2013 CALIFORNIA'S SWELTERINGLY HOT
NATIONAL PARKS
Road Scholar 2811


This is my first trip to here since a family trip in 1954. I'm currently planning a "Trains Across the Sierras" trip in a later year (2016 or 2017), which would cover some of the same areas of California, but a different part of Nevada, and more time there than on this trip.

On this trip, we spend most of our time in some of California's national parks -- Sequoia, Yosemite, Lassen, Redwoods -- and other scenic areas such as Lake Tahoe and Mono Lake. We get an overview of California's treasure chest of topographic and climatic diversity, from the foggy and rugged shore of the North Coast, across two mountain ranges separated by the Great Valley, to the open parched desert of the Eastern Sierras.

Our lecturers explain and differentiate the mountain-building and landform development processes, experience the beautiful Sierra Nevada, Cascade and Coastal mountains, and discover how dynamic movement of the earth's plates has created the dramatic landscapes seen throughout California's national parks.

The focus is also on the unique botanical and historical richness of the areas visited; we address conservation issues and hear tales of Native Americans and pioneer days, too. Along the way, explore Carson City, Virginia City, and the north coast towns of Eureka, Fort Bragg and Mendocino.

Day 1, Saturday, July 13 Friday er, Saturday the 13th
For a day that started out so well, I should have known that it wouldn't last. I took an 8:45-9:00 AM StuporShuttle and it even got here early. However

Check-in (baggage drop) at the airport took much longer than expected, and the security lines were horrendously long. I "barely" made it to the departure gate at the (originally) scheduled time only to find that the flight was delayed 6 hours - which eventually got to be a full 7 hours. No meals (or vouchers) were provided by United, so I had to buy both lunch and dinner on my own. Eventually we actually managed to get off, delayed at least 12 minutes when a large lady in first class, all 2 of her, just HAD to go POTTY and the pilots couldn't start the push-back until she did her deal and waddled back to her seat.

We were told that the delay was due to the airlines fouling up crew flight schedules and when the incoming (to Houston) flight got to Vail, Colorado, some of the crew ran out of (consecutive) flying time so were grounded until they had the required rest period. Therefore the airlines had to find another crew and get them to Vail to fly the plane on to Houston. We had a Houston-based crew (who also had been waiting for hours) to fly us to San Francisco.

United UA 1456Houston - San Francisco - Burlingame11:32A - 1:43P
6:27P - 8:09P
4:11
3:42

At least they made up some of the time on the flight. When I arrived at SFO, my luggage was already there (it came on an earlier flight) and I made a quick connection with the hotel shuttle (already on the way to pick up some others) finally arriving at the hotel a bit after 9 (after 11 Houston time). Of course I missed all the scheduled Road Scholar activities and the included dinner. But at least I'm here. (no meals)

Take the hotel's complimentary shuttle, and check into DoubleTree Hotel after 3:00PM. After we have our room assignment, come to the Road Scholar table to register with the program staff and pick up our arrival packet which we review during our orientation session. Dinner is at the hotel. We'll have an overview of the program ahead and review the revised up-to-date schedule, responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures (particularly heat emergency for the next 3 days in the Fresno area), any other administrative issues, and answer your questions. Participants introduce themselves to the rest of the group.

Day 2, Sunday, July 14 San Francisco to Fresno, San Luis Reservoir
Although the weather was nice and cool yesterday on arrival in San Francisco, as we go south, the forecast is for 102F or more for today through Tuesday in the Fresno area.

A full breakfast is available each day in the hotel; today a nice buffet. I finally learn a bit about our herd: there are 30 of us cattle and instructors (not all with us all the time). Our group leaders are Phil and Darlene Haro, We have to take our luggage out to the coach by 8:30.

After breakfast, we leave at 9AM for a long drive to Fresno. Our first stop is a guided visit to the Mission and State Park at San Juan Bautista. The park is part of a nationally recognized historic landmark adjacent to a portion of California's 15th Spanish era mission. This mission was one of four established in the summer of 1797 and the fifteenth of the twenty-one missions in California. This visit turns out to be the highlight on our visits today. We get to go into the original bar in the Hotel, then over to the church and the garden grounds around the church. It was a VERY nice visit. We then walk a few blocks and have an "ok" lunch of Mexican food at the Jardines Gardens restaurant in town, not the box lunch originally listed.

