PSA: Help Prevent Wildfires

Mountain Crossings at Neel Gap

As many may know by now, there are an alarming amount of forest fires burning in North Georgia, North Carolina and East Tennessee. Over the last few weeks, hundreds of fires have broken out throughout the area. The dry summer and lack of usual rain in Autumn has turned our woods into a tinder box. The Chattahoochee National Forest, which envelopes the entire AT in Georgia, has had a camp fire ban placed on it until mid January of 2017. It is now illegal to build or maintain a fire due to the extremely likely possibility that it can get out of control. Camp stoves are excluded from these restrictions but it is still massively important that these guidelines are followed for the safety of recreational area users and our forests.

cw1sh34wgaac1kr The Rough Ridge fire in the Cohutta Wilderness has burned more that 10,000 acres of forest so far.

High winds have…

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I Ain’t As Good As I Once Was…

“I ain’t as good as I once was, I’ve got a few years on me now…“

The line from Toby Keith’s song As Good As I Once Was is resonating kinda loudly with me right now. I spent the weekend hiking and camping on the Pine Mountain Trail with Ashley and her dog Cooper and now I’m one hurtin’ pup. We had fun but having fun can be painful sometimes, especially if you’re not in the greatest shape. I haven’t spent as much time bashing around the woods this year as I had hoped to. Rather than going into why, let’s just say that life got in the way and leave it at that.

Ashley and Cooper were heading home from Athens for the weekend and ConnieLou had a shopping and lunch date planned with Linda and Charlene, friends from YHC. I’ve been wanting to start hiking the Pine Mountain Trail for a while so I asked Ashley if she wanted to go and take Cooper. She did so Saturday morning we packed up, loaded up and headed down the road. We made a quick stop at the Whistlin’ Pig Café in Pine Mountain to pick up a couple of barbeque sammiches for lunch then headed over to the FDR State Park office to pick up our backcountry permit, parking pass and a couple of trail maps.

office

And then it was on to the trailhead at the Molly Hugger Hill parking lot…

pmt

molly-hugger

We ate our sammiches in the parking lot, then unloaded our gear and got ready to head off to the Big Knot campsite, a little over three miles down the trail.

packs

hikersme

At the park office we learned that there was a fire ban in effect along the trail (OK, this wasn’t exactly unexpected) so I was able to leave a couple of things in the car that we wouldn’t need.

fire-ban

Once on the trail we found the Pine Mountain Trail to be very well marked. Not only was the trail itself marked…

signs

blue-blaze

There were also mileage markers along the trail and each of the campsites were marked…

mile-markers

big-knot-sign
The section of trail that we hiked, between trail miles 7.8 and 11.1, passed mostly through hardwood forests…

trail-1

woods

There were plenty of rocky places along the trail but the worst, and by far most interesting was Rattlesnake Bluff…

rattlesnake-bluff

If I’d really been thinking I would have planned out hike so that we were walking toward the east in the afternoon and to the west on our way out Sunday morning…but I wasn’t so we had the sun in our eyes…

afternoon-woods

Oh well…

We found a few caches along the trail…

cache

And Cooper got to splash around in the creeks that we crossed…

creek-pup

There were plenty of tiny waterfalls to be seen…

tiny-falls

Unfortunately there weren’t too many scenic views along this stretch trail but the few we had were pretty nice…

view

Once at our campsite we hung our hammocks. With no rain in sight we decided to forego hanging up our tarps and sleep under the stars, easily one of our best decisions…

camp

Ashley fixed Cooper a place to sleep but he decided he needed a little hammock time too…

cooper-blanket

cooper-hammock

Once our camp was situated we set about cooking supper and spending some time relaxing…

cooking-supper

Dark seems to come early in the woods and by 8:00 were perfectly happy to settle into our hammocks for the night.

When darkness comes early, so does daylight…

morning

By 8:00 or so we were packed up and hiking back out to the car…

hiking-out

Another fun, if not tiring, weekend in the books.

For more information about the Pine Mountain Trail, visit the Pine Mountain Trail Association’s website at http://www.pinemountaintrail.org.

Posted in Backpacking, FDR State Park, Franklin Delano Roosevelt State Park, Georgia, Georgia State Parks, Pine Mountain Trail | 3 Comments

St. Augustine Strong

I debated on the title for this entry. I had three or four possible titles in mind but I kept coming back to two, “Resilience” and “St. Augustine Strong”. Ultimately I decided to let Jenna make the call.

