From Tucson, Arizona, to Anaheim, California

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, we left New Mexico behind and began our trek back to California to meet up with family at Disneyland. First, the fifth wheel and truck needed a good bath after 52 days on the road, so we stopped in at Rincon West RV Resort in Tucson for four nights. Mid to late March seems to be a great time to travel in southern Arizona. The weather was great and the resort had plenty of sites available, unlike what we found in February the previous year.

Tucson, Arizona

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Tucson always feels like home. We need to spend more time there.
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Can’t beat the Tucson sunsets.

After our cleaning day, we rewarded ourselves with a trip to an RV show at the convention center and an early dinner downtown. At the RV show, we took a good look at motorhomes to compare to our rig. We didn’t see anything that would make us switch at this time. The thought of having to deal with maintenance on a motorhome plus a vehicle towed behind put the kibosh on a new rig. On the other hand, the walk around town and an early dinner was a hit.

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The chili pepper design is appropriate for a bus stop in Tucson.
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The Rialto Theater, named after Ponte de Rialto in Venice. I grew up in Rialto, California, where the town’s logo includes an image of the bridge.

Obon Sushi Bar Ramen served up a Salmon Poke and Tonkotsu Ramen that matched our taste and left us wanting more even though we were full. In between lunch and dinner is our favorite time to grab a meal at a restaurant because they usually are not too busy. With only a few customers, our server checked on us frequently to make sure our food tasted good and we had everything we needed. We topped off our meal with a scoop of the most flavorful green tea ice cream I ever tasted.

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Obon Sushi Bar Ramen 

The next day’s forecast called for 80-degree weather and high winds in the afternoon, so we got up early for a hike on the Douglas Spring Trail that leads into the Saguaro Wilderness Area. Parking is limited so it’s a good idea to arrive early.

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As we walked up to the trailhead, we heard a coyote howl behind us. Then another coyote responded. I love it when nature comes out and lets us experience their lives. Several hikes ranging from .2 to 12.4 miles are accessible from the trailhead.

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Carillo Trail

We opted for the 1.5-mile Carrillo Trail cut-off and then returned thinking the strong winds would begin roaring through the canyons by early afternoon. We found a well maintained, easy to moderate trail with no signs of litter, which was remarkable given the number of hikers we met along the way.

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The trail starts out as a botanical garden of sorts with several specimens of the cactus such as this blooming ocotillo and saguaro.

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Blooming Ocotillo and Saguaro Against the Sky.
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Teddy-Bear Cholla 
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View from Carrillo Trail
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Barrel Cactus
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The damaged saguaro lives on.

The trailhead is at the end of a road near the entrance to the Tanque Verde Ranch. Our curiosity about the ranch led us down the road to see what there was to see. Turns out Tanque Verde is a dude ranch/spa type place that goes for an all-inclusive $409 per night. At this price three meals per day and access to all of the activities are included. Only want to stay the night and eat breakfast in the morning? The price is $149.

Since finding a site in Tucson was easy peasy, we risked fast-forwarding the rest of our way to Anaheim without reservations. After a quick stop in Yuma at Carefree RV Resort, a night at Banning KOA, and a night in the Inland Empire on the street in front of Jon’s brother’s house, we arrived in Anaheim on Wednesday, March 28, 2018.

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Yuma also puts on a good sunset show.

Anaheim, California, and Disneyland

Anaheim RV Park was the perfect place to stay while exploring Disneyland. Not only are the sites spacious with concrete patios, the hibiscus, dwarf citrus, and cell towers disguised as palm trees were a pleasant change of pace from the desert scenery of City of Rocks, Tucson, and Yuma. Best of all a shuttle bus ran between Disneyland and the RV Park every 20 minutes for a small fee.

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Anaheim RV Park has wide sites and plenty of greenery.

When grandchildren have special moments in their lives, Papa and Nana must do what they can to be there. So it was when our granddaughter Maya’s middle school band and honor guard was invited to parade down Disney’s Main Street.

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My lovely family from the left: Jon, Laura, Jackson, and Chris. Maya was with her school group. We’ll get a glimpse of her later.

Jon thinks The Happiest Place on Earth is the most Frustrating Place on Earth because of the long lines and overcrowded conditions, so spending two days there wasn’t his idea of a good time.

