Sunday, August 30, 2015

Touring San Francisco

My brother and fifteen year old niece came down to visit for the weekend.  They spent some time down in Santa Cruz then came up to the Bay Area for the afternoon and evening on Saturday.  We had time enough for a Reader's Digest tour of San Francisco which consisted of the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and Fenton's Creamery.

Fort Point, San Francisco, CA
Our first stop in the city was at Fort Point.  It's the best place in San Francisco to see the bridge, at least in my opinion.

Fort Point, San Francisco, CA
Fort Point, San Francisco, CA
Fort Point, San Francisco, CA
The surf was looking pretty good especially for August.  A couple of guys had it to themselves and they took full advantage of it.  The swell was occurring closer to shore than I've seen in the past, which made for some an entertaining viewing experience.

Fort Point, San Francisco, CA
Fort Point, San Francisco, CA
Fort Point, San Francisco, CA
Next stop was downtown to catch a cable car to Fisherman's Wharf.  I haven't ridden a cable car or been to the wharf in years.  The cable cars are still a fun and unique experience just as I remember.  The lines weren't too bad.  We waited maybe ten minutes to catch one going to the wharf and about a half hour for one going back.

San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA
San Francisco, CA
We ended the evening with late-night ice cream at Fenton's Creamery in Oakland.  Can't miss with Fenton's, especially when capping off a day about town.

We brought things a little more close to home this morning with breakfast at Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe.  After breakfast, my brother and niece headed North to the Jelly Belly factory and from there home to Oregon.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Sierra Vista & Yosemite

Smoke on the Water

August 22, 2015

The Sierras are on fire.


I didn't take that into account when planning my day Saturday.

Bass Lake, CA
There are dozens of wildfires burning across the state right now, including a big one known as the Rough Fire in King's Canyon.  I tend to think of King's Canyon as being a long ways away, and it is.  It's a long way from my house.  It's not too far away from my target destination on Saturday, well under a hundred miles as the crow flies.

As the smoke drifts.

Redenger Lake, CA
  My plan was to drive the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway.  It was a warm day, so Pongo and I would stop to swim when opportunity presented itself and I would take pictures of the sweeping views made available on the drive.  However, it became pretty clear as we ascended up the byway that the smoke was going to put a damper on those big views.

Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, CA
I just wasn't feeling it.  So, after getting fifteen miles or so into the scenic byway I turned around and headed back down to Bass Lake.  Pongo and I had a nice dip in the lake and I decided we'd take the long way home through Yosemite.

Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, CA
It was smoky in Yosemite Valley, but not nearly as bad as what I'd been seeing on Sierra Vista.

Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park, CA
Pongo was excited when we got to Tunnel View.  Yosemite usually means a long walk to him and maybe we'll see some deer.  We did get a little walking in, but not as much as on a normal visit.  We were just taking the scenic drive home on this particular day.  He met a bunch of people while I took pictures, though, and he did very well with them.

Yosemite National Park, CA
I was hoping to take a final swim in Don Pedro Reservoir, but dogs aren't allowed there.  Lame.  It would have been our third swim stop of the day, so it wasn't the end of the world or anything, just a bit disappointing.

Don Pedro Reservoir, CA

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Plan B

August 15, 2015

August can be a good time for whale watching in California, so that was my plan for Saturday.  I drove down to Monterey to see if I could get onto a late afternoon excursion.  If not, I'd still be able to hang out down there and possibly see some whales from the shore.

Monterey, CA
Fish Jumping
All of the afternoon whale excursions were cancelled on Saturday due to high winds.  I decided I'd drive up around Point Pinos and then maybe head down South.  It was very hot and I thought about going for a swim before heading out, but I thought better of it after thinking how I'd feel in wet shorts for the rest of the afternoon.

Harbor Seal -- Monterey, CA
I'd parked on the pier at Fisherman's Wharf.  A lot of folks were out fishing and they were having a field day hauling in mackerel.  There were a couple of seals below the pier who were acting lively.  I thought they were just having fun with all the good fishing.  Unfortunately, that wasn't the case.  They had both been hooked by fishing lines.  Pretty sad sight.  I didn't actually know this until I got home and looked at the photos.  It's obvious in the pictures what's happening, but they were moving so much I didn't get a good look at what was going on.  I'm sure the fisherman just consider them pests and were probably annoyed that the seals fouled up their lines.  It's not an uncommon sight to see seals and sea lions with lines or wires stuck around their necks.  I suspect this isn't too uncommon of an injury as well.  It's unfortunate that so many interactions between men and wildlife end with death or injury for the animals, especially senseless stuff like this.

