Saturday, October 10, 2009

Monterey Memories

Pictures are all up now. Thank you to my amazing husband, Rick, for all his beautiful photography! Here are a few more shots we wanted to share...

Thank you again, to for making this trip possible for us!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Gradually Getting Pictures Posted :)

I'm working my way backwards, from most recent to oldest posts, gradually getting photos added. Keep checking back over the next few days for more and more great shots. :)

Saturday, October 3, 2009


We rolled into town mid-afternoon yesterday, giving us plenty of time to unload the RV, clean it up, fill the tank and get it back to Classic Adventures RV this morning. What a wonderful trip! We are exhausted, but it's a good kind of tired, the kind that comes with many happy memories attached. It seems that RV travel is truly all I hoped it would be, as a feasible way for me to vacation. (I'll post more about my own health through the trip on my personal blog later this week, for those who are interested.)

Once we could see the camp at Twin Lakes in full daylight yesterday morning, we discovered it was huge, with over 400 camp sites (dry camping in only $15 a night and full hookup sites are about $30, though showers will cost you a quarter for every 2 minutes of hot water) along with rental cabins, boats for fishing, a cafe and gift shop. The camp is located on Upper Twin Lake and to me the views there were almost as grand as anything we had seen in Yosemite itself! "Tame" deer would walk right up to you if you had anything that looked like it might be food. And because we dropped the names of the family friends who worked there, we even got to tour the fish hatchery for their stocked ponds. Less than 3 hours drive from home, I'm sure we will be back to the Twin Lakes Mono Village camp again.

Our week in an RV was a trip we will not soon forget and one we will carry in our hearts with very fond memories. I had worried that so much "family togetherness" would lead to some frazzled nerves and arguments, but everyone got along amazingly well and the only times we even used the TV were for movies for the kids while driving and for one bedtime family movie night. As we drove away from Classic Adventures, our 3-year-old let out a very sad little sigh and said what we were all feeling, "I don't want to give our RV back!"

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Yosemite Day Two

We are writing to you tonight from Annett's Mono Village in Twin Lakes, CA, near Bridgeport. After leaving Oakhurst this morning we headed back towards Yosemite National Park, with a stop at an old loggers' camp along the way. The big steam engine at the Sugar Pine Railroad had already taken it's last run of the season yesterday, so we just missed that, we we did get to ride a "Jenny Car" and had a great history lesson about the old logging community. The kids counted that stop as of one of the top highlights of our trip so far.

From there we headed back into the southern entrance of Yosemite National Park, this time turning left toward the valley floor. We took the turn toward Bridal Veil Falls, but when it took nearly 45 minutes to go just 4 miles due to road construction, we got back in line behind the "Follow Me" car and headed back out of the construction mess, eating lunch as we sat and waited. (More reasons to love an RV - we didn't have hungry kids while stuck in traffic and no potty accidents!)

The Wawona Hotel with its huge white porches and leaded glass windows was a worthwhile spot to stop and tour. I felt like a southern bell walking those lush, green lawns as we made our way to the formal, Victorian-style hotel lobby. Since it was a bit chilly, the kids had fun warming their hands by the fire. Rangers at the visitor's center let the kids play with a bear locker, stamp "passports" of their visit, then helped us plan out the rest of our day.

As we headed down into the valley itself, we had some breathtaking views of Half Dome and finally found a great place to stop and take pictures over Sentinel Bridge. Our camping neighbors back in Monterey had been through Yosemite just a couple weeks ahead of us and said they had seen both bison and elk (though we now wonder if maybe she hadn't been talking about Yellowstone rather than Yosemite?) so we were all set to see some big animals, but instead saw a large collection of squirrels, chipmunk and dear. Yosemite is an amazing place, but with my inability to take to the hiking trials, the lack of big game we had hoped to see, the kids getting tired, and the fact that perhaps we are quite spoiled in the fantastic natural views we enjoy regularly here in the Reno/Tahoe area and at nearby Grover Hot Springs, we found we had seen all we wanted to see by only about 3:30.

Back into the RV with our GPS set to take us over Tioga Pass. We had heard horror stories of the drive, especially in an RV, but Rick handled that diesel engine beautifully. He said that once again he was glad we had selected the 24 foot model, and we were thankful for good daylight, bright weather and low winds, but the drive really wasn't too hard, and what the road lacked in guardrails, it make up for in views! We were over the pass and to the eastern gate of Yosemite before 6.

We had heard that family friends worked at this camp near Mono Lake, so we looked them up, gave a call for directions and headed for Twin Lakes. On the way we passed several RV parks with vacancies and could have stopped at any of them, but it was definitely worth the extra 15-20 minute drive west from Bridgeport to find this little hide-away tucked up against the back side of Tioga. (And we had even greater appreciation for the mountain we had just passed over when seeing it from that position!) We counted dozens of dear on the way into camp and look forward to getting up to explore the lake in the morning.

