Monthly Archives: April 2019

Washington State’s scenic Olympic Peninsula – Apr 2019

I’m going to apologize up front for this long blog. I am so far behind! We are currently in Anacortes, WA. Since my last post we have toured the Olympic Peninsula, spent a week in the Seattle area, checked out the Bavarian-style village of Leavenworth, flew back East for a few weeks, visited Vancouver, Whistler and Vancouver Island. Like I said, I’m REALLY behind on my blog.

Below is a post covering our visit to the Olympic Peninsula. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll do separate posts covering the Seattle area, our flight back east and our visit to the Vancouver, British Columbia area.

(As always, click on the first picture in a series to start a slideshow.)

Port Townsend

This was our first stop on the Olympic Peninsula. We camped at the Fort Worden Historical State Park, in a large campsite near the beach. This park is a gem. Fort Worden was constructed between 1898 and 1917. It was home to nearly 1,000 troops and officers training to defend the Puget Sound. We enjoyed walks along sections of the beachfront and high bluffs, all with spectacular views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The park has more than 2 miles of coastline, an Artillery Museum, Marine Science Center, a 1914 lighthouse, and a very unique tapas bar. Not only does this park have 2 campgrounds but they also run a hotel out of the old barracks and officer’s quarters. We highly recommend checking out this Washington State Park if you are ever in the area: https://parks.state.wa.us/511/Fort-Worden

It was a bit chilly while we were in Port Townsend, but we did see some sun. Temps were in the 30s – 40s with very strong winds. Brrr!!! We had to get out the winter jackets, hats and gloves for our walks along the beach.

As I mentioned, there is a great little pub in the park. It’s called ‘Taps at the Guardhouse.’ The name comes from the fact that the pub is housed in the building which once served as the Fort’s jailhouse. The pub architecture incorporates some of the old jail artifacts, including the jail cells. We loved the atmosphere of the bar. We enjoyed happy hour sitting next to a fireplace playing a game of Yahtzee, provided by the pub.

The town of Port Townsend is lined with historic buildings and situated on the waterfront. There are a good number of quaint shops and restaurants. We enjoyed some of the best mussels we’ve ever had at Doc’s Restaurant, near the town’s marina. Their seafood mix was also great.

I loved all of the old wood doors found throughout the town.

Our waitress at Doc’s suggested we check out a new Speakeasy bar in town. It is in an obscure location, located halfway up a staircase to another restaurant. Hence its name, ‘In-between.’ There’s no obvious signage on the door, but we did find it and enjoyed a couple of Old Fashioned drinks.

There is an old style movie theater on main street. It reminded me of the one that was in Petoskey, Michigan back in the 70s. I visited it numerous times as a young child.

We stopped by the historic hotel for a look-see. I imagine that the lobby isn’t much different than it was back in the day.

After a couple of days in Port Townsend we moved down the road to Port Angeles.

Port Angeles

The day we arrived it was cloudy, windy and chilly. We parked the motorhome at the Elwha Dam RV Park and then ventured off to do a short hike to Madison Falls, one of the many waterfalls in the Olympic National Park.

Our second day in Port Angeles was windy again, although the temperature was rising into the 50s, finally.  We decided to head to the forest for a hike to Sol Duc Falls. The old forest trees buffeted the winds and we enjoyed our hike. The waterfall was beautiful, as was a nearby creek full of moss-covered rocks.

We also enjoyed a beautiful forest hike to Marymere Falls.

We spotted beautiful Pacific Northwest Trillium flowers along the path.

A sunny and warm day was finally in the forecast so we decided to take a day trip to Neah Bay. This is the most northwestern point in the continental US. It is an Indian Reservation and you have to pay $10/car to drive through the village. Neah Bay is a couple hour drive from Port Angeles. We headed out early in the morning. The drive was beautiful, most of it along the coastline.

As we got close to Neah Bay we spotted a couple of Eagles high in a tree, just off the road. In the picture below you can just barely see the 2 eagles sitting on a branch, hanging out over the road. We pulled over so that I could get my long lens out and capture a few photos.