Here’s the deal…

We spent the weekend in St. Augustine with Jenna for Flagler College’s ‘Family Weekend’ festivities. Maybe the little light has come on in your head and now you’re thinking “St. Augustine, wasn’t that the town we saw so much news coverage about when Hurricane Matthew sideswiped Florida’s Atlantic coast? Wasn’t Flagler College the school where all the flood water was rushing in the open door and down the stairs? Wasn’t St. Augustine the town where we saw the news footage of the people trapped in the hotel and all of the pumpkins from the church floating down the street?” Yes to all of the above. Now you’re also thinking “But that was just two weeks ago, how can St. Augustine be back up and running? Are businesses open? Is it safe? How can Flagler possibly be hosting their Family Weekend this soon after the storm?”

From our point of view, St. Augustine’s story is less about the storm itself but a story of the resilience of people of St. Augustine, strong people…St. Augustine Strong.

We weren’t entirely sure what to expect when we rolled into town. Given that Flagler decided to go ahead with Family Weekend as planned and not postpone for a few weeks was encouraging. I read a few St. Augustine-related blogs and FaceBook pages these days and was hopeful that we’d find things in relatively good shape in downtown St. Augustine, in Old Town and in the Historic District and, in general, they were. Most businesses were open, though some might have been missing some flooring or drywall. A few were still closed but planned on reopening later this month or next. Only a handful of businesses were damaged to the point that they couldn’t reopen or that reopening wasn’t financially feasible. Bear in mind, we’re talking about St. Augustine proper, not St. Augustine Beach or Vilano Beach or the rest of the beachfront that bore the brunt of the storm.

Care to see a few examples of what we saw as we wandered around town?

Piles of debris that included ruined furniture, bedding, clothing and other household items and roll-off dumpsters were still found in many locations and ServePro and Service Master trucks and vans were common sights…

chairs

servepro

The flood waters took a toll on lawns, landscaping and trees as well as the buildings in town…

grass

And then there were places one would be hard pressed to be able to tell that much had happened. Do you remember the video of the floodwater rushing into an open door on the Flagler Campus?

flood-door

Fortunately that basement room was just used for storage. The door isn’t completely fixed but that basement room is now dry…and empty…its contents were moved out to dry and allow the room to be dried.

basement-stuff

The water was up to the tops of the hedges in this plaza across the street from Flagler…

lightner-plaza

Not anymore.

We walked over to St. George Street to see what was happening and things seemed to be fairly normal and busy as ever for a Saturday afternoon…

st-george

Even the local favorite popsicle shop was up and running…despite missing its flooring…

the-hyppo

Remember the news photos of the Halloween pumpkins that escaped from the churchyard at the Methodist Church and floated down King Street or into the restaurant parking lot across the street? They’d been corralled and were back in their proper places.

methodist-pumpkins

We ended up bringing one home.

I wish I could say that all is as rosy in St. Augustine as it might seem in this blog entry but to tell the truth, there are folks that are still hurting. There are a few businesses that were lost and many faced losses that will take time to recover. Many lost their possessions and there were some homes that may or may not be salvaged and again, I haven’t even touched on the beachfront.

The thing that really stuck out to me about what happened in St. Augustine in the aftermath of Matthew wasn’t covered by the news. It isn’t the damage that was caused by the storm and it’s really not the extent of the recovery to date. The thing that really stuck out was captured by social media…FaceBook, Instagram and Twitter. It was the people of St. Augustine working together, despite any differences they might have had, to clear debris and to make the city inhabitable again, it was the utility linemen working to restore power and vital communications links, it was groups of college students volunteering to help out wherever they could once they were allowed back on campus. It was the resilience of the people of St. Augustine.

#staugustinestrong

Posted in Flagler, Flagler College, Florida, Hurricane Matthew, Saint Augustine, St. Augustine, staugustinestrong | 1 Comment

I Think She Likes College…

With six weeks of class and two hurricanes under her belt, I think Jenna likes college life.  Read on…

On Sunday afternoon, we went over to my cousin Lori’s house to celebrate me and Ashley’s birthdays. As we sat down to eat, the subject of my classes being cancelled came up. I said something to the effect of I was disappointed that class continued to be cancelled. To the my cousin, Andrew, asked in […]

via Hurrication 2016: The Aftermath  — What Lies Within

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Exactly What Are You Trying Say?

