    We crossed over the covered bridge and took a look at the historical buildings.

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    Unfortunately, they were not running the stagecoach rides or doing any reenactments at that time. After we walked around a bit, we decided to have lunch at the Wawona Hotel.

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    We walked in towards the restaurant and got seating right away on the front porch. The weather was absolutely beautiful and we had a nice view of the front of the resort and the golf course across the road.

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    After lunch we headed back towards the valley. Rain clouds were coming through as we approached the Tunnel and Tunnel View. We stopped and got amazing photos with the rain clouds over El Capitan in the rain.

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    We drove through the valley. We stopped again at the Swinging Bridge and then at the Yosemite Chapel.

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    It was then time to leave Yosemite through the West gate. We saw one last waterfall on our way out, the Cascade Falls.

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    Not as high as others within the park, but cool to see.

    We then headed out of the park along the Merced River. It was a very pretty drive. We came upon a huge rock slide that occurred last year. They finally gave up trying to clear it and built a bypass around it.

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    We then came to the town of Mariposa and made our way through Merced, back to the 152 and towards Monterey. We arrived at our hotel in Seaside at about 6:45 PM.

    Next: Day 4 - Is that a seal?
     
  9. ScooterL

    ScooterL DIS Veteran

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    Thank you so much for your Yosemite report - I loved reading it and seeing the pictures. You had much better weather than we did last week - it was overcast most days, and we didn't get too much sun. We had some rain/thunderstorms, too.

    On the sequoia groves - there are actually a lot more than two "accessible" sequoia groves in CA - there are three in Yosemite (Mariposa, Tuolumne and Merced) and a bunch in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Though I guess it depends on our definition of "accessible". :) Any of those you can drive fairly close to and then walk, though.
     
  10. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    Glad that you're enjoying my report. :flower3: Yes, the weather was just beautiful, we were very lucky.

    Doh! :upsidedow I meant to say groves within Yosemite and I remembered the number wrong. Anyway, they are magnificent trees wherever you get a chance to see them.
     
  11. Mary Jo

    Mary Jo Techarita Moderator

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    I love your Yosemite report. Now I want to go there so badly! You have a great eye for pictures. :flower: Thank you for sharing, and I'm glad you had such a nice visit there.
     
  12. Judy from Boise

    Judy from Boise <font color=teal>Watch out – might take away your Moderator

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    Wull you post Monterey here too ? We will be there in 2 weeks so all tips appreciated!
     
  13. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    Thank you! I loved Yosemite and hope to return some day and do some things we just didn't have time to do. I can't take all the credit for the photos, without even trying, my DH actually took some of the best shots of the whole trip. ;)

    I am uploading Monterey pictures right now and hope to have another installment posted later today. :)

    I would definitely recommend the 17 Mile Drive. Although, we didn't get down to Big Sur, I understand the drive is incredibly beautiful. I also recommend that you do the 17 Mile Drive in the afternoon after the "marine layer" burns off a little.

    The Aquarium is a must and well worth it!
     
  14. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    Our plan today was to go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row and the 17 Mile Drive.

    We stayed at the Embassy Suites in Seaside. It was a very nice hotel looking over Monterey Bay. We had a corner bay view room with lots of space. But, most importantly, my DH and I had our own bedroom while DD slept on the sleeper sofa in her own &#8220;space.&#8221;

    We woke up to the typical &#8220;marine layer.&#8221; We desert dwellers just call it &#8220;fog.&#8221; ;) After a very fulfilling and free breakfast, we headed over to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We parked in the parking garage and walked a couple of blocks to the aquarium.

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    As we were walking, school busses started unloading field trips for the day. The aquarium was going to get crowded, and I wasn&#8217;t wrong. Anyway, we got there just when they opened, purchased our tickets and went on our way.

    The first exhibit we stopped at was the otters. I love these cute creatures. They were swimming around and doing the cute things otters do.

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    We then saw the Octupi, which were really cool! :cool2: Yes, they had more than one.

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    Our next stop was the touch tanks and aviary. We pretty much had the place to ourselves at this point. But, it didn't last for long.

