Our route from Yellowstone National Park to California was pretty bland. It took three days to go from Pocatello to Sacramento, via northern Nevada and its tiny towns populated with an unreasonably large number of casinos.
I had made arrangements to stay in Sacramento for a few days with an old YWAM friend of mine, Caleb, and his wife and young ‘un. We just chilled for two days around town and caught up. It was great to be able to reconnect with old friends and take it easy for a couple of days, but also supremely weird to be in a city after so long. We parked our car and trailer in a mall parking deck at one point, an experience which was truly alien and just … weird. Our baby belongs in the dirt, out in the wild.
But we weren’t done with cities. We just had to reach the waters of the left coast, and Trish certainly wanted to see the sights and eat delicious Asian food, so we made a day trip to the gleaming towers and colossal bridges of San Francisco.
And a day trip was more than enough. We got our photo op with our toes in the Pacific, which was nice, and we drove down the infamously curvy Lombard street, which was trippy, but other than that, we both came to agree that big cities are just not our thing.
Our first experience there kinda soured us from the outset. We both wanted to eat some really authentic and delicious dim sum in Chinatown. We parked, and emerged from the parking deck to find a pleasant little courtyard, bustling with Cantonese grandmas playing cards, grandpas relaxing on sunny benches, and kids running amok on the playground. It reminded Trish very much of Hong Kong.
But the bad part was lunch. Trish asked a guy where to get great dim sum, and he pointed us to the second story of a nearby building. We made our way there and sat down at the tablecloth dining table, excited to dig into some delectable food.
Basically, it turned out to be a wildly overpriced restaurant. We paid way too much for way too little food. They brought us out a tiny plate of food, and we kept wondering when the rest was coming. It never did. It left me irritated, and Trish near fuming. We had to just walk it off.
As soon as we set out to walk it off, we became immediately aware of the fact that every third business was a dim sum place, offering tasty bites at rock-bottom prices. We were truly scammed. We even passed a $5.99 all-you-can-eat dim sum place. We got some more food at one pace to fill our tummies, since the ripoff food was barely enough for one person, let alone four.
After we paid $$$$$ for parking, we drove to, and then past, the infamous Pier 39. Parking cost a ton of money in the area, and I wasn’t about to pay through the nose to go to a mall/tourist trap like that.
We drove out to the beach for our photo op, and then back across the mighty Golden Gate bridge, back to the town of Martinez, to Caleb’s wife’s aunt’s house to pick up our trailer, which they had most graciously allowed us to park in front of their house for the day, so that we could explore San Fran without the nightmare of having to try and find parking for that thing.
Yeah, we were done with big cities. They’re fun for certain things, but mostly wildly overrated places. We’ll stick to nature, thankyouverymuch.
Next place on the list: Yosemite National Park. Now this place held promise. We were really looking forward to it. We crossed from the Bay area to a free camping spot just outside the park entrance in a day. We found a beautiful camping spot just off the main road to the park entrance, nestled in amongst the sequoias, with a creek running next to it for the kids to play in. It was all well and good, until …
The mosquitoes. I have never seen mosquitoes that bad ever in my live ever. As soon as we got out of the car, we had to swim through the dense hordes of bloodsucking monstrosities to get set up. Everyone sprayed down heavily with bug spray, with mixed results. They stayed off our arms and legs, and instead decided to bite our faces and hands and arms and legs anyway. Basically, they are the worst. But, for whatever insane reason, we decided to stick it out through dinner. We ate and threw the chewed-up kids in the trailer for the rest of the night.
But the next morning promised redemption in the form of Yosemite’s towering, sheer granite cliffs.
And boy howdy, did it not disappoint. Driving down into the valley was awe-inspiring. The flat valley floor was skirted on all sides by seemingly impenetrable, dominating rock faces. El Capitan, Half Dome, and numerous other cliffs towered over us at every turn. It was breathtaking. So, so very much better than the mall JC Penney and ripoff dim sum place we had visited more recently. We were right back where we needed to be.
We made a quick stop and short walk to Bridalveil Falls, which certainly impressed the kids. (I have done a good job of hyping things up for Shiloh, getting her properly excited for things by billing them as the BIGGEST, the BEST, the MOST whatever thing she has ever seen. She gets motivated to see it, and it pays off well for everyone.)
Next up, after a quick picnic lunch was another hike recommended to us. We wanted to go to Mirror Lake, to see a great view of Half Dome over a lake.
Finding the trailhead from the confusing parking lot was a task in itself. We had to ask a bunch of people, and all the trails in the area are interconnected, so we never even really knew where we were going. We ended up going slightly the wrong way, and had to take a bus to the trail head.
But as soon as we left the parking lot and started walking to find the trail Shiloh decided that she was done walking. Didn’t want to move anymore. Too tired. Too boring. Don’t want to. And on and on.
We had to keep tempting her with marshmallow treats to keep going. Judah was fine, because he was in a hiking backpack we had, which just made Shiloh jealous. She complained practically the whole way up the trail. But at least she made it to the top.
At the top, the views were to die for. The lake was beautiful, the cliffs and Half Dome were exquisite, and it was just all amazing. Sheer, towering cliffs surrounded the crystal clear sandy waters on two sides, making you feel like the happiest prisoner of nature, hemmed in by such imposing gray walls that you would not want to escape. It was truly majestic.
Judah and Shiloh played in the water, getting their clothes completely soaked, and no, we did not bring a change with us up the trail. I had to strip Judah down to a diaper and put him in the backpack, which made Shiloh double jealous. But, such is life for a toddler.
Eventually, we did make it back to the car, and changed her out of her wet clothes immediately. We all took a most satisfying shower, and found a cafe for dinner. By then, everybody was in a better mood.
Tonight, we’re camping just outside the park. Tomorrow, we’re heading for Kings Canyon National Park, then Sequoia National Park right next door, followed by a brief crossing of Death Valley. At this point, it’s hard to say who wins between Wyoming and Cali. Both are amazing, and full of ups and downs. We’ll have to wait and see once we hit the other parks in Cali.