One of my friends posted this meme on Facebook and tagged me.

smartass

I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to say…

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The REAL Woodbury Zombie GeoQuest…

Ready for some more geocaching? How about a geocaching event this time around?

First a little background…

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you’re probably familiar with Woodbury, the fictitious sanctuary town controlled by The Governor and his followers. You also may know that the Woodbury scenes were actually filmed in the west central Georgia town of Senoia. What you might not know is that there is a real town named Woodbury which is also located here in west central Georgia, and that the real Woodbury has its own ties to The Walking Dead as scenes from several episodes were filmed nearby.

So how do you tie the real town of Woodbury, geocaching and The Walking Dead together? With The REAL Woodbury Zombie GeoQuest of course!

zombie-free-zone

The Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, with the help of local geocachers put together a series of twelve caches in and around Woodbury for the quest. The caches were focused on The Walking Dead filming locations, historic sites and other local points of interest.

Now for the fun stuff…

This is how it went down. The Chamber of Commerce & Tourism kicked off the quest this past Sunday with The REAL Woodbury Zombie GeoQuest Kick-off Event. Over three hundred geocachers and zombiefans/would-be geocachers converged on Lake Meriwether Park in Woodbury for the event. Cachers signed the event log at the check-in pavilion then had some time to buy an event t-shirt, catch up with friends, grab a bite of lunch from one of a couple of local food trucks or even get zombified by a make-up artist from The Walking Dead production before the caches went live on Geocaching.com.

check-in-table

Around 12:30 the caches went live and the quest passports and pages with additional cache info were distributed and the horde of zombies, err, geocachers dispersed to begin searching for the dozen caches.

As expected, the quest took us to a number of interesting locations including cemeteries and local historic churches like Jones Chapel located just north of Woodbury (Jones Chapel, GZ6QDQ)…

jones-chapel

We visited a peach orchard and farm store and sampled some peach ice cream (Peach Trees Galore, GC6QDQ2)…

fitzgeralds

Who knew that peach growing is a big deal in Meriwether County? I sure didn’t but I’m glad I know now!

We visited Red Oak Bridge, one of the thirteen remaining covered bridges in Georgia…another ‘who knew’ location (Red Oak Bridge, GC6QDNP)…

red-oak-bridge

I’ll have to admit that I had a bit of a fright at Red Oak Bridge. After signing the log and stamping my passport I began to walk toward the bridge. I was looking around wasn’t paying much attention to the bridge itself. When I finally turned my attention to the bridge I saw this:

walkers

Was it a crowd of walkers crossing the bridge and blocking my escape? Nope, just a group of cachers making their way to the cache.

Of course I can’t go without mentioning one of the filming locations for The Walking Dead that were included in the quest (Savior’s Compound, Season 6, Episode 12, GC6QDP4)…

dishes

Once I visited all twelve caches, signed the logs and stamped my passport, I headed back to the check-in table to turn in my passport and collect my commemorative trackable tag…

tag

OK, time out. What’s this business about a passport? It’s pretty simple…each individual cacher or each team of cachers was given a ‘passport’. Each quest passport had a dozen features (in this case zombie body parts and weapons) that correspond to a stamp in each of the cache containers. In order to receive the trackable tag at the end of the day, each of the dozen features on the passport must be stamped with the corresponding stamp in order to prove that one visited and found each of the caches.

So now you’re interested in completing The REAL Woodbury Zombie GeoQuest but you missed the kick-off event? No problem…the kick-off event was just what it says it was…a kick-off event…you can still do the quest and even collect your own commemorative trackable tag. All you have to do is visit the Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism office at 1 Broad Street, Warm Springs, Georgia between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday through Saturday to pick up passports and cache information and then drop off your completed passport at the same location. If you’re not able to drop off your completed passport you can mail it to P.O. Box 9, Warm Springs, Georgia 31830 with $5 for shipping and handling and the Chamber of Commerce & Tourism folks will be glad to mail your trackable tag to you.

Oh, just a little heads-up… Ms. Carolyn McKinley of the Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce & Tourism tells me that there are six more geotrails in the works for Meriwether County. The next trail will be situated in and around Manchester, Georgia, and will highlight Meriwether County’s rich railroad history.

