Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Coast and Champagne

 

We are having a pleasant stay at Casini Ranch in spite of it being Spring Break, which means families and kids. Over the weekend the park was maybe a quarter full, and we only had one site occupied across from us. It appeared most people wanted the sites with sewer hookups, or the ones along the Russian river.

On Saturday we just hung around and caught up on some household chores, but on Sunday we decided to do some sightseeing around Bodega Bay and Bodega, where the Hitchcock movie The Birds was filmed. After the (daily) morning fog lifted, it turned out to be a lovely day on the coast. Wouldn’t you know we forgot the cameras and binoculars, so our phones had to make do.

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We drove out to Bodega Head, a lovely peninsula with several miles of trails. It’s a popular spot for whale watching so there was quite a crowd, and although we heard one had been spotted earlier, none were seen while we were there. There were several docent whale watchers, so at least we could have looked through their binoculars had the whales been there.

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We did have a nice hike along the bluffs. This little island of rocks was covered with seals. We couldn’t see them very well without binoculars but we could sure hear them barking.

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It’s a colorful time to be here with wildflowers blooming everywhere.

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Yesterday we went back to Armstrong Woods State Park for another hike through the peaceful redwoods.

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Then we stopped at our first winery since we’ve been in California wine country, Korbel.

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The tour was actually quite interesting, especially the history of the Korbel brothers, who emigrated from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in the mid 1800s. They tried several other business ventures before becoming quite successful at making champagne.

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The tour is free and we got to taste four types of champagne. It was all quite good but we bought a bottle of brandy instead for some after dinner sipping. On the way home we stopped in Guerneville for a great pizza at Main Street Bistro. 

And we’ve got reservations for the weekend at the Sonoma Fairgrounds RV park in Santa Rosa, so we’re all set for the Easter holiday.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Casini Ranch Campground, Duncans Mills, CA

 

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Wanting to get out from under the trees, we considered staying in one of the Sonoma county regional parks at Bodega Bay on the coast. The weather forecast was calling for fog and highs only in the upper 50s, which didn’t sound very inviting for $32/night and no hookups. We read good reviews about Casini Ranch, a Passport America park on the Russian River just a few miles inland, and decided to give it a try.

We were pleasantly surprised at how nice it is here. We picked back-in water and electric sites, and with the 50% discount are paying $27/night with tax. It’s $3 more for pull-through full hookup sites but they have a dump station so we don’t need the sewer anyway. They do charge $1/day per dog, so Debbie is paying a bit more. Still not bad considering we are in California.

Some sites have river views and there is a large beach.

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We even have horses just across from our site.

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There is a lot to do and see in this area, so we signed up for eight nights, putting us out on Good Friday, (as they are almost full and the price will double). Now we are working on finding a place for Easter weekend. Oh how we dislike holidays!

Yesterday we did a hike at nearby Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve. It’s a beautiful park, and we enjoyed walking and gawking at the huge redwoods.

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The fallen trees were most interesting. We didn’t know that redwoods have a very shallow root system (less than 12’), but the roots can extend 150’ from the base of the tree.

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After the hike a beer sounded good, so we stopped at Stumptown Brewery in Guerneville where we both found something we really liked. They have a huge deck overlooking the Russian River, a great place to sit and relax. it sure is nice to be in a more rural area again. And I’m now caught up on the blog!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Out of the City and Into the Redwoods

 

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As much as we enjoyed our whirlwind tour of San Francisco, we were ready to get away from the city. There are so many places we wanted to visit in Marin County in the north San Francisco Bay area, but very few options for RVs. We decided to check out Samuel P. Taylor State Park, 15 miles west of San Rafael, and very close to Point Reyes National Seashore.

Sites are limited for a 30’ motorhome, but the camp host suggested we park in sites 1-6, pull-offs right along the road. The sitting area is down by Lagunitas Creek.

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The other area with long enough sites was pretty tight for driving, and there were quite a few places with low hanging limbs, so we took his advice. Due to the drought the showers and dump station are closed, and RVs cannot fill their water tanks, but there are some spigots still available for drinking water. I won’t bore you with details, but be warned that the rangers are quite serious about enforcing the rules, and the volunteers tend to misinterpret them, so we had some strange conversations with both. I think it must have something to do with lack of sunlight! It sure got to us after just one day. Oh, and all of this fun for a mere $35/night, no hookups, of course.

