It was over so fast…

After an extremely busy roadtrip, in which I was just able to edit photos and upload them to Facebook, I am currently in the airport waiting to board my next flight to Canada, to begin another roadtrip! The fun never stops!

Not only has the trip been busy, the internet has also been very variable, with some places like Yosemite (not too surprising) having an extremely slow connection, meaning that it takes too long to get the photos on WordPress. So I started writing the blogs in the car, and just need to upload the photos for the blog and they’re good to go. I doubt I’ll be able to post whilst in Canada, due to camping for the most part, so the connection is unlikely to exist at all. Once I return to the UK I will be posting about the trips, most likely in separate posts for each city and region rather than two huge posts.

To give a summary for the road trip, the locations we have been to are:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Davis
  3. South Lake Tahoe
  4. Yosemite
  5. Bishop
  6. Las Vegas
  7. Los Angeles
  8. San Diego
  9. Santa Barbara
  10. Monterey
  11. Santa Cruz

For now all I can say is that the trip has been utterly fantastic, and I’m excited that it isn’t over yet, with two more weeks of travelling with a friend hiking and climbing in British Colombia and Alberta!

My family at the Golden Gate viewpoint – Mum & Dad left, Aunt & Uncle right

The Roadtrip so Far…

After spending a few days in San Francisco visiting many of the major attractions except the Golden Gate Bridge that we will see at the end of our trip, a day viewing Davis campus, and half a day viewing Lake Tahoe, to finally arrive in Yosemite. As I haven’t had as regular postings as I’d hoped, I’ll provide an update up until things stand now, which is our final night in Yosemite before heading to Bishop, and then Las Vegas.

The view from the window of our hotel room

San Francisco still held many curiosities despite the fact I had gone twice before, and now I feel I saw much more tourist locations. Previous times I had gone with relatively local people so I got a good view of what they enjoyed, namely in Chinatown, where we got moon cake together for the festival of the moon. On this trip with my family, we went to many of the places I had seen with my friends before, but with the addition of the streetcar to Fisherman’s Wharf, and Golden Gate Park. Golden Gate Park was interesting to walk around, but limited for what is free to view. There is a pond which was very tranquil and for some reason had a significant population of turtles! To add to this were blue herons nesting in the tree on the island, giving sights of wildlife we never would have thought could exist in the centre of a city. The place that intrigues me the most, were I to go back, is the Japanese tea gardens, which looked like they would be very beautiful as well as a large cultural experience. I am also tempted to avoid it, and just go to Japan directly to experience it. Other park attractions were the Conservatory of Flowers, and the Museum with its interesting architecture.

The last thing we did in San Francisco is a twilight tour of Alcatraz. This was a truly fantastic experience that I would happily recommend. The views of the bay are incredible on the way to the island, and the tour is a sobering and ‘eye-opening’ experience. The prison still maintains its aura and foreboding nature. Then to top it all off, a sunset ferry back to civilization which gives a truly spectacular panorama.

The next morning, we headed to the airport to get the car, and head to Davis, and then Tahoe. The timing of Davis was fantastic, coinciding with the graduation of many of my coursemates from Aerospace. After seeing some of my friends to say my final goodbyes and congratulate them, we walked around the campus, touring the engineering buildings and the arboretum and social areas around Davis. After a hurried tour of Davis, which was somewhat peaceful and emotional on my part, being the final time I will see the campus for the foreseeable future, we made our way to South Lake Tahoe. Thankfully we managed to still make it in the light, with the mountains in a silhouette, giving an imposing introduction to Tahoe. In the morning we went to the beach to observe the mountains, and then headed to Emerald Bay on the western shore of Tahoe, which gives a fantastic view of the blueness and clarity of the water in Tahoe.

Now on our way to Yosemite, we stopped by above Mono Lake, where a breathtaking view takes you off-guard as you round a corner. Continuing in to Tioga Pass, to head through Tuolumne to Yosemite, mountains flank you on either side with remnants of snow that have yet to melt reminding you of their height. As you drive along, you continue to gain altitude, wondering when it will summit, when you eventually reach the Yosemite park limit, at an altitude of 9975ft, which is close to the highest train up to Gornegrat, that we did a few years ago, at a height of 3089m. After passing through the Tioga toll, you enter into the Tuolumne meadows, a brilliant panorama of long grass fields surrounded by granite domes; a campers’ paradise. After some time, you eventually get your first view of Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in centre stage. Never in my life had I seen so much exposed rock in a single view. It appears like an ocean of granite flash frozen into position, that you could spend multiple lifetimes exploring.