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The Tiki Room is always fun.

During this trip, however, our daughter Laura served as our personal Disney guide, scheduling the rides to avoid the long lines and planning where to go for our meals.

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Disney is hard at work on the Star Wars: Galaxy Edge opening in 2019.

With the Disneyland App in hand, she had all the information she needed to make our visit as painful as possible.

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The Swiss Family Treehouse is now Tarzan’s home.
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Tarzan Treehouse
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Submarine ride and Matterhorn
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Tom Sawyer’s Island is still the best place for kids to get their wiggles out.
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This was the first time I saw this ship moving in the water.
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We paid extra for a spot on the concrete to see the Fantasmic Show. It was worth it.
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The Silvey’s waiting for the Peter Pan ride.

And here comes the band and color guard.

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Wells Middle School on Parade Route
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Maya in the middle.
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Wells Middle School parents and fans cheer the kids on.
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Jon’s favorite attraction at Disneyland is Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, no line and a quiet cool place to rest. The fire truck looks like a fun ride, too.
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Stop in at the Emporium for gifts.
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Jon attended the flag retreat, which honors current and veteran military personnel.

We all had a great two days at Disneyland. Even though Jon said he had a good time, I’m sure he’ll say no the next time the opportunity arises.

Four more days in Anaheim. Hmm, what will we do?

Safe Travels

The Hill Country and Spicewood, Texas

On Thursday, February 28, 2018, we set the GPS to route our drive to Hill Country Lakes RV Resort in Briarcliff, Texas. I was sad to leave behind the waddling Muscovy ducks, but more so the grackle blackbirds. I got used to the bird’s whistles and how they sounded like they were playing scales on an otamatone, and of course, their grackles, which brought to mind a toy machine gun. I never knew a bird could have so many different sounds.

As we started to pull out of our site, the lady from the office came up to Jon and handed him $85.00. Apparently, she had charged us the summer rate rather than the winter rate. They could have easily kept our extra payment without us knowing the difference. I’m so glad they were honest and refunded our money.

With all the construction on the major highways, we didn’t relish our drive through Houston. We lucked out, though, breezing along without too much traffic to navigate.

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Partial Houston Skyline

East of Houston, we saw this new Amazon fulfillment center nearing completion, which will house more than 400 employees.

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Gigantic Amazon Fulfillment Building

We stopped in La Grange, Texas, for lunch at the Back Porch BBQ & Grill. I’m a sucker for a pulled pork sandwich with coleslaw and an Arnold Palmer was the perfect drink to wash it down.

 

Walking back to the truck, however, Jon noticed something weird with the sewer connection. On further inspection, he realized the cap was missing and the piece of double elbow pipe was barely hanging on, yanked from its connection. Darn, Jon rolled over that old alligator (tire tread) after all. Thank goodness, the damage did not extend to or beyond the valve.

 

We settled in at Hill Country Lakes RV in Spicewood, Texas, with the sewer repair the first task on our agenda.

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Hill Country Lakes RV Resort Office
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RV Spots at Hill Country Lakes RV are Tucked in Among the Trees

RV Sewer Repair

The park hosts directed us to Hill Country RV, Inc. in Marble Falls for the parts needed to fix the sewer. We drove there early the next day and ordered a reducer to go from 3” to 1-1/2” pipe. They promised it would arrive around 2:00 p.m. the next day. Jon picked up a 3” double elbow from a plumbing supply warehouse. At Home Depot, he bought ABS cement, lengths of 3” and 1-1/2” PVC pipe, and a hacksaw. Jon fixed what he could without the missing piece, then waited until the next day to complete the repair. After letting it sit overnight, the repair passed the tests with no leaks. Hooray, we had our sewer back.

 

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Repaired Sewer Connection

 

Population Growth

Driving north out of Austin on our way to Spicewood, we had noticed a mass of growth from houses to townhouses, condos, and apartments and shopping centers where all the national restaurant and retail chains had set up shop. Our drive to Lakeway to visit with our friends was more of the same.