We continue our trip with a stop at the popular Casa de Fruta which began in 1908 with the planting of orchards by immigrants from Italy is now operated by the same family. Since 1908 when the original ancestors planted the first orchards in the Pacheco Valley, Casa de Fruta has grown into a diversified operation encompassing a variety of business ventures. This turned out to be just a "pit stop" and a chance for the locals to "fleece the tourists" with all kinds of shops and activities. For me, I considered it a waste of time.

Our final stop was at San Luis Reservoir, beginning our exploration of water issues in California. The dam was constructed as a storage reservoir for the federal Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project. It stores runoff water from the Delta that would otherwise flow into the ocean. The water arrives through the California Aqueduct and the Delta-Mendota Canal, and is pumped from the O'Neil Forebay into the main reservoir during the winter and spring. The Los Banos Creek Reservoir was built to prevent storm runoff from flooding the canals. We had a nice presentation by the State Park Ranger but there wasn't much to see; the water is at a very low level: only 19% full.

We finally reach HOT (103F) Fresno and have dinner in the hotel meeting room and a Welcome gathering. The REAL highlight of the day was after dinner: a presentation by a local scholar on the life of John Muir. Fantastic!!. Lodging: Holiday Inn Fresno Airport, 2 nights (BLD)

Day 3, Monday, July 15 Sequoia National Park
After a cardboard pancake, chalk breakfast potato cubes and adobe link sausage breakfast (Horrors! Another of these tomorrow) we depart early (7:30) to begin our field trip to Sequoia/King Canyon National Parks.

In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Spanish began exploring the edge of the Sierras. Soon afterwards, trappers, sheepherders, miners, and loggers poured into the Sierras seeking to exploit whatever the mountains had to offer. By the end of the 19th century, San Joaquin Valley communities increasingly looked to the Sierras for water and recreation. In the struggle between all these competing interests, two national parks were born that became what we know today as Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.

Today the parks together protect 265 Native American archeological sites and 69 historic sites. Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks contain big trees, high peaks, and deep canyons, but the diversity goes far beyond that. Sequoia was established on September 25, 1890. It spans 404,063 acres. Located in the southern Sierra Nevada range, the parks' elevations extend from 1,300 feet in the foothills to 14,491 feet at the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous 48 states. The park is south of and contiguous with Kings Canyon National Park.This huge variation in the landscape contributes to the collage of habitats that create a rich assemblage of terrestrial, aquatic and subterranean ecosystems. Here one can observe a vast diversity of plants and animals representing an array of adaptations.

After picking up our park guide we have to take a hard hike (many, many steps and quite steep) down to visit the General Grant tree. Then we have to climb back up. My legs "almost died." The altitude here is between 6500 and 7000 feet "which didn't help."

We have a picnic lunch (poor / skipped) and spend some time at the park's Visitor's Center. Then we continue our field trip to the General Sherman Tree (a much easier walk) in Kings Canyon National Park. There we passed by a "tunnel tree with a hollow core that we could walk through. Although Congress created these two parks at different times, Sequoia and Kings Canyon share miles of boundary and are managed as one park. Sequoia was the second national park designated in this country. General Grant National Park, the forerunner of Kings Canyon, was third. To finish our excursion, we stop for a photo op at a spectacular overlook, the Yucca Point overlook, of the Kings Canyon, but there was too much haze there to see much of anything.

After a long drive back, dinner (decent) is at the hotel. (BD)

Day 4, Tuesday, July 16 Yosemite National Park / Ptomaine Palace at the Falls
After another paste-board breakfast, we have to have our bags out by 8 and at 8:30 we board the coach to travel to Yosemite National Park. The morning is basically just a long drive to the park area with our first stop being the Wawona Lodge Hotel. The Wawona Hotel is a National Historic Landmark. Considered an ideal camp location due to its verdant meadows, nearby river, surrounding pine and oak trees and abundant game, Wawona was called Pallahchun (meaning a good place to stop) by early tribes - the first people to inhabit the area - because it was a logical midway site between the foothills and Yosemite Valley. With its historic white wooden buildings, verandas overlooking sprawling green lawns and Victorian interiors, it is the perfect setting for a vacation. The tranquility of this Victorian-style lodge in Yosemite makes it a favorite of those who prefer a relaxed environment and the charm of a bygone era.