We arrived in Neah Bay in time for breakfast. We stopped at the first restaurant, and maybe the only one, in the small village. We sat at a table with a view of the marina. As I looked out over the water I could not believe how many eagles were around. One tree had half a dozen of them sitting on the branches. Many boats in the marina had an eagle on its mast. It was crazy.

After breakfast we got our car pass and made our way to Cape Flattery for a short hike to the most north western point of the continental US. The landscape at the point is spectacular. I could have spent the entire day there, just taking in the view. Charlie got some great pictures with his drone.

We got back to Port Angeles late in the afternoon and decided to head up to Hurricane Point. At the top of the mountain the temperature was 37 degrees and there was a lot of snow. Once again we had to pull out our winter coats. Most of the trails on the mountaintop were closed due to the snow coverage so we simply enjoyed the view.

After visiting Hurricane Point we drove out to the Ediz Hook Reservation, which is a strip of land that jetties out into the waterway from the town of Port Angeles. It offers great views of the city and the Olympic mountain range.

We spotted this ship loading tree logs from the water. I’m always a little sad when I see a logging truck or ship go by, as I know it means more trees have been cut down.

By the time we got back to our campground it was nearly sunset and we were exhausted. However, it was the first time we were going to have a good sunset in what seemed like months. I wasn’t going to let it go by without getting a picture so I dropped Charlie off at the motorhome and then headed over to the Salt Creek Recreation Area. I had heard that it was a nice spot for sunset. I’m so happy that I went, as the scene did not disappoint.

Sunset view from Salt Creek Recreation Area

We originally planned to stay at the Salt Creek Recreation Area campground while visiting Port Angeles. However, there were no campsites available for the timeframe we were there. I love the park. It sits right on the ocean with gorgeous views. It is about 30 minutes farther from Port Angeles, and the waterfalls in Olympic National Park than where we ended up staying though. So, in the end, I’m glad we stayed at the Elwha Dam RV Park.

Another picture from the Salt Creek Recreation Area park

The following morning we packed up the motorhome and headed down the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. We really enjoyed our stay at the Elwha Dam RV Park. The staff was very friendly. Its location to Neah’s Bay, Port Angeles and the Olympic National Park can’t be beat.  Don’t look for a dam though, as it was torn down in 2011, after two decades of planning, to restore the river’s ecosystem.

Elwha Dam Overlook

Our next stop along the Olympic Peninsula was the beautiful Kalaloch Beach Campground. There are only a couple of sites at the campground large enough to accommodate our 40′ motorhome. We were lucky to find one available. This was the view through our windshield.

We enjoyed sunsets at nearby Ruby Beach.

We took a hike through the Hoh rain forest.

As I turned around a corner on the path I came upon this elk. I was quite startled as I was nearly nose to nose with him.

We found some beautiful scenery on the drive to/from the Hoh rain forest.

The Hoh rain forest was about an hour’s drive northeast from the Kalaloch Campground. We found the drive to be nice, but were actually disappointed with the rain forest hike. We thought that it was not nearly as lush as the other areas we had visited.

We did find the Quinault rain forest to be extremely lush. It is about an hour’s drive southeast of Kalaloch. We loved our hike along the Quinault rain forest trail.

Since it was early spring, the flowers were starting to bloom. I found this gold mushroom to be quite interesting. It looked like it had been spray painted gold.

This flower stinks, and is appropriately called a ‘skunk cabbage.’

The Quinault rain forest trail guides you through a beautiful area of the rain forest and then ends up on a path along the scenic Quinault Lake.

The trail passes by the historic Quinault Lodge, built in 1926.

After we completed our hike we drove around the lake to the Kestner homestead, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A local person we met on the Quinault trail told us it was a beautiful area and that it should not be missed. He was right. The area is lovely.

Back at the Kalaloch Campground we enjoyed walks along the beach and celebrated my birthday dinner at the Kalaloch Lodge. The sandy beach is very expansive, and peaceful.

There are a huge number of logs along the beach.

We loved our visit to Kalaloch, but missed having cell service and Wi-Fi so after a couple of days we moved on to our next destination on the peninsula; Ocean Shores. We parked at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino. They have a huge parking lot for RVs to dry-camp. If was still off-season so we were about the only ones there.

