Archive for ‘USA’

On the way home – final post from this trip!

On the way home – final post from this trip!

We’ll be on the plane home tomorrow evening after our epic trip in western USA. We’re spending our last night in Napa where the weather is in the 30Cs. We have really been through all seasons in our five weeks away! So here are a few final thoughts from our last few stayovers and some pics.

We strolled around downtown Denver along the pedestrian mall towards the State Capitol on a beautiful late spring day. We came across the local police (hundreds) and friends doing a fun run for the Special Olympics, saw a large bear looking at his own reflection and observed the recipe for Denver Omelet which was supposedly invented to add extra ingredients to stale eggs to disguise their taste!

Denver

I liked the idea of the drive by voting below!

Denver votes!

On to Monterey on the west coast where the sea fog kept the temperature down so it was on with the puffer jackets again! The famous Cannery Row (made so by John Steinbeck in ‘Of Mice and Men’) is now very touristy but we had a fabulous seafood meal right on the waterfront. Though there are still some derelict cannery works (lower left) I doubt that the sardine fishermen and cannery workers would recognise the Row. Not far from the main tourist area there were many divers and even more seals. The little chap on upper right below was grabbing and crunching what look like mussels in quick succession – must have been hungry!

Monterey

A scenic 17 mile drive took us along the coast to the Pebble Beach Golf Course where the preparations were proceeding at apace for the upcoming US Open . Two of us wondered whether more volunteers might be required! We viewed the 1st tee and 18th green – will be fun to remember when we are home watching the golf on tv! Hope it warms up a bit for the players.

Pebble Beach Golf Course

Coming in the spring, we have been fortunate to see a lot of plants in flower and I’ve taken pics of them along the way. As you can see they reflect the nature of the areas we’ve been through – from the cacti in the desert, to the alpine plants in the higher elevations.

Thanks for reading!

Yellowstone

Yellowstone

This post follows straight on from the previous one as it was a bit much to include both the Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks in one post!

Yellowstone has been on my bucket list for a long time so it was exciting to heading off there from Jackson Hole. It is the oldest national park in the US (1872) and some say, the world. The road we took is closed during winter and there was still plenty of snow around as can be seen through the car windscreen below. Lake Lewis (lower left was still frozen too). This high in the mountains the winters are very long…..

As an aside, the National Park entrance fees are quite steep as you might be able to see from the entrance board on top left. $35 for each park unless you buy an annual pass which covers them all for $80 – well worth doing if you are thinking of a trip like this.

Much of Yellowstone is part of a giant caldera and there are many geothermal features – hot springs, steam vents, mud spots and geysers – a bit like around Rotorua in NZ but on a big scale. Almost everywhere you go you can see steam somewhere around. The most famous geyser is Old Faithful (top right) which erupts reasonably predictably every 1-2 hours. We arrived to see the end of an eruption and were very surprised to see how many other people had also arrived to see the same thing!

Bears!

All the parks we have visited have had various warnings about bears. We hoped to catch a glimpse of one (from the car!) but didn’t, so viewed one in a wildlife display centre just outside the park . The centre also had a display of bins and coolers which bears have destoyed in order to find food. Some of the parks have bear vaults which bears can’t get into and encourage hikers and campers to store food, toiletries and other bear attracting items in them. Bear spray is also available everywhere with instructions on how to use it. We saw several hikers carrying it on their belts. Maybe someone will invent a snake spray……

Bison n bub, eagle

Our bison hunt really came to fruition in Yellowstone – we came very close to several groups which included quite new calves. We noticed some bison lying fairly close to steam vents or hot pools and wondered whether they liked the warmth! They don’t seem scared of humans and the park advice is that they can be safely viewed from 25 metres or so, whereas the recommendation for bear viewing is 100 metres.

I’m afraid the picture of the eagle above was not shot in the wild…….