World Population Review lists Austin as the 11th largest city in the United States and the 3rd largest state capital. Austin’s metropolitan area’s population is forecasted to reach 3.2 million by 2030. No wonder it felt like the city was taking the country out of The Hill Country. The hills, once graced with greenery are now taken over with housing and shopping centers with more construction on the way. I guess that’s the price of progress and growth, but in some respects, it makes me sad. Where will people go to get their nature fix?

Pace Bend County Park

A drive through Pace Bend County Park brought us back to nature. The park has 20 improved and 400 primitive campsites. All of the 20 water and electric sites were reserved for the weekend, but it looked like they might have been open during the week.

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Campsite or Picnic Area Near the Lake

Launch a boat and fish, take a hike, or sit under a tree and read a book. This little slice of nature is going to become more precious as the growth continues.

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A Couple of Anglers Trying Their Luck

Reimers Ranch County Park

Reimers Ranch County Park was another place to get back to nature. We packed a lunch and drove out to the park. The four-mile hike along the river and through the bluff in the warm humid weather made me thankful that property like this has been set aside for future generations to experience the outdoors.

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Which Way Do We Go?
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Rain Drops Appear to Float Above the Ground
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River Wasn’t Deep Enough to Put in a Kayak
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Large Trees Along the Trail
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Signs of Spring
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Comfort Station

Family Business Beer Company

We had seen Family Business Beer Company on our way to Reimers Ranch and decided to check it out on our way back. This was a nice place to enjoy a cold flight of beers and bag of chips after our hike.

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Family Business Owner’s Residence

The grounds are set up for bean bag toss games to keep patrons busy, and a children’s playground to conquer the little one’s boredom while parents taste the beer. Plenty of seating is provided, or bring your own.

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Picnic Tables and Bean Bag Toss Games For Guests
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Playground for the Kiddos

For a bite to eat a food trailer serves a variety of treats.

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Inside, larger groups will find the long bistro tables accommodating.

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Inside Family Business Beer Company
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Wide Porches with Plenty of Seating

Of our flight, only one suited our taste, the Haulin Oats. Jon and I prefer amber and wheat beer over IPAs, which are more popular here.

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From Left to Right: Fox, King Biscuit, Haulin Oats, and Grackle

Mansfield Dam

Along the Texas Colorado River stands Mansfield Dam. Completed in 1941, the dam rises 278 feet high, is 7,089 feet long, and 213 feet thick at the base. Named for U.S. Representative J.J. Mansfield, Lake Travis can store up to 369 billion US gallons of water.

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This Used to be the Road Across the Mansfield Hydroelectric Dam

The hydroelectric power plant generates up to 108 megawatts of electricity.

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A Four Lane Highway Replaced the Dam Road
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View of Dam Near Boat Launch

A Couple More Restaurants

We had the occasion to visit a couple of restaurants during our visit. While in Marble Falls, we stopped in at Blue Bonnet Café for their “pie happy hour.” The meringue on the lemon pie was the fluffiest we’d ever seen and not overly sweet.

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Sevens Out BBQ, the restaurant next to our RV park, invited the guests to a BBQ giveaway to celebrate their grand opening. We managed to get a sample tray with brisket, sausage and ribs, potato salad, coleslaw, and what I think was bread pudding. Everything was delicious, even the bread pudding, which usually is not my favorite.

I wouldn’t mind coming back to Spicewood someday for the peace and quiet away from the city growth and the great BBQ.

Next up we head to Waco, Texas.

 

 

Kicking it in San Diego, California – Part 2

Top on our list for choosing San Diego was, of course, our favorite resident. Our son Kevin moved there shortly after graduating from high school and has adopted it as his hometown.

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Kevin Catches Me Taking a Candid Photo While Jon Shows Bailey Something on His New Phone.

We understand his choice given all the beaches, hiking trails, and nightlife that is available. And don’t forget the San Diego Zoo, Sea World, and Balboa Park. Who wouldn’t want to live in this subtropical zone with high temperatures that range between 66 and 77 degrees and lows that dip between 49 and 67?

Sunset Beach

After a day of hanging out at the trailer, we met up with Kevin and his girlfriend Bailey Bishop for a walk along the cliffs at Sunset Beach. The popular spot draws people out of their homes and apartments to enjoy the last hour or two of the day before the sun sinks into the Pacific Ocean. With clear skies and temperatures in the high 70s, we joined the fun.

