Tuesday, February 28, 2012

San Diego Part II

Sunday - 2.26.2012
Today is Wine Country Day - We chose 3 vineyards to visit and do a bit of wine tasting.  The first stop was Sunshine Mountain Vineyards. Dan and Mickey had not been to this one, so it was new to all of us!  We arrived a bit early and Ed gave a very nice tour of the gardens and explanation of how this particular vineyard got started. Ed is the owner and wine maker!  It was a really informative tour and ended in the sales room with a great tasting.  We had at least 6 different wines, with cheese and crackers and some flavored olive oil and balsamic vinegars!!  The wines were terrific, but are only sold at the winery or to their Wine Club Members - we won't be finding them in any liquor stores ... So we left with several bottles. :-)
Next stop was Orfila - where we bought our wine glasses and got to try 6 different wines, while picnicing on the grounds and listening to music!  Nice wines, not as good as the SMV though.  Last stop Cordiano Winery -- this time we just bought a glass of wine and ordered a pizza.  Great views and great pizza.  What a relaxing day. 

On Monday, all the weather gurus here were worried about this winter storm - cold temps, rain and snow in the mountains.  Mickey, Lowell and I spent the day running errands - Target, CVS, Costco - getting some wash done, etc.  The rain started about 2 and continued through the night.  When we got home from dinner, there was even some hail!  Brrr.....

Tuesday 2.28.2012      Today we headed to Balboa Park for the morning. The park was established in 1868, and many of the buildings were put up in 1915 for the Panama-California Exposition and in 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition.  Great Spanish architecture and wonderful gardens.  We were a little early for the gardens, but the Botanical Building had the most beautiful orchids!! 
For lunch we headed to Geroge's in LaJolla for yummy fish tacos and then strolled the oceanside cliffs again to watch the seals, sea lions, pelicans and gulls.  Before heading home we stopped at the Torrey Pines Gliderport to watch lots of gliders floating in and out. 

I got a new iPhone yesterday, so spent lots of time playing with it and experimenting with the camera :-)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

San Diego Part 1

Dan and Mickey have been wonderful guides out here in SoCal!   Each day we have a list of places to go - and we have pretty much hit them all by the end of the day!

One of our first stops was the USS Midway Tour in San Diego Harbor -- The carrier was used from 1945 to 1991.  The tour included the flight deck and the bridge, where all the flight control happens, the "city at sea", where everyone lived, ate, slept, etc.    There was a variety of planes and helicopters on the flight deck.  Lowell and I spent almost 4 hours on the carrier - and missed the engine room ! AECHHHH - we (or at least Lowell) might have to go back for that..
USS Midway

Next day (Friday) - The Leo Carillo Ranch, Torrey Pines State Park, The Mission San Diego de Alcala....
Dan was able to take the day off, so we had a full day of touring.
Leo (aka Pancho, of Cisco Kid fame!) was an actor in the 40's who owned a huge ranch in Carlsbad.  It was very fancy for it's time - a pool and guest houses for all his Hollywood pals! Today, most of the land has been developed, so the drive is through a couple of neighborhoods, into a little valley with the house and out buildings.  The ranch is now a park and being restored.  Peacocks wander freely - and the flowers were blooming.  Movie posters and memorabilia decorated the walls - a fun little excursion!
Pancho's Ranch!!

Torrey Pines State Park adjoins the famous Torrey Pines Golf Course - we took a great hike up the hill, down the cliffs and along the beach. Beautiful vistas and a nice workout as well!   By the time we left there, the clouds were rolling in so we headed to the Mission San Diego de Alcala - the first spanish mission in California.  It was founded in 1769 by Padre Junipero Serra.  The Mission was used for a variety of purposes after the U.S.-Mexican War in 1848, including being a military post.  It was abandoned for many years, but is now in the process of restoration and is currently an active church.
Torrey Pines State Park
Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala

After a long day of sightseeing, we headed to The Brigantine restaurant for dinner - Oh My!  Fabulous food - we had great dinners, but the real treat was a Shrimp & Crab Fondue appetizer!!  We were able to talk the chef into sharing the recipe - after swearing that I did not own a restaurant or catering company.   We were pumped! Until we got home and realized that it will take a bit of adjusting - it calls for 9 pounds of cream cheese!!!  I guess it might work for a Koch gathering, but we're busy dividing....

