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Travel: Yosemite with Mom pt. 2

Ok, I know it’s been some weeks since pt. 1 was posted, but here’s pt 2!

Mom and I work up bright and early so we could head north from Oakhurst to the south entrance of Yosemite NP. It was a fairly quick drive and were soon greeted by the park gates and the sign, it’s always exciting to see those things.

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After entering the park we chose to bypass going to the Mariposa Grove since we had just been in other sequoia groves and made our way to the Wawona Hotel. We rushed into the building seeing they had a restaurant and just made it in time for breakfast, our stomachs thanked us for getting yummy food. The Wawona Hotel was built in 1876 and reminded me of many historic hotels in National Parks and the military buildings around San Francisco. It had a more basic victorian retreat look, not too flashy but not rustic. It reminded me of the hotel in Dirty Dancing, I can imagine all the fun dances and parties this place has seen. The dining room in the Wawona is also so adorable. It had custom chandeliers with woods painted on the shade and little sequoia cones hanging from the bottom. It was the perfect amount of cheese and classy. There were fireplaces in the dining room and sitting room with nice big chairs to lounge around in. The big front porch also had chairs to lounge in and look over the grounds and fountain. The main building is surrounded by other different sized and similar styled buildings, little cottages, another bigger hotel building and the Thomas Hill studio. All the buildings, with their wood siding and wood shingled roofs blended perfectly with the surrounding woods.

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Beside the hotel is the Thomas Hill Studio which is now the visitor center in Wawona. Don’t know who Thomas Hill is? Well he’s the guy in the 1800’s that painted those huge, vast, beautiful landscapes of the United States landscape, mainly concentrating on the landscapes of Yosemite. Still no? See if the art museum near you has his work, which they probably do, and go be in awe at his amazing ability. Ok, now that I’m done with that the studio was quaint and had a lot about his history in it, and a nice vignette of what the studio looked like. After reading and being jealous of his artistic ability, we got our directions from the park ranger there and were on our way!

Our first stop as we traveled to the Yosemite valley was to Glacier Point. We drove the windy roads all the way to the top to be greeted with breathtaking views. The first major turnoff was near the top to our right. It overlooked Half Dome, Liberty Cap and the Vernal and Nevada Falls. Beyond those you just could see the land stretch out forever. After taking loads of pictures we headed all the way to Glacier Point overlook.

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Glacier Point sits 3,200ft above the Yosemite Valley and has an elevation of 7,214ft. The viewshed of the overlook was incredible, having almost a 270ยบ view of the Valley, Tenaya Canyon, all the famous granite monoliths and at least a dozen waterfalls. It was like you were in a Tolkien novel looking down at some wondrous new land.

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From Glacier Point we drove back down to the main road and towards the Valley. You wind down and down lowering elevation then come to a long tunnel borring through the mountainside. As you go through and hit the end you are struck by an amazingly spectacular view. Light baked valley, El Capitan glowing, Half dome looking over everything and waterfalls flowing (at this point, unfortunately with the drought they will soon dry up). There’s a shimmering to the valley.

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After stopping for a quick photo we made our way past Bridalveil falls, and walked the quick walk to be sprayed with waterfall mist then continued on to Yosemite Village. At this point the shuttles weren’t fully running so after a lot of walking we went to the store, museum, main visitor center, and the post office (which surprised Mike when we were there last week, but to me I’m like “Of course National Parks have post offices.” I guess that’s not common knowledge). After filling up on knowledge, presents for everyone and snacks we headed back to the car.

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Leaving the park we followed the Merced river winding through the canyons as we headed back to the central valley. A few hours later we were home and relaxing. It’s amazing to know that I’m close by such beauty and can make a weekend trip out there.

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If you only have a day and don’t have time or can’t hike, there’s so many beautiful things to see. Stopping at Wawona is a must and learning about Thomas Hill. Glacier Point is breathtaking and I’m sad I didn’t go back last week, just didn’t have time. Going into the valley stop after the tunnel and get a picture, it’s one of the most photogenic locations. Parking in the Valley and taking the shuttle around is a must just so you can see all the villages and buildings there. On your way out stop and see the Upper and Lower Yosemite falls. You can also go down to the Merced river and skip stones or dip your toes in or something. The best time to go to Yosemite is in the spring and early summer, the waterfalls are flowing and it’s not yet too warm.

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Growing up my parents took me and my sisters to so many amazing National Parks and made me fall in love with the NPS. I still dream of becoming a ranger and exploring the wilds of our country. I’m so happy that I got to experience these two parks with my mom, and share the first time experience together.

