An Unexpected Journey

California, here I come!

After spending two weeks in Europe and a week in Cape May this year, I had basically used up all of my vacation time, so I never imagined I’d be hopping on a plane in a couple of weeks for my first ever trip to California (actually, it’s my first trip to anywhere in the U.S. west of North Carolina).

My boss had asked me earlier in the year if I was interested in attending a conference in San Francisco. I said yes, but wasn’t sure if it was actually going to happen. The trip finally got approved in mid-summer but we were so busy at work that we kept putting off making the arrangements. As the summer dragged on and all of the hotels got booked up, I had pretty much assumed it wasn’t going to happen. But in the end everything worked out and now I’m headed to the Golden State!

I decided to turn it into a mini-vacation by flying in two days before the conference and staying for three days after it. The big question was what to do with that extra time. I could have explored more of the city (I won’t even be able to scratch the surface of everything San Francisco has to offer) or I could have visited some of the surrounding areas like Napa Valley, but when I realized that Yosemite National Park is within a four-hour drive, my decision was made. There was no way I could pass up the chance to walk in the footsteps of Ansel Adams and gaze upon the beauty of Yosemite, so I booked a cabin for two nights in the park and reserved a rental car to drive out there after the conference. Yosemite should be spectacular decked out in the colors of autumn.

Soon I hope to be standing here.

Meanwhile, the weekend before the conference I’m meeting up with my cousin who lives nearby for a planned drive along the Route 1 coast and up to see the redwoods, which will be awesome.

In between, I will be attending Dreamforce, a massive tech conference with well over 100,000 people expected to attend. It’s like the Comic Con of cloud computing. I will be staying near Fisherman’s Wharf and commuting to the Moscone Center for the conference. It should be quite an experience, though I’m not sure that I’m prepared for that type of human traffic congestion.

I will try to see as much of San Francisco as I can during my four days at the conference, though how much I’ll be able to accomplish each day after the conference lets out remains to be seen. If any San Francisco natives out there have advice on what I can do with my limited time, I’d be most grateful. I would like to try climbing at least one hill. I also want to walk through Chinatown and along the coast near Fisherman’s Wharf, and maybe visit Golden Gate Park. Any dining advice would also be appreciated (e.g., is In-N-Out Burger worth the hype or should I stick to finer dining establishments?). Thanks!

I’d also be grateful for Yosemite tips, and I’m curious if there are any places worth visiting between Yosemite and San Francisco since I have a late night flight home and can take my time driving back. Perhaps one of the Gold Rush towns?

I’m very excited about this unexpected journey. It’s hard to believe I’ll be flying for the third time in a year. I’m becoming a regular jet setter. 🙂

Writer, traveler, photographer, hiker, film/TV addict, amateur chef, casual gamer, and occasional tennis & saxophone player . . . in real life I do web design.

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Posted in North America, United States
5 comments on “An Unexpected Journey
  1. Mom says:

    This will be so nice!! Hopefully you can take in some things and save a lot of things for when you and Jen can go there together some day, maybe even drive down Route 66, I always wanted to do that. Don’t forget to tell Timmy to “color or something” 🙂

  2. Kevin says:

    I think In-N-Out is terrible. It may be worth going to form your own opinion, but I’d recommend against it.

    Since you’re staying in Fisherman’s Wharf you can try walking to the conference one day (or back, it’s only 2 miles or so) up Hyde St. You’ll get your hill, a nice view of the bay, and you’ll pass right by Lombard St. (the ‘crookedest street in the world’). And depending on what route you take, you can even meander through Chinatown on the way. I would walk every day and take a different path each time just to see as much of the city as possible, but I really enjoy walking. It’s mostly flat to the Moscone Center unless you go out of your way to go up hills.

    Golden Gate Park is good, so is Land’s End (nearby).

    Don’t forget to visit the Sequoia’s while you’re in Yosemite. There’s a grove on the south end of the park. The only gold rush town I’ve visited is Coloma (where the gold rush started) and it was interesting enough that I’d recommend making a stop at one on the way back if you have time. If you’re into history at all you can stop in Martinez on the way back at the John Muir National Historic Site and see where the father of our National Park System lived.

    I don’t eat much in the city so I only have one recommendation: Suppenkuche. Fantastic German food and beer. It gets packed right after work though, so either be prepared to arrive late, early, or wait a while for a seat (long wait times is a central theme to SF restaurants). If you have the time, you could also head up to Sausalito. There are quite a few good restaurants and you can get some nice views of the city too. For lunch you can try the farmer’s market at the Ferry Building on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I can’t name anything in particular.

    Oh and I’m sure your cousin knows, but if you’re driving up north to see the redwoods make sure you go to Humboldt Redwoods State Park and drive the Avenue of the Giants (parallels Route 1 through the park).

    FYI, your blog is the only written review of Tour By Mexico I’ve been able to find and reading through the account of your trip gave me the confidence to book with them. I suppose this is me paying it forward. Have fun at Dreamforce, I hear it’s awesome!

    • Thanks for all the great tips, Kevin!

      Walking is good advice, I may try to do that, at least on the way back to the hotel. And I’ll definitely try to make it to Suppenküche; I love German food. Land’s End sounds great, too

      For Yosemite I’m thinking of hitting Glacier Point on Day 1 since I’ll be getting there later in the afternoon, spending Day 2 in the Valley, stopping to visit the sequoias on my way out of the park on Day 3, and then driving for a while on Rt. 49 North (the Gold Rush Trail) before I hit the freeway again back to San Francisco.

