Friday, September 28, 2007

Chico, Redwoods, and Crater Lake

We had a great time in Chico with Marie. We spent the day researching places on the Internet and organizing some loose ends while Marie was at work. When Marie got home, we went to Bidwell Park, Chico's amazing huge park in the foothills. So big, that it took a half hour to get to Bear Hole where there was a river surrounded by volcanic rock. We had never seen rock quite like it before, Nicole took one and later made a necklace out of it. After Bear Hole we drove back to the park entrance to a spot Marie often hikes and she took us up into the foothills, fist to a place she and her friends call "Monkey Rock". Here, we rested and decided where to go next. We chose to continue hiking up into the hills and away from the car. We might have slightly lost the trail but we had a great time. Finally, after the sun had set, we found a path down the hills and made it back to the car. On our way out we had a great time playing with the full moon. We miss Marie back home!

We had dinner at Chico's new Indian restaurant that Marie had heard good things about but never been. We all loved it. The food was excellent and because we all ordered the Thali dinners we were introduced to a few new side dishes. Good company and good conversation. On the way back to Marie's we stopped and played with the largest chimes we'd ever seen. The guy who makes them hangs them in his front yard and posts a sign saying anyone is free to play, so we did.

Nicole had asked Marie to teach her to crochet, so back at Marie's the two of them sat out on the front porch and Nicole learned how to crochet. She made a cloth and a coaster while the two of them caught up on old times.

The following day we said our goodbyes and thanks to Marie and headed on our way to Red Woods National Park. We arrived at the visitor centre around 4:30pm in hopes they would help us figure out where we should camp. The woman at the information booth was excellent. She quickly hooked us up with permits and a code for the locked gate at the entrance to the access road down to the trailhead for the Tall Trees Grove hike. It took us about half an hour to get to the trailhead and once there we re-organized our packs and headed down the trail for some back country camping.

We hiked a little too far as we ended up at the Tall Trees Grove which you must camp at least a quarter of a mile away from so we backed off and found a camp spot on the gravel bar down the creek. Nicole cooked dinner while Jason set up the tent. Dinner was rice and veggies and it was yummy! After, we both hung our food and packed it in for the night. Not much to do after dark.

We were up early in the rain because we still needed to hike Tall Trees Grove. Without breakfast we packed up and got out of there. With our packs loaded up we still enjoyed the loop hike around the tall trees and back up to the car. The trees were huge! It's amazing what mother nature can produce.We arrived at the car around 10:00am and ate breakfast on the road. We had a long drive ahead of us, first to crater lake and then to Portland.

We crossed the Oregon border around 1:30pm and hit snow around 3:00pm! As our elevation increased on our way to Crater Lake, the temperature dropped to below freezing and the rain turned to snow. It was beautiful. Unfortunately it made in nearly impossible to see the lake. Just means we'll have to come back again!The drive out of the Crater Lake park was awesome, with cliffs on each side and leaved trees in Fall colours We later found we weren't on the road we expected but we managed to still find our way to Portland without a map and arrived at a Travelodge around 9pm.

Chico Pics | Redwoods Pics | Crater Lake Pics

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

San Fran to Yosemite to Chico!

We decided to make the most of our half day in San Francisco. First we visited the California Academy of Sciences Aquarium. Nicole hadn't been to an aquarium in years. We visited with all the fish, snakes, penguins and spiders for a good two hours. At 11:00am we watched them feed the penguins, very cute and educational.
After the aquarium we hit up some key tourist attractions, Lombard Street and the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove down the twisty street with a dozen other tourists. We couldn't believe people actually live on the crazy one-way street. The Golden Gate Bridge was hidden in clouds but we still enjoyed the view from a lookout spot at Fort Point in Golden Gate Park. While in the park we had a picnic lunch preparing for the long drive ahead. We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and headed toward Berkeley.

Berkeley was pretty awesome and Nicole managed to find a few things to buy along the well-known Telegraph Avenue. Nice hippie atmosphere. We arrived in Yosemite just after dark around 8:00pm. Our camp site number was posted at the Crane Flat gate just as expected from our reservation. We set up camp in the dark and then cooked ourselves a wholesome stir fry dinner. Not bad for a one burner stove.