First view of Half Dome
The vew of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View

The Valley from the front is no less impressive, with El Capitan and Bridalvale Falls take the foreground. The Tunnel viewpoint gave an utterly incredible view of the valley before we headed to our cabin, but in that moment I understood why people give up everything to live their lives in Yosemite Valley, dodging rangers and freeloading. It made me quite tempted to join the craze. Unfortunately, we were pressed for time, otherwise we may have done a quick drive around the valley before heading up to get some sleep. As it stood, we just headed to the cabin. The next day I did a hike with my mum, which I’ll give its own post. For now, I’ll leave this post there, which gives a brief written and visual story.


Point Reyes Hiking

So I am quite aware that I have not been posting quite as frequent as I should. Things have been somewhat busy, and this is perhaps the only opportunity I will have to actually update my blog before finals. I’ll probably save the academic post for it’s own dedicated post, after finals so I can take my time. After exams, I also hope to have quick blog updates of my travels with my family around California and Nevada. For now however I really want to share my experience hiking at Point Reyes National Seashore with the Davis Hiking Club. This was such an amazing experience and convinced me to hiking more often.

Arrival at Bear Valley meets us with low clouds rolling through the trees.

Arrival saw us at Bear Valley car park (parking lot for the Yanks reading), in a foggy forest. The fog was visible for a good portion of the drive through the hills, making the hills feel very ominous, but extremely beautiful. As we set off hiking, the hills were still going in and out of cloud coverage, and as we ascended Mt Wittenberg, we eventually ascenced into the cloud. This made for some quite enchanting scenes, that one would unlikely wish to be alone in. But another side of me kind of wished to be isolated in this forest, and just completely detach from civilisation. I’m sure that this feeling would not have lasted long, before becoming increasingly concerned for my safetly. Either way I was loving it.

Makes me feel like we’re wakling through a rainforest.

The ascent was quite amenable to me, although I’m sure that’s due to approaching crags and rock faces with steep approaches. Still it allowed me to enjoy the surroundings more and take photos every so often,  catch up with friends and make new ones. The trail is ideal like this, with ascent for about 2 miles, and then a steady descent to the shoreline and then flat back to the cars. Once at the summit, cloud was all around us, in a complete whitewash. Only the nearest trees could be seen before quickly dissapating into white. Somewhat underwhelming if you were hoping for a fantastic vernanda, but special in its own way.

Summit group!

The descent now began, and is a gentle slop down to the shore, and this is where the hike really came into its own. The forest became a mystical place that felt completely at home in a fictional novel by the likes of Tolkien or Rowling. Stripped trees steadily fade into white, the monolithic redwoods creating a tall canopy. I felt humbled to be trespassing on this alcove of nature, which seems completely alien to the Californian landscape.

The fog was steadily clearing as we descended and the day went on. By the time we had a view of the coast, the fog was completely gone, and we had clear views all around. We continued out steady descent over rolling hills, the forest to our back and sea to our front. We appeared to have hit particularly lucky, as there were whales just off the shore, surfacing regularly. It was my first time seeing a whale, and it was a very cool experience. Now I need to see one up close, not from near enough a mile away.


Thar she blows!

We continued along the shoreline heading southwards towards the cars, and just enjoying the coastal scenery. This was a good time for conversing, because the paths were wide for large stretches, allowing 2-3 abreast. This was a great part of the hike, being able to meet new people in a fantastic biome of wildlife.

As we were on the final stretch of the hike, at mile 13 or so, we walked alongside a river, which provides water to a dense jungle of trees and ferns, giving way to some fantastic creations. It challenged what I thought could exist in California, let alone in a location 30 minutes from San Francisco. Point Reyes is definitely a place to visit and explore, I would say most importantly for the residents to realise the diversity of the state wildlife.

Sacramento and San Francisco

Been a while since I’ve posted anything on here and I apologise for that, just finding the right time to update my blog. I’ll be posting a few posts in quick succession as I hope to group certain parts into categories, rather than have a jumbled up mega-post. For example have sightseeing posts, and then academic posts, and climbing, rather than people not interested in certain parts to have to skim through.

So the first blog will be about the sightseeing I’ve done so far, as that is likely the most intriguing to people. So since my last update I have been to Sacramento and San Francisco with friends, and both have been really cool in their own regards. I shall begin with Sacramento.

Old Sac: The ‘Wild West’ plus cars
The Elementary School with the bridge in the background

The first port of call was Old Sacramento. This is a section of Sacramento next to the river, maintained in a ‘wild western’ style and takes you back to old America. While all the buildings appear old the reality is they are recent builds and inside they are all modern shops. That said it was still very interesting to see how it would have looked 100+ years ago. There was also an elementary school (right) which showed how the kids learnt in that time, and had a list of rules with listed punishments for violation in number of lashes. For example, boys and girls cannot play together, and a punishment of 4 lashes should they do so. Another interesting part of Old Sac was the waterfront, which featured a classic river boat (below) with the old style of propulsion.


