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Eight days in San Francisco, Yosemite NP, Napa Valley and Carmel/Big Sur

Eight days in San Francisco, Yosemite NP, Napa Valley and Carmel/Big Sur

Old Jun 29th, 2009, 05:04 PM
  #41  
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Day 5- Wed Jun 17, Yosemite NP

wow...WOW! Yosemite was just mindblowing. Keep in mind that I have never been to the Grand Canyon or dived in the Great Barrier Reef, but Yosemite was easily the most visually stunning place I have ever seen.

I recently met someone here at home who had just relocated from SF who told me that she had never been to Yosemite, even though she had lived in the city for 15 years! What a shame. If you haven't been...go now. It was amazing.

We left Napa Valley and arrived at the gates of Yosemite around noon. The most memorable part of our whole trip occured as we were descending through the thick forest a few miles before you get to the valley. You come to this opening in the forest and WHAM! There's this spectacular view of massive Half Dome. This was actually the first major pullout along the highway approaching the west entrance I believe. You'll know when you get to it.

We spent the remainder of the day exploring the valley and we must have took hundreds of pictures. We hiked up to lower Yosemite Falls and it's much bigger than it looks. Check this out for perspective...http://www.flickr.com/photos/5817720...16304/sizes/l/

We concluded the day with a ride up to Glacier Point which was spectacular beyond words. You must come here if you vist Yosemite. The highlight for me was seeing the snowcapped mountains in the distance. Here are a couple of pics..http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3673842904/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3673842598/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3673842296/

It was so beautiful here I almost cried. Seriously.

After spending a few hours here we drove the long winding road to Wawona Hotel. It's quite the drive but worth it IMO. It's a Victorian era hotel (I think) and it just feels so right. It's rustic, charming, old and comfortable all at the same time. Staying here was like walking back in time about a hundred years. They had live entertainment in the evenings which was nice. We sat on the front porch and drinked a few glasses of wine to close out the night. It was relaxing to be surrounded by all of the wilderness.

Next-Day 6, Yosemite NP
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Old Jun 29th, 2009, 06:56 PM
  #42  
 
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You were at the Wawona on 6/17? Not sure if they were still there, but some friends of ours were at the Wawona about the same time celebrating their 50th anniversary. They had the whole family: mom, dad, kid, grandkids and even great grandma!! You couldn't miss them. The teenage son is 6'4".

My DH is lifelong Californian and saw Yosemite for the first time on our honeymoon, at age 37!!

Please continue ...

MY
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Old Jun 29th, 2009, 07:14 PM
  #43  
 
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Wonderful!
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Old Jun 30th, 2009, 05:08 PM
  #44  
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MichelleY: Unfortunately we don't recall seeing a 6'4" kid there. It was actually pretty crowded. We stayed on the second floor of the main building and there was an older man (maybe in his 70's) that had to be taken away by ambulance. I'm not sure what happened to him. I hope it wasn't anyone from your friend's family...

What a wonderful place for a honeymoon. I wonder if his initial reaction was anything like mine?
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Old Jun 30th, 2009, 05:22 PM
  #45  
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Day 6- 18 Jun, Yosemite NP

So today was our fourth anniversary, and we started the day with a hike up the Mist Trail. I know it's the touristy thing to do but I can see why...very scenic with Vernal and Nevada Falls. Afterwards we drove back towards Wawona...(actually made 5 trips down this road) and spent the remainder of the afternoon at the Mariposa Grove.

We had our anniversary dinner at the Awahnee. It was a nice dining room and they had a piano player there playing Disney music...but we thought the food was overpriced and our steaks were not that great. We spent about the same amount there as we did at Gary Danko, but it's a NP so I guess the high prices are to be expected. We had a bottle of Blanc de Noirs from Domaine Chandon which was not too dry and very good.

Yosemite was great. Definitely worth the $20 admission price.

Next: California Coast
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 06:51 AM
  #46  
 
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I was fortunate to convince my wife to get married at the Yosemite Chapel in November 2006. It is incredible and words cant describe the amazing views when entering the valley. We now make it a point to make a yearly trek out to the park staying at the lodge or out in Foresta.
If you are planning on going up to Glacier Point, get up there at sunrise...incredible views without the crowds. Also, for a more intimate setting, grab a bottle of wine and some glasses and camp out next to the Merced river in the valley to watch the sunset on Half Dome.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 07:39 AM
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Next time you visit SF, ask for us "locals" to recommend some places as iamq did. There are some wonderful neighborhoods that bear exploring.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 06:02 PM
  #48  
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"Next time you visit SF, ask for us "locals" to recommend some places as iamq did. There are some wonderful neighborhoods that bear exploring."

Great suggestion. We hope to make it back some day and explore a little more...

fsunole007- I wish we had went up to Glacier Point at sunrise. I didn't know you could drink wine out in the open...wish we had done that.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 06:48 PM
  #49  
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Day 7, 19 Jun- California Coast

So it was really amazing to see all of the microclimates in California. On our way to the coast it was sunny skies and warm and then as soon as we got to the Monterey Peninsula, you could see the thick layer of clouds in the distance.

We spent the whole afternoon at Point Lobos State Reserve and had a wonderful time. We actually had to force ourselves to leave. We could have stayed a few more hours. It was overcast but that didn't take away from the beauty. We really enjoyed all of the different shades of green in the crashing waves.

We went to Carmel and checked into the Sea View Inn and Mary (who was very friendly) recommended some walks. We walked down scenic drive and spent the evening on the beach for a sunset. Afterward, we went to Jack London's Grill later that evening for some dinner and a beer.

