Monday, September 28, 2015

Day 17- Napa Valley

Last night Anna told me she would be getting up early to shower and get ready; since I showered last night, I knew as I laid in bed at 7:30am that I should probably get up and start packing. I am sure she is already in the shower, and I don't want to delay us any longer to getting to Napa! I crawled out, and started to pack things up and head to the bathroom; when I returned she was exiting her tent. Had she already showered and was reading waiting for me? I asked and seemed she hadn't showered yet; she headed for the bathroom to do so, and I continued packing. We checked out at the exit; and what that really meant was, no one was there so I erased my name off the reservation slip and placed it on the ground next to the ranger hut. We were trying to get a hotel room for Napa so we didn't have to worry about camping, and looking good for the wineries. Anna's mom had offered us a gift of a hotel room, and was looking on Groupon for good deals. Since it was so last minute, everything was already booked; and we would be arriving for the weekend which didn't help. First our plan was to take our time and see a cheese factory about an hour and a half into our drive, and also see the Elk if possible; now that I was trying to find hotels as I drove, our plans changed a little. We still planned to go to the cheese shop for lunch, but I was a little panicked about trying to find somewhere to stay. Service was spotty where I was and it was unreliable to try and call places to make reservations. My mom had ever so kindly offered to pay for the hotel room, and she called every place I looked up that would be in a reasonable distance to both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley; though no where had rooms available. As I passed by a road, I noticed antlers sticking up from the grass; I braked, threw the car in reverse, and joined the groups of people and cars parked on a side road to watch the beautiful creatures. There was a male just 30 feet from the road, and then on the other side a few bucks and does; they were so cool. We stayed for a little while to take photos just outside the car, and then continued on our way. The service improved, and I found a couple hotels that were about 45 minutes outside of Napa Valley; my mom called for us while I was driving, and each one was booked. I was beginning to lose hope when she sent me a text that she got us a room for one night, but the second night was unavailable; at least we got one night! Rather relieved, we continued to the cheese factory when I received a call from my mom; seems when she called they had a room available for two nights and she was calling me to make sure that was what I wanted; I agreed. Tonight we would be sleeping in a bed, and tomorrow night too! We arrived at the cheese factory, and decided to check it out before drying our tents out in the sun; it was a quaint little store, and we were the only ones in there. We were advised to check out all of the samples, and the garden out back; my first request though was a restroom. After, the samples were delicious! We tried everything from cheese curds, to sharp cheddar, to garlic and spiced havarti. We split our sampling in half with a garden visit, and it was an adorable backyard garden. I could have had a nice cheese plate, some wine, and hung out back there for the afternoon! Walking back inside, we tried some more samples and then decided to each buy a brick of cheese; Anna got some crackers with hers too. As I was checking out at the counter, I looked up to see a signed poster of Guy Fieri; being a huge fan of the Food Network, I snapped a photo before leaving. Back at the car, we grabbed the trash bag full of wet tent contents and began to lay them out by the car in the grass. I noticed a bar going across and up to the power lines so I hung my footprint and rainfly over the bar to flap in the wind. I quickly organized my side of the car, and sat to enjoy my new cheese on a bagel along with a juice, and apple sauce. The sun felt great as I sat on my new camp chair next to the car. This was when I realized I don't think I could ever live in Oregon, or Washington; where the majority of the year, it is raining. Just two days in the rain at the Redwoods put me in a funky mood, and I could feel it lifting away as the sun touched my skin. We hung out there for at least a half hour or so to let things dry up before packing up. Hanging the tent didn't dry things any faster than the tent laying on the ground, I don't think. I stood there waving it around to try and help the process before it was 90% dry. We packed everything back up, and I asked Anna to drive the rest of the way to Napa Valley! I was hoping to catch up on the blog a bit, but that didn't happen. The scenery changed to more desertous rolling hills, with clusters of green trees placed like an artist from a painting. Slowly, before we knew it both sides of the highway were lined with grape vines. We were getting close! And then we hit a two lane road, with water on either side, and traffic. It was stop and go for quite some time before we were finally over the wetlands and the lanes opened up. It was around 4:00 when we arrived at the hotel for check in, I decided to just bring my whole suitecase up, along with my dirty clothes. We were on the 3rd floor, which was the top floor; and the sight of two queen beds, a bathroom, and air conditioning was heaven sent! I laid out on the bed and relaxed. We looked up wineries nearby, but they all closed at 5:00, and they would all take about 20-30 minutes to get to; oh well tomorrow is a new day. Instead, we looked up restaurants in the area and came across a nice Italian restaurant that surely would have at least a glass of wine at! We called to make a reservation (just in case) and hung out in the room for a little while before heading over to have dinner. We made reservations at Cakebread Cellars tomorrow for 11:00, and for