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Swimmers Check Out Conditions
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Catching Dinner

When I stepped out of the car, moist ocean air reminded me of another reason I come to San Diego. The whiff of the ocean breeze and the moisture that settles on my skin provokes a sense of calm I rarely experience anywhere else.

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Boulders Piled Up On Beach Prevent Cliff Erosion

I hadn’t realized I missed the beach so much. We would have stayed at Campland on the Bay Resort as usual if they had not raised their rates to $96.00 a night. La Mesa RV will have to do for future stays as long as I remember to visit the beach more often.

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Beautiful Day at the Beach
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Nice of This Pair to Pose for a Photo

Ocean Beach Brewery

Ocean Beach Brewery’s rooftop restaurant was another great place to watch the sunset from our bistro chairs and table we were fortunate to snag. The place was hopping when we arrived with barely any standing room near the bar.

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Ocean Beach Brewery Rooftop. How Many Cell Phones do You Count?

Jon said the El Diablo double burger with a red onion spicy aioli on a brioche bun was the best he had ever eaten. I enjoyed the Mona Lisa, a marinated grilled chicken breast, roasted red pepper, fontina cheese, with a spread of spring mix basil pesto on a ciabatta roll. Crispy French fries and a glass of Hidden Gem Dunkelweizen on tap accompanied our dinner selections.

The Gulls

Kevin surprised us with tickets to the Gulls, an American Hockey League team affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks. None of us knew anything about hockey, but with tickets around $20, it seemed like an inexpensive way to spend a few hours.

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The San Diego Gulls on Ice

We watched with excitement as The Gulls managed a goal on the Tucson Roadrunners, then the Roadrunners scored, and back and forth, the players skated from one side of the rink to the other. With mere minutes left on the clock, the Gulls took advantage when the Roadrunners replaced their goalie with another player leaving their net vulnerable to attack. The Gulls pulled ahead and won the game when they easily shot the puck over the undefended Roadrunners goal line, not once, but twice. After this game, I might adopt hockey as a sport to follow in the future.

The Big Game

The Super Bowl is the one and only football game I watch each year, often hosting a party for friends and family. Our fifth wheel with it’s 32” television hardly has space for a party. Fortunately, Bailey’s parents invited us to join them for the big game.

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Jon Watches the Game with Ray and Cherrie Bishop
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Oops! Bailey Catches Me in the Act.

We were treated to a spread that included chips and queso, guacamole, and salsa; pulled pork sliders with a tangy slightly hot barbecue sauce and coleslaw to cool it down; and a variety of hot wings. These cute little football deviled eggs were delicious.

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Cutest Little Deviled Eggs

Even after all that food, none of us could resist the Knock-You-Naked Brownies. They were gone before I had time to take a picture.

The Super Bowl for me isn’t at all about the game. It’s about the food, great company, halftime, and the commercials. The food and company was a hit, the halftime show entertaining, and a few commercials made me smile while I shook my head at others.

Although I’m not into football, I did find the game entertaining this year and managed to cheer along with everyone else when the Philadelphia Eagles won. Who could not wish a close game win for the underdogs? Maybe the gamblers who bet on the Patriots were peeved, but we were ecstatic.

Our San Diego stop had come to a close and it was time to say good-bye. The next day we hit the road headed east for who knows how long.

Safe Travels

Kicking Off 2018 Winter Tour in San Diego, Part 1

San Diego is a favorite destination for us so selecting the location for the kick-off of our 2018 Winter Tour on January 30, 2018, wasn’t difficult. During our stopover in San Diego, we searched for places we had never stumbled upon before.

Mission Trails Regional Park

Mission Trails Regional Park was our first pick. I’m glad past city leaders realized the benefit of setting aside a swath natural habitat for future generations to enjoy.  Although the town encroaches near the edges of the park, urbanites and visitors alike can spend a few hours in the wilderness and learn about the history of San Diego in the early 1800s.

We started at the Visitor Center located off Mission Gorge Road. After grabbing a map and discussing trails with the volunteer, we escaped the busload of school kids that had arrived shortly before we did.