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone has superb scenery too. I took many photos in the park but have included this one of Yellowstone Lake as I like the contrast of the partially frozen lake with the big sky above. It apparently freezes right over by early December except where there are some hot springs. A stunning sight.

The day we left Yellowstone and drove eastward continued to have superb scenery at almost every turn. Steep valleys with waterfalls and high mountain passes still with deep snow – a fantastic day.

We had another wildlife sighting too – a bit far in the distance for my camera but you might be just able to make out the moose in the right pic below…


Snowy Pass and Moose

We spent the night at Sheridan before heading towards Rapid City to go on to Mount Rushmore to view the famous presidential rock sculptures. As we did the weather forecasts became more and more dire – a big adverse weather pattern across much of inland USA – tornadoes in some areas, torrential rain and flooding in others. Cold of course too. We were in the heavy rain section and could barely see much past the side of the road at times. We were passing the Black Hills of Dakota but could not see them at all. Maybe they are really red with white spots! The closest we came to the sculptures is in the lower (slightly blurry) pic below!

Oh well, if there’s one thing we can’t do anything about it’s the weather!

Now to fly from Denver back to California and the final few days of our tour. Might be a bit warmer!

Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park

Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park

The weather wasn’t too bad as we left Salt Lake City but as we sought out a golden arch for morning coffee the sleet and then the snow started. At least there was no fog for this drive but outside it was icy and continued to be as we arrived in the beautiful Jackson Hole Valley in Wyoming, thankfully to a very cosy and welcoming hotel. Jackson seems to be an all year destination for visitors wanting to hike, or ski in the winter, sightsee in the beautiful Grand Teton Park or as a staging point on the way to the nearby Yellowstone National Park.

Jackson Hole

It’s obviously a tourist destination with lots of shops and cafes around a central park area. We enjoyed a wettish and coolish walk around. One of us really liked the flag carrying safety feature of the pedestrian crossing! Others had a really good shopping experience and have a largish momento of the visit (not me!).

Outside the village the Grand Teton National Park had stunning scenery from every angle as the image below shows. The reflection on the lake was just lovely and from other view points we could see glaciers and other features as the fog and mist dipped up and down!

The trees in the valley (too small to really see here) are mainly Lodgepole Pines, so called because they grow tall and straight and their trunks served Native Americans as tipi poles.

Grand Teton and Jackson Lake

We came hoping to sight some of the wildlife in the area – especially the famous bison herds that roam in this region and elk in the refuge area outside town. We had a fruitless first day, sighting only a small animal called a pica which I couldn’t capture with my camera. We did see some lovely small alpine type flowers among the grey green of the salt brush that covers the valley floor.

Yellowbells (Fritillaria pudica)

We happened to be in Jackson on the Memorial Day weekend. On the Saturday the Memorial Day parade was held which seemed to be a combination of a veteran’s parade and a community parade as the pics below illustrate. There were many police about on horseback acting as marshalls and parading too. Only a couple of the now very old veterans there – see in the jeep top left pic below.

Memorial Day Parade, Jackson Hole

Outside the town and before we started out on the scenic road through the park and on to Yellowstone, we took a detour to Mormon Row (top left below) near which we saw one of many signs warning us not meddle with the wildlife which we still hadn’t sighted. However not far along the road we did a double take and realised what we were looking at in the distance were not cattle…..!

Bison!

As well as the Lodgepole Pines there are beautiful birches around the area – some still fairly bare of leaves, some with new growth, depending on how sheltered they are I think. I especially like their silvery trunks.

Birches
Into Weather and Utah – Zion National Park and Salt Lake City

Into Weather and Utah – Zion National Park and Salt Lake City

The weather really turned as we continued on and into a big set of storm cells bringing cold, rain, snow, and wind taking us from spring to real winter weather! As we came through a mountain pass in some sleet en route to Zion National Park, we passed several snow ploughs headed the other way – obviously anticipating a heavy dump of snow.

As we entered the park we had some glimpses of the landscape in fine weather….

but when we woke the following morning it was another story…….