Our first night at Yosemite was cold, dropping to just above freezing overnight. We both didn't get a very good sleep. We were happy to wake up and have hot tea and oatmeal for breakie. We saw all the sights you could in one day at Yosemite. Tunnel view lookout, Yosemite visitor center, Yosemite falls, Bridalveil falls and mirror lake were a few, all the while being wowed by El Capitan and Half Dome. We also saw bears (yes plural), deer and squirrels.
We stayed warm in the evening by cooking another hot meal this time accompanied by a campfire. We were better prepared and slept much better the second night. Wish we could have stayed one more day!

Left the park by 11:00am to head to Chico to see Marie! Long drive up the scenic hwy 49 but all worth it to see Marie's smiling face. The three of us quickly caught up with each other during a nice walk into town. Back at Marie's adorable home we enjoyed home made vegetarian chili for dinner. It was excellent and hit the spot. We were in a nice warm bed by 11:00pm. Lots planned for the next few days.

San Francisco Pics | Yosemite Pics

Saturday, September 22, 2007

LA to San Francisco!

After a beautiful drive up the Pacific Coast Highway, we've made it to San Francisco! We picked up our rental car a couple of days ago in LA. We wanted another Cobalt but we got a PT Cruiser instead... I guess it's better, but we hate it. Oh well. It'll do. We toured LA with it, walked down Hollywood Blvd, drove through Beverley Hills, Bel-Air, and along Mulholland Drive. We tried to find some star homes in Beverley Hills but most places had large hedges and big gates.
We relaxed a bit at Julie's but still drove to Venice Beach for a walk along the crazy beach side shops, enjoying the setting sun. We visited the Santa Monica Pier and continued walking to the 3rd Street Promenade, which is three blocks of pedestrian street with lots of cool and trendy stores. We had burritos at La Salsa, then returned to Julie's shortly after 9pm. A nice, but busy day. Ready to head up the coast.

Yesterday, we drove up Hwy 1, the Pacific Coast Highway. Through Malibu, Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Cambria, and stopped in Big Sur. Beautiful coastline for the 50 miles before getting to Big Sur. Lots of winding roads and amazing vistas. We left LA shortly after 9am, and we didn't reach Big Sur until almost 6pm. Crazy. Took forever. Although we did make several stops at vistas, and we also stopped to buy white gas for our stove, and about a week's worth of food. One vista included a pack of Elephant Seals! Many seals on the beach, some swimming, and we also so pelicans and very friendly squirrels.
But we didn't have a campsite booked... We stopped at the first park that didn't have a CAMPGROUND FULL sign up, and we lucked out. The Riverside Campground was quite nice. A river running through it, and they had rope bridges between some of the trees.

We set up camp and made a pasta dinner. The white gas worked well with our multifuel stove, and we were quite impressed that our 1.5L pot made pasta for 2 quite easily. Even with cut up broccoli, onions, and ground tofu in it. Good stuff! It started to spit as dusk settled in so we did a crossword in the tent before going to bed shortly after 10.

It rained for much of the night, but it stopped shortly after 6am. We got up shortly after 6:30 this morning because we had a date with Alcatraz! Packed up our wet tent and had granola breakfast on the road. The rest of the trip was mostly boring... A few nice views in the Monterey area, but no views from Santa Cruz. Continued to rain most of the way up the remainder of the coast to San Fran.

Arrived in San Fran and managed to find a decent parking area close to the piers by 11am. We managed to buy a cup of ice from Safeway for only 25 cents for the small cooler that Julie lent us. We ate lunch, then walked to the MarketPlace at Pier 2 where there was a fresh produce market. Quite cool and well laid out. Then walked quickly to Pier 33 to catch our 1:10 ferry to Alcatraz.

Alcatraz was pretty cool. It is now a National Park, so our ferry ticket included an audio tour. Quite interesting to walk around the cell area, and to learn about the history of the inmates. We left the island shortly after 3, visited the crazy busy Pier 39, walked past Fisherman's Wharf, and carried on back towards our car via North Beach (the Italian district). We decided to take in the experience and had dinner at Viva Restaurant. Very yummy.