It's dark, we have full tummies, the kids are all in bed and I'm not far behind them. When they wake up with the sunrise, I'm glad they are all falling asleep with nightfall as well!


We pulled into Oakhurst about 3:30 or 4 yesterday afternoon. After registering and finding our camp site, we pulled back out and headed on up the road to Yosemite National Park, purchased our $20 one-week visitor's pass, and headed toward the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Trees.

We found out an important tip for RVers, that only vehicles under 25 feet can access that road, so we were especially glad we had selected the 24 foot RV! (The same length limitation applied to parking at the Fisherman's Warf in Monterey, so a longer RV would have seriously limited some of our experiences.)

Even stopping for frequent rests, I was disappointed that my body just couldn't make it very far along the 2-mile trail to see landmark trees like the Tunnel Tree. I did get to see the Fallen Monarch as it's just at the entrance to the path, and I made it a bit further before sending Rick and the older two on ahead while the 3-year-old sat with me having a delightful time stirring up great clouds of dust with his stick in the dirt.

By the time the rest of our family rejoined us, you couldn't even tell what color his clothing had been and he had to be stripped outside the RV before we could even let him back in, but he sure had a blast! :D We drew lots of letters in the dirt and he identified all but one for me. When I drew it, he looked at me and said, "That's not a letter, Mom. That's an X!" (I guess buried treasure isn't marked with an actual letter.)

The older kids took their Dad almost all the way to the Tunnel Tree (found out after we made it back to the RV that they had been only about two tenths of a mile away when they had to give up the climb, but as there had been no maps available, they had no way to know that at the time). The hike was quite steep and exhausting. While the 9-year-old really wanted to push on and see that Tunnel Tree, we will just have to save it for another visit, but they did get to see sights like the Bachelor and Three Graces along with the Grizzly Giant.

To give the kids a bit of perspective, we held hands and tried to wrap our arms around one of the "smaller" sequoias at the edge of the path (in an area that wasn't roped off with instructions to stay on the path) and even with that relatively small Giant, our family of 5 could not come even half way around that tree!

We were back to camp by about 7, dark fell quickly as we ate dinner, and we were all in bed (and almost instantly asleep) by only 7:30! After being pampered by our great accommodations at Marina Dunes, I'm sorry to say that we were all pretty disappointed in the RV park here in Oakhurst, enough so that we plan to forfeit our second pre-paid night and either dry camp somewhere in Yosemite tonight or possibly even go on across Tioga Pass before dark. Again, the website description and the actual RV camp location were very different from one another, and while High Sierra RV Park had a slick website and great marketing materials, they just didn't live up to our expectations. Oakhurst itself seemed like a wonderful place to visit, we just won't be choosing this specific park again in the future.

(See the head of our oldest just beginning to pop up at the bottom of this picture? Gives a bit of scale to what you are seeing!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Monterey to Yosemite

We got up at sunrise this morning and bundled up for the chilly, windy walk across the dunes. It's been a beautiful stay in Monterey and it was sad knowing our time here was drawing to an end. We got to the beach before the sunlight really even hit the icy sand and we combed the beach looking for more treasures washed up by the storm last night. As the rays of light began to warm us, the kids and Rick got more daring and all ended up in the water at least up to their knees - the three year old was in up to his shoulders and had to hold on tight to Daddy's hand to keep from getting swept out to sea by the strong current.

After a couple of hours enjoying the sand and surf, we came back to camp and took long, warm showers before loading up the RV and heading out of camp for our final time. I have to say that the Marina Dunes was a great park and we would highly recommend them! Their website could use some significant updating, but "don't judge a book by its cover" because this is a wonderful place with friendly staff and great sites. We were on the road towards Yosemite by around 11 and will tell you more about this end of the trip in tomorrow's post, but now I'm headed for a nap to sleep off the rest of the ride.

A few fun memories from our time in Monterey that we have yet to mention:

Our 6-year-old, who knows nothing but the dry climate of northern Nevada, found humidity to be exciting. She said the toilet paper (definitely a cheaper quality than is found in our home bathroom) felt like "fairyland toilet paper" and we both loved the natural curls that sprung to our hair in the damper weather.

Kudos to the staff at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, especially Jim who went out of his way to see that all my needs as a disabled visitor were met! Our two days exploring the aquarium have certainly been a highlight for all of us.

On Monday night we strolled Fisherman's Warf and sampled clam chowder from just about every restaurant there. While we took advantage of being able to watch our budget and prepare meals in the RV for most of the trip, we had budgeted for one splurge out to eat and we selected our dinner location with great care. After the entire family had narrowed down our top three favorite chowders, we then selected our final dinner location based on best view from those three locations and had a delightful dinner from a second-floor table overlooking the bay.

Thw water's COLD, but the memories are well worth the chill. Who doesn't love a day at the beach!