Thursday, February 21, 2008

From the Pacific coast, we decided to drive to Yosemite National Park. They had a big snowstorm a few days before we got there, but we had been assured that as long as we had a 4 WD and chains we would be fine. Our rental had the 4 WD, and we stopped and bought some chains, which we ended up never using. The roads had all been plowed, and the snow was several feet deep. There was still a lot of snow on the trees and it was like a fairyland. When we drove to the park, we went for a long ways through some national forest, with only a few very small towns, climbing steadily all the way. Then you descend into an incredibly beautiful valley. I've wondered since then, what the first humans there thought.

Bridal Veil falls. This was a short trail and had been cleared. Steve kept saying, that water had to come from somewhere. There's a whole other mountain range behind this one.
I think this was my favorite picture of the whole trip. We were driving to the ski area to go snowshoeing, and I happended to turn back and said to Steve--You have to pull over and see this--El Capitan in the foreground, with Half Dome in the background.

This is the view from the top of the Pt Arena lighthouse. The wind up there was something else! This is still a working lighthouse today, although everything is automatic. This little point of land is within view of the San Andreas fault and you can actually see it if you know where to look. It's also the closest mainland point to Hawaii.

The lighthouse in the distance.
This is a small beach just south of Mendoncino. The sand was dark and very coarse, almost like gravel. There were alot of rock and debris, nothing like the pure white sand we are used to! There are small beaches like this all along the northern CA coastline, and apparently they are the place to be in the summer.
We stayed in the small town of Mendocino at the Agate Cove Inn. Our room was lovely, and we had a view of the Pacific ocean. If any of you remember the tv show "Murder, She Wrote", most of it was filmed here. The town has a very quaint, New England feel.

This is the view from the dining room. I think we sat there for about an hour, just watching the waves. The area across the road is part of a state park that stretches along the coast for several miles,which prevents a lot of development right on the coast. Earlier in the morning, we walked way out on the rocks you see, and saw some seals.
This had to have been the largest calla lily I have ever seen. It was easily as big as my hand. The owners had quite a variety of plants and flowers that they tended.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Our first look at the Pacific Ocean in California. Leggett, CA marks the beginning of CA 1, which is part of the Pacific Coast Highway. Leggett is actually inland, because part of the CA coast is so rugged that there are no roads on it. The beginning of this highway is extremely steep and winding, rivaling anything in the Smokies or anywhere else. It's heavily forested, and there are no towns or places to stop. Then you go around a final curve, and there is the ocean!

We stood and watched the waves crashing over these rocks for a long time. There really is no beach to speak of, just cliffs and rocks. It is definately different from the Florida coasts we are used to.
Monday, Feb 4, 2008
We meandered our way north to Humbolt Redwoods State Park. The Redwood National park is quite a bit further north, almost in Oregon, and we didn't want to travel quite that far. These redwoods were enormous! Most were over 300 ft tall, and it took several pictures to get one all in. The pictures don't really do them justice. It's just impossible to really see how majestic they are until you stand next to one.
This tree had fallen, and you can see how large it is. The bark on these trees is at least 6-8" thick. This area was purchased by a "Save the Trees" type organization in the 1920's from a logging company for $10 million dollars. That was a huge sum of money in those days (not that it's small change now), but I am so glad someone had the foresight to do that.

On to the olive grove! Ten years ago, I don't think I even knew what olive oil was and now I cook with it all the time. So I was very eager to see what was involved in the production of olive oil. You don't eat olives straight off the tree, like you would an apple or an orange. Our tour guide told us the birds won't even eat them because they are so bitter. The goodness comes out in the processing. Unlike wine, olive oil needs to be as fresh as possible. It takes about 3 hours from tree to bottle. We tasted some oil, with bread, cheese and fruit and it was wonderful. They also has lemon and orange infused oils, which were wonderful.

This is some of the olive sorting equipment, with a really nicely restored truck in the background.
These are narcissus ( I think), and they are on the lane leading up to the original home at the vineyard, which the owners, now retired still live in. The trees in the background are olive trees.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sunday 2/3/08
After Saturday's rain, I very cautiously peeked out the window Sunday morning, and saw a beautiful blue sky and sunshine! We turned out to have wonderful weather the rest of the trip, until the flight home. More about that later.......

After much research on the web, I chose to tour this winery because a) they are actually a working vineyard as well as a winery and b)they have a small olive grove and process the olives for oil, and we could tour that as well. Round Pond winery is fairly new, although the family has been growing grapes and selling them to other vineyards for many years. Although the grapes are dormant now, the vineyards were still amazing.

Ryan, our tour guide, pouring a barrel tasting for us. This is wine as it comes out of the barrel, before filtering, bottling or anything else. Later we tasted 3 different wines, from different years. Each wine was paired with a small, appetizer-sized portion of cheese, bread or fruit, specifically chosen to enhance that wine. Although the wines did all taste different, I thought they were all pretty good. And they should have been, for the prices they charged per bottle. Let's just say this would be for a very special occasion.

It seemed unusual for us to see palm trees, citrus, and other semi-tropical plants growing alongside of plants that I think of as more northern plants, such as peaches, grapes, nut trees and other items that don't grow in our hot humid climate. The snow covered mountains in the background were different too!

Steve and I returned home from our combined business/vacation trip to California last night. We had a wonderful time. California is just beautiful. I can see why people are willing to pay $$$ to live there.
We arrived on Sat, 2/2 in Oakland to rain, rain, and oh yeah, rain. I had made a reservation at Gaia Resort near Napa Valley for our first night there, just so we were sure of a place to stay. After an unplanned detour from Oakland across the Bay bridge to San Francisco, we finally got on the correct freeway, going the proper direction and found the hotel without further incident. The hotel is fairly small, and had a lot of enviromentally friendly features. All of the rooms open towards a small lagoon (fancy name for a rentention pond), and these swans were swimming there.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Lagoon at the Bonnet House in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. This is a historical home, and the property sits between the Atlantic ocean, and the Intercoastal waterway. It is surrounded by condos and other development, but you would never know it when you are there. The tour guide told us that manatees sometimes swim up into the lagoon when it is very cold. (Cold being a relative term for you northerners!)

The house was built in a hollow rectangle, with every room opening into the courtyard. Most of the room did not connect from the inside, you had to go outside thru the courtyard to get anyplace. The home was owned by a very rich family from Chicago, and this was just their "winter cottage".

These are taken from the top of 17th Street Causeway bridge over the Intercoastal, in Ft Lauderdale, looking north. They have a special pedestrian/bike lane on the bridge, and Jacki and I walked over it, and back again. Very different from the walking I do here!
My daughter Jacki recently celebrated her 200th post on her food blog. She posts way more than I do! She mentioned a picture of her cooking as a preschooler, and I found it! Both David and Jacki loved to cook as children. They would hear me getting the mixer out, and come running! I have no idea what we are making in this picture. Probably cookies of some kind.

Jacki continued to cook as a teenager. She is making Chocolate mint truffles in this picture,and they were yummy!