Now we find ourselves in the YMCA Hostel, in a nice room with a double bed, walk-in closet, sink, free internet, and continental breakfast to look forward to. A little more touring of San Fran tomorrow morning then we're off to Yosemite National Park!

Los Angeles Pics | Pacific Coast Highway Pics | San Francisco Pics

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Goodbye Hawaii, Hello California!

We've arrived in Los Angeles and are quite comfortable at Julie's apartment in Santa Monica. We haven't been out much but from what we've seen, it's beautiful here. We have been making lots of plans and organizing ourselves for our next month in the western US and BC. Tomorrow we will roam around LA, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, etc.

Our last couple days in Hawaii were great. We drove to the end of the line at Haena and hiked 2 miles, up and down, of the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast ending at a gorgeous, untouched beach at the base of Hanakapiai Valley. We then took a 2 mile detour to the Hanakapiai Falls. We were tired, hungry and hot and the hike seemed to take forever but we made it! It was all worth it. The falls were beautiful and the water was refreshing and perfect.

We both swam in the falls and stayed basking in the cool spray while eating our granola and trail mix snacks. There was such a temperature difference that Nicole even got goosebumps from the cold. Around 2:30pm we packed up and faced the 4 miles back to the car. We were happy to arrive at the car around 6:30pm after many rests on the long, hot trek back.

Before the drive back we stopped at a couple caves to check them out and then grabbed a fabulous pizza dinner in Kapa'a at a cute restaurant. It hit the spot after a long day! Check out all of the pictures!

The following day we checked out the wildlife refuge and lighthouse at the Kilauea Nature Reserve. It was fun to see all the birds in a somewhat natural habitat. We then booked it to the airport after returning the rental car. We were so early, they offered to put us on an earlier flight to Oahu. Great! We both enjoyed Hawaii but we were also both ready to head to LA so, since we were already at the airport, we thought about trying to catch an earlier flight to LA but gave up after Jason was on hold for over half an hour.

Instead we hopped on the bus to Waikiki and after an hour and a half ended up at our hostel. Cute place but we both had a terrible experience. We knew they had no private rooms available so we spent our first night apart in separate dorms. It was so hot and noisy neither of us got any sleep and getting up at 4:30am to catch our flight to LA was a relief. There's a few more pics of our time on Oahu.

We enjoyed Oahu and Kauai but both think there's not much reason to visit a second time. If we ever find ourselves in Hawaii again, we'll visit Maui and The Big Island.

Julie's a great host here in Santa Monica and Nicole has fallen in love with her apartment. In about 15 minutes we head out for a nice dinner along the beach. Should be nice :)

Na Pali Hike & Kauai Last Day Pics | Oahu Last Night Pics

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Waimea Canyon, Hanalei, and everything in between

After some shopping in the morning, we set out from Lihue and headed west to the incredible Waimea Canyon! Coined as the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific", it really is spectacular. Not nearly as large as the Grand Canyon of course, but still holds its own. We wanted to really experience the canyon, so we hiked the 4km Kukui Trail which descends the entire height of the canyon to the Waimea River at the bottom. 4km of down, followed by 4km of back up. Quite tiring, but amazing views the whole way. The river at the bottom had some nice views back up to each side of the canyon, but we didn't stay long due to pesky mosquitoes. It was a tough climb back up, but we made it.

We got back to the town of Waimea as quick as possible to replenish ourselves with more water. Then parked at Lucy Wright Beach Park to camp for the night. The problem with these county parks is that there are too many locals around drinking and talking. A little sketchy... But we ate a quick make-shift dinner, set up tent, and went to bed. The stars were quite nice at least. And we still had a decent sleep.

So yesterday morning, we drove back up through the Waimea Canyon area and stopped at all of the tourist lookouts. Lots of great views. Past the Waimea Canyon State Park is the Koke'e State Park. This park had a visitors centre and museum which we stopped at. And goes far enough north to have views of the northwestern Na Pali Coast! We took the road right to the end, and then hiked another mile along a ridge that overlooked the Kalalau Valley. Beautiful! The only other way to see that coast is by hiking along the coast from the north (ending at the Kalalau Valley) or from the water.