There we are served a plated seafood lunch in the dining room which I skip (I'm glad I have often traveled on a 2-meals-a-day routine), then visit the Pioneer Village History Center near the Wawona Hotel. To do this, we have to climb down several rough, irregular, often very high steps. It isn't far, but it's the worst steps we have hit so far. I almost fell four times. This 'village' is assembled from structures that were originally found in different locations throughout the park and moved to Wawona in the 1950's and 60's. Each building represents a different chapter in Yosemite's story: a Ranger Patrol Cabin, Degnan's Bakery, Powderhouse, Jail and the Wells Fargo Office. Despite the big build-up, it was definitely disappointing.

Then we continue to Yosemite Valley with a stop at Tunnel View for a photo op of the world famous view of the Valley including El Capitan, Quarter Dome, and Bridal Veil Trickle. Hopefully I can get some better pictures tomorrow.

We check in to the "Yosemite Lodge At The Falls" (decent room but very dark, and almost inaccessable electric plugs) where we have dinner at the Yosemite Lodge Food Court with a choice of items from the buffet. Our bus driver told me that the food here wasn't good, maybe the worst of the trip, and he was right. Dinner coupons have an $18 value. Relax and enjoy a free evening and go see an excellent film at the next shuttle stop. Lodging: Yosemite View Lodge, 2 nights (BD)

Day 5, Wednesday July 17 Yosemite National Park aka Down with the Ptomaine Palace!
Yesterday our coach driver warned me about the food here - I should have listened. Thanks to that awful dinner last night, I have to skip this morning's excursion. I did try a few light items and some juice for breakfast, and hope .

We take a field trip through Yosemite Valley which is world-famous for its impressive waterfalls, cliffs and unusual rock formations. The first stop is El Capitan Meadow for a straight up view of El Capitan, a favorite for experienced rock climbers. Rising more than 3,000 feet above the Valley floor, it is the largest monolith of granite in the world. Our second stop is Yosemite Falls for a nature hike to the base of the falls to learn about the flora and fauna in the Park. Yosemite Falls can be seen from numerous places around Yosemite Valley, especially around Yosemite Village and Yosemite Lodge.

There is time to skip, particularly after last night, a very un-appatizing (to me) boxed lunch provided by the Lodge Ptomaine Palace (same deal tomorrow and another skipped lunch). It isn't until almost mid-afternoon that I finally take the free park shuttle ride it for the full loop (about 1 hours) and also stop at the Visitor's Center. Since it's impossible to take decent pictures through the windows of a bus, I don't have anything from this except (vague) memories. No pictures as all today.

I braved dinner tonight at the Falls Ptomaine Palace getting fruit, some rolls, and a drink - plus a couple more drinks for tomorrow or so - hoping that it is safe to eat. Later attend a ranger program at the Amphitheater.

Day 6, Thursday, July 18 To Carson City
Breakfast is at the Yosemite Lodge Ptomaine Palace - just fruit, juice and a roll. Board the coach at 7:45 and begin our trip across Yosemite's high country. We make several short photo stops. Our first is at Olmsted Point, a viewing area like Glacier Point that offers an amazing view looking South-West into Yosemite. One is able to see the back of Tunnel View & Glacier Point.

Our next stop is Tenaya Lake This lake was gouged out by the Tenaya branch of the Tuolumne Glacier that passed through Tenaya Canyon. The Yosemite Miwok called the lake Pywiack, "Lake of the Shining Rocks." For our third stop, we travel through Tuolumne Meadows, a gentle, dome-studded meadowy section of the Tuolumne River .Tuolumne Meadows has a good view of the Cathedral Range, Lembert Dome and Mount Dana. We stop at then continue through Tuolumne Meadows, a gentle, dome-studded section along the Tuolumne River.