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Mission Trails Regional Park Visitor Center
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Hello Up There

We drove directly to the Old Mission Dam, which is registered as both a National Historic Site and a California State Historic Landmark. Kumeyaay Indian laborers, under the supervision of engineers trained in Mexico, constructed the 250-foot dam to provide a year-round water supply for Spanish settlements.

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Old Mission Dam

Construction consisted of cementing rocks and boulders together using mortar made of lime and crushed seashells. The dam created a reservoir that spanned the length of three football fields. A flume lined with hand-made tiles delivered water from the reservoir to the Mission San Diego De Alcala crops about three miles away and another 2.5 miles to the Mission. Today the reservoir is now a pond and the flume is no longer present.

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Old Mission Dam

We followed the Oak Canyon trail along the San Diego River, through sagebrush, chaparral, oak trees, and grassland. Critters rustled through the underbrush as we approached and birds flew from grass to tree tops.

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Bridge Across the River
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Are You Coming?

Every once in a while, I forgot we were so close to an urban setting. Then a plane would fly overhead, the roar of the highway traffic would seep into my ears, or a semi would rattle its exhaust brakes as it slowed.

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Stop Awhile and Rest in My Shade
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Edible or Toxic?
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Just a Puddle

At one point I heard rushing water. I picked up my pace at the prospect of seeing a waterfall or rapids in the desert environment. I knew it was just around the corner only to find more grass-covered hills. Around the next hill, still no water, nothing around the next hill either. Then I finally looked up.

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High Tension Wires

What I heard was not the rush of water flowing but the rush of electricity through the high tension lines. Silly me.

There are 24 trails to explore in Mission Trails Regional Park with plenty of choices whether hikers prefer easy, moderate, or difficult levels. I envision future trips to San Diego so we can experience more of what the park has to offer.

Trolley Ride to Historic Downtown

The Trolley has existed since 1981, yet we had never jumped aboard.  I suspect the reason is due to the ease of getting around town in a vehicle. Since our RV site was adjacent to the 70th Street stop, we hopped on for a ride to the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown.

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The Trolley

A day pass was $5.00 plus $2.00 for a reusable Compass Card. We saved the Compass Card to use during our next trip to San Diego.

Craving tapas, we stopped in at Cafe Sevilla for a flight of sangria, bacon wrapped dates and empanadas. It turned out to be a great choice.

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Cafe Sevilla’s Place Settings

The rich bacon wrapped dates melted in our mouths and the trio of empanadas contained generous helpings of meat wrapped inside. Next time I think we will stick to the traditional red sangria, although the apple and citrus glasses did have a crisp taste.

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Yummy Bacon Wrapped Dates
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A Flight of Sangria

Cafe Sevilla also offers Spanish music and dance lessons, making it a great place to have a birthday or anniversary party with family and friends.

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Stage
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Not Your Ordinary Bar Stool

Harbor Drive led the way toward the Midway Aircraft Museum where ships are often docked in port along the Embarcadero. First we came across The Headquarters.

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The Headquarters

Once the San Diego Police Headquarters, the courtyard is now home to restaurants, shops, and art galleries. The hallway to the restrooms contains a height chart to use as a background for taking selfies and a jail room with mug shots of prisoners.

Along the embarcadero is a memorial to the USS San Diego (CL-53).

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USS San Diego (CL-53) Memorial

The memorial was sponsored by the USS San Diego (CL-53) Memorial Association, Inc. to honor the “valiant and remarkable service of the cruiser USS San Diego and the men who served aboard it during World War II.”

Take a look at this stealth-like ship. They offered tours of the USS Independence (LCS-2) but did not allow bags, a no go for us since we both had backpacks. Instead, we gawked at the ship from the pier. The trimaran build allows flexibility for the military crew to employ different types of operations.

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USS Independence (LCS-2)

As we walked back to catch the trolley we admired a unique characteristic of San Diego’s skyline. One America Plaza, the tallest building in San Diego, sports a Phillips screwdriver roofline,

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One America Plaza

while the Hyatt’s roofline resembles a standard screwdriver.

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The Hyatt

Other buildings also have unique designs that makeup San Diego’s skyline.

Next week we finish up with Part 2 of our visit to San Diego.