Update:  Now you don’t have to stop by the Meriwether County Chamber of Commerce to pick up your passport.  Simply download and print the pages from the following links: Inside and Outside

Posted in Geocaching, GeoQuest, Geotour, Meriwether County, Meriwether County Georgia, The Real Woodbury Zombie Geoquest, Woodbury, Woodbury Georgia, Zombie Free Zone | 3 Comments

I Wasn’t Prepared…

As I began to write this entry I was planning to write a tear jerker, a piece that would not just tug at the heartstrings but would stretch them to the breaking point. Well, as you will see, that didn’t quite happen…but I figured out why. Everyone has a coping mechanism of some sort, an instinctive reflex that helps them keep going when the going gets tough. During ConnieLou’s bout with cancer this past spring, I realized that my coping mechanism is laughter. Finding things to make us laugh helped with the stress of the situation. Now that doesn’t mean that I became a stand-up comedian and told jokes endlessly. Instead it usually came in the form of a ‘one-liner’ poking fun at a particular situation. I guess that makes sense as I have a bit of a sarcastic streak and I’ve been accused of being a smartass more than once. With that said, as I began to write and the words began to flow my coping mechanism began to kick in and the idea of a tear jerker sort of went out the window. Oh well. So…you can probably put the KleenEx and Sham-Wows away. Well, maybe keep one KleenEx or a sleeve handy since ConnieLou tells me there are still a couple of emotional moments to be had. Read on…

I wasn’t prepared…

I thought I was, but it turns out I wasn’t.

For those expecting a tale of one of my normal outdoor or cooking misadventures, you may be disappointed because that’s what this entry isn’t. Instead, it’s a dad’s reflection on moving his youngest daughter into her dorm, uh, OK, ‘residence hall’ for her first year in college.

ConnieLou and I have always known the day would come that the girls would leave the nest and head out on their own. They’re both in school so technically they haven’t completely left home yet, but for nine months out of the year, they’ll both be away and doing their own thing.

When we moved Ashley into her room at Young Harris College there was excitement and, of course, there were some tears…but it seemed to be more of the beginning of a new adventure and less of the end of an era since Jenna was still at home to keep us company and to keep us amused and aggravated…both of which she relishes in doing. But we knew the day would come that Jenna would head off to school and they would both be out of the house…and that day sneaks up on you.

We started doing all the normal college prep stuff with Jenna over a year ago. She took the SAT and ACT exams, looked up colleges on the internet, requested literature, went for college visits, submitted admissions applications, got accepted, picked a college (Flagler College, BTW…Go Saints!…well, except when they play my Mountain Lions), paid the deposit, paid the tuition, paid room and board, ordered textbooks and bought all the cool stuff for her dorm room…basically we did all the normal stuff with all the normal excitement. And in the backs of our minds we knew that move-in day, the start of her first semester and our first long stretch in an empty house was rapidly sneaking up on us…and I wasn’t prepared.

Sure, I was physically prepared. We’d bought all the stuff, sorted all the stuff, condensed all the stuff, packed and repacked all the stuff, loaded up all the stuff, drove all the stuff and the owner of the stuff to St. Augustine, unloaded all the stuff and arranged all the stuff in said stuff owner’s dorm room. We even made a run to the store to buy a little more stuff.

What I wasn’t prepared for were the mental things, like backing out of the driveway and realizing that two cars were leaving but only one would come home. I wasn’t prepared for that first ‘this is it’ moment when you open the door to an empty dorm room and look inside. I wasn’t prepared for the wave of emotions that I unsuccessfully try to hide as we turned to leave after that last goodbye hug before heading to the car to leave. Nor was I prepared for the long, quiet ride home…well, quiet except for the occasional sniffles and boo-hoos from the passenger seat…I had a pretty good idea those would be coming.

While Jenna’s leaving home and going off to school is, in a sense, the end of an era, in reality, like it was with Ashley, it’s the beginning of her own adventure, first college and then life. And…it’s even the beginning of a new adventure for me and ConnieLou as we chart a new course in life without kids in the house and learn to be a couple again while the girls are away..

Oh, and for what it’s worth…I already have a pretty good idea that part of my course in life is to amuse and aggravate ConnieLou…both of which I relish in doing.

Flagler Bound

Posted in College, Flagler College | 2 Comments

On the Grid, June – August, 2016, And Then There Was One

One cache left to complete my 366 Grid.

Only one.

More about that later.