We spent a couple nights there, just chilling. We then moved onto Shelton, WA, for no apparent reason. We had to be at the Cummins service center near Tacoma, WA Sunday evening and Shelton was on the way there. We stayed at the Little Creek Casino RV Park. They had full hook-ups and Wi-Fi. Charlie played blackjack in the casino and won nearly enough money to pay for our campsite. We enjoyed a couple more days of resting and catching up on some things. This was our last stop along the peninsula. We had a fantastic time exploring the Olympic National Park.

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Columbia River Gorge: 4/15 – 22, 2019

We recently enjoyed a week in Troutdale, Oregon. Troutdale is the western gateway to the Historic Columbia River Highway, a 75-mile long scenic highway between Troutdale and The Dalles, Oregon. The road was built between 1913 and 1922 and is noted as being the first planned scenic roadway in the United States. The road, designed by engineer Samuel C. Lancaster, was modeled after the great scenic roads of Europe. Lawyer and entrepreneur Sam Hill worked with Samuel to promote the road. Their goal was to make ‘beautiful waterfalls, canyons, cliffs and mountain domes’ accessible to all. They faced many challenges. I think this plaque, found on a statue of the two men, nicely sums up their great accomplishment.

This beautiful statue of Sam Hill and Samuel C. Lancaster was sculpted by Troutdale local, Rip Caswell. It is perfectly located, with the men looking down the historic road.

Across the street from the statue is where Rip creates his great works of art. We decided to check out the store on our walk into town. Once we got into the store we noticed the bronze sculptures and met Rip. It turns out that Rip sculpted the Nimitz statue we had recently seen while in Fredericksburg, TX, at the Nimitz Pacific WWII Museum. Rip allowed us to get a picture of his original clay sculpture, used to make the mold for the bronze statue.

And here is the picture I took at the museum back in Fredericksburg.

Across the street from the shop is a garden of sculptures, which Rip encouraged us to stroll through. It is used during the summertime for wedding receptions. Here is just one of the statues in the park.

What a lucky town to have such a great artist sharing his work with them. We were thrilled to have stumbled upon his workshop.

After visiting the art center we continued our short walk to Troutdale’s town center. We loved the quaint shops and restaurants along the short two blocks of this historic town. We enjoyed lunch at Troutini, a local restaurant decorated with an early 1900s theme.

We spent a day traveling along the Historic Columbia River Highway, exploring all of the beautiful waterfalls and views.

Columbia River Gorge, as seen from the Crown Point Vista House
Looking back towards Portland, OR from the Crown Point Vista House
Charlie’s drone shot of the Crown Point Vista House, a historic rest stop along the Historic Columbia River Highway

And my favorite waterfall…

The Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge is also beautiful. We crossed the river in The Dalles, OR and drove westward, along the Lewis and Clark Hwy towards Maryhill, WA. The road meanders through the Columbia Hills Historical State Park.

While on the Washington side, we decided to visit Panther Creek Falls. I had seen pictures of this waterfall and had a strong desire to photograph it. As we drove through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to get to the falls we came upon the national forest service busy removing trees from the road. The hard winter took a toll on this area. You can see these branches hanging off of a precariously situated tree.

Once we got to the waterfall we found that the area to get down to the base of the fall, for the best photographs, was washed out and closed. Bummer! I was restricted to having take pictures from the overlook.

Within an hour’s drive from Troutdale is the highest point in Oregon. Mount Hood stands at over 11,000 feet and can be seen from quite a distance. It is home to 12 named glaciers and snowfields. Below is a picture taken from of Mt Hood from Hood River, OR, 35 miles away.

For a closer look, and for the possibility of reflection on a lake, we decided to head to a little place called Lost Lake in the Mt Hood National Forest. Lost Lake sits at an elevation of 4,150 ft and we found it still covered with ice. Additionally, we found the Mt Hood covered with clouds. You can barely see the mountain in the photo below, off in the distance.

Considering this situation, we decided to try another lake. Trillium Lake sits at 3,600 ft. The road to the lake was closed due to deep snow so we had to walk 2 miles down to the lake and of course, the 2 miles back up the hill to the car. This walk was on soft, but deep, snow. Each step was a struggle. I felt like I hiked 15 miles by the time we were done, as opposed to 4. Anyway,,,,,the view of the mountain was beautiful.