Harbor Seal -- Monterey, CA
A sea lion a little way out from the pier was having a better time of it.  He/she was leaping around, often with a fish in mouth.  The sea lion seemed to be doing as well as the fishermen on the pier.  It was a pretty good day for everyone without a hook in their mouth.

Sea Lion -- Monterey, CA
I headed to Pacific Grove next to see if I could spot any whales or dolphins from the shore.  I wasn't expecting to see anything, but I have been lucky on occasion.

Pacific Grove, CA
I did end up getting lucky with the whales.  I spotted two not too far from shore.

Humpback Whale -- Pacific Grove, CA
Humpback Whale -- Pacific Grove, CA
Humpback Whale -- Pacific Grove, CA
Humpback Whale -- Pacific Grove, CA
Point Pinos can usually be counted on for a few good shots.  Between the rocks and the ocean and the lighthouse there's usually something worth shooting.

Point Pinos Lighthouse, Pacific Grove, CA
Point Pinos Lighthouse
These pictures are all a bit hazy.  It was like this all over yesterday, in San Francisco and San Jose and even in Pacific Grove and places South.  The speculation I heard is that it was smoke from wildfires.  Could be, it's definitely not the normal fog for the area.  It looked more like smog, but we don't get a whole lot of smog.  All of the Bay Area's foul air blows into the Central Valley where folks in places like Modesto get to choke on it.  I'm sure it works similarly for the Monterey area.

Garrapata State Park, CA
I decided to drive South and look for good spots for pictures until I ran out of light.  My first stop was Garrapata, where I hiked a short distance out to the edge of the cliffs.

Garrapata State Park, CA
A woman asked me where she could find find a good spot to watch the sunset.  I told her just drive until you find a spot you like, there's something amazing around every turn of this highway.  I don't think I was exaggerating.  Plus, I'm not a big sunset guy, so I'm not really sure what constitutes a good place to watch a sunset.  I've got sunset pictures coming up from this trip, mind you, but I'm opportunistic in that regard.  I enjoy a good sunset if it smacks me in the face.

Rocky Point, CA
I made it as far South as the Rocky Point Restaurant, which is about ten miles South of Carmel.  The views are amazing, and it was a warm night so I decided to have a beer and watch the sunset from their porch.  I guess I could have sent the ladies here, it turned out to be a nice location with comfortable seats facing the ocean.

Rocky Point, CA
That's pretty much it.  I drank my beer, took some pictures and headed home.  Not bad for a Plan B kind of day.

Garrapata State Park, CA

Friday, August 14, 2015

The American River

White Water Rafting

August 13, 2015

I went white water rafting with folks from work yesterday.  It was a lot of fun.  We dropped in just below the bridge over the South Fork of the American River near Lotus, CA and drifted a dozen miles or so down to Folsom Lake.  Well, we drifted down to where Folsom Lake is located in non-drought years.  There's no lake there this year, it's still a river at that altitude.

South Fork American River, CA
Our guide freely admitted to taking great pleasure in getting us all as wet as possible.  He made a point of having us hit every big rapid sideways.  I'm pretty sure he and the other guides take bets on who can knock the most people out of the boat.  We only lost one brave soul, although I came pretty close on at least one occasion.  

South Fork American River, CA
Our Crazy Half -- South Fork American River, CA
I had a lot of fun.  It reminded me a lot of floating down the Willamette with my family when I was a kid.  Well, the quiet parts, anyway.  We even hopped out of the boat and swam around.

Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, CA
Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area was directly on the way home, so I stopped off for a tour.  I wasn't expecting to see a whole lot of wildlife given it's August.  I was hoping for a coyote or otter sighting.  No such luck.  I'm not sure they even have otter there.  I saw a few white-faced Ibis and a score of great egrets and a few ducks, that was about it.  Still, it felt good to get back in a familiar environment.  Rafting was fun, but to be honest I enjoyed the quieter parts of the river more than the rapids.

White-faced Ibis -- Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, CA