Hiking · National Parks in US · Travel · Travel with tots · Vacations

Glimpses of Death Valley National Park

We have been trying to cross off one item that has been on our bucket list for quite sometime now – visit all national parks in California. So this past Spring break, we visited Death Valley National Park. With Death Valley crossed off the list, we are only one park short of visiting all national parks in the state. Death Valley NP is a very large park to cover in one trip, especially if you want to explore it in-depth and traveling with toddlers comes with its own perks, but we loved the landscape that the park has to offer. I have to admit, it was terribly hot (we went mid-April) and it is better to travel there when the temperatures are slightly lower. Nevertheless, here are glimpses from our Death Valley getaway with a list of places that are kid-friendly and easy to incorporate if you just have a couple of days to spend in the park. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – My son loves playing in the sand, so our first stop was at Mesquite sand dunes. He carried his excavator truck and was quite excited just by the sheer amount of sand this place had! The place is huge so you can go out far or just stop close to the parking lot. We went in the morning, but considering the temperatures, it would be an awesome stop at night too considering the rave reviews for star-gazing.

IMG_0373

 

IMG_0516
Yes, we licked the salt – Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park

IMG_0511

Badwater Basin, don’t forget to lick the salt!!! – This stop is so worth covering on your first trip to the Badlands. An easy drive to the lowest point in North America (282 ft below sea level, to be precise), Badwater basin is miles and miles of white salt flats. It’s a vast ground for the kids to run around. We went there in the evening, just before sunset and the temperature was pleasant. The little research that we had done before the trip included suggestions from travelers to lick the salt at the basin and so we did :).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

IMG_0438
On Mosaic Canyon trail

Mosaic Canyon – After spending time at the sand dunes, we headed to Mosaic Canyon since the canyons are only a couple of miles from the sand dunes. The rocks at Mosaic Canyon reminded us of Arches National Park, minus the arches of course, but the landscape does have similarities. We barely hiked the Mosaic trail, but we love to hike, and exposing our toddler to these places, even if it is for a short distance gives us hope for him to grow into liking and enjoying it as much as we do 🙂 The kiddos also picked up rocks from the trails to bring home. 

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Artists Drive – If you are a regular reader of my blog, it will come as no surprise that colors are an important element of me, so any trip we take, it is mandatory for us to stop all things “artistic”! That said, Artists Drive is a loop with wonderful landscape colors and can be done when the kids are sleeping, since you can just drive around in the car.

IMG_0480
Artist’s Drive, Death Valley National Park

Zabriskie Point – Our goal was to capture sunrise at Zabriskie considering it is very close to Furnace Creek. We made it just after sunrise, and after some persuasion managed to tag my son along the slopes for some early morning gorgeousness for the eyes!

IMG_0577
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park
IMG_0559
Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park

Golden Canyon – Hot is the first word that comes to my mind when I think about Golden Canyon, but the hike to Golden Canyon is quite popular because the original Star Wars was filmed here. 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dante’s View – Most folks start their trip with a stop at Dante’s. We decided to end our’s with a stop there. Dante’s offers a grand view of the Badwater Basin, it’s the highest elevation within the park and views are quite stunning. 

IMG_0615
Dante’s View, Death Valley National Park

At the end of our Death Valley trip, I had about 20 lbs. of rocks that my son had gathered from the trip to bring back home for our rock garden 🙂 Death Valley’s spectacular landscape was definitely worth the trip even if it was very hot, we’ll certainly go back, but pick a better (read cooler) month for our next visit. 

Fun fact: If you are a Star Wars fanatic, this should make a great read and make you want to visit Death Valley 🙂

Advertisements
Travel · Travel with tots

Whale Watching in the Monterey Bay

Whale watching is a typical bullet point in many travel bucket lists that you might come across. It never made it to my bucket list because amongst many of my pet peeves, watching people throw up, that too on a boat in the middle of an ocean (TMI, I know!!)  ranks very high on the list. I suffer from terrible motion sickness, so going on a boat in choppy waters in search of one of the largest mammals was not something I would have ever signed up for.

