Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 5 - San Francisco—Seattle—Anchorage

16th February 2011

Alaskan Airlines at the gate at Seattle

Seattle - heading North

Through time and space to a far-away land...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

40 Years - Remembering

John Noel McCarthy
It is forty years since my brother was killed in Vietnam in 1971 (see earlier post). This year my reflections are on the loss of the future that was taken from our family and his own family. 

Till we meet again...

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Yosemite National Park (2)

15th February continued...

Sentinel Meadows trail
Tim, our driver and very informative guide, took us to numerous outlooks and viewpoints for photo shots. As part of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the National Park itself is huge, but the Yosemite glacial valley is only 7 miles long by just under 1 mile wide. The valley floor is flat at 4,000 ft a.s.l. with its nearly vertical granite walls rising another 3,000 to 4,000 feet, and the Merced River flows through this canyon.

We were taken to the village and given numerous options for several hours, to explore at our will. Daniel and I agreed to defer lunch and set out and find the trails for Swinging Bridge from where I hoped to photograph reflections of this magnificent scenery. Then we would go on to the Yosemite Falls. The next hours were some of the most memorable and precious of my lifetime. We walked an estimated 6 km or so on several trails, with beautiful and changing views at every turn, so it was not surprising that we took over 300 photos between us. 

Yosemite Falls reflected in the Merced River,
taken from Swinging Bridge
River reflections
Walking towards Yosemite Falls

Cathedral Beach

Californian Red Fir
Meeting only the occasional person or two on the trail, we were able to experience this beautiful valley without the crowds of  summer we had heard about. The scenery sparkled in the sunlight and clear air, with snow on the surrounding delicate meadows, and the sound of flowing water.

We heard, then saw our first woodpecker, tapping on the Red Fir trees paralleling the trail. It was strangely rewarding to actually experience something which may be common for those living in this country, but about which we had only been taught as a child. Later we walked through groves of Red Firs, a dramatically different experience from walking in the Australian bush or amongst eucalypts. 

We saw deer, both in the bush and later around the village. As we left the Lower Yosemite Falls area, a cheeky squirrel accompanied us, racing alongside, leaping from log to log. I cannot adequately describe the true beauty and atmosphere of this place. Today is magic!

Yosemite Chapel (below Half Dome)

Loved this old bridge we passed on the trail

Merced River
Sentinel Meadows boardwalk, Upper Yosemite Falls in background
Upper Yosemite Falls cascading over Yosemite Point
We departed at 3:30 pm, ahead of a heavy snow storm which was reported to be moving in around 4:00 pm, so we could traverse the road safely. Overnight, the valley would be transformed into a new picture book for tomorrow's visitors.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Day 4 - Yosemite National Park (1)

15th February 2011

Daniel and I enjoyed a superb day at Yosemite National Park. Before leaving Perth, I had booked a full-day tour with Incredible Adventures, a small group tour (9 plus driver/guide). At crack of dawn, we were picked up by our guide, Tim, and cleared San Francisco via the Oakland Bay Bridge. It had been rainy in San Francisco and a heavy snowstorm was predicted for late afternoon at Yosemite. However, on nearing the Park, blue sky appeared and remained cloudless for the next five hours. The snow on the ground sparkled in the warm sunshine and crisp, clean air.

Half Dome, El Capitan and Cathedral Spires
from Inspiration Point
Deer in the bush


This scenic lookout gave us a clear view of the glacial valley of Yosemite National Park, with the Merced River running through it. Eighty-one miles of the Merced River runs through Yosemite National Park, including this stretch in the Yosemite Valley.

Very pretty to look down on, but it was only after walking several miles in this beautiful valley that I could truly appreciate the treasures to be found in this valley!

The tour continued through numerous scenic viewing spots throughout the park and valley. Being mid-winter, there were very few others or vehicles around. Such a beautiful place, almost entirely to ourselves.