Snow on the peaks and mist and rain – really dreich weather as a Scots lady once said to me – meant the plan for the day had to be amended…..

Drove out of town along the swollen Virgin River (which runs through the Zion Canyon) and along to the trading post and mock up village (shades of the old Ettamogah Pub), someone played Davy Crockett (no sound or sight of Fess Parker anywhere!) and then back into town for lunch – resisted the ad to eat Elk even if it has 0 carbs!

The afternoon looked brighter so we walked to the visitors’ centre and caught the shuttle bus along the Canyon – just as it started raining again. However we did get some views of the famous red cliffs, waterfalls and hanging gardens. I took photos from the bus but they really didn’t do it any justice. Two of us got off the bus hoping to do a short walk along the river but we weren’t equipped for the weather had to head back when the rain got heavier. Took a couple of photos, here’s one….

Zion Canyon

The next day was no better weatherwise as we drove to Salt Lake City through fog, rain and sleet – a really tough day’s driving. The day after we arived in Salt Lake City wasn’t much better either but we did get in some walking….

There weren’t many other hardy souls out but we walked downtown to Temple Square – a 10 acre complex owned by the Latter Day Saints Church. Non-members can’t enter the famous Temple (above left and below) but we did go to the visitors’ centre and to the Tabernacle (below lower right) where we were privileged to hear an organ recital. Before the recital the organist tore some paper and dropped pins to demonstrate the wonderful accoustics. The recital was wonderful.

Temple Square

The gardens in the Square complex were quite stunning and there was a team of gardeners mopping up after the fierce weather the day before. It seemed a very peaceful place – like some other cathedral precincts elsewhere in the world.

Gardens

As it was still raining we thought we’d take a look inside the Family History Library which is just outside the Square. We were slightly reticent to go any further than the display area, but were made to feel really welcome by the volunteer helpers who are LDS people there on missions. In the end we spent several hours there – all joined the Familysearch web site aided by our our individual helpers, some of us found they had famous ancestors or relatives….. quite a fascinating experience! It is a huge facility with records or access to them from all over the world. If you visit Salt Lake City and are interested in family history have this on your destination list.

Family History Library

Outside Temple Square and the other LDS facilities, the downtown seemed much like any other city, including having an obvious homeless problem (interesting sign above regarding panhandling (begging)). For those who were wondering about alcohol in Salt Lake City we had two evening meals in the city, one in a pub (Irish!!) that served alcohol and one in an alcohol free diner style restaurant…we had an excellent meal in the latter and not so good food in the former…but don’t know if there’s a generalisation to be made from this one example!

Next post will be back to the National Parks – Grand Tetons and Yellowstone…here’s hoping the weather lifts a bit!

Another degree north – At and Around Lake Powell

Another degree north – At and Around Lake Powell

Our next stop was on the shores of Lake Powell, a huge expanse of water formed by the damming of the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam. Much of it is in Utah – we stayed south of the border near Page in Arizona – below is the view from our window taken in the late evening with shadow on the water and the desert beyond still in sunlight. Quite an incongurous sight, especially with the large marina in view as well. Apparently several million people visit the lake area every year from all over the US and some from further afield too for aquatic activities and hiking.

Lake Powell

A highlight for me of these few days, was our trip to the upper Antelope Canyon – which is a slot or crack canyon. It is east of Page and, as it is on Navajo lands, we were only able to visit by guided tour. It was extremely well organised, nothing allowed except a camera and 14 or so people in tight groups were taken through the 100 metre walk in single file by our navajo guides starting in the narrow opening (below left).

The narrow canyon is formed by water finding cracks on the surface and running down into the sandstone aided by flash flooding during rain periods making the narrow ‘corridor’ deeper and forming the beautiful graceful flowing shapes of the walls. As it is open at the top wind blows sand in and through it too. We went through on a windy day and ended up rather gritty from the sand coming through above us. The guide had his face very sensibly covered!