OK, so I haven’t made an On the Grid post in a while. I’ve been cachin’ but I haven’t posted about it. I got slack and I blame it on the weather. Its summer and its hot and its humid. I’m hot-natured and I’m NOT a hot weather fan. I’ve said many times I like hot weather when it involves sand, saltwater and a bucket of beer. Of course a cool mountain stream would work equally well. I turn into a slug when it gets hot and unless I can get in the water somewhere I’m content to enjoy the AC. There’s no need to worry though, I’ll perk up again around mid-September when we start getting the first real hints of fall.

Needless to say, summertime is probably my least favorite time to get out cachin’ and I had over two dozen caches to find between June 1 and August 4. Ugh! I’d love to say I knocked off a bunch of hard to reach, hard to find caches but for the most part, I took the path of least resistance. Although most of my finds in June, July and the first few days of August were largely convenient park and grabs, there were a few highlights worthy of mention.

I found the cache that qualified as both my farthest from home and farthest west (Its Whats For Dinner, GC28ZBJ) in Sacramento, California. I also found my highest elevation cache (Granite and Ice, GC5BG8N) at Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite Glacier Point

There was a cache in Hornitos, California, a gold rush ghost town (Bienvenido a la inglesia de Hornitos, GC695J7).

Hornitos ChurchHornitos Cache

There were even a couple of caches at Disneyland (Happiest Cache on Earth, GC3FQ4 and WD’s Original, GC4B24).

Now there is one cache left to find to finish my 366 Grid. If you read my March 13 entry titled “The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men”, you may remember that things got a little tense following ConnieLou’s cancer surgery on March 11 and I didn’t make it out to find a cache that day. To follow up on that entry, ConnieLou’s surgery was successful and we found out a week later that her pathology lab results were good and that chemo and radiation would not be necessary…a major relief!

So…I have one more cache to find on March 11, 2017 and since that day will mark one year of ConnieLou being cancer-free, I’ve picked out a cache in a location very special to both of us to find to mark the occasion. I’m not going to say which cache just yet but I will when the time is right and we might just turn it into a celebration.

Posted in Disneyland, Geocaching, Hornitos California, Yosemite, Yosemite National Park, Yosemite NP | 1 Comment

A Reblog from Couch2Trail

Interested in hammock camping?  Here’s a good piece by fellow hammock camper John Spenn about why he and his wife Cathy hammock camp.  Check it out!

Earlier this year, I asked Cathy about the possibility of starting to camp out, and somewhat to my surprise she said “yes”. Previously she had never shown any interest in camping out, and in fact seemed somewhat closed off to the idea of sleeping outside without any facilities and amenities available. However, since we started […]

via From the Couch to the Hammock: Why Do We Hammock? — Couch2Trail

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Who remembers third grade? If I remember correctly, third grade was the first year that, on the first day of school, the teacher gave out that dreaded assignment of writing a paper about what we did during the summer…and it had to be a page long, a whole page…and it had to be written on standard-ruled paper, not that weird first grade paper that we learned to print on. Fortunately that assignment has become easier over the years, or I’ve just become a bit long winded. Whichever the case may be, here’s a little tale of Jenna’s post-graduation summer adventure.

The planning started earlier this year when we asked Jenna what she would like to do for her ‘Senior Trip’ after her high school graduation. I liked her initial idea of visiting all of the National Parks…all 59 of them. Since neither ConnieLou nor I had at least three months that we could take off from work, we decided the idea wasn’t exactly practical. There were also a few things to be done before we could send Jenna off to college at the end of August. Just a few little things. I suggested a trip to Everglades and Dry Tortugas National Parks but south Florida during the heat of summer wasn’t exactly a popular option. The idea of a trip to Yosemite National Park in east-central California was tossed out and that idea morphed into a trip to Yosemite with a side trip to Disneyland in Anaheim. Hey, if you’re gonna play tourist, you might as well do it up right, right?

With a general plan in mind, ConnieLou began to work her magic arranging flights to and from Atlanta, accommodations, rental cars and even reservations for brunch at Disneyland. The resulting plan looked something like this:

Day 1 (Monday) – Travel – fly Atlanta to Sacramento, drive Sacramento to Mariposa.
Day 2 (Tuesday) – Yosemite
Day 3 (Wednesday) – Yosemite
Day 4 (Thursday) – Travel – drive Mariposa to Anaheim
Day 5 (Friday) – Disneyland
Day 6 (Saturday) – Travel – fly Anaheim to Atlanta
Day 7 (Sunday) – Collapse/sleep

Keep in mind that ConnieLou works for one of the airlines so we fly stand-by…essentially, if there are seats available we get on the plane. If not, we try again later or even consider rerouting and connecting through a different airport. As it turned out our planned flight out of Atlanta to Sacramento didn’t look too promising so we opted to fly out a day early and spend the night in Sacramento. The moral to this story…try to keep a flexible schedule and be prepared to adjust.