Robert Mondavi after that; while also deciding on two more wineries that didn't require reservations. It was a short 5 minute drive, and seemed like any Italian restaurant I may find in Florida. The landscape outside was full of palm trees, and greenery, and inside seemed a little fancy; good thing I put on my fancy white jeans. We were sat at a table for two, and that is when Anna realized she didn't have her wallet with her, guess she wouldn't be having wine tonight. I ordered a glass of Pinot Noir from California, and the artichoke, vegetable, fettuccine; as we sat enjoying the overly garlic dipping oil with bread. I was eyeing a younger waiter that was tending to a large party nearby, as we caught eyes; we both smiled. Anna and I were the youngest in the restaurant by at least 20 years, seems people in their 60's and 80's come to Napa Valley. Somehow, I managed to drip oil on my left thigh leaving a faint yellow stain. My napkin was draped over my right thigh since I eat with my right hand, how it was dropped on my left side is beyond me. I placed my napkin in my water glass, dabbing it on the stain, hoping to help the removal process. Our food arrived and we both agreed our dishes were, good; but not great, they seemed to be missing the "wow factor" but we couldn't pin what that may have been. Upon waiting for the check, the younger waiter and I caught each other in glimpse here and there. I settled up the bill, and Anna claims he watched me the whole time as we exited. Tell me, what is the point of this game of staring back and fourth and not one word is said? It was nothing more than amusing I suppose. Deciding to stop at Walmart on our way back to the hotel for a Tidestick was practically a waste of time. Seems they did not have any Tidesticks in stock, so I got some other kind of stain removal for white clothing before arriving back at the hotel. I gathered all of my dirty clothes, and a few of Anna's she accumulated; and headed to the second floor for the laundry facilities. Threw in a load, and headed to change into our swim suites to hit up the pool and possible the hot tub. We looked down the hall from the gym, no pool; we walked the other way, and nothing? Where was this pool? Then the thought hit me, maybe it wasn't an indoor pool? And then I saw the exit door down the hallway and the pool, well; maybe the hot tub is sounding better and better. Since we were in Napa, I wanted to finally take off the chipped and small reminisce of gel nail polish left over from weeks ago, so I had previously picked up nail polish remover. I sat in the hot tub and rubbed the polish from my nails, but nothing came off. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but still nothing; I had to sit there picking it off my nails what a pain! It was a gorgeous night, and even better; sunset. When it was time to switch the clothes into the dryer, we got out of the hot tub and decided to go back to the room to wait for the clothes to dry. Anna decided to blog, but I couldn't make myself; I laid in bed listening to music instead until the clothes were done. I listened to music in bed before drifting off to sleep, dreaming of wine country in the morning.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Day 16- Rainy Redwood Forest

This morning I woke up "late" a little after 8:00 and just wanted to turn over and sleep until tomorrow; so I did. Just kidding! But I did turn over a few times as the rain hit the outside of my tent. Deciding to get up and make breakfast; I realized the rain I was hearing was not hitting my tent because it was dry. Guess it was a good idea putting it under the tree growth. It was sprinkling out however, so I grabbed my breakfast essentials (bacon) and went back over near my tent. I started the Jetboil stove portion without the pot, and held the cake pan full of bacon above the flame. Realizing that it would probably get hot, I used two twigs as handles under the cake pan handles, until one started to burn a little; I just grabbed another. Perks of making breakfast in the woods I suppose, an over abundance of sticks. It was a long tedious process since both of my hands were being used I had to turn it off each time I wanted to turn and flip the pieces. Eventually, I had nice crisp bacon to go with my maple and brown sugar oatmeal with an over expired banana chopped up within. We decided to stay at this site, and campground for our second night so on our way out we reserved it again. Since the rain was supposed to be its heaviest this morning, the plan was to drive South a bit to see one of the trees you can drive through in hopes that later on it will dry up enough for a hike. As we approached the booth where we were to pay $5 to enter the park, we slipped the cash in slot, no envelope or anything provided. The drive was a short one to the tree and as we approached, there were two cars blocking the entrance. I waited a couple minutes for them to realize they were in the way and finish up their conversation before leaving. Driving around to the other side, I noticed a car parked in the middle with a couple taking photos under the arch of the tree, once they finished I drove around their car and carefully proceeded into the tree. It was a tight fit, maybe a foot leeway on either side, which left us climbing out of the windows to get out of the car. Not sure how overweight people would have managed but luckily we did. I grabbed my camera and ran around to the front of the car, quickly noticing the lights were on and throwing off the shot; I ran back to turn them off noticing a couple other cars had arrived. As I got back to the front of the car I heard a beep; were we really being beeped at? As much as I wanted to ignore the fact, the fire enraged in me and there was no need for them to be acting impatient. We paid the same $5 as everyone else to see the tree and it was a process in itself just to get the car in there, I wasn't going to leave without making sure I got all the