There has been some spectacular photography in this canyon – a few images have apparently sold for milliions!! We all had fun with our cameras and with the filtered light, graceful curves and the colours of the sandstone it was hard not to get some beautiful shots especially as our guide helped too. Here is a collage of some of mine (except lower right which the guide took for me! ).

Upper Antelope Canyon

We also took a memorable boat ride through the lower Antelope Canyon which has now been flooded by the the Lake. It was a windy, cold and dull day as you can see from below! Here the canyon is wider and there were many (most likely freezing) kayakers there too. Apparently it is wall to wall aquatic craft in the summer. The Lake is quite low now as can be seen from the “hanging” boat ramp which is too far above the lake to be currently used. Cherrie is coming back up the walkway from the marina where we caught the boat – the whole marina and the walk way are “moored” to the ground above highwater mark and rise and lower with the level of the lake. This year’s snow melt is just starting to impact on its level.

Lunch in a locals’ diner where we were probably the only tourists! It was the young chef’s birthday and he was embarrassed when the whole room sang Happy Birthday.

You might recognise the next photo.

Horseshoe Bend

It is Horseshoe Bend on the Colorado downstream from the dam wall. We were way high above it on a viewing area as you can see from the size of the boats on the river in the middle of the photo above. We could just make out campsites and people fishing too. Quite spectacular! It’s an incised meander for the geographic tragics like me.

Above is the walk to the Bend (with only a few others too!!!) and the trio at the overlook. There were the usual game or silly people climbing rocks without guards to get a better view!

Outside the Antelope Slot Canyon – taken by Cherrie
And on to 36 Degrees North – The Grand Canyon!

And on to 36 Degrees North – The Grand Canyon!

As I’m sure everyone knows the Grand Canyon is simply huge – in its size, its geological and human history and spectacular scenery. Even though we had all visited before, the Grand Canyon is (to use an unfortunately overused descriptor) truly awesome. This year is the 100th anniversary of becoming a National Park and though we were visiting early in the season once again we were surprised by the huge numbers already there.  Kudos to the National Park Service not only for its conservation measures but also for its traffic and people management skills. It would be shambolic without them.

Our first view this time was from a flight above the canyon in a small plane. Not to be boring but the Canyon is about 450 river kms long, up to 29 km wide and 1.6 km deep.

plane

Our plane flew about 1000 feet (300m) above the top of the Canyon and we had a great view of the Colorado and Little Colorado Rivers running through it and yes the water colour does vary.

Aerial

Looking really closely we could just make out some of the famous rapids ( above right – the white water about a third of the way down) and a few boats moving down the river. From this height the rapids look quite benign but many are evidently very challenging with huge waves, big drops and big rocks. Brave souls who take that on now in kayaks, zodiacs or similar, imho; but braver still were John Wesley Powell and colleagues who travelled in four small wooden boats along the river and took on the rapids in wooden boats in 1869. Nine set out and six returned.

Took lots of photos out of the window – they are never great in my opinion but give an idea of the scale of the Canyon and the erosion by the river over millions of years as the plateau was uplifted and then wind and water did its bit.

We did a couple of walks along the South Rim – the North Rim (behind the trio below, bottom pic) is a bit higher and is closed in the winter – we could still see snow on it from the plane.

Rim walk flag

The rimwalks are well organised with shuttle buses dropping walkers at sites along their routes and the many information markers that can be read along the walks. The flag at the Visitor Centre was half mast for peace and police officers memorial day.

Deer view

Not only are the geological shapes spectacular but the colours are amazing as well – generally there is a reddish colour but there are lots of shades of brown and grey as well. In the top left pic a path can be seen snaking its way down into the canyon floor and there is a close up below. It apparently takes 4-6 hours to walk down and 9-11 to walk back up – or – if you book far enough in adavnce – you can ride a mule down and back.  There is accom on the canyon floor. Or for the truly fit, there is also a rim2rim2rim ultra running course which is around 45 miles (72km) which you could also do! I believe the record is about 6 hours!!