Saturday - A picnic in La Jolla, walking the waterfront there and watching the seals and sea lions on the beach, listening to the protestors argue the dangers/merits of people sharing the beaches with the seals!  La Jolla is a great little town - we wander through the town and went into a couple of photographers galleries - Thomas Mangelsen and Peter Lik. Both are great landscape photographers with very different styles.

Last stop, before Mass, Mount Soledad Veterans Memorial - on one of the highest, peaks in San Diego 822' above sea level. Another beautiful monument with amazing vistas!

It's a lazy Sunday morning here - we went to church last night, so are enjoying catching up on newspapers, pictures, etc.   Today's adventure includes wine tasting and watching the Oscars - we are all participating in a pool - thank you Jodi - and so will be cheering for various films that we have not seen!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Beach time....

Wednesday, February 22
We spent the afternoon at Coronado Beach, soaking up the sunshine and walking through the beautiful Hotel del Coronado.  The hotel and grounds and gardens are beautiful and filled with a rich history.  The hotel was build in 1888 and was intended as a resort destination. It has been through it's ups and downs, different owners, etc., but certainly is that "destination" today. 
 It was a treat to have Mickey take us on the tour and fill in some of the history - including the fact that this is where Dan and Mickey spent their luxurious honeymoon in 1974!  Ask her about it :-)

Hotel del Coronado

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Hoodoos and Canyons

Monday, February 20
We left the sleepy little town of Tropic, went about 8 miles toward Bryce Canyon National Park and TA-DA, we found the tourist town!!!! Bryce! It really doesn't show up on many maps, but had 4 or 5 big hotels, camping, restaurants, etc. We were probably better off in Tropic as it turns out because there was a big winter fest happening, cross country ski racing, etc. it was a very busy place at 8 am. The park had gotten several inches to more than a foot of snow on Sunday, so the main road was closed about 2 miles in. But talk about an awesome part of this county!! That red rock we had seen in Arches was here too, but the canyon is filled with hoodoos and spires and walls and windows. Hoodoos are the rock formations that really kind of look like garden gnomes, a gazillion of them in all sizes. We drove to and then walked the rim to several overlooks. It was absolutely fascinating. From some of the overlooks visibility can be as far as 145 miles!!!
Those of you who know me well, know that I have real problems with heights. I can't stand to look over the edge of big drop offs, high buildings, etc. So, getting out on these observation platforms took some serious self-talk. But I did it and have the pictures to prove it. Only one of the trails down into the canyon was open, we considered it, but it was hard packed (read: very slick!) snow and had several areas of ridge walking, I just couldn't do it. Hopefully we'll get back another time, when the trails are dry and then maybe I can do it.
We left Bryce about 3 and headed toward the east entrance of Zion National Park.
I so wish I knew more geology. Utah is a geologist's heaven I think. Everywhere we visit I read about prehistoric seas, layers of different rock, earthquakes, volcanos, erosion. Whatever, God and Nature have carved some amazing landscapes in this state.
 Bryce Canyon National Park

Zion is less than 100 miles from Bryce, so it was a pretty quick drive. The east entrance to Zion is on the high plateau, then you go thru a 1.2 mile tunnel thru the mountain and take a series of switchbacks to the bottom of the canyon. This park is viewed mostly from the bottom of the canyon. We figured that since we still had some daylight we'd drive the park road and decide what we wanted to see and do today, and then we'd be in the park for some nice evening light. In one area we saw a group of about 6 or 8 photographers getting set up on the river bottom. Figuring they know what they were doing we stopped too! Must be a good spot right? Oh it was!! As we descended the stairs to get down by the river, a herd, yes a herd, of mule deer crossed the path in front of us. There must have been a dozen or so. Lowell followed them as I made a second trip back to the car. First for my tripod, second for a clean memory card....
We spent about half an hour there, the other group was a group of Asian tourists. I'm not sure they knew any more than we did, but we all took lots of pictures. They left before we did, we wandered back to see the deer again and as we headed out, a gray fox decided to check out the brush in front of us! I got my first images of a fox!! My camera was all set up for landscape shots though, so there are some interesting "transition" shots as I was scrambling. After all that excitement we headed to the town of Silverdale, right outside the park. Plenty of places to stay and a cool little town that probably really is hopping during the summer.
Tuesday, Feb 21
Today was our day to explore Zion's canyons. We took a couple of 2 mile hikes, and one short half mile round trip. These didn't have the elevation changes like Arches, Capitol Reef and Bryce, but we did have some snow packed trails.  One went back to a waterfall and pools, one went along the river deep into the canyon, and the short one went up to what they call the Weeping Wall. I just can't tell you how beautiful this park is, I found myself just standing there in the middle on the trail looking up and thinking, or telling Lowell, "This is so awesome".
We also found the deer herd again, and they were quite cooperative, we stood by the road and took lots of pictures, way more than we needed! We'll see tonight what they look like. We left Zion about 3, drove through Las Vegas by 5 and our intended stop tonight was Barstow, but we just called Mickey and are going to drive right to their house tonight. We should be there before 10, YEA!!
 Zion National Park