 

 

IMG_0872

I must have been out of mind when I signed up for 3 to 4 hours of sea sickness and bought tickets to go whale watching with my family. I have to be honest, when we were driving to the marina in Santa Cruz, I was not looking forward to the day! We chose Stagnaro Charters based on reviews of sightings in the past week and Yelp recommendations. We checked in an hour prior to departure and reported to the marina where the crew went over a few things, including signs of what to look for when spotting whales and what other sea life we were going to spot. I was not paying a lot of attention, only hoping for the sea sickness medicine I gulped down prior to boarding the boat to work.

IMG_0828

Soon we were on our way in to the Monterey Bay to spot a few humpbacks. About an hour into the trip, we heard our captain point us to whale spouts and we headed closer. The whales got pretty close to the boat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We were fortunate enough to watch them do side flips. The photographs are only 10% of what our eyes saw. It was a great family outing. My 3.5 year was very excited to spot the abundant jelly fishes. And quite happy to meet the humpback whale from his book “Tale of a Snail and the Whale” which is a story of a snail traveling across the ocean on the tail of a humpback whale. He throughly enjoyed and so did my mom & dad. I am happy that my dad was able to cross off an item on his bucket list 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A special shout out to the amazing crew of Stagnaro Charters, they genuinely try and make it an experience for everyone on the boat.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After spending an hour or so around those whales, the boat headed closer to the beach where we were able to chase 3 whales almost parallel to our boat!Apart from spotting 10-15 humpbacks, we also spotted the usual – sea lions, sea otters, jelly fish, plenty of birds including an albatross. After the almost 4 hour round trip, we were back to the marina. Not a single person on the boat had thrown up!!! I was holding up relatively well too 🙂

IMG_0819

Not only was I able to cross off a non-bucket list travel adventure but we are pretty motivated to go back to Monterey Bay in the Spring to spot some Orcas! Fortunately, our whale watching experience did not equate to 3 hours of sea sickness. While I was able to get over the pet peeve of people throwing up on a boat, I now have a “new” pet peeve – The smell of the breath of a whale and I’ll leave it just at that!

 

Hiking · Restaurants · Travel · Travel with tots · Vacations

Portland Tales: Rose city, Bridgetown, Stumptown and much more!

We’ve been in California for more than a decade now and I don’t know what took us so long to make a trip to Portland. We visited the Rose city this September and throughly enjoyed our stay there. If you missed it, we made a day trip to Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood but spent the rest of our trip in the heart of Portland downtown. Here are 10 highlights from our trip – FROM a first time visitor, FOR a first time visitor!!!

1. Portland Saturday market – This was our first stop, even before we checked in to the hotel. Open on the weekend (Saturday and Sunday in spite of the name), Portland Saturday Market is the place to explore for art and food lovers. Not to mention, the fountains and the bridge over the river make it a kid friendly place. What not to miss: Trying out Elephant Ears 🙂

2. Willamette Jet boat Excursions – We opted for the 2 hour Scenic Tour which covered the history of Portland’s magnificent bridges, up close view of the Willamette Falls and a lot of splashing and jet boat cruising🙂. We were skeptical on how our tot was going to do on the tour – he was excited to sit in the boat, but a little afraid when it went fast, but after the first 2 water swirls, he was screaming “Go faster”. He had a blast and we loved the experience.

3. Powell’s Books – For a family that is fond of reading, this was a gem of a find. Especially on a rainy day or later in the evening post dinner when a lot of other places have closed. The place is open until 11 pm so you can head there after an early dinner. Our munchkin refused to get out of the “libary”. No, not a typo – that’s what he calls them.

4. Coffee, anyone? – For a city that loves its coffee, it wouldn’t be fair to list everything that’s out there, but here are a few prominent stops (Stumptown Coffee Roasters, Heart Coffee Roasters, Barista) that we made to see what puts this town at the top for coffee lovers.

5. Doughnuts to go with that coffee! – We almost decided to skip our much awaited stop at Voodo Doughnuts after evaluating the time we would have to stand in those looooooonnnggg lines. But come Tuesday afternoon – a rainy working weekday we were passing by the shop and decided to stop since it seemed a reasonable 30 minute wait. Although I do wish, we would have made a stop at BlueStar Donuts. I guess, there’s always a next time 🙂

6. A stop at a brewery –  Portland’s breweries are famous for their beers and don’t rule out a stop at a brewery just because you have kids. Portland has a few family friendly breweries. We visited Laurelwood Brewing and M had a good time.