Charlie put up his drone and captured this shot.

Here’s a photo of the road we hiked on to the lake.

After we finally made it back to the car we decided to stop by the Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood where I captured a few close-ups of the mountain covered in snow.

Mt. Hood is majestic and we enjoyed our various explorations of it.

Troutdale is just a stone throw’s away from Portland so we decided to visit the city for a day. We had lunch at Higgin’s with some of Charlie’s friends, we splurged on doughnuts at the famous VooDoo donut shop. We had to wait in line, in the rain, to get the doughnuts.

We visited the Powell Bookstore, dubbed Powell’s City of Books since it covers an entire city block. Most importantly, we visited Pro Photo Supply where I splurged on some new photography equipment. Oregon has zero percent sales tax and I decided that it was important to take advantage of that!

Well, that about sums up our week in Troutdale, Oregon. Our next stop is Port Townsend, WA, our first stop around the Olympic Peninsula. More on that later.

Where we stayed:

Sandy River RV Park in Troutdale. It is along the Sandy River, on the Historic Columbia River Highway. It is within walking distance to the small town of Troutdale and centrally located to the Columbia River Gorge waterfalls, Mt Hood and Portland. We would stay there again. Tip for those who might also consider staying at Sandy River: spots along the river, in the northeast corner of the park, are subjected to a bit of train noise. We were in the mid section of the park, closer to the office, and didn’t have much of an issue.

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Our last stop on the rainy Oregon coast: Newport, OR

Remember the saying, “April showers bring May flowers?” Well, assuming it is true then the Oregon coast should be covered in wildflowers very soon.

We planned on a 4 night stay in Newport, Oregon but extended it to 5 after the weather forecast was gloomy for our original dates. Having the flexibility to change trip plans on the fly is definitely an advantage of RVing.

If you like beer, check out Rogue Brewery in Newport. I have never liked beer but since the weather was such that it was unpleasant to be outside we decided to go to the brewery. Charlie ordered a beer sampler and it turns out, Rogue beer isn’t all that bad. I won’t go so far as to say that I now like beer, but I didn’t hate our samples. Well, maybe I’d have to admit that the Double Chocolate was good.

We visited the Yaquina Head Lighthouse with hopes of taking a tour, but no tours were available the day we were there. That seems to be a theme with us. As a matter of fact, on our way from Bandon to Newport we stopped by the Heceta Head Lighthouse. They had just lost power due to a blown transformer and therefore, there were no tours available.

Anyway, I digress. Back at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse we did enjoy spending some time in the visitor center. They have a fabulous interactive center and museum.

There are also great tide pools just below the lighthouse. We put on our rain gear and checked them out.

Looking back at the lighthouse at high tide.

Later, during our stay, we returned to the area near the Heceta Head Lighthouse and noticed that the lights were back working. It is a beautiful lighthouse.

There’s a Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast you can stay at on the peninsula. That would be pretty neat. The views from there are gorgeous.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse resides in a beautiful area on the Oregon coast called Cape Perpetua. I had hoped to get a good photograph of Thor’s Well in Cape Perpetua. Thor’s Well is also known as the drainpipe of the Pacific. The well is actually a hole in the rock that appears to drain water from the ocean. The hole is estimated to be about 20 feet deep. It is an amazing sight to see at high tide. The best photographic opportunity is at sunset though, and between bad weather and tide schedules, we did not get a good opportunity to photograph it. We did visit it though. Standing close by the hole can be a little scary, and dangerous, when a sneaker wave crashes in.

Back in Newport, we discovered a unique shop called The Olde Telephone Company. This little shop has phones from the ages. We enjoyed checking them all out.

About an hour north of Newport is the town of Tillamook, home to Tillamook Cheese. They have a state of the art visitor center and a great restaurant. Of course everything on the menu has cheese on it. They also have a popular Ice Cream stand. I highly recommend visiting.

On the way back from Tillamook we drove over to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. Of course it was closed, but the scenery around it was very pretty, even in the rain.

As we drove along the coastline back to Newport we were blessed with a break in the rain and stopped by a beach area. I just love how the rocks stand out in the ocean.