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    The aquarium has several outside viewing areas of the bay, we walked outside and admired the view. We even saw several harbor seals taking siestas on the rocks. Can you spot them?

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    We walked back inside and into one room where we were surrounded above by a tank that was 360 degrees. It was beautiful.

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    We also saw tons of jelly fish, both large and small.

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    We then walked into the room with an entire wall of glass and another huge tank with sharks in it. At some point, they actually had a juvenile Great White they had rescued and eventually re-released into the ocean.

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    We then headed over to the special Sea Horse exhibit. I had no idea there were so many different kinds of sea horses,

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    but my favorite was the Leafy Sea Horse. They are just beautiful.

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    After the Sea Horses we went to the Splash Zone area and saw a colorful reef and penguins.

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    Then we went outside again and saw some more harbor seals.

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    By this time we had seen most, if not all, of the exhibits and it was really getting crowded. Since it was after lunch time we decided to head to Cannery Row for lunch at Bubba Gumps.

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    We had never eaten here before but found the food to be quite yummy. DD loved the paper shrimp boat she got with her kid&#8217;s meal and insisted on bringing it home with us.

    Next: 17 Mile Drive
     
  15. Judy from Boise

    Judy from Boise <font color=teal>Watch out – might take away your Moderator

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    was the ticket good for all day ? Could you have returned after lunch if you wanted?
     
  16. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    Yes, admission to the Aquarium is all day. You can have your hand stamped when you leave and return later the same day. They also have 2 day admissions, but one day should do it.
     
  17. CoMickey

    CoMickey <font color=red>Happy Dweedle... or is that Tweedl

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    Thanks for sharing your trip to Yosemite. Loved your pictures! We are going there for a week starting July 4th and staying in a tent cabin in Curry Village. It will be my first time but my DBF has been there serveral times! He has it all planned - I hope I can keep up!! We are going to do a lot of hiking and we are taking our bikes. I can't wait and your pictures and report made me even more excited!
     
  18. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    You'll love Yosemite. We saw a lot of people biking around the loop trail. The tent cabins at Curry Camp looked very interesting.

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    The shuttles were great to use and got us around very easily within the village. Are you going to go up Half Dome?

    Have a great time. Looking forward to your trip report after you get back.
     
  19. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    After lunch we walked and did some shopping around Cannery Row. The “marine layer” was starting to burn off, so we thought it was the perfect time to check out the 17 mile drive.

    We passed a public beach and decided to check it out. It didn’t take long for our DD to get her shoes and socks off and start wading into the Pacific. Never mind that the water was probably 50-60 degrees. :scared: That little fact didn’t seem to bother her though.

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    It seemed like it took 17 miles to get there from Cannery Row, but we finally stumbled upon the entrance gate, paid our admission fee, got our guide map and set off on our scenic drive.

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    We were not disappointed. The drive along the shoreline was absolutely beautiful, not to mention the pristine golf courses and very expensive houses.

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    We were treated with many sightings of California Sea Lions.

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    We also enjoyed the vistas at the Lone Cypress.

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    We then stopped at Pebble Beach for a snack and to take in the breathtaking beauty of the 18th green.

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    After the drive, we headed back towards Cannery Row for dinner. After dinner we walked down to a small beach and were treated to more Harbor Seals and a wild Sea Otter.

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    It was then back to our hotel to prepare for our last day on the coast.

    Next: Seals, and more seals!
     
  20. splash5

    splash5 DIS Veteran

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    It was wonderful to see all of your pictures. My husband really wanted to go to Yosemite and I was dragging my feet (it looks beautiful). We did plan the trip for next month and we will do San Francisco (3 days), Yosemite, Napa, and Monterey. I am very excited to be there.

    Did you find it to be very cold? Trying to decide on what kind of jacket/clothing to take.

    Can't wait to see more!!!!
     
  21. disneyfaninaz

    disneyfaninaz It takes faith, trust & pixie dust!

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    I think you will find Yosemite and Napa to be warm this time of year. However, it can get pretty cool in San Fran and Monterey. The best advice I can give is to layer your clothing so you can add or take off as needed.

    Otherwise, light jackets and sweat shirts should be sufficient.

    Enjoy your trip!
     

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