Unexpected Icicles

A visit to the old Donner railroad tunnels, up in Sierra snow country, proved colder and icier than we expected. I visited here once a long time ago and hiked through all the tunnels to the end. At the time I was blown away that the tunnels even existed, that people could walk through them, and that people took the time to make street art within them.  I wanted to visit again to share the place with my small son who was excited at the prospect of walking on railroad tracks without “worrying a train would come.”  I was also excited to share such a random find with all of you.

Well, it turned out the snow, slippery ice, and enormous icicles prevented us from going all the way without crampons, hard hats, and more courage. I’m glad I packed our snow gear “just in case.” At least what we could see was super cool and enhanced by the Bond Villian-esque icicles.

These old railroad caves/tunnels can be found off of the employee parking lot at the Donner Ski resort. They are such a cool and random place to visit. I’ll have to come back in the spring and update the post with some additional photos when we can actually make it through without risking broken ankles or the occasional hibernating bears!

 

Waiting for spring

It’s that time of year again where mother nature is toying with us by giving us a few nice weather days.  But, experience shows we have some more wet weather and snow before it’s all said and done.  I am grateful for the reprieve. Cheers everyone.

Muir Beach, California

My parents used to take us to Stinson Beach as kids.  I haven’t been back in some time.  Who knows why.  Do you ever remember something from childhood and want to see it again to see if your memory is correct or not or to see what may have changed?  Well, I stopped by Muir Beach on the way to Stinson with my son and it turns out it is nothing like I remember.  Either that or it has changed so much I don’t recognize it.

Regardless Muir Beach, situated just north of San Francisco outside of Larkspur and Mill Valley, was spectacular and my son had a blast playing in the sand.  He certainly thrives on the beach as do many of us.

California’s beaches are typically very cold and windy year round in the north part of the state opposite of what many people think.  But, that didn’t stop the surfers in their dry suits who make me cold just looking at them.  We ended up spending the better part of a morning at this beach because my son didn’t want to leave.  Who can argue with that?

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Beautiful sea view and beautiful view of my happy baby digging in the sand.

Pacific Grove,California -John Denver Park

A visit to Pacific Grove to see Monarch Butterflies in mass took a hard right turn and pivoted in to a day at the Beach.  Pacific Grove, California is known for its Monarch Butterflies who stop by every year on their migration.  YouTube shows videos of what looks like millions and millions of butterflies hanging off of the trees taking a rest on their journeys.  A butterfly sanctuary exists to protect, teach, and enjoy them.  I have wanted to stop by for years even researching the appropriate time to stop by.  Well, surprise, I finally made it when I was instructed to and we only saw a few butterflies…probably 20 in total.

Well, when life throws you lemons in California, you hit the beach. A two minute drive away was John Denver Beach.  Being both a fan of Mr. Denver and any beach anywhere I thought I would go and pay my respects.  In 1997 just beyond this beach John Denver crash his ill-fated airplane forever locking this beautiful beach with his amazing life and voice.  My son and I watched the waves crash while we collected seashells and watched the birds and the tiny crabs.  It was lovely and somehow fitting for Mr. Denver.

I’ll leave you with the lyrics to my favorite John Denver song; Annie’s Song.  Rest in Peace Mr. Denver.

You fill up my senses like a night in the forest,

like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain,

like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean.

You fill up my senses, come fill me again.

Come let me love you, let me give my life to you,

let me drown in your laughter, let me die in your arms,

let me lay down beside you, let me always be with you.

Come let me love you, come love me again.

Let me always be with you.

Come let me love you,

Come love me again.

You fill up my senses like a night in the forest,

like the mountains in springtime, like a walk in the rain,

like a storm in the desert, like a sleepy blue ocean.

You fill up my senses, come fill me again.

Mission San Juan Bautista

The beautiful state of California is dotted with Missions harkening back to a profoundly different time in our history. Some have been restored and some show their age. I would love to see them all and had the opportunity to check one more off the complete list near the Monterey area. Mission San Juan Bautista is a fine example of a restored mission turned state park adjacent to a lovely little historic town. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve never been hear considering its close proximity to Monterey and Carmel. Perhaps I’ve always been in a hurry to hit the beach? Regardless, this gem was a great place to take a break and stretch our legs on the way to the beach. The church is magnificent and the grounds are pleasing and peaceful. The nearby structures show period houses, hotels, a jail, blacksmith, stables, etc. School kids were running around soaking it all in as little kids should be.