7. Food scene in Portland – While we thoroughly enjoyed most of our meals there, picks for family friendly restaurants in Portland are: Slappy cakes – Make your own pancakes! It cannot get better for a kid who likes his pancakes. Yes, we waited an hour (made a quick stop at a nearby park) for our turn and my munchkin loved it. Yakuza – This was quite a find,  the place had great ambiance and we loved it because we haven’t been to a lot of family friendly Japanese restaurants that cater to kids as well as Yakuza does. Although, I am putting Mothers Bistro on here for readers, it was an ordinary experience for us!

8. International Rose Garden – Portland is home to the oldest continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. While, this might not attract every tourist, it’s a great family friendly stop. My son loved running around and smelling the flowers, not to mention it was a perfect place to play peek-a-boo🙂

9. Pittock Mansion – This was not on our list, but turned out that the Portland’s Children’s Museum is closed on a Tuesday and we decided to add this to our list. The place offers good 360 degree views of Portland for photographers to capture. Being an art lover, I personally enjoyed viewing Rhoda’s artwork that’s displayed at the museum.

10. Pioneer Courthouse Square, shopping and more – We also got a chance to explore Pioneer Place and areas around on our last day in Portland. Coming from California, tax-free shopping is an added benefit while visiting PDX🙂

What we missed on our list – Meal at Screendoor (we waited quite a while after deciding to head out somewhere else), Spella Cafe, Portland Children’s Museum (note to families with kids: it’s closed on a Tuesday – so plan accordingly),  more time at Powell’s and many more coffee and food stops.

Travel Portland’s website has a plethora of information for a visitors and we were able to cover a lot of things in little time because of some great suggestions from a colleague who’s a Portland local. Overall, it was a wonderful trip and we had a blast. I hope we go back again soon🙂

Beaches · Hiking · Travel · Travel with tots · Vacations

Columbia River Gorge and Mt. Hood – Day trip from Portland

We spent a few days in gorgeous Portland this September and while there’s plenty to do in Portland for first timer visitors, we wanted to drive to the Gorge and explore surrounding areas. If you’ve been following the blog, you’ll know how excited my munchkin gets on spotting waterfalls, and there are plenty of those along the historic Columbia River scenic byway so he was pretty excited about heading out even though we woke him up early. We told him that after the waterfall hike, we’ll try and head to the Hood River beach for a lunch picnic and he was all excited for the drive and the long day ahead of us. We left from downtown Portland early in the morning – a quick spot to pick up coffee and we hit the gorge area before the crowds got in. Unfortunately, it was drizzling for the first hour or so of our trip, so we weren’t able to take advantage of the early start. It got much better as the day progressed and by the time we reached Mt. Hood, the weather was gorgeous too! Although its best to spend a day each at Mt. Hood, but if you are in a time crunch and are trying to fit in both in a day trip, here’s a recommended day itinerary.

img_0197
Mt. Hood from Timberland Lodge

Vista House at Crown PointOur first stop was at the Vista House observatory. It had amazing views of the Gorge even on a drizzling morning. I can imagine it being picture perfect on a bright sunny morning.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Columbia River Gorge – Waterfalls HikesAfter leaving from the Vista House, we headed to Latourell Falls. Its a pretty short hike to the base of the falls and can be easily done with a toddler. Our next stop was Multonomah Falls, and finding parking there was a nightmare because they are the most famous falls along the loop being the second tallest in the US. If you are short on time, and don’t plan on hiking to the top of the falls, I would skip going up to the bridge and rather pick a hike to Wahcleella which is toddler friendly.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bridge of Gods, Cascade LocksBridge of Gods spans across the river connecting Oregon and Washington and we decided to drive on the steel truss instead of getting out since it had started drizzling again.

img_20160904_125649

Bonneville Lock and DamThis was an unplanned spot, but we found out there was an option of spotting fish through the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam and N wanted to see some “fishies”. A pleasant stop to spot some fish :).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Historic Columbia River Gorge HotelAnother unplanned stop was at the Historic River Gorge Hotel. This is a nice place to sit, sipping coffee and enjoying the spectacular views of the river.