Then we drove all the way back around the island to the north side to a land called Hanalei! It's the main surfing town of Kauai. We drove around a while looking for laundry facilities but couldn't find any. We parked at the Black Pot Beach Park shortly after dark and set up camp. This park is only open for camping on weekends, despite a whole section of it obviously having pretty permanent tents of locals. Whatever.

So it rained overnight, we got up and packed up our wet tent before dawn, got the Na Pali Kayaks at 6am, only to for them to tell us that swells on the coast had become to large overnight and that the trip for the day was cancelled!! Grrr! And unfortunately, the next day that had availability was Monday, which is when we leave. So no Na Pali coast from the water for us. :(

So back around to Kapa'a on the east coast we drove to find a laundromat. Found one okay, and decided that since our trip was cancelled, we'd put the money towards a couple of nights in a hotel in Kapa'a. We went out for breakfast, then drove down to the Po'ipu area. Visited the Spouting Horn (a blow hole where the surf enters the rock shore and blows up through a hole in the rock), then took a look at some flowers and plants at the National Tropical Botanical Gardens.

Checked into our hotel in the early afternoon, relaxed, cleaned up, and started drying out our tent. So we're pretty disappointed about the kayak trip... But hopefully our hike on the coast will work out okay tomorrow. Over and out.

Waimea Canyon to Hanalei Pics

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Experiencing Hawaii in Kauai!

We arrived in Lihue, Kauai yesterday after a nice short flight from Honolulu. We immediately rented a red Chevy Cobalt, and drove to the Kauai Palms Hotel where we are also staying tonight. A nice budget hotel. Although we've acquired some strange bites and we're not sure if they came from our bed, or from lying on the beach a few days ago...

Had a great day today though! We stopped by the county parks office to get some camping permits for our planned camping spots and then carried on down to the vacation town of Po'ipu to get a surf lesson! Sparky, our instructor was fun and informative. Nicole and I both did fairly well and very much enjoyed it. Enough so that we plan to rent boards later in the week.

Then we took a drive down a dirt road in the area, attempting to find the secluded Maha'ulepu Beach, but the road turned out to be way to rough for our poor little Cobalt... Oh well. Returned to Lihue for lunch and to change.

We drove up to Kapa'a to check out the Coconut Marketplace and then we participated in a Luau, the tacky tourist activity. We figured we had to say we'd been to one. It was pretty fun. Started beachside with a Hawaiian band, and some drinks, then they had a huge tent where we all had a yummy buffet followed by live entertainment. Dances and songs that told stories of the different Polynesian Islands. Quite enjoyable.

Looking forward to camping, hiking, and kayaking over the next few days in Waimea Canyon and along the Na Pali coast! We'll keep you posted!

This is not a paid advertisement:
Thanks Kauai Surf School! We totally recommend visiting Sparky on Sheraton Beach in Po'ipu!

Kauai Southeast Pics

Monday, September 10, 2007

Busing around Oahu

We put our TheBus traveller passes to good use over the past couple of days. Took the bus from the hostel to the main bus terminal at the Ala Moana mall near Waikiki, picked up some food, and took TheBus north through the mountains! Nice valley road and a tunnel at the end opening up to great views of the Windward north-east coast. Beautiful green mountains.

We expected a longer trip, but the bus ride from Honolulu to Kualoa Regional Park was only about an hour and 15 minutes! So it gave us the whole afternoon to relax in tree-shade, across from Mokolii Island (Chinamans Hat). Went into the ocean once but it was too warm to be refreshing. We read up on Kauai and did crosswords and enjoyed the scenery. There were a few other annoying visitors to the park that made it more unpleasant at times, but overall, was an enjoyable day.

Ate the dinner that we brought and waited until shortly after sunset to set up our tent (being a weekend, we were unable to get a camping permit from the office in Honolulu...) The sunset was quite beautiful as it set behind the mountains and lit up the clouds above them.

Early to bed, early to rise. Good thing because not even a minute after I rolled up my sleeping bag, the park security walked up and told us to leave. He wasn't all that friendly about it, but we were okay with packing up immediately. Still got some nice photos of the sunrise beside Chinamans Hat.