We next cross over Tioga Pass (el. 9,943 ft.) which serves as the eastern entry point for Yosemite National Park. It is the highest highway pass in California and in the Sierra Nevada. Mount Dana is to the east of the pass. There are several trailheads into the Yosemite back country which begin at Tioga Pass.

Our last stop is Mono Lake, an oasis in the dry Great Basin and a vital habitat for millions of migratory and nesting birds. Mono Lake is unique. For starters, it's old--at least 700,000 years old and one of the oldest continuously existing lakes on the continent. Fed by huge glaciers during the last Ice Age, Mono Lake was 60 times larger than the 66 square miles it covers today. Mono Lake is naturally salty and alkaline because it has no outlet. The only way water leaves is evaporation. The Sierra streams that flow into Mono contain only trace amounts of minerals and salts but those minerals and salts stay and their concentrations and grow over the years. We learn more about the lake at the Visitor's Center. This is also where I have my (skipped) picnic lunch packed by the Falls Ptomaine Palace. After lunch, descend the eastern slope through very dry, desolate lands of the Eastern Sierra to Carson City, Nevada's capital, and check in to the Plaza Hotel. While we were still in the park area, the temperatures were reasonable. By the time we got down to Mono Lake, it was well up into the 90s, and over 100 when we arrived in Carson City.

Carson City, Nevada's territorial and state capital, has a rich and colorful frontier past. Carson City was founded as a community in 1858, seven years after the first settlement of Eagle Station trading post in 1851. Carson City is named for the famous frontiersman and scout Christopher "Kit" Carson. During his 1843-1844 expedition, John C. Fremont had named Carson City's nearby river for Kit Carson, Fremont's scout. Pioneer Abraham Curry arrived in Eagle Valley in 1858 and soon thereafter surveyed and plotted a town site. The farsighted and optimistic Curry set aside 10 acres expressly for the construction of a capital -- this was before the formation of Nevada Territory in 1861. Carson City was soon designated both the territorial capital and county seat of the new Ormsby County. President Abraham Lincoln, recognizing the importance of Nevada's silver and gold to the Union's Civil War effort, signed the proclamation that ushered Nevada into statehood on October 31, 1864. Carson City was selected as the state capital at the constitutional convention and has retained that honor to the present day.

Enjoy dinner tonight at "Red's Old 395 Grill" which has great BBQ. Our dinner coupon is valued at $20. Our tour director pointed out an alternative just across the street: Carson City's new French Restaurant, "Jacque in the Box." Lodging: Plaza Hotel, 3 nights (BD)

Day 7, Friday, July 19 Virginia City & Nevada State Museum
After a very nice buffet breakfast specially for us at the hotel, we have the opportunity to do laundry at the hotel or the coach takes us to a local laundromat - not necessary for me. We have a full (if you want a "health-foods" diet) chef's choice lunch at the Nugget Casino which I again skip but did find a small bit to eat.

We then walk across the street, past the Carson City Mint originally erected in 1870 as the U.S. Mint, and coined more than $49,000,000 until 1893. We to visit the Nevada State Museum which hosts about 250,000 visitors each year, and has become famous for exhibits such as The Chinese Experience, the Dat So La Lee Washoe Indian baskets and Coin Press No. 1. Nevada's wildlife is also featured, namely the ubiquitous coyote, elusive mountain lion, majestic golden eagle, bothersome badger and the mischievous black bear. The silver dining service from the USS Nevada battleship, fashioned with silver from the Tonopah mine and gold from Goldfield, is also on display.

Then it's on to Virginia City, one of the largest National Historical Landmarks in the country. The city held the attention of the world with its mining industry for more than half a century, pouring over $700 million in gold and silver into an ever-expanding nation. In 1859, the mountains around Virginia City were found to conceal great wealth. The city held the attention of the world with its mining industry for more than half a century, pouring over $700 million in gold and silver into an ever-expanding nation. Stroll along C Street's historic boardwalks to step back in time.

We were supposed to have some time to walk the streets of the town, but some activity was planned so there was no place to park the bus. Instead we started with a visit to the old 4th Ward School Museum which is the last school standing of its kind in the US. It's a 4-story wooden building with original desks, chairs, switchboard, and other exhibits; a very nice visit. Our 3rd visit of the day, and the 2nd in Virginia City is the Silver State National Peace Officers Museum has a spectacular collection of United States law enforcement artifacts dating back to 1714. Situated within the County Courthouse and 1876 jail, the museum offers visitors a magnificent walk back in time.

