Before I get into telling you how awesome California is, I have to back up to our last week in Utah.
From the North Rim of the Grand Canyon we headed to Zion National Park. Of all the National Parks we have visited so far, Zion has been our favorite. We were lucky enough to land a campsite right outside of the park in the charming town of Springdale. Most of the year Zion does not allow private vehicles into the park so to get around you have to use their bus system. Lucky for us, our campsite was so close that we were able to walk to the bus and hop on from there. When we arrived, the temperatures were roasting. Our campsite had a nice clean river on the outskirts which was great for Ola who was able to get all the swimming that she wanted. Zion itself is lovely with great hiking trails through and around the canyons. Our favorite hike of our entire trip so far was called “The Narrows” The hike winds its way through the canyons by way of a river. The canyons increasingly get more narrow as you go upstream. It is recommended that you rent special hiking boots and walking sticks as you are walking the entire time in the river and over rocks. The river depth changes throughout the year. During our walk it was anywhere from ankle-deep to mid-thigh deep. It’s a very popular hike and we were lucky that we decided to catch the early bus and were on the river by 8:00 am. It’s a 4-5 hour hike and by the time we were returning, there were so many people on the river you would not have had a chance to enjoy the beauty that we experienced. Besides the Narrows hike there were many other really beautiful hikes. We recommend Zion as a must do park if you happen to be traveling in the area.
From Utah we zipped through Nevada and stopped in Bakersfield CA to see a show. One of our favorite bands was playing the night we were scheduled to arrive and so we stopped and saw Amanda Platt and the Honeycutters and Eilen Jewell. Bakersfield was a good stop.
From Bakersfield we spent several days in Sequoia National Park. We saw the giant sequoia “General Sherman” which is the world’s largest tree measured by volume. During our time at the park we did a lot of nice hiking in and around the Sequoias.
From Sequoia we headed to Paso Robles, which is a wine region in Central California. Our ride from Bakersfield to Paso was really interesting to see the “breadbasket” of America. We traveled 50 miles or so and all we saw on either side of the road for as far as the eye can see were fields of agriculture. It’s amazing how much food is grown here and how important this state is to our country.
From Paso we did a lot of side trips. We headed to the Pacific Ocean and visited Morro Bay and Montana de Oro State Park. We stopped at quite a few wineries and tasted some great wine and listened to some great music. We also visited the awesome town of San Luis Obispo where we had a great dinner with some really interesting and fun people. (thanks for the introduction Alex!)
From Paso we headed down to the coast and landed in a great park a few miles outside of Santa Cruz. This was a perfect spot because our campsite was only a few miles from downtown Santa Cruz, the ocean and we were connected to Henry Cowell State Park which is home to some of the giant redwoods in California. These trees truly are giants. In this park the tallest tree is approximately 277 feet tall, about 16 feet wide, and around 1,500 years old. These hikes were stunning and the trees were spectacular and offered much-needed cool shade. Not only were there the redwoods but there were rivers that flowed throughout the park which offered a nice cool down.
Santa Cruz offers a nice boardwalk, cool downtown area and nice beaches. From a suggestion we were able to find a nice off leash dog beach on the ocean for Ola.
From Santa Cruz we headed north and arrived in Napa/Sonoma/wine country. Needless to say, we are enjoying our time here. Our park in connected to the Skyline Wilderness trail system so on the days we are not at a winery or strolling through charming small towns, we are able to hike a great trail system.
While in Napa we picked up the local paper to find out the happenings in town. We came across a Gospel Choir out of Oakland and a choir called Skruk out of Norway. On a whim we decided to go watch them at a local church. Take a listen to these videos, this has to be one of the top 10 best things we have experienced on our trip. To get the full effect, watch the video to the end, they rocked the house!
All in all, we love everything about California. We have been in pockets of high temperatures of over 100, but we can always take a quick drive down to the ocean where the temps are typically in the 60’s. The natural beauty of the state is spectacular, the towns are cool and the traffic hasn’t been as bad as we had expected. We do however miss the rain. We haven’t had any rain in the last 8-10 weeks. We talk about sitting on our front porch on Franklin Street enjoying a good downpour. We will be in this lovely state for another week or so, and then onto the majestic lakes and forest of Oregon.
Loving our life in Valhalla
Erin, Jeff…….and Ola