Safe Travels

Ravenswood Historic Site in Livermore, California

One November Sunday, the house filled with the aroma of nachos and a blaring television. The crowd roared, announcers babbled, and Jon yelled, “Catch the ball,” for the umpteenth time. It was time for this NFL widow to get out of the house.

Ravenswood Historic Site in Livermore, California, called me to visit the restored Victorian country estate built by Christopher Augustine Buckley, Sr.

Ravenswood Historic Site

Known as the “Blind Boss” of San Francisco politics in the 1870s and 1880s, Mr. Buckley, a saloonkeeper and Democratic Party political boss, built the cottage on the left side of the photo in 1885 for his family. He later planted a 100-acre vineyard and finished the main house in 1891.

Historic Ravenswood Site

The Buckley family spent summers at Ravenswood from 1885 to 1920. They did not ignore the once rural area that served as their part-time home. Generously donating to local charities, and appearing regularly on the society page of the Livermore Press earned Mr. Buckley the nickname “Lord of Livermore.”

Main House

The Ravenswood Progress League docents conduct guided tours of the 1885 cottage, the 1891 main house, and the grounds on the second and fourth Sunday from January through November and the second Sunday in December. Tours start at noon and run from 20 minutes to one hour. Special events during the year include an ice cream social the second Sunday in August and a Victorian yuletide the second Sunday in December. The tours are free but don’t be shy about leaving a donation. The docents use the funds to help maintain the property and purchase period antiques to fill the home.

The day I visited, preparation for the Victorian Yuletide celebration was well underway in the cottage.

Cottage Entry Halltree
Decorated Christmas Tree
Mantel Decorations
Chairs for Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus

The city rents out the main house for weddings and other events, so the rooms do not contain furniture. My footsteps echoed on the hardwood floor while wandering inside admiring the artisanship in the doorknobs and hinges and in the stain glass windows.

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Stain Glass Window
Architectural Detail of Main House

Had I lived in this house, my favorite place would have been the benches next to the fireplace. Pillows, a worn quilt, and a good book would have provided hours of pleasure during a cold spell.

A Cozy Place to Read a Book

An outbuilding holds a collection of period pieces that the Buckleys could have used on the property when they spent their summers in the valley.

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Typical Farm House Supplies

Outside a baby carriage sat on the porch of the cottage, a statue of a boy is given prominence as the centerpiece in a garden, and a sundial tells time nearby.

Baby Carriage
Boy Statue
Sundial

From the parking lot, vineyards spread out in the valley, and the Livermore hills rise in the south.

The historic site, located at 2647 Arroyo Road in Livermore, California, is part of the Livermore Area Recreation Park District. Livermore, known for the Livermore and Sandia National Labs, is also home to award-winning wineries, breweries, and a lively downtown.

I felt restored after my trip back in time at Historic Ravenswood with its vineyards decked out in their fall colors and views of the golden hills. The trip made for a perfect place to escape the cacophony of the football games blaring at home.

Safe Travels

Sequoia National Park and Lemon Cove, California

The next day we managed to get through the 10:00 a.m. traffic flow through the construction zone with no delays. The Giant Forest Museum in Sequoia National Park was our first stop where we listened to a ranger talk about the sequoias. Inside the museum, he had planted a couple of seeds, which had sprouted into tiny seedlings. It was difficult to imagine how those seedlings could grow to the size of The Sentinel that stood outside of the museum.

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The Sentinel

Capturing the Sentinel from base to crown was a challenge even though it ranked #42 in the Wikipedia list of the largest sequoia trees.

Our next stop was Moro Rock where we climbed up 350 steps to an overlook. I could have stayed there half a day gawking at the views of the High Sierras, the valley below, and the road leading to and from the Lemon Cove.

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Stairs, Stairs, and More Stairs
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High Sierra Peaks
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Moro Rock Trail

 

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Generals Highway Twists and Turns. Line of Cars Waiting for Construction Pause.

 

 

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Valley Leading to Lemon Cove

 

Tunnel Tree was our next stop.

 

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Tunnel Tree

 

A short drive from Tunnel Tree was Crescent Meadow where there were plenty of picnic tables. Unfortunately, the insects were so fierce we ate in the cab of the truck. I braved the onslaught of flying pests long enough to fast walk to the meadow and grab a few shots.