We drive back to Carson City for dinner is at "Sassafras Restaurant" with a decent choice of entrees. This evening, meet the author of a definitive book on the Donner Party. He shares their dramatic story. This was another excellent presentation. (BD)

Day 8, Saturday, July 20 Lake Tahoe
Board the coach for Lake Tahoe Basin. We meet our instructor at Taylor Creek to walk the Rainbow Trail to observe the Taylor Creek Stream Chamber and to visit the Mt. Tallac Historic Site. The Stream Profile Chamber has served as the primary attraction at the Forest Service Visitor Center complex at Taylor Creek since it was constructed in 1968. The Chamber, located mile down the Rainbow Trail, provides a view of the stream environment allowing visitors to study a diverted section of Taylor Creek through a panel of aquarium-like windows.

In 1994, California State Parks included the surrounding water of the bay as a part of the park, making Emerald Bay one of the first underwater parks of its type in the state, protecting the various wrecks and other items on the bay's bottom. One of the most photogenic spots in the world is the tiny bay at the southwest corner of Lake Tahoe, Emerald Bay. In 1969, Emerald Bay was recognized as a National Natural Landmark by the federal Department of the Interior. Paddlewheel cruises features "The Sunken Treasures of Lake Tahoe" video and glass bottom viewing.

After a behind-schedule departure from Taylor Creek, we make a "mad dash" to Zephyr Cove to catch the boat. We make it later than desired, and with only about 5 minutes to spare. Departing from historic Zephyr Cove, the M.S. Dixie II has been voted "Best Boat Cruise" at Tahoe for ten years running. Board the Dixie Queen for a cruise across Lake Tahoe to famous Emerald Bay. While on the Dixie Queen we have a set menu lunch which I skip.

We then drive back into town to complete our exploration of the Tahoe Basin with a gondola ride at Heavenly Valley for a spectacular view of the Lake Tahoe Basin. However we barely get to the top of the ride when a weather report of a possible thunderstorm with lightning makes the company kick all the visitors off the mountain and back to city level. After some wasted time, we walk a couple of blocks to our dinner.

We enjoy a lavish buffet dinner at Harrah's Forest Buffet - including Filet Mignon! It's the best meal so far on the trip. After dinner, we board the motor coach for our return to Carson City. Note: It got up to 105 yesterday, 107 today, and for tomorrow the forecast is for 109 or higher. (BD)

Day 9, Sunday, July 21 Lassen National Park
Get ready for a very, very "warm" day, but we did "luck out": it only got up to 107.8F. Board the coach very early (7:45) for the trip to Lassen National Park. To visit Lassen Volcanic National Park is to witness a brief moment in the ancient battle between the earth shaping forces of creation and destruction in Northern California. Nestled within Lassen's peaceful forests and untouched wilderness, hissing fumaroles and boiling mud pots still shape and change the land, evidence of Lassen's long fiery and active past.

Although Lassen is primarily known for its volcanic geology, the park boasts a rich diversity of plant and animal life. Over 700 flowering plant species grace the park, providing shelter and food for 250 vertebrates as well as a host of invertebrates including insects. This great diversity of life forms is due to two factors: the geographic location of the park and the abundance of habitats there. Situated at the southern end of the Cascade Range geologic province, Lassen Volcanic National Park lies at the crossroads of three great biological provinces: the Cascades range to the north, the Sierra Nevada mountains to the south and the Great Basin desert to the east. The myriad habitats of Lassen Volcanic National Park are produced by variations in environmental conditions such as elevation (5,000 to 10,457 feet), moisture (precipitation is greater on the western than the eastern side of the park), substrate (rock type and soil depth), temperature, insolation (amount of sun) and prior disturbance (both natural and human-caused).

The 29 mile Main Park Road was constructed between 1925 and 1931, just 10 years after Lassen Peak erupted. Near Lassen Peak the road reaches 8512 feet, making it the highest road in the Cascade Mountains. It isn't unusual for 40 feet of snow to accumulate on the road near Lake Helen. We visit Sulphur Works and the Devastated Area on our tour.