Took TheBus a little further to a beach park where we ate breakfast, and then carried on to Laie Point for a great view of the whole Windward Coast. Jason had his first "injury" on the point. After he had taken panoramic pictures of the entire coast, he began to walk back. Then he heard a loud rumbling noise, as if an airplane was flying over. He looked up and saw Nicole's face of surprise, and he realized he was about to get drenched. A combo of waves bounced up the shore and sprayed up and the wind carried the water right over his head, drenching his back! In his surprise, he slipped on the now wetter coral rocks and cut his leg in four spots... Saving the camera as he braced himself with his right hand. Jason only wishes he could have had it caught on camera. We were there for at least 15 minutes longer, and it never splashed up that high again. Just our luck.

Anyway, no serious harm done. We carried on around the coast and stopped at Waimea and Sharks Cove. Waimea is one of the championship surfing beaches. But the waves are only huge in the wintertime, so it was hard to imagine. Had a skewer lunch at a Beach Grill and swam briefly in Sharks Cove (the water was much more refreshing and nice here), then carried on all the way back to Honolulu again. A nice circuit around the island.

Discovered that we actually get a wireless signal from our hostel room (makes sense since we are right beside the University of Hawaii campus). Good thing too because we found out that our SuperFerry ride had been cancelled! Apparently the service is still new and they were having some issues with the coast guard regulations. But it turned out for the better as they gave us a credit towards flights instead and the one-way flights end up being only $19 each!! Not bad! But it would have been much cooler to have taken the ferry... Oh well. Also, because of the flights available at the discounted rate, we will have to spend one extra day in Kauai, which works out fine. We fly to Lihue, Kauai tomorrow afternoon. Can't wait!

Oahu Circuit Pics

Saturday, September 8, 2007

We've arrived in Hawaii!

Beautiful day in Hawaii! After a two hour delay and an 8 hour flight we've arrived! The flight wasn't bad at all. We watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding on the laptop (Jason had never seen it). I watched some Alias, did some crosswords and Jason watched Family Guy and read Maxim. We're still very happy to be off the plane.

Nice cab ride out to the Hostel, although our driver initially thought we were going somewhere else. Bartered the price down and again we saved! The Hostel is awesome(Jason doesn't agree, but I think it has character). Nice people, cool atmosphere and a place to rest for a couple days. Much better than Chicago.

We already know where to buy our bus pass, the best ways to save money and we fit right in with the university crowd at UH.

We're currently sitting in a 24 hour Kinkos and we've discovered the internet here does what we need it to do. There should now be new pictures posted - check them out!

Anyway, Chicago was great. We managed to stay out of the rain, see all the sights we wanted and really enjoy the city for what it has to offer. The early rise this morning to catch our flight was a bit difficult, but we managed.

Looking forward to seeing Oahu and camping on Kauai. After we're finished here, we head to the local grocery store and back to the hostel to cook dinner.

Chicago Pics | First Oahu Pics

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sears Tower

Well the rain let up and we headed straight downtown to the Sears Tower. Visibility wasn't great but the trip was still fun.
Jason has now knocked another tower off his list! After the Sears Tower we walked to the Harbourfront, BEAUTIFUL! We would have stayed longer but the mosquitoes scared us off. We plan to head back down to the waterfront tonight. We also plan to visit Lincoln Park, squeeze in a movie (superbad), and walk down the pier. :)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Day 1

Well here we are in the comfortable city of Chicago! A short flight, long train ride, and very humid walk to the hostel. So far, checking into the hostel went smoothly. We napped, toured the hostel, and now find ourselves eating Mexican fast food at Qdoba Mexican Grill who also serve up free wireless internet in a nice refreshing air conditioned atmosphere. Quite satisfying. As it turns out, we are now waiting out heavy rain from thunder storms that are passing through. Hopefully the weather lets up a little for us to go downtown this evening to catch the sunset from atop the Sears Tower, and walk around the harbourfront, saving ourselves from the day's heat.

We're feeling great although we are suffering from some technical issues. Please bear with us until we have some new and exciting pics and stories for you.

Thanks everyone for wishing us well! Tune in again soon.