Legend has it that Mark Twain said that the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco. After spending a chilly 4th of July weekend there, my sister Tracy and I just might agree! Actually, it was a joy to escape the hot Salt Lake City summer for a few days.
Since Tracy had lived in San Antonio, she was the guide on our last trip together, and this time it was my turn to show her around the Bay Area.
We first went and got our pictures taken in front of the fog obscuring the Golden Gate Bridge. Ok, so maybe it's kind of irrational to get your photo taken in front of the fog...but it's still kind of fun! I won't post the photos, because, well, it just looks like us in front of fog. We also took this silly photo of me in front of the statue that honors all of our servicemen who travelled through the Golden Gate on military ships as they went to serve their country.
Once across the bridge, we stopped in Sausalito to see The Bay Model visitors center, which is a huge model (like two football fields in size) of the San Francisco Bay and surrounding areas water systems. It had been constructed in the 1950's by the Army Corps of Engineers so they could test various ideas on how to manage the water systems. It mimicked a day's worth of tides and water flows every 14 minutes. During the 1990's they started being able to use computers for their modelling, so now this place is used only for education. I was interested to learn that they have to dredge the bottom of the bay every year so the big cargo ships can make their way to the ports at Oakland. They have these ships that are like vacuum cleaners that suck up all the sediment from the bottom of the bay and then go deposit it elsewhere.
Our next stop was down the winding road to Muir Woods to see the huge old redwoods. There wasn't any parking for miles around, and so we continued down the road for a few miles to Muir Beach, where we saw lots of jelly fish washed up on shore. Most of them were about 3 inches in diameter, but we did one that was about a foot in diameter. Tracy especially enjoyed seeing the powerful waves against the rocks and relaxing in the peaceful feeling there. Here's a little video to give you a taste of the experience:
Next we went to the Muir Beach Overlook, where you are theoretically able to see miles and miles both directions down the coast. Because of the fog, we didn't see much, but got some cool pictures that have a "great wall of China" feel to them.
It had been long enough for the crowds to die down at Muir Woods, so we next enjoyed walking through the beautiful groves of ancient redwood trees. I was surprised to learn that the United Nations was actually founded in one of the groves at Muir Woods. They have cool calendar there, which is a cross section of one of the big redwood trees, with arrows pointing out the date of the various rings. They thought this tree was "born" in 909 A.D. Standing next to that made me feel humble....
It's hard to get a photo that can do Muir Woods justice, (you just can't stand far enough back to get the full trees!) so here's a video instead. Muir Woods is one of my favorite places.
After leaving Muir Woods, we hit rush hour traffic, so we decided to stop and eat dinner at a fancy strip mall area in Mill Valley. We ate at "High Tech Burritos" (which are just like low-tech burritos, except more expensive!) and then mingled through some of the shops. Tracy bought a CD of beautiful classical guitar music at a shop called "The Spanish Table" and we enjoyed browsing through all the ceramics and books and such that had been imported from Spain. While browsing through a candle shop, we met a friendly lady who helped us come up with good time-killing ideas. She suggested that we go to the pet store nearby, where we could watch people wash their dogs at a special dog wash there, and also see all the silly clothes that people buy for their dogs. She was right...that was great entertainment.
When we got back on the road again, we headed to Napa Valley. It was an absolutely beautiful drive past vineyards with rows and rows of grapevines. We didn't stop to take a photo, because we expected we'd have lots of photo opportunities the following morning, since we were scheduled for a 5:30 a.m. balloon ride over the valley. The next morning, however, there was fog in the Napa Valley, so the company drove us to the next valley over, but then it was too windy to fly. Bummer....taking a hot air balloon ride has been Tracy's dream ever since she tried to do it on the 4th of July in Soda Springs as a teenager, but it was too windy then too! We'll put that back on our lists of things to do.
I'm running out of time now, so I'll post more about the trip later.