We have lunch at Peak Necessities Deli in Lassen National Park - another skipped lunch for me, then continue our drive through the park and stop at the Loomis Museum for a ranger lecture and to view exhibits. B.F. Loomis documented Lassen Peak's most recent eruption cycle and promoted the park's establishment. He photographed the eruptions, explored geologically, and developed an extensive museum collection. Artifacts and photographs of the 1914-1915 eruption are on display in the Loomis Museum. New exhibits feature the original equipment Loomis used to photograph the eruptions and traditional Atsugewi basketry. Unfortunately, the museum, and particularly the lecture are, were not air conditioned and several of us got very near to "passing out" from heat.Otherwise, it was a really excellent talk.

Continue west to Redding and check in to the Red Lion Hotel - NOT recommended to lack of electrical outlets. BAD! We have dinner at a local restaurant featuring a "Hometown Buffet," another very nice dinner.

After dinner, we visit Turtle Bay Park and Sundial Bridge. The Sundial Bridge at Turtle Bay crosses the Sacramento River in the heart of Redding. The steel, glass, and granite span evokes a sense of weightlessness and the translucent, non-skid decking provides for spectacular viewing at night. In my opinion, however, after a very long, very hot day, this could have been skipped with no loss. Lodging: Red Lion Inn Hotel Redding (BD)

Day 10, Monday, July 22 Shasta Dam - Weaverville - Trinity Alps - Eureka
After another early start (and a very poor breakfast), we continue with an already very hot drive to Shasta Dam where we meet our guide and explore the dam. Shasta Dam is a curved gravity concrete dam on the Sacramento River above Redding near Shasta Lake. Like another curved gravity dam (Hoover Dam), it was a continuous pour concrete project, and in its day, ranked as one of the great civil engineering feats of the world. The dam is 602 ft (183 m) high and 3,460 ft (1,055 m) long, with a base width or thickness of 543 ft (165.5 m). We get a very nice tour of the interior of the dam after going through a security check that makes the TSA checks look like almost nothing.

We depart and continue west to sweltering hot Weaverville. Historic Weaverville is nestled at the base of the magnificent Trinity "Alps" (warm weather variety) Wilderness area in Trinity County. Trinity County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood. Founded in 1850, Weaverville is a historic California Gold Rush town. Nestled at the foot of the current day Trinity Alps Wilderness, Weaverville was once home to approximately 2,000 Chinese gold miners and had its own Chinatown.

The Old West did live large in Weaverville with gunfights, saloons and even bank robberies by notorious figures like Black Bart. One of the local restaurants is located in a building that still houses the safe that was robbed by this historic outlaw.

We enjoy an EXCELLENT lunch served in the La Grange Cafe. Fortunately I get to eat this one; tonight is Chinese which I definitely skip. There is time to stroll the streets and visit the J.J. Jackson Memorial Museum. Displays include mining equipment, Indian displays, Chinese exhibits, old bottles, early kitchen utensils used by the county's first settlers, and memorabilia that reflect the area's gold mining roots. The collection of artifacts began in 1922 when the Veteran's Memorial Hall was constructed and space allocated for a museum. When the hall caught fire in the early 1940s, artifacts were rescued and stored by Jake Jackson, the current museum's namesake. With energetic local fund raising efforts and the assistance of State of California grant funds, the museum was constructed and opened in 1968. The museum's collection provides the visitor an intimate look at all phases of the county's rich history. The displays illuminate life, conditions, events and activities covering the period prior to the arrival of the first settlers to the present.

We board the coach to continue our trip through the Trinity Alps to Eureka on the California Coast. It's still 105F at 4PM but finally cools down a bit about 5:30. I skip dinner tonight since it is Chinese at a local restaurant. Lodging: Another blasted Red Lion Hotels! (2 nights) (BL)

Day 11, Tuesday, July 23 Redwoods National Park
After another poor breakfast, board the coach for the field trip to Redwood National Park and Prairie Creek State Park with our local on-board instructor. Our first stop is the Visitor's Center at Redwood National Park to view a film and exhibits. An amazing diversity of life exists at Redwood National and State Parks. The ancient coast redwood ecosystem preserved in the parks contains some of the planet's most majestic forests. Here, banana slugs, gray whales, Douglas-fir, black bears, and sea anemones are equally at home with redwoods. Park staff work to maintain and restore the area's biological diversity through a wide range of resource management and educational activities. Preserving both natural processes and the region's species and genetic diversity helps ensure that countless generations can experience the beauty and complexity of an old-growth redwood forest.