photos I needed ($5 was outrageous to pay in my mind as it was, should have been free; sure was going to get my moneys worth in photos.) I walked back behind the car and motioned with my hands to calm down to the cars behind us. Calmly walking back to the front to finish up the photos with each of us and the car; I debated being a real Richard like they were and taking my time even when we were done, but I'm not a Dick for no reason like they were. As we climbed back through the windows like a Nascar driver, I stuck my finger out the sunroof as we made our exit out of the tree and on with our day. Even as we drove away, I couldn't comprehend the audacity of their lack of patience. It's not like we were taking a half hour messing around; I was running back and fourth and the whole process was maybe 5-7 minutes. It was still raining and we were trying to figure out what to do; I mentioned through text to my Mom that it was raining and she advised we try to find something to do inside; "Mom, we are in the Redwoods; there are no indoor tree museums." We drove by a huge Paul Bunion figure with his blue ox and decided to pull in to waste some time. We took photos of the large figure talking to the children nearby and figured why not check out the store. Inside was like any other tourist trap gift store, but they did offer a Native American artifact museum which was a nice little walk-through; I even found Big Foot! Realizing that we were all set with the store and museum, we headed back up toward the campground. Browsing online we read that there was a dirt road to drive that usually provided a nice scenic route. It was cloudy and raining on and off, but we decided why not. We drove down the one way coastal dirt road and had a couple nice view spots, didn't see any sea lions though. This is where my blog glitch annoyance starts; I had added all the photos to the blogpost before writing this all out and saved it as a draft. Since my photos were building up in my phone, and memory/space was diminishing; I decided to delete some photos since they were already saved on the blog, big mistake. Later I come to realize that the draft didn't save the photos and I lost a bunch from where I will talk about next, the pier and lighthouse. Seeing online there was a lighthouse nearby, we decided that would be a cool thing to see; we drove to where the GPS said our destination was and saw nothing that resembled a lighthouse. Maybe we had the wrong location? I turned around on the beautiful coastal road and Googled lighthouses in the area. One came up and I set the GPS to the location. We again arrived, but surely you should be able to see a lighthouse from a distance right? We were in the downtown area and not really coastal, finally I saw a road that lead to what looked like a park; maybe this was it? But still no lighthouse in sight. We parked the car, grabbed rain jackets, and walked toward the pier. As there was a homeless man screaming at birds behind us, I saw up ahead the "lighthouse." Unlike lighthouses I am familiar with; tall, cylindrical, on a point or island, this one look like a small house on the top of a hill. Chuckling, I snapped some photos and realized why the road to the lighthouse was closed; it was washed out and completely underwater in the middle. The pier warned of deathly waves and they weren't kidding as I watched them crash over the edge further down. Naturally I wanted to know what was at the end, I walked down in the rain avoiding as many puddles as possible. It took awhile, and I passed marker 22, which I took a pretty cool photo of but it was lost in blog transition; don't want to talk about it. A lot of the photos during this time were lost, like the 10's-20 Osprey flying about and landing on a nearby island. (The bird photos below I got from Anna's blog.) I noticed odd structures off in the distance and wanted to know what they were (again a lot of the photos of them got deleted) but I think there is one below with me in it; they were huge cement like pillar-type of objects that had now had graffiti on them and I still have no idea what their purpose is. Hungry and chilled, we decided to see what was in the area for lunch; luckily there was a top rated sandwich shop by TripAdvisor just 5 minutes away. I ordered a Cuban panini and Peace Tea; again, there was photos of both but they got deleted. The sandwich was so good, I am a big fan of Cuban sandwiches and this one was approvable. After lunch we decided to drive down a gravel road to see some more Redwood; as we approached the road, we noticed construction signs stating it was closed to through traffic. We drove on, and came to a crew of construction guys letting us know that the road ahead was being closed due to them putting in pipe; damn! I noticed a gated path in the other direction as I turned the car around, and asked one of the workers if we could walk up the other gravel road; he said "heck yeah!" So, I parked the car and we got out. The dead-end which we were at was pretty muddy, and one of the guys asked us what we were up to, "just going for a walk?" he asked, I replied and to take photos as my camera was in hand. We parted ways and walked up passed the gate towards the outdoor school. We walked uphill for awhile and the trees were beautiful, we saw old growth trees which had been logged years ago; and now new growth was emerging from the old stumps. Really hearty tree that Redwood is. Lime green moss covered everything, and I noticed a lot of burnt trees. Seems this is all part of nature; it is important to have balance and the natural fires provide that. One stump in particular was pretty with all of the different colors within it; black, brown, green, blue, even purple in spots. We walked for awhile before coming across a speed limit sign; that's odd, who would be speeding out here? We must have arrived at the school because there were summer camp-like cabins all in a circle radius of a bigger building. It was closed