Mules

There are always a few jokers who go out over the fenced view points to look over the edge or more likely to take a selfie or photograph someone else……

idiotic

We had our own private venue for happy hour – just outside our rooms – even if a bit chilly by the evening!

End of the day

Next post will be also along the Colorado – from Lake Powell.

To Sedona Az, via Las Vegas

To Sedona Az, via Las Vegas

What can I say about Las Vegas except that is kind of gruesomely fascinating in its glitziness and the fact it is a huge city dedicated to entertainment in the middle of the desert. We stayed at the hotel in the set below (no guffaws please!) which was extremely comfortable, we were high up and had a great view over this oasis in the desert.

Las Vegas

Took a walk along ‘the strip’ and wondered about what all the people who must be staying in all the seemingly hundreds of high-rise hotels were doing, as the strip was crowded but not heaving. Some obviously walking like us, a few stopping the show girls who would pose for $s, some on the gondolas or similar, some in the many entertainment venues and from our quick look lots and lots in the gambling facilities even in the middle of the day!

Onward to Sedona we travelled along a new highway, had a scenic view of the Hoover Dam and a conversation about a whizz bang three wheeler vehicle, our route crisscrossing parts of the old iconic Route 66. Stopping for coffee (in the golden arches again!) and supplies in a supermarket in Kingman we spotted a man with a gun in his holster in the car park. Decided against taking photos of that!

to sedona 2

Continuing on through rain and snow (some debate in the car as to whether it was fine hail or snow – the backseat meteorologists decided it was snow!) we turned south at Flagstaff down the Oak Tree Canyon (Route 89A) to Sedona. We ended up dropping 4500 feet (1500m) over about 30 miles (50km) through steep red coloured canyon walls and contrastingly coloured green oaks and pines. A fantastic drive which lived up to expectations of being one of the most scenic drives in the USA. We crossed the big iron bridge into Sedona and into more fabulous scenery.

sedona 1.jpg

The town is surrounded by red rock buttes and mesas (more geography!) steep canyons and pine forests where the trees are more scattered than dense. Taking a walk along the road we read on a series of signs about the numerous western movies that have been shot in the area, we could almost imagine John Wayne galloping out from behind a mesa! Views everywhere – even sitting outside a coffee shop or from the servo getting fuel. One of the local wildlife rescuers had a hands-on display of rescued snakes – couldn’t go near them myself but liked the expression of the girl who was game enough to handle one – and there’s Cherrie in the background taking her own photo too.

Sedona 2

The red of the rock formations comes from the weathering of iron oxide – ie rusting really – and makes for stunning colours by day and at sunset too. We jostled for a place among a crowd to see a sunset from a viewing point on a hill. Sedona is also an area known for the presence of a number of vortices (or vortexes, I think similar to ley lines elsewhere) which are thought to produce energy and promote self-healing through meditation or ritual. Quite a number of shops display information about them. There’s a big community of artists whose work is displayed in quite a number of galleries in town too. We kept reading about the wildlife we might see – did see some birds including this little hummingbird feeding at a ranger station and Cherrie saw some tarantula legs protruding from under a rock!

rotarians

The closest we came to seeing these little animals was when they were spotted by the two rotarians. Despite appearances they are not pigs but are called javelinas and are related to deer, antelope and hippos!

To Death Valley!

To Death Valley!

We headed off from Yosemite, descending from the cooler heights of the Park area to the more moderate temperatures of the Central Valley, overnighting at Bakersfield (associated with lots of things but for music aficionados the late Merle Haggard and Buck Owens – sadly (?) no available concerts by local performers for those in our group interested in the genre!) and then on to Death Valley.