 

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A Little Buggy Wanted to Share our Lunch

 

 

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Crescent Meadow
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Dried Out Ferns on Crescent Meadow Trail

 

Back on Generals Highway, we continued to the Sherman Tree trail. Parking close to the tree is only available for wheelchair accessible parking. Everyone else needs to follow the signs up the hill and then take the ½-mile downhill trail consisting of steps, ramps, and places to stop and rest.

General Sherman, considered the largest tree in the world, tops out at a height of 274.9 feet, has a circumference of 102.6 feet, a diameter of 32.7 feet, and bole (trunk) volume of 52.508 cubic feet.

Taking a selfie with the tree required a long wait while a group of six guys and gals took photo after photo of each other. They took close-ups, far away shots, this person, then that person, one couple and then another couple, turn to the left, turn to the right, and oh, don’t forget to stretch out your arms. Eventually, we had a chance to stand near the tree.

 

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Finally, Our Selfie with General Sherman.
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This Would be a Nice Shelter

 

Sherman’s healing fire scar.

 

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General Sherman Fire Scar

 

Don’t forget to look up once in a while. It’s a way to see the forest in a whole new light.

 

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Sequoia Tree Crowns

 

Walking up the trail back to our truck did us both in at the end of the day. We skipped the Big Tree Trail on our way out of the park and headed toward Lemon Cove for our last night of our 2017 Fall Tour.

As we waited in line for the construction crew to finish up for the day and release the traffic, we reminisced about all the places we had traveled and all that we had seen. Utah gave us the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park, colorful cliffs in Kodachrome State Park, a rushing river, and steep cliffs in Zion National Park.

We walked where dinosaurs once roamed and gazed at Coral Pink Sand Dunes. The drive into Arizona to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon took us through meadows and gave us a glimpse of the Kachina Peaks Wilderness, including Humphreys’ Peak, from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and close up in Flagstaff from the observatory.

Prescott, Arizona, offered us trails to hike, rocks to climb, and introduced us to Sharlot Hall. California gave us trails among the Cholla, Joshua trees, and jumbo rocks in Joshua Tree National Monument and the Giant Sequoias in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park.

Moro Rock from the road

 

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Moro Rock From Road

 

Here’s a Mystery Tree. Can anyone identify?

 

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What Kind of Tree am I?
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Mystery Tree Silhouette

 

After our white-knuckle ride back to Lemon Grove, we stopped for gas and took photos of some of the old buildings in this tiny town.

 

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Old Timey Richfield Station
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Quaint Green House

 

These buildings could use some tender care to restore them to their previous beauty. The name Victor Allred is barely visible on the one building expressing pride to be the owner of the enterprise that once occupied the space. When did businesses cease to use the owner’s name? It seems now most businesses make up words or some kind of catchy acronym to name their businesses.

 

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A Little TLC is Needed Here

 

After 33 days, we were ready to head home on October 27, 2017. It was time to enjoy the holidays and recharge for our 2018 Winter Tour.

Our main destination for our next tour is Galveston, Texas, for our niece’s wedding. We haven’t quite worked out which route to take or what we will see along the way. Where will we go after the wedding? Who knows which direction the wind will blow us.

Safe Travels

 

Lemon Cove, California, and Kings Canyon National Park

We selected Lemon Cove RV Park in Lemon Cove, California, on October 25, 2017, for our three-night stay 25 miles outside Sequoia National Park. Although close to the road, the campsites sit below street grade dampening the vehicle noise. After getting settled, we drove to the Sequoia National Park visitors’ center to pick up a map and newsletter and inquire about the signs we had seen about the construction delays.

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Mountains Tower Above Kings Canyon Floor

I’ve heard stories about drivers ending up in precarious situations if they rely too much on their GPS. I have to admit our trusty GPS backup, a map, got the better of us. Having missed the traffic release window on Generals Highway through Sequoia, our map showed a straight shot north to the Kings Canyon entrance. Thinking it would be faster than waiting to get through the construction zone, we took the Highway 245 detour. It was a lovely drive through citrus, nut, and olive orchards, a few vineyards, and small farm towns. Then the road turned dicey when it became narrow and curvy and increased elevation with each hairpin turn. What happened to the straight line I saw on the map? Once committed, it made no sense to retrace our route. Onward we continued through forested areas and remote property until the road intersected with Highway 180, which took us to the Big Stump Entrance of Kings Canyon.