Waterfront Park at Hood River – The best stop of our day trip: This was an absolute gem. Away from the crowds, more popular with the locals, the Waterfront Park has a nice sand beach with shallow waters for swimming. Hood River is THE place for windsurfing and kitesurfing in Oregon and Waterfront Park is THE place to watch the windsurfers and kitesurfers. Plenty of restaurants at walking distance from the park for lunch and some food trucks if you want to do a picnic lunch at the beach. There are breathtaking views of the gorge from this park. Ideally, you could easily spend an entire day here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Timberline Lodge at Mt. HoodAfter a late afternoon lunch, we headed to Mt. Hood. En route are plenty of orchards for apple picking, but our kiddo was napping so we decided to head directly to Timberline Lodge. If you are headed to Mt Hood post lunch, don’t forget to stop for some freshly baked goodies at one of the orchards/bakeries on your way. The route itself is quite scenic. After spending some time at the Timberline Lodge, we headed up the hiking trail. N was excited to climb the mountain. Although it was chilly, he had the energy to pace up the trail.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Timberline Lodge has picturesque views of Mt. Hood and it was worth every bit of it. We headed back to downtown Portland after a wonderful day in the gorge and Mt. Hood! We did spend a lot more days in downtown Portland, but this day trip was a highlight of our mini vacation for my son – waterfalls, swimming at the beach, sand play, climbing mountains (well, for him that’s what it is even though it’s barely a mile or half of climbing :)). Can’t ask for more, right?

Beaches · Travel · Travel with tots · Vacations

Riviera Maya and Cancun diaries: Toddler calls it home!

Kids look forward to birthdays, and when its a week of celebration with sun, beach and sand, its’ likely they’ll never want the celebration to end. Last year for Thanksgiving, we planned a trip to Cancun to celebrate N’s second birthday. After our week long trip in the Mayan Riviera, when we were packing bags to head back, my toddler tells me ‘I like this home, I don’t want to go back to the other home! Can we stay here?’ I told him we will be back when he grows up a little, but it was a trip he talked about for a long time after coming back. And going back to day care after the vacation was not easy. I don’t remember him calling any other vacation spot that we’ve been to as ‘home’ so I have a feeling he had a blast!

We decided to stay in Riviera Maya over Cancun because of its proximity to few of the attractions we had planned for our trip. Here are highlights from our trip – things that we were able to do with a 2 year old in Mayan Riviera.

Private tour to Chichén Itzá, Valladolid and Ik Kil Cenote: We opted for the private tour to Chichen Itza over guided group tours, since its a 2 hour drive from the resort area and it definitely makes sense to go there early to avoid the crowds and pick your stops, especially when you have a toddler with you. This option also gives you a chance of stopping for tequila tasting that most guided tours don’t offer. Within Chichen Itza, we decided to stick to a route and missed out on going all the way to the Sacred Cenote, but were able to cover a lot of the ruins. The trails are stroller friendly and that was a huge help :). The town of Valladolid is vibrant and reminded us of the streets of Old San Juan in Puerto Rico! We did go to the Ik Kil Cenote but it was quite deep and decided against jumping in with our 2 year old. But if you are traveling without kids, its a great way to cool of the humidity. We saw several folks diving in!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Dolphin Interaction: There are plenty of eco-parks in the area including Xel-Ha which offer activities for older kids, but we opted to visit the Dolphin discovery center at our resort for an interactive tour since its more suitable for younger kids. My son really enjoyed his encounter with Plata – the dolphin. He was hesitant at first but then did not want to come out of the water.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mayan Ruins of Tulum: A trip to the Mayan Riviera is not complete without a visit to the ruins in Tulum, so we opted for a half day group tour of Tulum since it was only 30 minutes from our resort. The beach at Tulum is one of the best! Though we didn’t carry a hiking carrier with us so were not able to explore the entire area within the allocated tour time! If there’s an option drive there instead of the tour so you can explore as well as spend quality time at the beach.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sand castles and serenity of white sand beaches: Nothing excites my 2.5 year old more than a sand pit, so the resort’s beach was a perfect way for us to relax at the beach while he immersed himself in the sand.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pool fun, especially if you have a water baby like mine :): I can see why staying at all inclusive resorts is a great idea after you have a baby.  With more than 5 pools with plenty of kiddie areas and water slides, we couldn’t get enough of pool fun! Seriously, if we had an extra day or 2 there, I would have opted to have him in the pool rather than going any place else because being in the pool brings out a mile wide smile on his face every single time he splashes in the pool!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And much, much more: Carousels, shopping, eating, kids club, vibrant statues and Christmas decorations – These were all part of our trip but my memory fades! Looking at the pictures makes me feel very nostalgic 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

What we saved for a later trip: We got great valuable input from the resort staff and they suggested saving XCaret, Xplor, snorkeling at Akumal and Coba ruins for a later trip since those are more suitable for slightly older kids, especially if you want to enjoy majority of the attractions.