Bridalveil Fall (620 ft)
Daniel at Tunnel View lookout, showing El Capitan, Clouds Rest, Half Dome, Cathedral Rocks
and Bridalveil Fall (below), looking out through Yosemite Valley
Tunnel through the mountain is 1000 ft long (320 m) through solid granite.
Bridalveil Fall

Yosemite Falls
Merced River
[To be continued with more photos on next post...]

Monday, February 14, 2011

Day 3 - San Francisco

Beautiful soft rain and grey skies today; a fog covering various sections of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The floral displays in the garden beds and pots around the pier were magnificent, with colourful tulips in full bloom.

We explored Pier 38, delighting in Bubba Gump Shrimps, saltwater taffy in overflowing wooden barrels, and famous Ghirardelli chocolate stores.

The sea lions of Pier 39

We ventured out on a Blue and Gold 1-hour ferry loop around the Bay, with views of the City en route to the Golden Gate Bridge. The water became rougher and the wind stronger and colder as the bridge got closer and the rain closed in.

From a distance, much of the bridge was covered in fog, but as we closed in and stopped right under span, the sight of the stretching spans to left and right were awesome in size and detail.

Looking up, cars looked like matchbox toys. Looking down was the clashing and meshing of ocean and bay waters as they collided in a rip, inviting sea sickness. Just in the nick of time, the boat was underway again. Soon we passed Alcatraz, close to the island's shore, before returning to the docks.

Again we ate at Capurro's. Daniel had calamari which came with 9 crumbed baby octopuses which he gave to me. I chose Dungeness crab cakes and vegies.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Day 2 [continued] - San Francisco


Steam tug Hercules

First sights of San Francisco included:

~A stroll along the historic Hyde St Pier, the old ferry pier which is part of the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park. A variety of historical ships are moored there for viewing - and for exploring.

~First glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge, portions of its mighty structure rising through the fog.

~Musee Mecanique, one of the world's largest (over 200) privately owned collection of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments and antique arcade machines in their original working condition. For 50 cents, you can play them!

~Fishermen's Grotto, the fish markets, clam chowder, and fresh crabs being cooked on the street front, to be bought, cracked and eaten at stainless steel troughs right there on the footpath!

Tomorrow, more exploring, then on Tuesday we have our full-day tour to Yosemite National Park.

Alaska, USA - Trip with Daniel - Days 1 & 2

Daniel and I departed Perth, Saturday afternoon, 12th February, and after 38 hours, it is still only Sunday, 13th February, having crossed the International Date Line as well as the Equator. With tail winds we made good timing to Auckland on the 'red-eye'.

I love Auckland Airport:  Passing through the portal, complete with birdsong.

 A 36-minute sequence of traditional Maori designs from six themes,
including ocean and night sky, is projected across Pou Manawa
using projectors and LED lighting.

The Jet Park Hotel where we had booked a day room had the most comfortable beds and pillows. Five hours' sleep, a shower and brunch of Eggs Benedict with a cappuccino had us feeling pretty good as we boarded the plane again for 12 hours' flight to San Francisco.

Air New Zealand again provided an excellent flight, with fresh, quality, well-prepared meals, and touch-screen in-flight entertainment, with a choice of over 70 movies.  It was good weather with mostly smooth flying.

We arrived in San Francisco tired but feeling well. We've had a few learning experiences that are sometimes inevitable given all the factors that can lead to lack of concentration. The most costly was our first US dollars spent on the shuttle fare plus tip being composed of a handful of US notes that all look the same when tired, disoriented and surrounded by traffic and balancing suitcases. We realised shortly after that one of the two $1 notes included in the payment was actually a $100 note! The driver, who could speak very little English, gave us a big smile as he quickly drove away.

Feeling very thankful for the smoothly running trip and the pleasure of enjoying one another's company, we turned our attention to gratefulness rather than being upset for long. Settling in at the Holiday Inn Fisherman's Wharf, we both agreed that we would not sleep now, but shower and go for a walk and lunch. So we had our showers and promptly fell asleep for an hour or so!

[to be continued...]