Next, we went to a restaurant to have lunch, and after my recommendation we went to Pizza Rock. This is a restaurant which doesn’t exactly leave much to the imagination. They serve pizza and play rock style music, although it was quite light rock. The interior is intriguing with a Semi-truck protruding from the wall above the bar. Once we filled our bellies, the next location was the State Museum, which is still also the state capital of California. The building is quite typical for a government building in America, however seemed to remind of times like when the declaration of independence was signed. Inside, there was a brief history of each county in California, and rooms dedicated to the Second World War and to examples of the layout in the 1950s. Once on the upper floors however it moves into the active section of the building where the actual politics happens. As you hit the third floor, paintings of all the Governors of California are on the wall, and of course, there is a painting of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Beyond these paintings lies the senate and audience chambers, and several of our group are doing politics so this is fascinating to them.


Unfortunately that was about all we could stomach that day. The sun drains a lot of energy so all of us were exhausted by this point. I definitely want to go back as there is a railway museum that is supposed to be very good to view (and to compare to york museum). So now we fast forwards to San Francisco, which I went to last week, and the spectacular time I had there.

Before coming to America I decided not to spend any time in San Francisco before going to the university campus, and I do not regret this decision. Viewing the city with friends felt so much more exciting and natural than it would have alone. While walking alone to the Greyhound station to get to Sacramento, I had a huge pang of regret that family or friends were not with me to experience this alongside me. The trip I went on was with an International Student group and was about 20-30 students.

The first view of San Francisco as we came across the Bay Bridge into the heart

We travelled on the classic American yellow school bus to SF, and the first stop was Fisherman’s Wharf. This is as it sounds, where all the boats and tour boats come in, and while called fisherman’s, there weren’t a large amount of fishing boats. This didn’t surprise me however considered the amount of tourism at the Wharf. We walked along the water’s edge and there is a thick fog over the water, which steadily lifted as the day goes on. As we were coming into SF we couldn’t even see Alcatraz let alone the Golden Gate for the cloud in the bay. However once at the wharf Alcatraz was visible, as you can see below, with the fog in the background. DSC_1018

As you continue along the wharf, you DSC_1020encounter a large group gathered by the water edge. This was people viewing the seals that come to bask on the pallets on the water. It made for some entertaining viewing, however there was an occasional waft of a horrible smell that drove us away.

After the seals, we continued along just enjoying being by the bay and drinking it all in. We eventually arrived at a Cafe/Bakery called Boudin. This is a bakery specialising in sourdough bread, and the cafe sells various items based around this bread. The bread is transported from the bakery via baskets that are suspended from a track on the ceiling, and it is in constant motion. While these basket continue overhead the shop goes about its business and so I ordered Clam Chowder in a Sourdough Bread Bowl. If you ever go to Fisherman’s Wharf, I definitely recommend this dish. It will definitely fill you up (I was the only one to eat it all) and isn’t too expensive either ($10.10). With that in our bellies, our time was up and so we ambled back to the bus to travel to the next destination, Union Square.

Union Square. Home to the largest Saks in the world

While staying at the Hostel in SF, I had to wait a little while before I could check in at Sacramento, which ended up in me wandering the streets of San Francisco a little. Union Square is one of the places I chanced upon and it is a quaint place, however it is unfortunately under construction at present, so lacking its full glory.
With the group we then went to Chinatown, which due to the Festival of DSC_1034the Moon,
there were many decorations above the roads. We also got a Moon Cake, which is similar in appearance to a Chinese pork pie. Inside however it is Red Bean paste and an egg yolk. It has a nice sweet taste and is a good dessert, however it is rather expensive.

Finally, we then went to the Golden Gate Bridge. The obvious attraction of San Francisco. Thankfully, due to viewing in the afternoon, the fog had lifted, revealing the Bay in all its glory. Everybody piled to one side of the bus as the bridge came into view. However I glanced it and was then drawn elsewhere. Fantastic blue water with scores of windsurfers and kitesurfers gliding along the water made me green with envy. They made me yearn to kitesurf under the Golden Gate Bridge, painting a fantastic image in my mind. However that was not possible this time.DSC_1043

Once on the bride the scale couldn’t really be grasped due to the constraints of the bus. I definitely need to revisit the area on foot to truly grasp the magnitude and specialty of the bridge. However from the other side of the bay, the panorama is something else. The city of San Francisco, with the Golden Gate on one side, and the Bay on the other; the scene of dreams. We took several photos, then my friends pondered “now what?”, and my response was “just enjoy. just soak everything about where you are right now”. This vantage point truly reinforced how lucky I am to have this opportunity, and cemented the statement that I am here on the West coast of USA.

I am here!