Our home base for the Redwoods National Park was at Mad River Rapids RV Park, Arcata, CA. The Redwoods National Park and State Parks cover a vast area of the Northern Cost of California. First stop, the Thomas Kuchel Visitor Center to gain knowledge of the area. A walk behind the Visitor Center gave us our first, up close look at the Pacific Ocean.
The ranger did a fantastic job at detailing the highlights for the day. Beginning at the Newton B. Drury Scenic Drive we were delighted to see the herd of ladies described by the ranger. The Roosevelt Elk are the largest in body size subspecies of elk, but not in antler size. Only one male was still hanging with the ladies!
Our first hike was Corkscrew Tree Trail to the Big Tree. As we started down the trail we quickly realized why a portion of “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” was filmed not far away at Prairie Creek Redwoods state park on the fern canyon hike. The lush flora, moss covered trees, humongous ferns and stately Redwoods were incredible. We even scored another bird, the Wilson Warbler, on this hike!
Next a drive up the high rock bluff to Klamath River Overlook. The scenery was beautiful even with the typical fog that rolls in along the coast. The colors of the wildflowers are gorgeous this time of year!
We ventured down to Klamath Beach which was suggested for harbor seals. The beach is very different than Florida Beaches. Rock formations along the shoreline and in the ocean, driftwood galore, cool mist coming off the ocean and our first spot of California Harbor Seals! We find great enjoyment watching the antics of wildlife. The seals were so much fun to watch as their little heads with big whiskers bob in the water and frolic in the current and belly crawl on land! And another bird score, Black Oystercatcher! We absolutely loved the Redwoods and this area!
A great little no-frills park in the Napa Valley is Skyline Wilderness Park. Lots of hiking trails and in close proximity to tons of wineries and San Francisco. The park gave us a great suggestion to drive less than a half hour to the Vallejo Ferry. Sit back, relax and enjoy the one-hour ferry ride down the San Pablo Bay across San Francisco Bay to the Port of San Francisco.
The ferry Marketplace was bustling with people enjoying the good food, fresh produce, fresh baked bread and other novelties.
A one-day pass using the Muni App on our smart phones was $12.00 for unlimited bus, trolley, and cable car, which was a great buy. We took the trolley to Pier 39 where there were shops and food galore. Pier Market Seafood Restaurant was our lunch stop with a favorite of this town, Clam Chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. There are so many fun modes of transportation to get around this city, The Hippie Love Vans and Go-Carts!
A short walk to Fisherman’s Wharf with great views of Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge.
The cable car was a great way to see Lombard Street, famous for its steep, one block area with eight hairpin turns. The cable car stopped at the top of Lombard Street and we walked down the steps through all the beautiful flowers and homes that line the street while cars made their descent down the winding hairpin turns.
We absolutely loved this city! One thing for sure, come with an appetite. The food is fabulous!
As we made our way from Sequoia Campground & Lodge to Yosemite Lakes RV Resort we experienced another road, Route 49 with endless switchbacks, downhill grades and no guardrails with lovely canyon views. Upon check-in at Yosemite Lakes they referred to it as “The Road from Hell!” We Floridians are not accustomed to these roads!
The campground was three miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park and another hour drive into the Yosemite Valley. We anticipated heavy traffic to the park on Saturday and decided to take the Yart Shuttle Bus from the campground. No sooner had we left the campground and traffic was backed up two miles from the entrance and the hour ride to the valley floor took 2 ½ hours, but the views along the way were spectacular. A stop at the Visitor Center for maps and suggestions from the ranger on highlights of the park and information on the two shuttle loops to navigate this immense park. First stop, Yosemite Falls the tallest waterfalls in the United States, and 5th tallest in the world! Yosemite Creek flows over this waterfall. It is entirely fed by melting snow. It drains an area of nearly 50 square miles. At its peak volume in late spring, 2,400 gallons per second flow over the lip of the Upper Falls. When the snow melts by summer, the falls can go down to a trickle and run dry. This past winter they had record snowfall and the falls were beautiful! There was still a spot of snow pack on Half Dome. We had a nice walk through the meadow to the Chapel, which had a beautiful wedding taking place, and more views of Yosemite Falls.
Because the park was so crowded, we decided to return early Monday. Again, we took the bus because parking was at a premium. Hopped on the El Capitan shuttle and were amazed at this sheer granite cliff. It was exciting to see climbers, that looked as small as ants, making their way up El Capitan! From El Capitan we hiked to Bridal Veil Falls a six-mile round trip hike in celebration of our sixth anniversary. So much to see, so little time and energy!