We tried out a few restaurants in Newport. We had halibut fish and chips at Local Ocean Seafood. It was fairly good. We had dinner at Georgie’s Beachside Grill. We really enjoyed this restaurant. It has great views, great food and a very friendly bar tender. The last place we tried out was a small joint just south of the city called South Beach Fish Market. It is more of a local spot and it was very busy. Their Halibut fish and chips were great and they sell fresh seafood. We picked up a pound of fresh Dungeness crab meat. I made some crab bisque and enjoyed it with a great bottle of Regusci wine from our recent stay in Napa Valley. We also bought fresh Halibut and made a Halibut Crab bake the next day. We ate well in Newport.

We stayed at the Pacific Shores Motorcoach Resort. Our spot had a beautiful view of the ocean and lighthouse.

Our last night in Newport, when the rain finally broke. It came back the next morning though!

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Bandon, Oregon

After another night of relentless rain in Trinidad, CA we packed up and made our way to Bandon, OR. The drive to Bandon was very interesting. Besides rain we were subjected to high winds and road construction, due to the road having washed away last month.

At one point, as we went over a bridge, it felt like the RV was pushed sideways by the wind. It was a little unnerving. When we stopped at an overlook near Gold Beach I found out just how windy it was. As I opened the door of the motorhome the wind slammed it open and forcefully pulled me outside. Imagine a funny caricature where a person is holding onto something in strong winds and their feet are off the ground as they are blown sideways and you’ll have a good idea of my situation. I was still determined to get a picture of the coastline though, for whatever reason in the wind and rain. As I walked away from the RV the wind blew my eyeglasses off my face and across the parking lot. That was the last straw. I made my way back to the RV and ended up taking a photograph through the windshield of the RV, just for memory sake.

We would have liked to stop by Cape Blanco State Park and tour its lighthouse, but as you can imagine, it was not a good day for that. We continued onward, along Oregon’s coast, to Bandon for a 4-night stay at Bullards Beach State Park.

After parking the RV in our spacious site we headed over to the historic downtown area of Bandon. It is small, but full of quaint restaurants and shops.

We stopped by a fabulous chocolate boutique called Chocolate Mist (http://coastalmist.com/). We usually pass by these types of stores but this one had been recommended by fellow travel bloggers Kevin and Laura from Chapter3Travels (https://www.chapter3travels.com/). We are so happy that we took their advice. All of the chocolate at this store is made on-site and everything we tried was fabulous! In fact, it was so good that we were compelled to revisit the store.

Their coffee, roasted locally, is also fabulous. During our first visit we tried out their signature chocolate dessert. It is absolutely divine! The chocolate mousse just melts in your mouth.

After our indulgence of chocolate and caffeine we drove along the coastline on the edge of town. There are numerous rock formations along Bandon’s coast. This is a primary reason as to why I chose this location for a visit. I was hoping to get some beautiful sunset photos. That was not to be the case though. This is what it looked like on our first day.

One evening we had a little clearing, but not a full sunset.

We also got a little clearing one morning so we spent a couple of hours walking around the beach area, amongst the rock towers.

We checked out the tide pools and found some colorful starfish.

If you are wondering how these rocks were formed, I’ll summarize a plaque that is located at the Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint:  Scientists believe a history of earthquakes, volcanoes and erosion along the Oregon Coast contributed to the formation of these rocks. Rocks from volcanic activity moved along the Earth’s crust and were pushed deep underneath the continental plate. Under great pressure, they were uplifted and exposed. Certain rocks resisted erosion and formed these rocks.

Beautiful wildflowers were in full bloom along the coast.

Back at the State Park we drove down to the beach area. I’m amazed as to how many trees wash up on shore. I was wondering where they all came from until I looked up the river and saw a number of trees floating towards the ocean. I imagine there are always trees falling along the rivers, especially this year with so much rain and wind.

At the end of the beach is the Coquille River Lighthouse, built in 1896. I always enjoy checking out lighthouses, and the Oregon coast has a good number of them.

There were a couple of nice birds near our campsite.

One afternoon we drove up to Sunset Bay State Park. The coastline is gorgeously rugged in this area.