I know the kiddo is not going to remember his second birthday blast except for the pictures and videos, but it was a good one! M and I will surely cherish it :).

Beaches · Travel · Vacations

A lazy weekend at Bodega Bay, California

I have missed writing and can’t express how happy I am back doing things that make me who I am – blogging being one of them. For all those of you who messaged/emailed/asked when my next blog entry was going to be, here it is! Thank you for being patient and making me pick it up again. A lot has changed around me since my last entry so I figured a new theme and appearance to the blog was in order too. Change is indeed the only constant!

Well, I am picking up blogging again after more than a year of lazing around, so I am going to start with an entry on my lazy weekend getaway last year with the best people I have the pleasure of knowing – My family :).  With an active toddler in the tow, VRBO offers the  best options when picking for a place to stay in my opinion. So, we booked a lovely hill top home with great views of Bodega Bay.

IMG_20151017_183720
Views from Bodega Head

 

Staying at Dubloon was the best decision of the trip. The glass doors have great views of the ocean and the deck has views of the green patches of hills. Although it was a little cold when we went, the house was quite cozy and fully stacked up with necessities. We went with my parents and sister and they absolutely loved it. The house is not baby proof or baby friendly, so we had to move a few things around to allow ample of playing space for my son and carry everything that was needed for him. Nevertheless, it was in an excellent location – close to the beach, close to restaurants as well as a gas station! I did not post a lot of pictures of the house, but check out their VRBO link, the owner has plenty posted there.

The whole idea of the trip was a relaxing family retreat, but here’s a quick list of toddler approved things that we did on our Bodega Bay trip.

Whale watching at Bodega Head : This was a mere co-incidence, but we were glad to spot a couple of grey whales at Bodega Head during their southbound migration. They were extremely far off, so we never managed to get good pictures, but my dad was the most excited – I am sending him whale watching at Monterey Bay on his next trip :D. I don’t know if I can handle all the sea sickness but he’ll be up for it. I know the whales are much closer to the Bodega Bay shore during the north bound migration which happens during the months of March through June, so spring would be another great time to visit. I can see why Bodega Head is such a popular spot of the Sonoma Coast State Beach. Breathtaking views in all directions and the vastness makes it serene. In spite of it getting colder, we made sure to stay for the sunset before heading back to our villa.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Doran Beach : Bodega bay has a bird walk coastal access area that we were able to check out. It was quite foggy and not a lot of birds but may be summery and non-foggy days are better. Doran beach is also a great area to hangout with a kid who loves playing in the sand and making destroying sandcastles 😉

There’s plenty of stuff to do at Bodega Bay but our favorites were playing in the sand, watching whales (which we did not expect on our trip) and spending quality time with people that matter most.

Hiking · National Parks in US · Travel · Vacations

Yosemite National Park: Now and Then….

Yosemite National Park is one of our favorite places to visit in California. I know I have said this a gazillion times but this is what comes to my mind every single time I sit to write about Yosemite. Our first visit to Yosemite was way back in 2006 during Thanksgiving break and our latest in June of 2015. Yosemite is a place for all seasons and for all ages. All our previous trips to Yosemite were either camping trips or hiking trips which did not require a lot of planning when it came to reservations. But last year, when a friend asked us if we wanted to book the Yosemite lodge for this year since it would be more convenient staying in a lodge rather than camping or staying at Curry Village, especially with babies, we agreed and got reservations at the Yosemite Lodge for the first week of June. And I am so glad we did! I was able to see Yosemite in a whole new way..So here’s Yosemite for you: Now and Then…
YOSEMITE NOW (Year 2015)

On our way to Yosemite, I told my son he was going to see waterfalls and he picked up the word so quickly that we heard ‘waterfallls.. waterfalls..waterfalls..” a million times. Okay, I am exaggerating but the point is that it worked and it kind of made him look forward to the trip. One of the advantages of staying at the Lodge is we could walk to Yosemite Falls! On our trip to Yosemite back in 2009, we climbed up the rocks at the Lower Falls and went as high as up we could go. Fast forward to 2015, we were running around after my 18 month old to make sure he did not cross even a single rock. It’s surprising how parenthood changes you! Of course, M, N and I will definitely climb to the top of the falls once he grows up a little. For now happiness is at the base of the falls 🙂

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

When folks ask us “What do you do when you go to Yosemite?”, the answer is always the same: Hike! But this time around it was going to be slightly different. We were a group of 5 families with 5 toddlers in the mix so we had to pick activities other than hard core hiking. We did the usual strolls and the walks, but here are a couple of things that we enjoyed doing on this trip with N.

