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.
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…
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.
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.
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).
We spent a little while checking out the town…or whats left of it anyway…
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.
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.
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…
Of course there were caches to be found in the park (Granite and Ice, GC5B68N, The Highest Leaping Waterfall in the World, GCJHJ4Ran 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.
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.
Of course, we had to get our ears…
Friday morning we were up, dressed and standing at the Disneyland gates when they opened.
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…
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).
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.
And that’s what we did on our summer vacation.