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Fun thing is Mike and I got to go back to Yosemite this past week, I’ve been bitten with the Yosemite bug… We stayed there for two nights, and got some hikes in. More on that later!
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Art: Newest Pet Portraits

I need to get some of my sketches and such online, but in the meantime here's a couple pet portraits I recently did for my friend Marlee and my friend Rochelle.

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There you have it. I have some more coming down the pipeline! Yay for pets!

Huggles,
Lauren

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Travel: Sequoia with Mom, pt 1

A couple weeks ago I had the awesome privilege of having just my mom come out and visit for a full week. Life had been really busy with so many people visiting and tight deadlines at work so I hadn't really planned what we would do. This was the second time my mom had been here so she wanted to get more of an everyday sense of living here rather than doing all the touristy SF stuff she did last time she was here. Talking to her on the phone a couple days before she came we only had the High Line show on our schedule when she said, "You know I've always wanted to see the sequoias, one of them is named the 'General'" Well then, plan made, we will see the sequoias.

The first day she was here though she went on a day long tour bus to keep herself occupied while i had an 8-hour meeting (THE WORSE THING EVER). So she got her fill of touristy stuff. The next day we went to the Legion of Honor to see the show "High Line" which is a show of the Met's clothing collection. My mom being a seamstress loved it... And I'll post those pics later.

Then the next couple days we were going to go to Sequoia and Yosemite but a storm was passing through so we pushed back the plans and just hung around the house and drove/walked around Oakland. It was nice just having her hang out at my house.

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Sequoia NP

Then Sunday came around and we got up early, packed our stuff, and headed to Sequoia National Park. We drove for 3 hours through dry grassy hills, and almond tree fields before coming up to the mountains. Driving along a little windy river we came up to the park. It at first just was dry deserty looking plants and I was a little confused, this looks nothing like what I expected. And then we just started driving up a mountain, and kept going up and up and up. What I didn't realize that sequoias grow really really high up, like 7000ft elevation.

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Sequoia NP
Sequoia NP

I also learned at the park headquarters that Sequoia is the second National Park right after Yellowstone. So on every park ranger in the US they have sequoia cones on their hat and belts, and the NPS badge has a sequoia on it, right behind the bison. Sequoia cones are also like redwoods, they're much smaller than expected. Redwood cones are like a pistachio to cherry size, and sequoia cones are the size of a small egg.

Back to the climbing up a mountain side... My car is a hybrid, and one thing about them is they're really heavy cause of the batteries. So you can imagine they don't have much power for climbing 7000ft in just a few miles. So to our surprise (but shouldn't have been) my mom and I watched our gas milage drop faster and faster until it said we only had about 30 miles left in our tank, in a park with no gas stations. Being a bit worried and embarrassed we drove up to the park museum and confessed our gas shortage to a ranger. He was nice and told us there was a gas station right outside the park in the direction we were going and it was only about 20 miles away... and the best part, we were at the top of the hill, all down hill from there. Phew.

After the worry about gas we started enjoying the change in environment. As we climbed up the mountainside we went from dry grass to pines to SEQUOIAS. Having just been in the redwoods a week prior I was ready to see giant trees. But me oh my, these trees were way bigger than I imagined. Although not as tall as the coastal redwoods, they are massive around. They didn't evenly taper to the top like pines just went straight up and then stopped at the top with a few arm like branches at the top. And the giant sequoias were fewer and far between compared to the redwoods. There would be regular pines and smaller sequoias the BAM a huge giant. It was incredible.

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Sequoia NP
Sequoia NP

Our second stop after the museum was to the General Sherman tree. This is the largest tree by volume in the WORLD. This tree is dead on top but is still growing wider. I'm not sure how that's possible but it is. It's largest branch was 7ft in diameter before falling off. The base of the tree has a diameter of 36.5" and a circumference of 102.6"... yeah it's big. And photos do it no justice. It is also a young 2,300–2,700 years and 275 ft tall.

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Sequoia NP
Sequoia NP

Eventually we made our way then to General Grant grove actually located in Kings Canyon NP (the two parks join together). The Grant tree is the second largest tree in the world. Surprisingly I learned visiting that tree that the sizes are not indicative of the trees age. The size is based more on the conditions they live in. Grant tree is only 1,650 years old, I also learned the sequoias can stay relatively small for long periods of time as well if the growing conditions aren't perfect. The Grant tree is the "National Christmas Tree" and decorated with a wreath every year. It has a larger circumference, 107.6", then the Sherman tree so for a long time it was thought to be larger.

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Sequoia NP
Sequoia NP
Sequoia NP

After lots of tree photos we then drove down the mountain side back into the central valley chasing the sun. We drove for another hour or so before ending up in Oakhurst a small tourist town directly south of Yosemite, and got some rest before our big adventure the next day in... YOSEMITE.