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On the plus side, there is a nice bike trail running through the park, so we took a little ride after getting settled. The next day we went to check out Point Reyes National Seashore. It’s a huge park and would take many return visits to see it all, but we stopped at the visitor center, got some info on hikes and things to see, walked along the Earthquake trail that explores the San Andreas Fault Zone, then headed off for a hike to the coast.

The ranger suggested taking the Laguna trail to the Fire Lane trail for two miles, then a short walk along the coast to Sculptured Beach, where we could do some tide pooling. Low tide was at 2:00, and we got to the beach about 2:15.

We saw deer along the trail and several elk higher up on the hills.

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The tide pools were in the rocky area not too far down the beach.

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It was quite cool and windy by the water, and Jim was feeling a bit under the weather, so he decided to head back to the car while Debbie and I wandered the rocks in search of sea creatures. The exposed rocks were covered with mussels and barnacles.

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I wasn’t having much luck spotting anything else, but Debbie found some snails, and then as we looked closer in the tide pools we found all kinds of sea life.

Lots of anemones, more closed than open.

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Snails.

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One starfish.

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A chiton.

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And colorful plants.

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We’ll definitely be checking low tide times and doing more of this when we’re near the coast.

And as much as we hate to miss seeing some of the other places in this area that were on our list, like Mt. Tamalpais, Muir Woods, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Sausalito, two nights under the lovely redwoods with no sun was making us crazy!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

San Francisco (Part Two)

 

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We knew we didn’t want to drive and find parking in the city on Monday morning, so we headed for the North Concord BART station, where we easily found a space in the free parking area, then boarded the train for Embarcadero station. Less than 45 minutes later we were in downtown San Francisco after flying through a tube under the bay. BART has an interesting history and was a major accomplishment for the city. It’s a great way to get around.

Although David and Mary have lived in San Francisco almost all of their lives, they had never been to Alcatraz. When we mentioned that was one of the things we wanted to do, they said they would love to join us, so we met them at the Ferry Building.

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After an excellent lunch at Pizza Orgasmica, we made our way along the Embarcadero.

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We arrived at Pier 33, along with 400 of our closest friends, to catch the ferry to Alcatraz Island. We were surprised by the number of people, but luckily had purchased our tickets in advance on line. $30 per person, which includes the ferry ride, an orientation video, ranger talks, and the Cellhouse Audio Tour. Seniors 62 and older get a whole $1.75 discount. You are able to wander around at your leisure and spend as much time as you like.

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One of the current prisoners.

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Besides its fame as a federal prison, Alcatraz has been a US Army fortress, home of the first lighthouse on the West Coast, a bird sanctuary, site of the American Indian occupation, national park, and movie set.

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We spent nearly three hours wandering around, and really enjoyed the Cellhouse Audio Tour. It is narrated by former guards and inmates and the sound effects really add to the experience. In fact Mary used to work with one of the guards who did some of the narration. You can read her take on our day at Alcatraz here.

Electrical Repair Shop.

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Residential housing.

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Warden’s house, which burned years ago.

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Model Industries Building, where the prisoners did manual labor to earn privileges. They had an interesting photograph display of the day the prison closed on March 21, 1963.

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Fire truck and old Chevy from the prison days.

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Recreation yard and Cellhouse.

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Lots of cells.

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How could you not go crazy living in this tiny room?

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My favorite photos of the day.

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We were fortunate to have visited Alcatraz on such a warm, clear day. The views are wonderful, we really enjoyed the tour and Dave and Mary’s company, and would highly recommend it.

How nice it was to hop on BART at 5:30 during rush hour and not have to fight traffic. We did have to stand up most of the way, though, which was good for our balance training.

We left Concord the next day after Steve graciously took us out to breakfast. What a nice host. He also gave us good directions to our next destination, Samuel P. Taylor State Park, where we spent a couple days in the dark. But more about that later…