and deserted at the moment, but still cool to see. Deciding to head back, we were overjoyed at the fact that it would be gradually all downhill. We reached the car, and decided to try to get at the road from the other direction hoping to see more before hitting the construction site again. Having to make a big loop to reach the other side of the river, we finally made it to the connecting road. This was even better than the other side; it was as though admission could be charged to drive down this dirt road, there were clusters of Redwood all along the winding road we were on. We came upon one of the biggest ones I had seen and it was right off the road, we stopped to take numerous pictures of it with the car for size. Even still, the photos don't do it justice. The road we were on had a magic feel about it; there was hardly anyone else on the road and the red pine path was cleared by two worn tire marks. We arrived at the trailhead for a waterfall trail of 2.8 miles each way; and although it was late in the day and I particularly didn't want to agree to 5.6 miles, I didn't think of it that way. I thought of it as 2.8 miles; as I asked Anna if she wanted to do the hike, she looked at me with a "not really face" and stated that she didn't feel well; that she didn't think her lunch sat well with her stomach. I made sure she had her set of keys, and grabbed my backpack and camera; she said that if she started to feel better she would catch up with me. I walked down the dirt path with a comforting familiarity under my feet; this was not the Appalachian Trail, it wasn't a trail in Connecticut, the North East, or even one I had been on before, but it still felt calming. I took a deep breath, and enjoyed every minute of my walk. Even getting caught in a little rain didn't send me back to the car; I pulled out my pack cover and covered my camera in my hand as I walked with drops of rain hitting my head and skin cooling me off. I stopped frequently to capture a shot on either my camera or cellphone, and came across a few groups of people heading in the opposite direction. As each one passed, I would ask them if they made it to the waterfall; each response would be something along the lines of, "oh no, we didn't make it that far; not sure how much further it was from when we turned around could have been only a couple minutes." A few would guess that at this point I was about a mile away, I continued to enjoy the gradual downhill path of well groomed trail, and spots with a lot of root structures. Crossing over three man made log bridges, I came to a clearing in the canopy. I was no longer shaded by enormous trees, but the blue sky showed through the treetops. There was one massive tree in the clearing which made it seem even more vast. I jogged lightly knowing I had been gone awhile, and felt a familiar gurgle in my stomach; was the fact that Anna wasn't feeling well just getting to my head? I carried on to ask a couple if they had made it to the waterfall, they had; was it worth it I asked? Honestly I should have known from their response that it wasn't going to be spectacular, but maybe I just had to see for myself? When the woman explained it being "cute" I should have just turned around right there, but I didn't. I pushed on, and you know that saying "take only pictures, leave only footprints?" I left more than footprints, and I am happy I had toilet paper packed in my bag from the hike a few days ago! I can now say I left my mark on the West Coast. Arriving at the waterfall was somewhat hysterical, it was some water trickling down a rockface; yes cute was an understatement. Coming from Shoshone, Multnomah, and other spectacular falls; this looked like a good spring for a water source rather than a waterfall. I turned around and jogged almost the whole way back, I really need to get better on my cardio game! I was exhausted and sweaty and out of breath, but I finally reached the car to find Anna curled up in a ball in the front seat. She said she was feeling a little better, 5.6 miles later; I was feeling great, but exhausted. I blasted the air conditioning as we exited the dirt road the way we came. Deciding to go into town to find a Starbucks, was both a great idea; and kind of impractical for me. We wanted to use their wifi to update our blogs; they closed at 8:00 and it was almost 7:00, so I had an hour to try and make some progress. (Mind you, most blogposts for one day take at least an hour.) I ordered a medium iced passionfruit tea, and sat to upload and edit photos. I didn't even get to writing before we were heading for the car to see if the wifi would still reach while sitting in there. It showed up, but didn't seem to work so I turned on my hotspot and we sat in the car continuing on our blogs. I think it was in this moment when I decided (subconsciously) I wouldn't be catching up on the blog until the end. As I sit at home writing this, I know I had the best intentions daily to write; but I just couldn't bring myself to it. I rather sit and enjoy the beach and the sound of the crashing waves, or go to another wine tasting and just relax in bed upon getting back to the hotel than make myself write. Blogging for me is an enjoyable thing, I have become a better writer (I'd like to think) and like to share my experiences and story with others; but I have to be in the right mood and mindset to blog. But enough about me wanting or not wanting to write, back to my story. We stayed in the car on our laptops for another hour and a half before driving back to our campsite where I decided to take my quarters shower. I had $2 in quarters and the 30 seconds to a minute was ice cold; I didn't want to waste precious time so I stood far away from the water bending back to wet my hair for shampoo. When it finally turned hot, it felt amazing and I used up every penny of that $2.00. I crawled in my tent knowing tomorrow would be an early start since we would be moving on and leaving our Redwood campsite.