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Have you been to Sequoia?

Huggles,
Lauren
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Travel: Avenue of the Giants

In the past couple weeks I've actually been able to cross a couple things off my 30 before 30 list. So here's the first I did, I ran a 10k!

The Avenue of the Giants marathon is one of the most sought after marathons in the state, and now I know why. I've driven the Avenue before but we stayed the entire weekend up there and got to do all the fun kitschy touristy stuff before running on Sunday. And man oh man it was THE MOST beautiful run I've ever done.

We drove up on Friday afternoon getting to the campground late in the evening, thanks traffic. Our tent spot was amazing and right on the river which was lovely to wake up to. First we stopped in Garberville and had breakfast at a great little greasy spoon. It was a teeny town, but had a lot of charm and cute store signs.

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In the morning we woke up bright and early and got started on all the fun 1950's kitschy touristy stuff! We first stopped by the One Log House and the Grandfather Tree. Unfortunately the grandfather tree but you could see it from the road! It's a redwood that has a circumference of 55ft and 245ft tall, and it's over 1800 years old!

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Then we walked over to the One-Log House! It's so cute, is was made from a hallowed out log in 1947 which is sad to know it was from a super old tree... hopefully it was a fallen tree :( Anyway inside the Log house it had a kitchen area, a bedroom area with two twin beds, and a living room. I wish you could rent it, it reminded me of a little log house we had for my calico critter toys I played with as a kid!

One Log House
One Log House Interior

Next was Confusion Hill which is a good ole' mystery spot and roadside attraction! I know there's lot's of mystery spots all over in Kentucky, Oregon, Santa Cruz, and lotsa places. There were little kid things, a train ride, a shoe house, and other fun stuff. Their main attraction was the defying gravity house! Water and balls go up hill, and you swing to the side... one can't even standup straight!

Confusion Hill
Confusion Hill
Confusion Hill

In actuality it's just a crooked house. The weird thing is that actually all the weird angles and such made me feel a little sick and lightheaded. The floors were all at an angle and it was a little dizzying.

Confusion Hill

After we drove back towards our campsite and to the Shrine Drive-thru Tree! It's of course like any drive-thru tree, EXCEPT it's a naturally split tree. It was cheap to get in and even though it's really only a loop you drive thru, stop and get your picture, it still was really fun. Driving through the tree was a little worrisome though! Next now I need to go through the Chandelier Tree!! Around the little park was a little walk-thru house, a group of trees and two little houses carved from stumps. It was pretty cute!

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Shrine Tree
Shrine Cathedral Tree

We spent the rest of our Saturday we hung around and walked around. There were so many grove that I'd love to explore, but we only walked around a couple. The most amazing one was Founder's Grove. It was a small looped walk where the founders tree is, an albino tree, and tons of gigantic fallen trees. I swear the fallen trees were larger then the ones standing, they were incredibly huge and beautiful, the patterns the root systems looked like beautiful flowers.

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We went to bed early so we got lot's of rest before Sunday's race. We got up extra early on Sunday so we could park by this grove near the race. Then we napped a bit before walking to the starting line. I'm really glad we did cause there were cars parked beyond ours when we walked down. When we got to the start there were quite a lot of people but no where near as many people as big city marathons, which is how this marathon tries to be, more small and intimate. The marathoners had already started so we all had to just wait for the half marathon to start then the 10k. I hope that maybe next year I can do the half marathon! I was so proud of myself running this 10k. And I think it was actually an easier run because of how amazingly gorgeous it was. Whenever you got tired or mad at running, all you had to do was look up and see the beautiful trees surrounding you. I was able to run two miles without stopping which doesn't sound like much I know, but I'm more of a run walk kind of gal. After that I only stopped for 10 seconds after every mile. Mike only took one walk I think, but he is a runner, so he of course didn't need as much walking as me :) But it wasn't bad cause look I'm kinda smiling in my pictures! I finished in 1:07 and Mike finished in :59, I'm really proud of my time, I beat my goal and Mike made his, YAY!


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Before and After the run!


Running with other people really helped, I soon started pacing with a few women and that kept me pushing myself. With all my rowing I found that it helped me so much with breathing, I didn't have any breathing issues. The only thing that hurt was my middle toe and my knees were a little sore. Overall I can't wait for my next race! And I hope to make the Avenue of the Giants a yearly endeavor!

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If you ever have the chance to visit Northern California, you have to stop and drive the Avenue of the Giants. It really is the most beautiful drive I've experienced (and I've driven lots of places!) and has the best redwoods. Better that Redwood National Park, John Muir, anywhere, it's absolutely breathtaking.