There is a fantastic hike along the coast, but with all of the recent rain it was extremely muddy. We tried to hike it, but gave up after sinking into the mud numerous times. Regardless, we enjoyed the sights we were able to see at the vehicle pullouts.

We thoroughly enjoyed our stay in Bandon. It is a beautiful area that we hope to return to one day.

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Trinidad, our last stop in CA

We left Point Reyes, CA on a rainy morning and headed north up Hwy 101 to Trinidad, CA. Hwy 101 is very scenic in Northern California. At one point beautiful Redwoods surrounded us.

We stopped by a cute roadside store and learned that it was not only Redwood country, but Big Foot country too!

It was late afternoon when we finally arrived in Trinidad. We had a brief reprieve from the rain so after dropping the RV off at our campground we headed out to the Redwood National Park. We had just enough time to get a walk in along the Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail and a drive along the Newton B. Drury Scenic Pkwy before sunset, and before the rain returned. It is amazing to see these mammoth trees up close.

The rain was relentless all night long. We had planned on spending some time hiking at Patrick’s Point State Park, just across the street from our campground, but the ground was saturated and we didn’t have a desire to tromp through the mud. Instead, we decided to check out the small town of Trinidad, with a population of less than 400. We found a very nice trail around the peninsula and as we got to the top lookout point the weather cleared and we were blessed with some beautiful scenery. By the end of the hike the rain returned. There’s a small restaurant at the town’s pier, conveniently located at the end of the hiking trail, called Seascapes. We grabbed a light lunch there and then made our way to Eureka for restocking of groceries.

We enjoyed our short visit to Trinidad. It is a beautiful area of the country. We would have enjoyed a little more time there. After two nights we moved further north, up Hwy 101 to Bandon, Oregon.

Where we stayed:

Azalea Glen RV Park. It was a little tight getting our 40’ Motorhome into the small campground, as there is a very narrow bridge with tight turns you have to maneuver, but once in we had a roomy site. The park is in a perfect location for sightseeing and hiking the Redwood country and coastline.

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Point Reyes National Seashore

After spending a week in Napa we made our way to Olema, CA. Olema is a tiny village just outside of Point Reyes National Seashore (PRNS), about an hour north of San Francisco.  This 71,000 acre National Park encompasses a landscape of beaches, cliffs, prairies, marshes, and farms. It is a wildlife sanctuary for Tule Elk, marine life and all sorts of birds. It is a beautiful area, when the weather cooperates. It rained much of the time we were there.

Tule Elk are native to California and were thought to be extinct in the mid 1800s. However, in 1874 a group of them were discovered on a ranch on the Point Reyes Peninsula. The ranch owner made a preserve to protect them. Today, they are thriving, especially at Tomales Point, the most northern area of the park.

Birds love the environment on the peninsula.

I caught this gopher making his underground home.

Wildflowers were blooming throughout the park.

There is a neat area where you can walk through a Cypress Tunnel of Trees.

There are beautiful hills along the coast.

There are expansive beaches.

Historic dairy farms date back to the mid 1800s. Some still operate today.

Following a rainstorm this beautiful rainbow appeared on Limantour Beach.

Here are a couple more pictures from Point Reyes:

We did not get to explore some key areas of the park during our visit, as many areas were closed for various reasons. The lighthouse was under construction and closed. Drakes Beach was closed due to elephant seal activity. The McClures Beach Trailhead was closed due to numerous landslides. Some beaches were closed due to Harbor Seal Pupping Season. This, along with the onslaught of rain, was a disappointment. Regardless, we did enjoy our short visit to Point Reyes. It is such a beautiful and peaceful area.

We had dinner at the Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness. The grilled Oysters were fantastic, as was the Salmon. Inverness is another small village, just outside the park.

Just behind The Inverness Store you will find this shipwreck. I’m not sure how long it has been there, but it is pretty worn down.

Below is a picture of this same ship. I took it about 7 years ago when Charlie and I last visited PRNS. It was in much better condition, and we had much better weather. Apparently some people blew off fireworks in the ship a couple of years ago. The ship’s rear and port sides are now destroyed. I kept these areas out of the picture above.

