"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

June 2020: Wine in Napa & Hiking in Yosemite

Paicines, CA
Thousand Trails

Where are we?  Italy?  California?  Read on to find out!

While we wait for our new black tank to arrive we figured we'd move 70 miles away to a Thousand Trails near San Benito.  This is near the central Valley on Rt 25.  It is located on the San Andreas Earthquake Fault along the Gabilan Range.  There really isn't anything out here except the Pinnacles National Park about 20 miles south.   This is a very large park with 400+ sites.  All FHU.  With Covid, none of the amenities were open (pool, laundry, mini-golf, store, etc).  We chose a site in the far back with the boundary fence behind us.  More space and very quiet with plenty of wildlife visitors.  This is one of the few areas of the park that had Verizon service as well.

There are many feral pigs in this area and they frequent the area every evening.  They keep the population down so that there is usually just one sow and piglets.  The piglets are overly friendly as everyone feeds them.  Just stay away from Momma pig. 
You've got company Steve!
We were here for 2 weeks and our plans were to visit the Pinnacles National Park on both weekends for some biking and hiking.  Being it's summer, it's no surprise the weather is HOT and dry!  Luckily for us the temps went from the 100s to the low 80s on each weekend.  During the week we took a few day trips.  If you are used to green views this dry climate may come as a surprise to you.  It rarely rains after March until winter.  Spring is the optimal time to be here when everything is green and covered in  wildflowers.
Plenty of old barns and tiny towns just hanging on like this sunflower.
The earthquake fault literally runs through the park as you can see in the pic above.  We are the blue dot and the red line is the fault.  No earthquakes while we were here.
Due to Covid the park is still open but you are only allowed to drive to the Visitor Center and park.  After that you could walk/hike/bike around.  It was free to get in.  We brought our bikes so that we could get further into the park and have access to the trails up to the lake and away from most of the visitors.  We did a 4 mile bike ride and a 5 mile hike.  With an early start and cooler weather it was a perfect day!  This is a little known park in California.  It was established as a National Monument in 1908 by President Roosevelt and redesignated as a National Park in 2013 by President Obama.  This park is known for its unique rock formations and caves.  Unfortunately the cave trails were all closed.
No cars allowed, just bikes.  There goes Steve.
We chose the trail that runs along the creek.  It starts out nice and shaded and was quite cool.



We are headed for the lake at the top.  Once you climb it gets drier, warmer and windy.


All these rocks were pushed up when each side of the fault slid in opposite directions.
Several switchbacks as you climb towards the lake.
I was surprised that there were still so many wildflowers out.
Some of these rocks are so very colorful.

A young couple taking a break with a great view of the valley far below.

Here are the pinnacles the park is named for.

Another weekend we repeated the bike ride and headed for a different trail. This large rock formation is called the Balconies and we are headed to the top.  Hopefully we'll see some of the California Condors that live here.

We did see some Condors but from a very far distance.  We weren't sure we'd want to be here for 2 weeks, but it was relaxing and we really got to see more of the Pinnacles that we haven't been to since we were dating.
We enjoyed our nights by the fire, listening to our talented neighbor serenading us with his guitar and harmonica playing.  Turn up your speakers.

Since we'd be heading to Yosemite soon we drove up to visit my parents for an early Father's Day.
Ryan, Diana and Jaxon came up a few days later.  With Covid, this was the first time they got to see and hold their first grandchild.  They got tested before they went up. 

After sitting so long in one place, June through August finds us moving quite a bit.  With California being so big, we will be making a couple One-Nighters to get to the destinations we will be spending more time.  This is where the Elks Lodge come in handy since they are in most towns.  It's very convenient since we can stay on course.  In California it's not so easy to overnight at a Walmart or find boondocking in the bigger city/coastal areas.
Back at the Salinas Elks we had our new black tank installed.  Covered in full by our warranty.
This Elks backs up to the golf course.  This is our view out the back window.
All fixed and ready to roll!

The next two nights were spent at the Modesto Elks.  $30 W/E/Dump.  Perfect stop to meet up with our friends once we get to Yosemite.
Complementary drinks and glasses.  Thanks guys!