Yosemite Valley Moonlight tour: We signed up for the nightly open bus valley tour along with a bunch of other friends. It’s a two-hour long tour which begins at 9 pm. Everyone is asked to dress up warmly and carry blankets, especially with babies. N was extremely excited at first because he thought he was riding in a dump truck. He started with saying bye-bye to the moon and trees. Eventually he dozed off. We really enjoyed the tour and some of the highlights were viewing the climbers at El Capitan in the moonlight. We could only see their head lights but it was stupendous! There are a couple of stops where you are allowed to get down (Tunnel view before Glacier Point and the Swinging Bridge). The skies were glowing with stars and the view from the Tunnel Point Vista was surreal. We could see the Half Dome in the background. Truly picturesque! Since I was holding N in my arms, I did not get down at any of the stops but all in all it was a fun tour.

Glacier Point Tunnel View - MoonLight tour of Yosemite Valley
Yosemite NOW – Glacier Point Tunnel View : MoonLight tour of Yosemite Valley (June 2015)
El Captain View from Moonlight tour - Spot the climbers (a.k.a their headlights)
Yosemite Now – El Captain View from Moonlight tour, spot the climbers (a.k.a their headlights) (June 2015)
Biking: The last morning of our 3 day trip, we rented bikes, my son calls them “bikal” – still don’t know if it’s a mix of bike + cycle or if he just skips the ‘see’ when trying to say bicycle (by-see-kal). Anyhow, once the bike trailers were loaded with tiny passengers, we set out. It took me more time to get used to the bikes than my little one in the trailer. Having learnt how to ride a bike in India, I tend to pedal backwards when I don’t need to accelerate. Here when you pedal backwards, it acts as a brake. I find that so annoying and it always has me on the edge every single time we rent a bike.

YOSEMITE BACK THEN (Years 2006 through 2014)

Although I have shared a couple of stories previously, for anyone that missed reading it, here goes the list our exciting Yosemite Stories 🙂

Car lockout Thanksgiving 2006: Our first trip to Yosemite was unforgettable, because 5 of us got locked out of our car on our way to Tenaya Lake at a random vista point and it started snowing. Our jackets were in the locked trunk, and we only had 2 phones with minimal battery with us. Ranger calls, waiting for AAA, rescue by a family from San Diego, and a white Thanksgiving! How can it not be memorable 🙂 Read more about it here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Driving a car with almost failed brakes and a lost campsite: Back in 2007, we camped at June Lake which is at the other side of Yosemite valley (toward Mammoth Lakes). Gorgeous scenery and secluded locations, but here’s the fun story associated with the trip. Ever reached a wrong camp location because it was pitch dark and GPS signals were pretty bad in the national park? And then forced someone out of their designated campsite? Well, we’ve done that!!! Not only did we end up staying at a different campsite than the one where we had our reservation at, but we also set up our tent at 11 in the night because we had to drive a rented car on the windy roads with almost failed brakes 😦 The entire next day was spent in Mammoth Lakes trying to get the broken car fixed. We hardly spent time inside the valley, but the story definitely comes up on all our Yosemite trips. Read more about it here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Vernal/Nevada Hike: 5 of us hiked to the top of Nevada Falls via Vernal Falls back in 2009. This was a practice run to see if we had it in us to hike the Half Dome some day. I can say this has been my only trip where we things didn’t go a bit haywire.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Epic Half Dome Hike: 7 of us hiked to the top of Half Dome back in 2011. I have no idea how I pulled this one! But it will be a story I will cherish my entire life. Read more about it here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Be it our 2006 White Thanksgiving trip or our 2011 Half Dome trip or our 2015 trip with the kiddos, they have all been memorable. I heart Yosemite National Park. I will end this the same way I began: Yosemite National Park is INDEED one of our favorite places to visit in California 🙂