Happy 4th!

Today, I made the long drive from Kings/Sequoia National Park down to San Diego.  It took about 5 hours, with a stop for breakfast at Burger King (where there was a homeless guy shaving in the bathroom – should have went to the McDonalds that wasn’t deserted) and 2 stops for gas (the first place was mad expensive).

After making it in to San Diego, I checked in at my hotel – the Holiday Inn On The Bay.  I got a harbor view room on the 12th floor of the south tower.  After putting my stuff into the room, I went to eat at Anthony’s Fish Grotto.  It was pretty good – first off the bread was excellent, the “butter” was some fancy dried tomato thing that was out of this world.  Next came the calamari appetizer which was good as well.  Finally, the main dish arrived, the Shore Combo, which was 3 types of fish as well as salad and citrus rice pilaf for sides.  The salmon, of course, was the best of the 3 fish – I should have just ordered a salmon dish 🙂

After eating, I checked out the Maritime Museum which is basically right next door.  It’s hard to really describe without being there – but I thought it was definately worth it.  First, I went on the Star of India which is a sailing ship from the late 1800s.  Next, I went aboard the Rose, which is the ship that was used as HMS Surprise in the Master and Commander movie.  After that, I went on the B-39, an ex-Soviet Foxtrot class submarine.  It was quite amazing to be on it, and it was extremely cramped.  Finally, I ended my visit on the steam ferry Berkeley.

By now, it was getting dark so I started making my way back to my hotel room.  People were starting to get spots by the water to watch the fireworks.  I’ll make a quick aside in saying that it’s good that I have 28GB of memory cards on me.  Anyway, after getting back to my room, I took some photos of the sunset, and setup my G9 to take videos.  At 9pm, the fireworks started.  I’m downloading the photos right now – I shot alot, and also got a long video of it as well (I put the camera on a table on the balcony).  The fireworks display was pretty good – there were 3 barges in the bay that I could see that put on the show, each one making an identical display so you could see it from different points in the city, which is pretty slick!

After the fireworks ended, the smoke from the fireworks blew back towards the east which made this big smoky cloud that smelled of pyrotechnics.  Also the street outside has been jammed with cars for the past 45 minutes…  This hotel room is great!

Squirrel

I’ve been looking for squirrels the past few days after I missed a photo of a big fat one that I saw in Kings Canyon.  Well, apparently squirrels are more elusive than other animals, for example, chipmunks, but I eventually found a squirrel by Crescent Meadow, and managed to get a shot of it while it was darting around the forest floor!

Sequoias

After waking up, I went to the hotel’s lobby for breakfast.  The hotel offers a free continental breakfast, but unfortunately there were too many people there so instead I decided to head into the park and eat later.

First, I went to Moro Rock, which is basically a huge rock that they put stairs on to allow you to walk to the top.  After going up the first flight of stairs, I realized that this is not the place to be if you’re afraid of heights.  Even at this low level, the view was phenomenal.  After realizing that I didn’t feel like I was on stable ground (even though it was perfectly stable), I decided to head back down where it was safe…

I next went to Crescent Meadow and took the loop trail around it.  It was a really nice meadow, lots of green, and not too many mosquitos.  I also took a side trail to Tharp’s Log, which passed by another lush green meadow.  Tharp’s Log was pretty neat, basically, it’s a little home inside of a fallen tree.

I then backtracked and continued along the Crescent Meadow loop trail.  I saw two deer after getting back on the trail, both of which eventually ran through the meadow to the other side.  Another interesting tree that was along the trail was the Chimney Tree, which is bascially this burnt out tree that you can walk into and look up to see the sky.  I had heard from various people that they had seen bears earlier in the day in the area, but unfortunately I did not get to see any.

It was afternoon by the time I was done at Crescent Meadow, so I headed to Lodgepole Village and had an overpriced turkey sandwich at the deli there.  After eating, I decided to go visit the General Sherman Tree.  This tree is the largest living thing on Earth by volume, and it was indeed a huge tree.  Like other similar trees, it is dead at the top and so no longer grows taller, but instead grows wider every year.

I then thought about what to do next, and went to the Giant Forest Museum.  I also took the quick walk to Beetle Rock, which gives a great view of mountains in the distance.  Due to pollution wafting up from the Central Valley, the view is quite hazy.  Apparently the best views occur in the winter when there is less pollution in the mountains.