Day 8, 20 Jun, Big Sur

So I was really hoping that our final day would provide plenty of sunshine. It started off cloudy as we made our way south down highway 1. After about ten miles the road went inland for a few miles then broke back out toward the coast and WOW....sunshine. It was completely clear and we were amazed by how much more beautiful the water was compared to what we had seen earlier in the morning. We stopped at almost all of the pullouts, frustrating locals in the process, taking as many as pics as possible. This is one place I wish I could live.

We concluded our journey at the waterfall at Julia Pfiefer Burns SP where we spent about half an hour just trying to absorb all the natural beauty. Here's a few pics.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/3664636654/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/5817720...7620427710763/

We drove back towards Carmel and stopped at Nepenthe for a late lunch. We spent the remainder of the afternoon browsing some of the boutiques and galleries. It's a reality check for those who have a budget. Don't plan on buying any art here unless you got plenty of money to throw away. I didn't see anything for less than $1,000 and that was hard to find. Most of the pieces I saw were in the tens of thousands.

We concluded our trip with a fantastic dinner at the Flying Fish. Our waiter was incredible and the food was even better. It was the best value of all the places we ate.
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 07:06 PM
  #50  
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Conclusion-

Our trip to Northern Ca was o.k.. Ha Ha just kidding. It was great. Can't wait to go back. Overall, we really enjoyed SF but Yosemite was the star. It really was amazing beyond all our expectations. If you can only make one trip to Northern Ca in your lifetime, don't miss Yosemite.

Napa was enjoyable but lacked the WOW factor that SF and Yosemite had. We enjoy wine and fine dining but a couple of days was enough for us.

The Big Sur and Point Lobos were beautiful as well. Not as jaw dropping as Yosemite but still very nice.

I did not like Carmel. It's just not for a Southern boy like me. It reminded me of Asheville back home except it's on the beach and more expensive. Just too artsy and expensive for my taste AND my wallet. But everybody there was very friendly. I want to go back and spend some time on the coast doing some hiking in the future, but I'm going to have to find a different base next time.

So Long....
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Old Jul 1st, 2009, 07:39 PM
  #51  
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BTW...what I meant to say was "excessive disposable income". I'm guessing that most of that art will appreciate over time, so technically it's not throwing money away. Although I'm not sure if it would outpace inflation....?

Just wanted to clear that up bc I know someone will call me out on that...lol.

If anybody wants more info about any of the places we stayed at or visited then don't hesitate to ask.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2009, 05:29 AM
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Nex time, you'll have to head north along the coast to Point Reyes, the Sonoma Coast and Mendocino.
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Old Jul 2nd, 2009, 06:47 AM
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Nice report, reminds me of our first trip to CA many moons ago, did a similar trip. Have since been back many times. We now prefer Sausalito over SF. More laid back. Also, if you do the Big Sur area again, try staying in Pacific Grove, found that town a lot more quaint and down to earth.

I agree with iamq, my favorite trip is still flying into SF and driving up the coast, flying home from either Portland or Seattle.
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Old Jul 4th, 2009, 10:25 AM
  #54  
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iamq- We would like to go up north along the coast. We had originally planned to go to Redwoods NP but chnaged our minds. We hope to get there some day. I've also heard a lot of good things about Mendocino.

owlwoman-We thought about riding bikes across the bridge down to Sausalito. Maybe next time. I have a friend I work with that loves that place. Ironically, I also have a friend at work that use to live in Pacific Grove and he had recommended that we check it out. I think we're just going to spend two weeks on the coast next time and venture farther north.
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Old Jul 6th, 2009, 06:34 PM
  #55  
 
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Great report - THANK YOU!! I have a couple of questions since I leave at the end of this week for the same trip. What route did you take from Napa to Yosemite? And then which way did you go from Yosemite to the coast? Also, if you can remember drive times that would be very helpful. Than you again!
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 04:21 PM
  #56  
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MWM1: Glad you enjoyed the report.

The directions below were mostly used as backup since we had a GPS. There are some slight differences but the main roads are the same. From Napa we took CA-29S to CA-12E via CA-121S. From here we went down I-5 through Stockton to CA-99S to exit#242 Yosemite Ave. This turns into or leads to CA-120 which will take you staright into the park. The whole trip was about 4 hours.

I'm sorry but we lost the directions to the coast..
It took about four hours though.

We hope you enjoy your trip! Let us know how it goes.
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Old Jul 7th, 2009, 09:33 PM
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To get to Monterey/Carmel from Yosemite, take Hwy 140 out of the park into Merced. Hwy 58 to 152. 152/156 west will take you to US 101. Then 101 to Hwy. 1 to the Coast.
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Old Jul 8th, 2009, 05:25 AM
  #58  
 
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Fabulous report OP, thank you for sharing your trip with us! We love SF also and return as often as we can. I agree with those who said you can visit a place many many times and still not see everything.

OP, I also appreciate your candor regarding the balloon trip. We've not attempted to do one but its refreshing to read reports that speak the truth, combining both the good and bad aspects of travel.

I also hope the slight bickering here is not the norm for this forum. When a traveler takes the time and energy to post a report, it can be priceless to future travelers. I personally don't want to hear just the good but also the potential pitfalls; hopefully I can then avoid them. (JMHO)
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Old Jul 8th, 2009, 05:40 AM
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travelinjo, stick around a while, visit the lounge and that "slight bickering" will seem tame in comparison. Welcome to Fodors.
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Old Jul 8th, 2009, 06:46 PM
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