Pulled out Tuesday morning and made it down Route 120, five miles of curves, but much better road and delighted to be on the inside lane! Going through the town of Escalon CA heading to Lake Tahoe for one night, a driver in the passing lane was beeping their horn several times as they went past us. From past experiences that usually means something is wrong. Sure enough from the drivers side mirror the rear trailer tire was smoking! A quick pull over and fire extinguisher in hand revealed a failed wheel bearing. All the wheel bearings had been replaced at MorRyde last year! Several phone calls later, a three hour wait for the tow truck and then an overnight stay in a hotel. Thanking God for the good in it all, three helpful ranchers stopped to check on us and offer their help, the bearing didn’t fail on our descent down the mountain, no fire, and no damage to the spindle, RV, or anyone else. Les Schwab Tire Center in Escalon did a great job with the repair. Our plans have changed from visiting Lake Tahoe to heading directly to the Napa Valley. As they say in the RV world, plans are like JELLO.
The decision was made to skip Joshua Tree National Park and head to Lake Isabella / Kern River Valley KOA for a few extra days to escape the heat of the desert and have some additional down time from traveling. Isabella Lake is one of the largest bodies of water in Southern California. Around the lake are numerous campgrounds for RV’s and tenting, which allow direct access to the lake for activities such as windsurfing, boating and fishing.
A little over an hour away in the Sequoia National Forest is the “Trail of 100 Giants.” The Kern River Valley is the Gateway to the Sequoia’s. These giants grow only on the western slop of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. They are more massive than the coastal redwoods and considered to be the largest trees in the world in terms of volume. The trail is a self-guided walk through the Long Meadow Grove of Giant Sequoias. We were absolutely in awe of these magnificent trees. Even pictures can’t capture the beauty of these giants. It was like being a little gnome in an enchanted forest!
Trail of 100 Giants
Trail of 100 Giants
View on the way to Trail of 100 Giants
White-headed woodpecker nesting
White-headed woodpecker female
White-headed woodpecker male
After a few days of down time we were off to Sequoia Campground and Lodge in Three Rivers, CA, about 2 ½ hours away. The drive out of Isabella Lake was probably one of the most challenging with the RV, but beautiful. It was a very narrow two-lane paved road. Some spots were one lane at times due to road work, places where there were no guard rails and no shoulder, with a very steep drop from the canyon wall into a very raging Kern River. Although, the wildflower display gave the mountains a stunning lavender hue. The canyons and river were amazing. Both of us were wiping the sweat off our hands and breathing a sigh of relief when we made it to Bakersfield.
The rest of the trip was more relaxed admiring the fruit and nut groves. The orange groves are very different than Florida orange groves.
The Sequoia Campground and Lodge is 15 minutes away from the Foothills Visitor Center in the Sequoia National Park, the beginning of our trek. This park is immense and connects to Kings Canyon National Park. The Giant Forest Museum has some informative exhibits and trail information. It is also a hub to take shuttles to places you want to see. The park was busy and parking can be difficult especially with a dually, so we opted to utilize the shuttle service instead of driving. The first shuttle took us to the Big Trees Trail and General Sherman Tree. The General Sherman Tree is estimated at 2,200 years old. Its largest branch is almost seven feet in diameter. Venture off, following John Muir’s footsteps, onto one of the trails in the area to experience the solitude and majesty of this place.
The other shuttle we took was to Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow. Moro Rock is a dome-shaped granite rock with spectacular views. Crescent Meadow is wetland surrounded by Sequoias. Our hike was to Chimney Tree and Tharp’s Log. Chimney Tree was destroyed by fire in 1914 but still stands defiantly. Tharp’s Log is named after Hale Tharp described as the first non-native American to enter the Giant Forest. He used a fallen sequoia log as a cabin. John Muir described it as a “noble den.”
Inside Tharps Log
Fireplace in Tharps Log
“When I entered this sublime wilderness the day was nearly done, the trees with rosy, glowing countenances, seemed to be hushed and thoughtful, as if waiting in conscious religious dependence on the sun, and one naturally walked softly and awe stricken among them.” …John Muir
The next two nights were spent at Lake Mead RV Village located in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. About 20 minutes was Hoover Dam.