Our route along Highway 99 to Bakersfield took us through miles and miles of nut and fruit trees, grapevines and other produce too. Very intensive farming, all irrigated via the mighty Central Valley Project which brings water hundreds of miles from Northern California. No photos to show – a new zoom lens I bought for the trip failed (or is DOA as an expert in a camera shop in Fresno told me) and so for the rest of the trip I’m relying on a little prime lens. We left Bakersfield turning east to Mojave and then northwards for Death Valley. For the geographically minded there is a shorter route to Death Valley across the mountains from Yosemite but it is still closed from the winter.

En route

Couldn’t resist a shot of this shiny new truck, the driver was delivering health drinks to the service centre as we were getting gas (petrol) (around $US4 per gallon). As we drove eastward it became (unsurprisingly) drier and more desert like as we entered the Mojave Desert. We passed thousands of wind generators and huge solar farms en route as well as an interesting clothes shop near Mojave (note the models!) and a field of stored non operational aircraft near there too, obviously the dry air is good for storage. Those who know us might be surprised at the destination of choice for morning coffee – yes – you’ve guessed – it’s the golden arches! Some confusion as to the order – straight lattes or cappuccinos served hot without any additives except milk but we’re becoming more adept at ordering.

As we continued on to Death Valley we passed through a huge mineral area where various salts, borax and other mineral products are produced from the huge dry salt lake, all transported out of the desert by train – surprising to see seemingly uninhabited desert we’d been driving through. We were also very surprised to find a sign to Ballarat. Just the place to eat our picnic lunch while gazing into the distance trying to find Ballarat!

Ballarat

It’s now a ghost town which can just be seen behind Cherrie’s head as she takes a photo of the Ballarat Road sign. Named after Ballarat in Victoria, I would guess because miners moved to and from both places looking to find their fortune in gold, it once boasted seven saloons and three hotels and a morgue but no churches! Truly the wild west!

Death Valley sign.jpg

The temperature as measured by the car climbed as we proceeded north, by the time we got to Burnt Wagons inside the Park, it was 106F (41C). Burnt Wagons was where gold seekers who were seeking a short cut to central California in 1849 burnt their wagons (nothing else to burn there) and dried the meat of some oxen in order to survive to struggle on westward. Don’t know how many did survive. Not far away there are some sand dunes which as you can see it is not advised to walk after 10am due to the heat, nonetheless there were car and bus loads of people all heading out into them.

Heat 1.jpg

Furnace Creek  lived up to its name – very hot! It’s below sea level and spectacular in the starkness of the huge salt pan surrounded by towering mountains some still crowned with snow. Nonetheless we woke on our second day to see a rainshower over Furnace Creek (top pic below).

Death Valley salt flats.jpg

We visited Badwater Basin where there is a small basin of salty water and a huge salt pan which is 282 feet (86m) below sea level but from which you can also see Mt Whitney the highest point in mainland USA (not including Alaska). You can just see the snow cap in the lower right pic. The little white dot above Richard is a label of where sea level is and Wayne and Cherrie are gazing at it leaning on a sign warning people about heat and dehydration, which did not seem to make a big impression on walkers.

Zabriskie Point

Hardly any vegetation anywhere but the landscape is beautiful in its topography, starkness and the colours of the rocks. Particularly spectacular is the landscape around Zabriskie Point – as we and about 400 others saw as we climbed to the viewing point! I think I did well to keep the pics peopleless!

Mates

Waiting for the wives taking photos! Such patience!

Yosemite

Yosemite

Onward and upward to Yosemite and on with the cold weather gear. We stayed at the Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite which is in fact outside the Park near the exquisitely named hamlet of Fish Camp. Set among tall trees, where even a communications tower was camouflaged to look like a tree, it was a great place to step off to Yosemite.