In addition to visiting the PRNS we took a drive up to Bodega Bay. We stopped at various cheese shops along the way. Cheese is a significant industry in this area of the country.

While in Bodega Bay we enjoyed some clam chowder at Ginochio’s Kitchen. It is a great little restaurant. We went there thanks to fellow RVers, whom recommended it.

We stayed at the Olema Campground during our visit. With all of the rain the park was a muddy mess. The campground was nothing to write home about. It served its purpose for us, as it was just outside of the National Park and accommodated our 40’ Motorhome.

We’ll be working our way up the California and Oregon coasts. More on that later….

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Napa Valley and San Francisco

Aside from visiting wineries, which is the thing to do when you are in Napa Valley, we visited the Culinary Institute of America campuses and took a day trip to San Francisco.

Because of so much rain this year Napa Valley was unusually green and lush.

Regusci’s winery allowed Charlie to fly his drone. He captured a good picture of the vineyard and winery.  

I love to cook and going to the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Greystone for a tour was on my bucket list. Not only did we take a tour, but we also enjoyed an absolutely fabulous lunch at their restaurant. Lunch is served and cooked by the graduating students. They did a fantastic job! Lunch could not have been any better. I even got to tour the kitchen.

The building is beautiful, inside and out. It was built in 1889 as a cooperative wine cellar. From 1945 to 1989 it was owned by Christian Brothers and operated as a winery. In 1978 the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

The students in training:

The training kitchen:

Our fantastic lunch:

Because we enjoyed CIA Greystone so much, we decided to see if there were any interesting events at CIA Copia. For clarity, CIA owns both facilities. The students go to school at CIA Greystone in St. Helena, while CIA Copia, located downtown Napa, is used for public events and classes.

CIA Copia’s building is a little more modern than its sister location. This mural, called “The Garden,” was painted by San Francisco Bay area artist Allison Tinati in just 6 days, using more than 100 cans of spray paint.

I love the couple on top of the building, enjoying the views of Napa Valley while drinking some red wine.

A photographic exhibit of Paul and Julia Child was on display so we checked that out and learned a little bit about the couple and how Julia developed her passion for cooking.

We also toured the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum. There are some amazing collections of cookware in this museum.

One day I wouldn’t mind returning and taking a class in this fabulous training kitchen.

The most interesting thing we did at Copia was to partake in the ‘Le Petit Chef: 3D Dining Experience.’ We traveled with Marco Polo on his journey discovering spices and foods in Marseille, Arabia, India, Himalaya and China. The 3D animation played out on our plates and along the table. As Marco Polo arrived at a new region we were given food to align with it. The food, wine and experience were all great. We put together a short video. It is a little choppy, but gives you a feeling for how the experience was. Here is a link if you’d like to check it out: https://youtu.be/3ruT8i4MFIM

The weather during our stay was cloudy, chilly and rainy, except for the one day we had tickets to Alcatraz. Fortunately, during that day we had clear skies and temperatures in the 60s. It was my first visit to Alcatraz. Below are a few pictures from our visit. Click on the first picture to begin a slideshow.

Following our Alcatraz tour we walked around San Francisco. We stopped in at The Buena Vista Café for Irish Coffee. This place is famous for these drinks. We sat at the bar and watched the talented bartender work his magic, as he did on CBS Sunday Morning. (https://youtu.be/eRK5MdfEi84)

For lunch we dined at McCormick and Kuleto’s Seafood and Steaks. We scored a table next to the window with a view of Alcatraz and the bay. The food and views were both excellent.

After lunch we continued walking around the city, ending the day at The Presidio, a national park site at the Golden Gate Bridge. I wish we had had more time to explore this area.

Below are some final pictures from our San Francisco visit:

The Golden Gate Bridge:

Views of San Francisco from the Alcatraz Ferry:

Looking out over Lombard Street:

Trolleys and busses:

The coolest Ice Cream truck I’ve ever seen:

Our time in Napa flew by. Our next destination is a short stop in Point Reyes National Seashore. More on that later….