Afterwards, I decided to call it a day and returned to Three Rivers where my hotel is.  I got a Calzone from a place called the Pizza Factory for dinner – it was actually quite good.

Out of the Canyon

I woke up early (well not really that early) and checked out of my room.  Breakfast consisted of another ham, cheese, and onion omelette.  After eating, I drove out of the valley, stopping at all the places I could to get photos.  Eventually, I found my way to Lodgepole village where I had a bacon cheeseburger for lunch.

After eating, I took the 1.7 mile trail to Tokopah Falls.  It was a gradual uphill walk, which I like because it means it’s downhill on the way back.  I saw a deer in the path again, though this one ran away pretty fast.  I heard that further up the trail someone saw a mommy bear and a cub, but I did not get to see it.  Near the end of the trail, it was a very rocky path for 10 minutes or so before finally coming to a clearing.

Furry ThingIt was a nice view, though very hot.  Spent a few minutes there, where a German couple that I had seen multiple times on the trail noticed a little furry brown animal.  Not really sure exactly what it was but took a bunch of photos of it.  [edit] Apparently, according to S, this is a groundhog.  [edit2] After walking by a ranger talk about marmots where they were passing large photos of marmots around – apparently, this is a marmot!

Afterwards, I made may way back to the parking area.  That was pretty much it for the day, I decided to go check into my hotel in Three Rivers.  It turned out to be a rather long drive through some pretty incredible roads.  Definately the longest twistiest mountain road I’ve driven before.  There looked like there were a few points to stop and get photos on the uphill side of the road, so I might try and do that tomorrow.

After getting to my hotel and checking in, I entered my room and it kind of smelled, and the fire alarm was doing the beep every minute thing when the battery is low, so I asked for another room.  The next room, the door wouldn’t open so I got a 3rd room…  By now I realized the place was a bit run down, and I was definately having my doubts.  Not a place I would want to leave valuables in my room.  The wireless internet didn’t work from my last room – probably too far from the access point, so I called up the front desk and cancelled.

I went to a nearby Comfort Inn that I saw on my way in.  Thank goodness, it cost more but at least it’s clean and the internet works.  The lady that checked me in said that the other hotel had lost their franchise with Best Western because they couldn’t afford to do $400K in renovations that the place needed.  I guess that’s something to look out for in the future – I’m guessing that the only time a hotel voluntarily goes independent is when they’re better than the franchise’s reputation – but the price definately didn’t indicate that.

Anyway, after that, I had dinner at a Mexican place.  It advertised as authentic which usually means tourist but it did seem authentic to me – not that I’d know the difference.  Anyway, I had pork and rice, which I think you’re supposed to eat with a tortilla thingy.  Anyway, I dunno, the salsa was spicy and I was really full afterwards so not bad 🙂

Kings Canyon (2)

After waking up in the morning, I had an omelette with ham, cheese, and onion at the snack bar.  After eating, I drove to Road’s End at the end of the road…  I then took the trail towards Bailey Bridge (I only know it’s name because I took a picture of a sign).

Oh DeerAlong the trail in a more wooded portion, I saw a deer in the path.  It was just nibbling on some grass and was aware that I was there but didn’t move away.  I didn’t get any closer to it but did take some pictures.  It moved around after awhile and I followed from the trail.  Eventually, it ran across the trail and disappeared into the forest.

After walking a bit more, I reached the bridge and crossed the river.  On the other side, there was a different trail that headed back to the parking area where I started.  Unfortunately, less than a minute into it, I reached a river and the trail disappeared.  After looking around a bit to figure out where the trail continued, I gave up on it and backtracked.  On my way back, I noticed a little mouse in the trail right in front of me.  I got ready to take a picture but the little thing burrowed into the dirt and started moving underground!  It was like in the cartoons – you could see a little hump of dirt moving until he finally ran into the side of the trail.

After getting back to my car, I drove to the Roaring River Falls.  The falls were a quick walk from the parking area.  I sat on a boulder (that had a little dip in it making it nice to sit on) and watched the falls for a bit.