Tunnel View

Despite the cold, it proved to be a really good time to visit the park. The snow melt was well underway and all the waterfalls were running furiously. The view over the valley at Tunnel View was spectacular against the vivid blue of the sky, opening up the vista of a huge glaciated valley with spectacular cliffs and huge rocks carried there in bygone ice ages and waterfalls descending from hanging valleys standing out against the grey of the rocks and the green of the trees. (Guess who was a geography teacher in a past life!) The Merced River runs down the middle of the valley.

pic

The photos don’t do justice to the majesty and size of the valley. While the valley was crowded with people the day we visited – or seemingly so to us, though apparently nothing compared to the summer – people are really dwarfed by nature, both physically and in its timeliness. Spot Cherrie in left hand pic below against the size of the trees and the valley sides. Bridal Veil Falls (which is the one that can be seen in the Tunnel View photo at the top) is so fierce that it produces its own wind and temperature microclimate, with ‘mist’ and then ‘rain’ as you approach it. Thundering noise too.

Bridal Veil

The famous El Capitan had many climbers inching their way upwards the day we visited. Hard to spot with the naked eye and not visible on my photo, we took turns to look at some through a telescope. It was astonishing just how many were climbing. Some take days to do it – I can’t imagine being suspended up there at night.

El Capitan

I can’t really begin to describe the vegetation. The huge sequoias are just that – huge! Many other pines and firs are there too – lovely piney aroma all around from them. Many of the ponderosa pines are suffering a disease that causes them to die – bits fall off and then the tree may fall over. Apparently a big problem at the moment. Also parts of the park were extensively damaged by wildfire last year. Devastating to look at, and a huge problem where there are dwellings etc but fires have always been part of the landscape and needed for regeneration – so as we have in Australia there are planned burns in the off season to reduce the undergrowth now. The dogwoods were out and their splashes of cream decorated parts of the valley.

dogwood 2

The native Americans had stories about the valley’s creation and it’s been a national park since 1890 in the modern era. These pics are of a pioneer centre where buildings from various parts of the park have been gathered together. I found the covered bridge interesting – I’d always though the cover was for people crossing it but apparently its there to help stop the bridge deteriorating in the weather.

Pioneer Centre

It was chilly as you can see – but for the next stop we will need to de-layer! Death Valley – here we come!

Western USA road trip – San Francisco and beyond!

Western USA road trip – San Francisco and beyond!

Four intrepid travellers set out over a week ago and this is the first, quite belated post – but we have been busy! We arrived @ San Francisco (38°N) in the early afternoon, only to spend about 21/2 hours getting through immigration and customs in the airport – one of the longest, slowest queues in creation we all decided, though good humour for the most part was maintained…. We acclimatised to the cooler weather and the time difference by doing a lot of walking and revisiting old haunts with a small amount of shopping thrown in. I couldn’t resist the paparazzi dogs near Union Square – little did I know the bronze statues are on loan from Australia until May this year. We formed our own small two person band of paparazzi as we recorded our walking trip from our hotel to Fisherman’s Wharf and later around some of the streets with the gracious old (mainly) wooden buildings of San Francisco’s (very) steep streets.

Sanfrancisco 2
One of our four was pleased to see an historic (but still able to sail) war ship tied up in the Fisherman’s Wharf area and spent time going over the ship while the rest of us waited and chatted with the volunteer guides shoreside gathering up information too. Amongst other wartime experiences the Jeremiah O’Brien went backwards and forwards to Normandy for the D Day landings, the marks on her side are from the noses of the landing ships banging on her side. She went back to Normandy for the 70th anniversary crewed by volunteers (among others I assume!) – and their average age was 71. Not bad going. The iconic cable car was running on the day we visited but was under maintenance for several days afterwards so we were lucky to be able to watch one turning around on its turntable at the Fisherman’s Wharf terminus and then ride back to our hotel on it.

San Francisco 1a

We took advantage of the fine weather to take the ferry across the bay to Sausalito and sampled clam chowder there as we did at Fisherman’s Wharf, passing Alcatraz on the way. Spring flowers were everywhere and this local park had a brilliant display. I’m not sure what the installation is meant to represent but to me it mirrored the shape of the yacht sailing behind it – very apt given the number of vessels in the local marinas and the seemingly few sailing by!

Next stop – Yosemite!