After a few days in San Francisco & North California, we spent two days in Yosemite National Park. The drive from San Francisco to Yosemite takes about 4 or 5 hours. Driving through the terrain to even get into the park was scenic and dangerous at times with many curving high altitude roads. The park itself is humongous, we have only seen a small portion of it. It took us over an hour just to get to our camp and lodging in the Yosemite Valley.
It may seem quite tedious to get to but the scenery is worth it. You are surrounded by lush fauna and beautiful mountains as you drive into the park. There are many scenic views on the way you can stop over and take pictures. By far this is one of the most beautiful and unique places we have seen yet. The far distance into the park is worth it when you can actually see the stars in the sky at night. If ever you find yourself in an isolated park like this, make time to see the night sky.
We only had 2 days to go hiking in the park. Realistically you probably need a week or so to take advantage of all the park has to offer but we were strapped for time and had many other stops to see before leaving the West Coast. Once arriving at our camp/tent we were surrounded by friendly deer all around us...seriously, this park is FULL of adorable deer that have no fear of humans.
Due to a severe drought throughout the west coast, as well as the timing of our visit (late September) many lakes and waterfalls were out of season. While we hiked to Mirror Lake, and several Waterfalls, there was simply rock formations where water would ordinarily be during season.
Deer grazing in what would have been Mirror Lake
View of Half Dome from Glacier Point
This is where you would find Mirror Lake, if it were present year round.
Again, this boulder is about in the center of Mirror Lake. You can see some of the water line on the rock surface.
Gorgeous meadow across from our camp ground.
Half dome at sunset is worth making time for.
Overall, we loved our stay at Yosemite. Although it was a second visit for Kaili, it was a first for Josh. We'd love to see some of the other areas that the park has to offer outside of the Valley.
We had one big reason to head down to San Jose - The Winchester Mystery House. While many travelers may like to seek out fine dining or fancy shopping locations, we like to seek out the strange. And while at first look it may seem a bit of a tourist trap, the Winchester Mystery House is an incredibly unique location worth exploring.
Built by Sarah Winchester (married to Winchester Rifles heir William Winchester), the Winchester House is legendary for its architecture and story. The legend goes that following the death of William and their daughter, Sarah believed herself to be cursed. Her reasoning was that the ghosts of all the people who were shot by a Winchester rifle were haunting her, so she began to be very fascinated by the supernatural. A visit from a psychic left her with the premonition that she would have to build and build a house until the end of her life. One common theory is that she believed that the bizarre maze of rooms would cause spirits to get lost and confused within the house. There was no real plan for the house structure, and so there are windows throughout the house, and doors that go nowhere.
A tour is required in order to explore the house, and we did the full house tour with a supplemental tour of the basement and grounds. While they do not allow photography within the house, it's worth the tour to see this unique work of architecture.
While we didn't stop for long in Big Sur, we spent the day driving along the coast and exploring some gorgeous secluded beaches. Big Sur is a beautiful stretch of coastal highway through State Route 1 between Carmel and San Simeon. We stopped many times to take in the sights and attempt to capture them with our cameras, it was so beautiful it seemed almost unreal.
The Bixby Bridge is about half way through Big Sur and about 120 miles South of San Francisco. It's a rather iconic viewpoint so of course we had to stop. The view here is incredible. Driving along the California coast is absolutely an unbelievable experience that I hope everyone can experience at least once.
While we tend to prefer mountain hiking over beaches, I don't see how anyone couldn't appreciate the amazing sights that the Golden Coast has to offer.
While the coast was incredible on it's own, we made a point to stop and visit some beaches as well. One of the beaches even had subtly purple sand, as a result of minerals from the surrounding cliffs. We also made a stop at McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the gorgeous cove which includes a small waterfall. While a lot of these beaches are hard to find, they are well worth the effort.
While it was out of our usual price range, we stopped for a nice meal at Nepenthe, a restaurant directly off the highway and with gorgeous views of the surrounding mountain range. While pricey, the food and service was great and the view was worth it.