I then returned to the lodge to get some food.  Unfortunately the snack bar had just closed, so instead I got a prefab roast beef sandwich from the convenience store.  After eating, I drove along the road and visited some points that I had missed earlier.  I then returned to the lodge and walked around a bit beside the river.  BirdyI got some nice pictures of some of the birds that were flying around – they’d occasionally perch on a branch close to me and stay still long enough to get a picture.

After spending some time outside, I returned to my room and downloaded pictures to my camera, which took awhile (since I took 14GB of them).  After that was done, I went to get some dinner from the snack bar.  I had some soup (which was way overflavored – I think it was supposed to be clam chowder) and pork chops (which weren’t great but better than the soup).

Now I am trying to find some software that will make a video file out of photos.  I noticed while scrolling through my photos in the camera earlier today that it produces a nice effect, kind of like one of those flip book things.  Not really having much luck finding something – I may have to write something to do it…

Kings Canyon

After waking up rather late, I had lunch at McDonalds (I tried BK first but they didn’t take CC).  I then made my way to Kings Canyon National Park, which wasn’t too far east of Fresno.

Lunch consisted of a chicken sandwich at Grant Grove Village, which is in the western section of Kings Canyon, though not in the canyon itself.  Next, I hit Grant Grove.  There were a number of paths you could take that went through the grove of giant Seqoias.  There was also a dead one that you could walk through.  I had to backtrack some on the paths because I had missed the General Grant tree :p  But it was a pretty nice walk, though a bit busy but not overly so.  Afterwards, I drove up to Panoramic Point, which was, well, quite a panoramic view.  There was pretty much no one there, too bad for the people missing out 🙂

Canyon ViewAfter that, I drove to Hume lake, which apparently has a Christian Camp there.  There were TONS of people.  It was crazy.  I drove to the far side of the lake, took some pictures, and went back to the road to Kings Canyon.  It was a fairly long drive after that, which was partly due to the number of places where you could pull over for some awesome views.

I finally made it to Cedar Grove Village in Kings Canyon and checked into my lodge room.  I decided to take a quick walk in Zumwalt Meadow afterwards.  I didn’t really spend much time there – the mosquitos were crazy – I’ve never met so many before in California.  I had dinner at the snack counter in the lodge building and ended my day there 🙂

Bay Area (Again!)

After waking up, I just made it to breakfast with everyone at the hotel.  I had an omelette which was OK.  After eating, we decided to go hiking.  We went to a reservoir that was nearby which had a trail around it.  We went around maybe 4 miles into the trail before turning back.  My feet got blistered from the walk, which usually doesn’t happen – usually I just get tired.  I blame my sneakers and socks – never going to do a long walk in those sneakers again :/

Afterwards, we had lunch at a Mexican place – I had a beef burrito and a Strawberry juice thing which was pretty good.  After that, it was time to move on, and I drove to my next hotel in Fresno – the Marriott Courtyard at the airport.  It took about 3 or 4 hours to get there.  I had dinner at a Denny’s – burger which had a bit too much sauce on it :/  I had also wanted to hit the Jamba Juice next door afterwards but unfortunately was too full to do so :/

Bay Area

I woke up in the morning and had breakfast with H and J and H’s brother.  I guess I’ll just refer to people by first name initials…  We ate at some place called Country Gourmet.  After breakfast, they went to go wall climbing and I went back to the hotel intending to take a nap.

I never really got around to napping.  D and I went on a quick drive to check out Stanford.  Afterwards, we went to R’s hotel to pick him up.  It was R’s first time in SF so we decided to go drive over the Golden Gate bridge.   By the time we got there it was pretty late as the wedding was at 5pm, so we pretty much just drove to the other side, drove through part of Sausalito, and returned to our hotels.  It was a pretty foggy day, and if we had time to stop I’d have taken some pictures.

After getting dressed, H and J picked me up and we went off to the wedding.  D was supposed to come with us but he had a wardrobe malfunction (his suit pants fell off the hanger, and the suit bag he was using didn’t have a bottom, so it was probably lost on the airplane).  D eventually did make it after buying some suit pants, though he was a bit late.  Anyway, K and C’s wedding was quite nice, and the food was good 🙂

Afterwards, the people that were staying at the Creekside Inn, which turned out to be myself, K, C, D, and J, and some more, got together in J’s room to drink and talk.  I was a tiny bit buzzed when it was bedtime, which probably made it easier to fall asleep 🙂

California Trip, Day 1

So I’m taking a month long trip to California, for a wedding, a week of vacation, and a month of work.  I figured I should try and record what I did every day, since otherwise I tend to forget with time exactly where I went and what I did.  Photos say a thousand words but a thousand words often say what is missed in a photograph.  So…  Here we go!