Have you ever visited any of the California Missions?  I’ll try my best to stop by and visit some more in coming days and years, they are a treat.

*In other news, I have also been looking for the opportunity to take a photo and mention the mission bells one can see whiling driving on historic California roads. The mission bells indicate El Camino Real and there are many of them connecting Mission country up and down California. I am usually whizzing by them on the highway without the ability to stop and wanted to capture this one for you since it was right outside the church.

Cypress Tree Tunnel – Point Reyes National Seashore

So who isn’t a fan of a good tree tunnel?  Well, it’s been on my mind for a while to go check this one out.  So, the little guy and I headed out early in the morning and Point Reyes National Seashore did not disappoint.  We travelled through the lovely and picturesque town of Inverness (aptly named because it certainly harkens back to the Scottish Loch Ness with a long thin waterway flanked by hills on either side) through some washed out roads and one lane drives to get to the North District Operations Center.  The communications center, an Art Deco building lovely in its own right, is overshadowed by its gorgeous driveway.  Kudos to whatever random person took the time to tree line this driveway so many years ago.  It was clearly unnecessary but boy am I grateful.  It took me back to Northern Ireland visiting Dark Hedges, only this was two hours from my house on my beloved and spectacular California coast.

We left the Cypress Tree tunnel and made for the lighthouse on an even worse road.  But, we were delighted by a bunch of Tule Elk presumably in the mood for love because they were fighting and there wasn’t a lady Elk anywhere to be seen.  I am told by a lovely and protective Ranger that Point Reyes Lighthouse was recently renovated.  It had only reopened the week prior to my visit.  Apparently locals were uptight over the cost of said renovation.  I’ll bet that old lighthouse could tell some stories about some epic storms and some shipwrecks of which there have been many around this dangerous peninsula.  She probably deserves a good tidy up from time to time if you were to ask me.  So, my sweet little guy got to see his first real tree tunnel, his first lighthouse, his first Tule Elk, and got to see the beach/ocean again.  Hurray for a wonderful day out!

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Villa Ca’Toga – A little bit of Italy in Calistoga

Earlier in the year I visited Ca’Toga Gallery in Calistoga, California and knew immediately I needed to meet the artist and see his amazing Ca’Toga Villa. So as soon as we had the time we went for a tour which did not disappoint. The artist Carlos Marchiori hand built every piece of this house and prepared the blank property right down to planting every beautiful tree. (His proudest accomplishment by the way which I found interesting.) Between the watercolor murals, sculpture, ceramics, tile work, and his overall whimsical vision it was surreal and genuinely impressive. Carlos peppered genuine old world antiques like wood from a Portuguese monastery and real antique sculpture work from old dilapidated European buildings he brought over in a container in the 80’s. Everything else is hand made. Everything! Originally created as a life size way to display his work to perspective clients it’s clearly taken thirty years to realize a life love and obsession. If the mural look familiar you may have seen his work in multiple locations around the world most notably Las Vegas casinos and other casinos around the world.  I feel very much honored to have seen Ca’Toga Villa, walked the grounds, and met the eclectic and entertaining master.  Add this to any Napa visit for a special and interesting thing to do in the valley.

 

 

Walking among Giants

I’ve been visiting Calaveras Big Trees State Park since I was a kid. Back then there wasn’t a visitor’s center, camping, and all the trails.  That said, they frankly enhance the park and encourage people to repeat their visits. I am happy the park has grown and with it the park’s attendance. The amazing giant trees can only be found in certain areas of our state and the world and they never disappoint. It’s hard to describe or capture the size of these trees but I did my best here with my good ol’ iPhone. I hope you enjoy because Mother Nature did her best when she created these specimens.

This trip I did something I always wanted to do and visited the south grove trail after visiting the main north grove trail first. I’m very glad I did because we were treated with a relaxing and cool respite at Beaver Creek. It was a hot hot day so our feet welcomed the swim.

I can’t wait to go back and hit a few more of the trails to see some of the big trees which are harder to find and take more preparation to plan for. I hope to camp next time so we can enjoy them in the calm cool morning.  These miraculous trees deserve the effort!

Wide Open Walls 916- a few new walls

Quick errands to downtown Sac allowed me the opportunity to visit a few new murals from the Wide Open Walls 916 festival in town. I love how they bring life to an otherwise boring and dirty and uninteresting wall or alley. The Auto Museum mural was still under construction when I happened by. Enjoy!