Our flight out of Atlanta was generally uneventful and we chased the setting sun most of the way to Sacramento.

Plane 1

We caught a shuttle to the hotel, checked in and caught some Zs before catching a shuttle back to the airport to pick up our rental car the next morning. Since the drive to Mariposa was only supposed to be about three hours we weren’t in a big hurry so we took our time getting moving and I took a bit of time to find a cache (It’s Whats for Dinner, GC28ZBJ) that was hidden a couple hundred yards from our hotel, my first California cache and farthest west to date.

We took an opportunity to try out an In-N-Out Burger, a burger chain we heard a lot about but don’t have at home…

In and Out

Since we arrived in California a day early, we found ourselves trying to come up with things to see or do along our route to Mariposa. During the trip out, the couple sitting next to ConnieLou on the plane had told her about the town of Hornitos, a ghost town close to Mariposa that we might want to visit. We decided to give it a look.

According to the information for the town or Hornitos on the Ghosttowns.com website, Hornitos was founded by Mexicans who were run out of the nearby town of Quartzburg just for being Mexican. During the Gold Rush, other ‘undesirables’ who were pushed out of other nearby mining camps, settled in Hornitos and the town became a pretty rough place. During its heyday, Hornitos had a reported population of approximately 10,000. Following the 2010 census, the population was reported to be just 75.

As we pulled into town, the first thing we saw was the St. Catherine Catholic and its cemetery up on a hill above the road.

Hornitos Church

As it turns out the church was built in 1862 and appears to still be in use. We noticed numerous tombstones in the cemetery that dated to the 1860s and 1870s.

Hornitos Cemetery Hornitos Cemetery 2

As we were walking back to the car I mentioned to Ashley and Jenna that the churchyard would be a good location for a cache. A quick check of the Geocaching app on my phone confirmed my suspicion (Bienvenido a la inglesia de Hornitos, GC695J7).

Hornitos Cache

We spent a little while checking out the town…or whats left of it anyway…

Hornitos SignHornitos Masonic LodgeHornitos Store

Finally in Mariposa, we checked into our room at the Best Western, set up base camp for the next couple of days and then set out to explore Mariposa and find some supper.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent exploring a very small portion of Yosemite National Park. Most of our first day in the park was spent wandering the Yosemite Valley. From the valley floor we were able to see the usual tourist points of interest…the Merced River, Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls and the upper and lower Yosemite Falls.

Yosemite SignYosemite TouristsYosemite Tree HuggersYosemite - BridalveilYosemite El CapYosemite Half DomeYosemite Upper and Lower Falls

In the afternoon we made the drive out to Glacier Point, an overlook that sits about 3,000 feet above the valley floor to take in the sights from a different angle.

Yosemite Glacier PointYosemite Glacier Point Sun

Those that have been to Yosemite will understand when I say that you just can’t put the experience into words and pictures don’t even come close to doing it justice.

On Wednesday we ventured out beyond the Yosemite Valley to see some of the giant Sequoia trees that grow within the park. Unfortunately the Mariposa Grove, where the largest concentration of giant Sequoias is found, was closed for restoration but the Tuolumne and Merced Groves, located northwest of the Yosemite Valley were open to visitors. We decided to visit the Tuolumne Grove.

From the parking lot we made the mile trek down to the grove on a mostly paved ‘trail’. When you enter the grove, you don’t see the Sequoias at first, you just see a few very large light brown columns amidst a background of browns and greens. It takes your mind a few seconds to actually process the concept that the light brown columns are actually trees…incredibly immense trees. Again, words and pictures don’t even come close to doing the trees justice…

Sequoia GroveSequoia 1Sequoia ConesSequoia 2Sequoia Walk Through

Of course there were caches to be found in the park (Granite and Ice, GC5B68N, The Highest Leaping Waterfall in the World, GCJHJ4R and El Capitan Moraine – The Yosemite Lake Dam, GC2MM1A), Earth caches and virtual caches instead of physical caches, which aren’t allowed.