I flew out on the 7am UA flight from BWI to LAX.  I had booked into first class so I was quite happy.  Unfortunately I had to check in a bag since I had too many items I needed with me – normal clothes, something warm to wear when in an A/C’ed room filled with computers, and something suitable for a wedding (haha, suitable).  So I had one large rolling luggage, a smaller carry on (the 5 year reward item from work actually, much more useful than a cheap plastic clock or some of the other random items), and a backpack.

It was nice getting on the plane ahead of everyone else, and even though domestic first class seats aren’t that great – it’s still much better than flying regular coach and economy plus (which isn’t really much of an upgrade over regular economy).  The aircraft was an A320.  I was seated in 2A which was good since I could put my backpack under the seat in front of me.  Had an orange juice before take off in a plastic cup, and wondered if we’d get glassware later in the flight during breakfast.

Well, we took off on time, and soon it was time to eat.  There was a choice of a cheese omelette or some fruit platter – I opted for the omelette.  There was also a choice of bagel vs danish – I opted for the bagel.  It smelled really really good as the fight attendant was warming it up.  The total meal consisted of the cheese omeltte which came with some fruit, sausage, and potatos & onion.  The potato and onion didn’t really have much taste even though it looked like there was alot of sauce on it.  Pepper didn’t help either.  They do say that when you’re flying, your taste buds don’t really work as well as they do on the ground and everything has to have alot more flavor to not taste bland.  The omelette and sausage were good however.  The bagel was quite lacking, I wouldn’t even consider it a bagel, it was more like a piece of bread shaped like a bagel.

The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful, other than the lady sitting behind me having some sort of bowel issue or something, and being in the first class bathroom for what seemed like half the flight.  Also it appeared that the toilet got clogged, so when I had to go I had to use the coach one which was all the way in the back.

We arrived at LAX on time, and my bag was pretty much the first one to come out which made me happy.  The Budget shuttle took awhile to arrive though.  I saw 3 or 4 busses each from the other places – Avis, Enterprise, etc.  Finally the shuttle arrived and took me to the Fast Break area, where I got section 3 like I always do.  I looked at the cars, a few SUVs and such that I wasn’t interested in, and only a few sedans.  I first looked at a Chrysler but it turned out to be an Impala so I decided to put the keys back in.  I got the shiny Ford instead – it had at first looked a bit too fancy and new (I prefer a plain looking car – nothing to attract attention) but I decided it was better than the crappy Impala.  It turned out to be a black Ford Fusion, with only ~34 miles on it.  And it had Sirius radio, yay!  Which turns out to be a really nice thing to have when you’re driving in the middle of nowhere.

Afterwards I left LAX and took I-405N to I-5N.  I stopped in Hungry Valley and ate at the Carl’s Jr.  Then I drove on through the Central Valley…  Miles and miles of boring straight road surrounded by farms.  I had noticed the Pinnacles in a guide book a few days ago and decided to take a detour there to check it out.  The roads leading to it from I-5 were winding and slow, but it was nice scenery.  I eventually made it there and decided to go check out the area near a reservoir.  I never quite made it to the reservoir, turns out I turned back right before it, but damn it was hot out, and the path was really really narrow through these rocks…  And it was getting late.  Probably should have kept on going – maybe next time.

After that I completed my journey to the Bay Area and checked into my hotel – the Creekside Inn at Palo Alto.  It was in kind of a dense surburban neighborhood, and I was surprised that there actually was a creek, and you could hear naturey sounds such as birds and the water.

Afterwards, I had dinner with the wedding folks – the ones who had already arrived I hadn’t seen in ages.  We ate at Max’s Cafe, which was a bit hard to find due to some confusion over signage and whether it was east or west of the 101, and some confusion over who was calling on the cell phone.  Anyway, I had a half chicken and it was pretty good.  Afterwards, we (the guys) went bowling.  I still suck at it.  Afterwards, it was pretty late and we went back to our hotels to sleep.