General Grant Tree Grove

Our first stop inside the park was at the General Grant Tree Grove, which contains a 1/3 mile paved loop trail to General Grant Tree, the Fallen Monarch, the Centennial Stump, and Gamlin Cabin.

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General Grant through the Trees Doesn’t Look so Big Here

General Grant, believed to be 1,650 years old, was named in 1867 after Ulysses S. Grant, a Union Army General and the 18th president of the United States. The tree stands 267.4 feet tall, has a girth of 107.6 feet, and estimates peg it at 46,608 cubic feet of wood and bark. What I find impressive is that the tree continues to add board feet and bark, increasing in not only height but also girth.

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General Grant Crown

All about Sequoias

Although Sequoias are the largest living individual thing on the planet, they are not the tallest, widest, or even the oldest. Their trunks, however, occupy more space than any other single organism.

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Fallen Monarch Measures 124 Feet from Roots to Top. No One Knows When it Fell

The trees occur naturally in groves on the western slopes of the California Sierra Nevada Mountains within a 260-mile long by 15-mile wide strip between 5,000 and 7,500 feet above sea level.

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Centennial Stump is Partially Seen Behind and to the Right of the Sign

The trees’ bark, containing very little pitch and an abundance of tannins, provides built-in protection from burrowing insects, fungi, and fire. In fact, fire is one of the ways the tree reproduces. It clears the undergrowth and low branches and allows the tiny (.16 – .20 inches long by .04 inches wide by .04 inches broad) seeds to open up and flourish. Squirrels and insects also can cause the seeds to release from the cones and sprinkle the forest floor. A cone holds on average 230 seeds, but a tree may only produce one offspring during its entire lifetime of thousands of years.

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Hey, What Are You Doing Here?

A sequoia can even heal itself, after it has been burned, by generating new bark around its blackened trunk. The sequoias are also self-pruning, shedding lower branches as it grows taller and reduces sunlight escaping through the leaves.

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Example of Burned Trunk

It is a good thing that the wood of the Sequoia is fibrous and brittle and not ideal for construction. Otherwise, the Gamlin Brothers may have destroyed all of them. They held a logging permit in the area. At one point, loggers did fell the ancient trees for shingles, fence posts, and even toothpicks. Imagine how many toothpicks one of the beautiful giants could produce.

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Gamlin Cabin Built 1872 To House the Gamlin Brothers who Grazed Cattle Until 1878

Kings Canyon

A drive through Kings Canyon gives visitors a snapshot of some of the attractions that make California a favorite place to visit. Towering granite cliffs, a rushing river, golden grass, and yuccas captured our attention as we drove beside the Kings River. Most of the campgrounds had already been closed for the winter, and even gates prevented driving down some of the roads. We stopped at Canyon View expecting a spectacular landscape only to find the view blocked by overgrown trees. I think someone needs to rename the overlook.

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Contrasting Rock
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Kings River
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View Through the Forest

Montecito-Sequoia Lodge

On our way toward Sequoia National Park, we stopped in at the Montecito-Sequoia Lodge, an all-inclusive rustic resort. The property reminded me of the setting in the Dirty Dancing movie. Open year round, room rates include lodging, meals, and activities. I wouldn’t mind staying there a night or two. It sure would be more convenient than driving in and out of the park each day.

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October Colors

As the sun fell lower in the sky, we continued out of the park, with no delays through the construction zone where the crews had finished up for the day. Low gear was required to avoid burning up the brakes while descending into the valley. With growling stomachs, we watched for the first restaurant to grab a bite to eat before we continued back to Lemon Cove.

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Forest Mushrooms

 Gateway Restaurant & Lodge in Three Rivers looked like a good bet, and we were not disappointed. We sat at a table overlooking the Kaweah River illuminated by outdoor lighting. The snapper, the best I had ever eaten, was accompanied by a fluffy baked potato, plenty of butter and chives scooped on top, and perfectly cooked squash. The memory of the meal makes my mouth water.

Join us next time for a peek at Sequoia National Park.

Safe Travels