Seeing 4 National Parks in 4 days might sound crazy. In some ways it is, you could easily spend 2 or 3 days in each. But seeing them in quick succession really highlights the personality of each. Arches was wide open, with those huge amazing windows and arches. Capitol Reef was a pleasant surprise, rough and rugged. Bryce, looking down at the canyon fairyland was different from anything I've every seen. And Zion is so majestic. Again, I wish I knew more about geology!

I'm typing this as we drive, I'll try to get the pictures up loaded early tomorrow (Wednesday) and get this posted then.
The updates will probably be a little farther apart now, as we spend time visiting Dan and Mickey and exploring the San Diego area. I imagine there will be a thing or two to take pictures of there as well.....

Arrived at Dan and Mickey's at 9:30 last night - too busy today to get this finished :-)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Two days, Two National Parks!

Saturday, February 18
 Arches National Park is probably the most famous park in Utah. It's depicted on Utah license plates, at least it used to be. We spent the day at the park, lots of walking and rock climbing.  We hiked a mile into the Landscape Arch, but chose not to hike the 4.2 miles into Devil's Garden, maybe another time.  Also took a 1/2 mile hike to a view point for the Delicate Arch, The hike into the arch is 3 miles.  The 3 and 4 mile hikes take 4 to 6 hours! We figured if we did the long hikes we could only do one for the day and we wanted to see as much of the park as possible.  I have to keep telling myself that "a mile is a mile is a mile", but these miles, with elevation changes and rock climbing sure take longer than the mile from my house to Inwood Avenue!   Beautiful blue skies & 50 degrees -
Arches National Park

 Sunday, February 19
There was a fairly big winter storm predicted for northern Utah, 5 to 8 inches on the I-15 corridor so we decided to take the southern route over to Bryce Canyon and figured it would just be a travel day. We ran into some snow and rain shortly after we left Moab, but then the weather cleared and the road took us through Capital Reef National Park, The Dixie National Forest and the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument.  What a beautiful drive! We even hiked a bit at Capitol Reef. 
Capitol Reef National Park
Grand Staircase Escalante

Monday, February 20
You are all enjoying warmer weather than we are this morning! It's 0 here in the Bryce Canyon area - brrrrr.  We'll head out shortly to the park and to try to find breakfast.  We stayed in the small town of Tropic, just east of the park last night.  One hotel - America's Best Value Inn, undergoing renovation; one restaurant - open until 7 PM; one gas station and no breakfast options.....  The room is clean and warm, so we're fine. These little towns are so quiet at this time of the year!!

Today we'll explore Bryce Canyon.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Winter Road Trip 2012

For the fourth winter since our retirement, we are taking to the road to see a little more of our fair country.  This year we decided to take advantage of the mild winter weather and drive the northern route - through Denver and Utah - to visit my Dan and Mickey in San Diego. Today we drove through Denver  and the Rocky Mountains.  Considering the lack of snow in Minnesota, it was nice to see some of that white stuff, especially since the roads were dry!!
After leaving the mountains, we headed toward Moab, Utah. Instead of taking the freeway/highway route,  we traveled the scenic route on the east and south sides of Arches National Park. That road follows the Colorado River through some spectacular red rock country.  We'll spend tomorrow in Arches National Park and then probably drive toward Bryce Canyon National Park.  We hope to see Zion as well.  After some time in San Diego, we'll head to Casa Grande to catch up with friends there. 
So, here are a few images from today's drive.