      I’m glad I was able to help you make a decision on your trip. I couldn’t find much of anything on Tour By Mexico when I was planning my trip, but I decided to take the risk and it worked out. It’s nice to know my blog is helping others. Which tour did you book?

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Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

Another prairie dog shot, this one in the iconic standing pose. Not as sharp as I would have liked, but not too bad for handheld at a 250 mm focal length.

#animals #devilstower #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica #Photography #prairiedogs #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #wildlife #Wyoming Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

There is a giant field beneath Devils Tower that is entirely covered with prairie dogs. I was so mesmerized by the little critters with their cute screeching noises that I almost forgot I was there to visit the tower.

#animals #devilstower #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica #Photography #prairiedogs #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #wildlife #Wyoming Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

This shot only features the top of Devils Tower, but I liked the variety of colors in the landscape.

#DevilsTower #Wyoming #NationalMonuments #travel #buttes #landscapes #photography #UnitedStates #NorthAmerica #RoadTrips #hiking #colors Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

A closeup shot of climbers scaling Devils Tower.

Pretty soon, climbing will no longer be necessary because, according to a sign I saw at the site, they are apparently installing an elevator to the top. Although it would be neat to see the top of the tower, I think it’s unfortunate that they are going to ruin its appearance with an elevator apparatus. I’m glad that I was able to see Devils Tower in all its natural glory before this happens.

#buttes #devilstower #hiking #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica
#Photography  #roadtrips #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming #climbing Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

A view of Devils Tower from my hike around the base. This is the opposite side of the tower from the shot I posted yesterday. The black dots in the sky are birds.

#DevilsTower #Wyoming #NationalMonuments #travel #buttes #landscapes #photography #UnitedStates #NorthAmerica #RoadTrips #hiking Devils Tower, Wyoming - August, 2017

A lifelong dream sparked by 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind' was finally realized when I visited Devils Tower last August--40 years (and many plates of sculpted mashed potatoes) after I first saw the tower on film. I had no idea as I hiked around Devils Tower that just two days later there would be a 40th anniversary screening of the film at the tower itself. Just missed it!

#DevilsTower #Wyoming #NationalMonuments #CloseEncounters #travel
#buttes #landscapes #photography #UnitedStates #NorthAmerica
#RoadTrips Deadwood, South Dakota - August, 2017

I chose to stay in Deadwood during my three nights in South Dakota because I was a huge fan of the HBO show and have always been fascinated with the Wild West. I thought it would be cool to walk in the footsteps of Deadwood’s famous residents.

The drive in to town was interesting, as I steadily climbed the Black Hills while passing “Bighorn Sheep Crossing” signs. I only had time to explore the main strip because I spent most of my visit taking day trips out of town, so it’s not really fair to render a judgment without having taken the time to fully check out everything Deadwood had to offer. Still, I found it to be kind of a disappointment, mostly just your average casino town, which isn’t really my cup of tea.

Nevertheless, I saw several points of interest during my walks around town, such as the spots where Wild Bill was shot and where his assassin was caught, the Bullock Hotel that was built by Seth Bullock after the events of the show, and a few establishments named after notable people and places such as Charlie Utter and the Gem Theater. The recreated “gunfights” in the middle of town were also neat.

#deadwood #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #SouthDakota #Travel #UnitedStates #wildwest #historictowns #blackhills #oldwest Mount Rushmore, South Dakota - September, 2017

This is a zoomed-in view of Mount Rushmore from a lookout point a couple of miles away on Iron Mountain Road, a scenic mountain drive that I highly recommend taking before heading to the monument. If you go south to north, you will drive through a tunnel that perfectly frames Mount Rushmore; makes for a memorable photo. This shot may not look like a panorama due to its more squarish shape, but it was stitched together from two different photos.

#IronMountainRoad #MountRushmore #nationalmonuments #NorthAmerica
#panoramas #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #SouthDakota #Travel
#UnitedStates #mountains Portland, Oregon - August, 2017

The view from my apartment during my stay in Portland last summer.

#NorthAmerica #Oregon #panoramas #Photography #Portland #Travel #UnitedStates Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

Yellowstone Lake, the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.

#yellowstonelake #nationalparks #NorthAmerica #panoramas #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming
#YellowstoneNationalPark #yellowstone #lakes #water Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

The Grand Prismatic Spring, one of Yellowstone's most stunning features, is the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world. It's difficult for a ground-level photo to do it justice, but if you climb the hill visible in the background of this shot, you can get a nice bird's-eye view of its beauty.

#GrandPrismaticSpring #nationalparks #NorthAmerica #panoramas #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming
#YellowstoneNationalPark #yellowstone #hotsprings #MidwayGeyserBasin Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

Vertical panorama of the Dragon's Mouth Spring in the Mud Volcano area of Yellowstone. Pictures don't do justice to this remarkable thermal feature, but you can see how it got its name as smoke appears to shoot out of a gaping mouth.

#dragonsmouthspring #nationalparks #NorthAmerica #panoramas
#Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming
#YellowstoneNationalPark #yellowstone #hotsprings Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

This is a portion of Hayden Valley featuring rolling hills. Hayden Valley is one of the two prime locations for spotting wildlife in the park (the other being Lamar Valley), and one of the most popular destinations in the entire park.

#nationalparks #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming #YellowstoneNationalPark #haydenvalley #panoramas #hills Yellowstone National Park - August, 2017

This is Lamar Valley, one of the two prime locations for spotting wildlife in the park. The other is Hayden Valley. I saw wildlife in both locations, though Hayden Valley had much more.

#nationalparks #NorthAmerica #Photography #roadtrips #Scenic #Travel #UnitedStates #Wyoming #YellowstoneNationalPark #lamarvalley #panoramas
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