A 2 hour drive brings us to Yosemite National Park which we have not been to for several years.  And not in our trailer.
We are at another Thousand Trails park.  This one is very popular.  We didn't get one of the shady spots on the river, but our friends did!
They have a very nice Grand Design trailer and are really enjoing it.
Rick, Me, Angie and Steve.  Rick and Steve have been friends since they were in the  Airforce.  A LONG time ago!
It was still very hot weather out.  Even up here.  Rick planned us a nice 3+ mile hike to Mirror Lake.
Many beautiful waterfalls here besides Bridal Veil.

The lake was pretty dry, but the views from this spot are amazing!

We spent another day driving quite a distance to Cherry Lake.  It's pretty remote.  My nieces ashes are buried at the far end and we really hoped to paddle there.
It was sunny and hot with gorgeous views on the lake.  Almost no one on the water.  Rick, Angie and their grandkids stayed near the put-in and relaxed and played in the water.  It was going to be a very long paddle for us.

This Eagle took off right in front of us.
I think we paddled for a few hours.  As can happen in the mountains out here, the wind kicks up in the afternoon and thunderstorms can pop up.  We still had probably 2 more hours to reach the far end of the lake.  With a storm coming in quickly and the water getting very choppy, we took a lunch break then turned back.  You'd need a power boat to get back here or an overnighter in the kayak. 
We tried to take a drive to the Sequoia Grove another day but missed the turn.  That's ok it was a nice day drive enjoying the scenery.  It was a great week and we had a nice time with Rick and Angie.
After we left a huge storm blew through and some of the pine trees came down and unfortunately damaged a few vehicles and rigs.  Rick and Angie were still there and they were ok.  Angie sent me this video of the truck pulling out to a safer location.  Crazy that it still ran!
It still RUNS!!

We will be moving from Central California to Northern California to spend some time in Napa before we head to the Northern Coast.  Our home for the next few days is at the Thousand Trails in Manteca on the river.  So far the Thousand Trails parks are ok.  Not somewhere I'd choose on purpose, but for the rest of this year it is free for us to stay at them.  There was only 30amp at this one and it just barely allowed us to keep our rig cool with the heat outside.  At least we had a shady spot.  They are decently spaced too.  The water was yucky so we didn't do any kayaking.

We did enjoy some of our favorite meals when its just too hot to cook.  Perfect with a glass of wine watching the sunset.

We arrived at the Napa Elks Lodge with no problem.  Campgrounds around here would normally be around $100 a night.  Only $35 FHU here.  We had some wine tasting planned later in the week when our son and his girlfriend, Shane and Lindsay, come up.
It's a small area, but very clean.  The far end of the loop was very tight to make!
We knew there was a bike trail behind the lodge along the Napa River so we went to check it out.  We were surprised to see the Elk statue hidden in the trees .  Even stranger was the real head mount on the tree behind it.  Yuck.  Kind of falling apart too. We walked the trail each day.

Trail behind the lodge.

The kids came up and treated to us to a day of wine tasting.  Once again, since they work in the medical industry, they Covid tested before they came up. First we headed into downtown Napa to the Stone Brewing.  They all sampled some beer and we shared a giant pretzel.
Next up was the Robert Mondavi Winery.  Napa is surrounded with some of the best wineries in California.  When we were younger it was much more casual.  And free.  Not like that anymore.  You need reservations at many and they charge, a lot, for tastings.  It was a little uneasy being out during this time but Covid rules are strictly enforced everywhere we've been so far.
More beautiful grounds, delicious wine and yummy charcuterie.  In my former, pre-kid life, I had a pretty important job as a computer programmer.  Now I seem to struggle with all-things computer.  It's nothing for kids these days.  Shane's on his phone using apps and Q code readers to make reservations and pre order tours, tastings and food.  Cracks me up and makes me feel sort of old!
One place I've been really wanting to visit is Castello di Amorosa.  It's like being in Italy.  This place is incredible!  It's a  13th century Tuscan castle spanning 121,000 square feet with 107 rooms, four underground levels, and four above-ground levels.  It took 15 years to build.
Our second son, Shane, with Lindsay.
You enter by crossing the drawbridge over the moat.

We had our temps taken, sanitized up and toured around the castle and grounds.  Afterwards we had our own private tasting in a clean zone.

We were there in June.  In September the Glass Fire, one of many that burned through Northern CA, damaged part of the grounds here.  So sad.  The main castle is ok, but other buildings were not.  Click HERE to read about the fire and see the damage.

Coming up: Russian River & Eureka, CA.  More kayaking on the ocean!!