We left Yosemite and took the ‘scenic route’ back to the motel. Highway 120 took us through Groveland, Big Oak Flat to the Moccasin community where we picked up Highway 49 which took us through Coulterville, another near ghost town, and Bear Valley before returning to Mariposa.

Coulterville Hotel Coulterville

We hit up the Happy Burger Diner (for a review of the Happy Burger Diner, click the link), a local burger joint for supper and wandered around town for a bit before heading back to the motel to get ready to drive to Anaheim on Thursday.

I was up bright and early Thursday morning, grabbed a bite of breakfast from the ‘complimentary’ continental breakfast at the motel then went off to find a couple of caches (A Shrine to Justice, GC69YXX and Quiet Neighborhood, GC19CB3). Once I had my cachin’ fix for the day I headed back to the motel to pick up the girls, load the car and head south. We’d all already had breakfast but as we were about to pull out of the motel parking lot we noticed Donuts a Go-Go, a little local donut shop in the strip center across the street from the motel…and we decided we needed to pick up half a dozen assorted donuts for the road. They might not have been Krisy Kremes but they were just as good.

The drive south was more or less uneventful. We traveled Highway 99 south through California’s central valley through Fresno and Bakersfield then picked up I-5 for the rest of the trip to Anaheim…OK, for most of the rest of the trip, except where Google Maps took us on detours to try to miss traffic back-ups. The central valley was an interesting place…there were literally miles and miles and miles of cultivated fields mixed with groves of fruit and nut trees. It was a five-hour drive made a couple of hours longer by Los Angeles traffic. There’s really only one thing I can say about L.A. traffic…IT SUCKS!

We settled into our new motel, rested a few minutes then walked over to Downtown Disney to grab some supper, see what there might be to see and buy our tickets to Disneyland for Friday.

Downtown Disney DirectionsDowntown Disney Sidewalk

Of course, we had to get our ears…

Downtown Disney Ears

Friday morning we were up, dressed and standing at the Disneyland gates when they opened.

Disneyland 1

In addition to being ‘The Happiest Place on Earth’, Disneyland is also one of the busiest places on earth. ConnieLou had made us reservations for Breakfast with Minnie & Friends at one of the park restaurants so our first stop in the park was at the Plaza Inn. Now I’m sure someone will scoff and ask “Aren’t y’all too old for breakfast with the Disney characters? Isn’t that for little kids?” The simple answer is no, you’re never too old, and, given that the adults in the restaurant outnumbered the kids by a fairly wide margin, it seems like a lot of other folks feel the same way. So there…

Disneyland Breakfast 2Disneyland Breakfast 3Disneyland Breakfast 4Disneyland Breakfast 1Disneyland Breakfast 5

With the number of people that visit the park each day there’s really no way to see and do everything that one might want to see and do in a single day so you have to pick and choose a bit. Fortunately we were able to ride most of the rides we wanted to ride, see the parades, see most of the fireworks and even find a cache or two Happiest Cache on Earth, GC3FQY7 and WD’s Original, GC4B24).

Disneyland Castle 2Disneyland MainstreetDisneyland TrainDisneyland TeacuppersDisneyland Parade MinnieDisneyland Parade MickeyDisneyland Castle Last Call

After the Paint the Night parade we had enough time for one or two more quick rides. The King Arthur Carousel and Peter Pan’s Flight were close by and fit the ticket. To the Hobbit/LOTR fans that might be reading, beware of Peter Pan’s Flight…there’s orcs in there. I wasn’t aware of this little detail until the ride was almost over and I noticed that Peter Pan’s dagger was glowing blue in one of the scenes. How Peter Pan got his hands on an Elven blade I don’t know…but be careful. Orcs.

Our flight out Saturday wasn’t until after noon so we slept in. Well, we slept in as much we could with our internal clocks still pretty much set three time zones east. We took our time getting packed up and ready to go and for the last time during our trip, enjoyed a motel’s continental breakfast (or at least what they claimed was a continental breakfast).

We dropped off the rental car, ate a leisurely airport restaurant lunch and shortly after noon we took our seats on the plane for our flight home.

Heading Home

And that’s what we did on our summer vacation.

Posted in Coulterville California, Disneyland, Downtown Disney, Hornitos California, Mariposa California, Yosemite, Yosemite National Park, Yosemite NP | 3 Comments