In the early 1900’s, people wanted to be protected from flooding of the Colorado River. By building a dam it could regulate the flow of the river, generate electricity and provide water for drinking and irrigation. At the time it was known as the Boulder Dam and world’s tallest dam built. The Boulder Dam was completed in 1936 and formed Lake Mead. In 1947, it was officially renamed the Hoover Dam for President Herbert Hoover.
A beautiful driving day June 9th from Portal AZ to Distant Drums RV Resort, Camp Verde AZ. The temperatures reached 106 degrees and the terrain was very diverse.
Distant Drums RV Resort Camp Verde AZ
First sightseeing stop was Red Rock State Park. Very nice visitor’s center and viewing area where you could see several rock formations, Cathedral Rock, Three Sisters, Seven Warriors and Napoleon’s Tomb.
A little driving tour through the town of Sedona to the Chapel of the Holy Cross. It is a Roman Catholic Chapel nestled in the red rock formations of Sedona. Designed by Marguerite Brunswig Staude, a local resident who was inspired in 1932 by the construction of the Empire State Building. The chapel was completed in 1956 and was built in Coconino National Forest.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
View from walkway
Bell Rock in the distance
The cross in the chapel was made to look like a tree, beginning with two trunks representing the 10 tribes of Israel and two tribes of Judah. As you move up, the Israel trunk is dead, but “this dead limb of Israel that’s broken off becomes a crossbeam for the Tree of Life,” said Fr. Kleczewski. On the limb is a single leaf sprouting, representing the Gentiles. The Judah branch has 12 leaves representing the Apostles, and three golden apples at the top for the Holy Trinity. The eyes of Christ are open to encounter Christ the face of great love. The views along the walkway leading to the chapel are stunning.
You can’t help but wonder who lives below the chapel at 530 Chapel Lane.
Final stop was Montezuma Castle which gives you a peek of the Southern Sinagua who flourished in the Verde Valley. They built this five story, 20-room dwelling sometime between 1100 and 1300. No one really knows why they migrated away from their pueblos by the early 1400’s. Early settlers were amazed at the structure and thought it’s origin was Aztec thereby calling it Montezuma Castle.
Arrived at Rusty’s RV Ranch late Wednesday June 5th. We have certainly traveled some of the bumpiest roads recently with our RV and up until today one lamp globe has been the only casualty. Late this afternoon we exited Interstate 10 onto Route 80 about 15 miles out to our destination of Rusty’s RV Ranch. A lady flagged us down to inform us we had lost our spare tire from underneath our rig! Route 80 is a straight two-lane road with very little places to easily turn a rig around. We decided to continue on to Rusty’s, set up and return to search for our missing tire. Surely if we had come here to do some birding, we could spot a tire! Well, there were a lot of used tires discarded along the road and a tire place with hundreds of tires spewed around. Many stops of looking at tires when finally, we spotted a tire with a rim on it, and it was ours! Thankful to God that it didn’t happen on the Interstate and no one was injured. It is now reinforced and will be added to the maintenance checklist.
Now for the reason we came to stay at Rusty’s in Rodeo, New Mexico. A short drive to Portal, Arizona is Cave Creek Canyon, nestled in the Chiricahua Mountains, known as a birding mecca! The possibility of seeing an Elegant Trogon, a variety of hummingbirds, and the ability of adding to our life list. All of these lure birdwatchers to this area. Cave Creek Ranch along with some of the neighbor folk offer great viewing opportunities.
Cave Creek Ranch
Cave Creek Ranch Rentals
Another stop was the Southwest Research Center, affiliated with the American Museum of Natural History. They provide scientists, educators and students the opportunity to participate in research, workshops and classes on various fauna, floral, bird, reptiles, bats and more. On their grounds are hummingbird feeders that attract some of the most beautiful hummers for photography.
Southwest Research Station
Southwest Research Gift Shop
One afternoon we decided to drive the narrow dirt road to the top of the Chiricahua Mountains at around 9,000 feet. The views were spectacular!
We actually extended our stay an additional day and were fortunate to see our first greater roadrunner on the last day! A great place to visit is the Chiricahua Desert Museum that has exhibits of the Chiricahua Apache Indians and Geronimo who surrendered 15 miles south at Skeleton Canyon. There is only a handful of restaurants in the area and most close fairly early. If you are into birdwatching, watching wildlife, hiking, relaxing and watching the fantastic sunsets, this place is for you!