Where we stayed in Napa:

We spent 6 nights at the Napa Valley Expo RV Park (http://www.napavalleyexpo.com/rv-park.php) . The park is small, with just 24 parking spots. All sites were full during our stay. The park is optimally located, just a mile or so from downtown Napa. It is very clean and our site was fairly spacious. We would definitely stay here again, as there are not a lot of alternative options in the area.

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Yosemite National Park

Wow! Yosemite truly is an awe-inspiring National Park. We spent 4 nights at the Yosemite Falls Lodge, in the valley of Yosemite.

Shortly after passing through the Big Oak Flat park entrance you are blessed with beautiful landscapes.

The Waterfalls were flowing quite well due to a winter full of moisture and slightly warming Spring temperatures.

Below is a picture of Yosemite Upper and Lower Falls as seen from the Sentinel Meadow. The cars in the foreground give some good perspective to size.

We were saddened to see a large number of trees destroyed from the Ferguson fire, which hit Yosemite last summer. Additionally, the park was hit hard by winter storms in February.

Many of the trees that survived the fire were weakened to a point that they just snapped when the winter storms came. The fire damage was wide spread.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is located in the northwest corner of Yosemite.  It is about an hour and a half drive from the Valley. We hadn’t heard about this area of the park but it looked like an interesting side trip. The drive is full of scenery and at times, tight mountain turns.  We really enjoyed it.

We also took a side trip up to the Yosemite Ski Resort. There was quite a bit of snow at the resort.

There are some beautiful landscape views on the way up to the ski resort.

During our stay we had 3 days of overcast weather, a little rain, low temps in the 20s and highs in the upper 40s.

It wasn’t a washout though so we were able to get out hiking every day. We hiked between 8 – 10 miles a day. It is very easy to do this in the valley as it is pretty flat and so scenic that you forget how long you have been walking.

We enjoyed a walk to Mirror Lake, although with overcast skies we didn’t get very much of the mirror effect.

The trail was very lush.

On one of our walks we stumbled upon a small cemetery. Some of the graves date back to the mid 1800s.

We didn’t see very much wildlife in the park, aside from these deer and a couple of coyote.

Below are some final pictures from our visit:

Half dome:

El Capitan



The Three Brothers

My favorite view of the Valley is from Tunnel View. We visited this spot numerous times during our stay and it wasn’t until we were leaving the park for good that we got a nice shot with bright blue skies.

And the final picture, with Charlie and I.

Our Stays along the way:

We left Marina Dunes RV Park, near Monterey, CA, March 18th and drove to a winery in Merced, CA. We found Vista Ranch and Cellars through the ‘Harvest Hosts’ app. (https://harvesthosts.com/ ). They allow RVs to stay overnight on their property and they even supply 50 amp power. It was a good location en route to Yosemite. The wine was just average, but we enjoyed the wine tasting experience. We would not stay here again though, as I think the train goes through their front yard. We heard train horns continuously through the night.

On the way to Merced we passed some fields adorned with beautiful wildflowers.

We left Merced early in the morning and made our way to Groveland, CA. The road from Moccasin to Groveland is interesting. It is very steep and windy, an interesting road with the RV.

Groveland is the last town before reaching Yosemite’s Big Oak Flat’s entrance. It has the ambience of a former Gold Rush mining town. We parked the RV at Yosemite Pines RV Resort. It is a stretch to call this a Resort. However, it served its purpose as a safe parking spot for the motorhome while we stayed at the lodge in Yosemite. The only time we ventured into the town was for dinner on our first and last nights.

The most unique restaurant/bar in town is the Iron Door Saloon. According to its proprietors, it is the oldest continuously operating saloon in California. We enjoyed a drink there before heading across the street to the Mexican restaurant, Cichio. They have fabulous tacos. We tried all of them; beef, chicken, shrimp and fish.

After we left Groveland we headed over to Lodi, CA where we stayed at another Harvest Host winery: Jessie’s Grove Winery. We parked in a huge grassy field, surrounded by vineyards.

Due to the wet winter and spring, the vineyards were very lush.

The wine at this small winery was pretty good, especially the ports.

While in Lodi we visited the old town district.

We ventured into a fantastic cheese shop. We had a personalized tasting and learned quite a bit about cheeses. If you are ever in Lodi, check out Cheese Central.

Our next stop is Napa Valley. More on that later…..

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