Prairie Creek State Park was set aside in the early 1920's by the forethought of the people of California and the generosity of the Save-the-Redwoods League. Prairie Creek is a sanctuary of old growth coast redwood. This park, along with Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and the National Park Service's Redwood National Park, are managed cooperatively by the National Park Service and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. These parks make up 45 percent of all the old-growth redwood forest remaining in California. In Prairie Creek State Park we fin mostly old growth forest of coast redwood, western hemlock and Douglas fir with Sitka spruce and red alder near the 10 miles of sandy coast line. Because of prevalent coastal fog, the understory of the forest is very dense. Tanoak, cascara, big leaf and vine maple and California bay can be found on edges of prairies. Ground cover is dense with a wide range of species and varieties of shrubs, bushes, flowers, ferns, mosses, and lichens common to the coast redwood environment. We'll hope to spot some of the Roosevelt elk who call the park home.

Enjoy a picnic lunch (another one I skipped) in a scenic redwood setting. The field trip continues to Patrick's Point State Park, The park's dense forests of spruce, hemlock, pine, fir and red alder stretch over an ocean headland with lovely wildflower-festooned meadows. .Visit the recreated Yurok seasonal village - "Sumg" - consisting of traditional style family houses, a sweat house, changing houses, a redwood canoe, and a dance house. The village is used by the local Yurok community for education of their youth and to share their culture with the public. Yearly celebrations are held here and many school groups visit the village when they study California history.

Bad news - while on this excursion, I tripped over a tree root and just "black out" and wake up with Paramedics working on me. After a trip to a local hospital where I'm checked for injuries, I'm released to take a taxi back to the hotel but I miss the included dinner and some other activities. Tomorrow and probably the next day I'll have to skip all the walking excursions. (B)

Day 12, Wednesday, July 24 Humboldt Redwoods State Park - Mendocino
Today we travel to Ferndale. Nestled between the two redwood forests in a thriving dairy community, discover Northern California's best-kept secret, the Victorian Village of Ferndale. Step back in time and enjoy magnificently preserved Victorian architecture and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Next visit the Humboldt Redwoods State Park where we meet our guide for another nice short walk in the redwoods and then view a film about the area. Located along the Eel River, Humboldt Redwoods State Park contains some of the world's most majestic ancient redwood groves. The park encompasses over 53,000 acres, including 17,000 acres of old-growth coast redwoods. In 1921 Save the Redwoods League dedicated the first Memorial Grove, Colonel Raynal C. Bolling Memorial Grove, in what is now known as Humboldt Redwoods State Park. Today the park contains a diverse coast redwood ecosystem, which includes Rockefeller Forest, the largest remaining old-growth forest in the world, and the entire Bull Creek watershed.

We eat our picnic lunch (this one is from Subway so should be good) on the deck at the Visitor's Center surrounded by the beautiful redwoods. Then board the motor coach to head for Mendocino. After a stop at the Chandelier Drive-Thru Tree we turn west to the California coast and travel south on breath-taking Hwy. 1 to Mendocino. Our trip takes us through a forest, then we arrive at the California coast and travel south trough the thick coastal fog on not-so-breath-taking Highway One to Mendocino. Despite its small size, the town's scenic location on a headland surrounded by the Pacific Ocean has made it extremely popular as an artist colony. The town was founded in 1850 as a logging community, and was originally named Meiggsville after Henry Meiggs. Many of its early settlers were New Englanders, as was true with many older Northern California towns. Its economy declined after 1940, and it became a somewhat isolated village until discovered by the region's art community.

On arrival in Mendocino, we check into our rooms closets for the worst rooms of the trip. They are tiny with just a bed and a sink; there is no room for luggage except to open the suitcase on the floor or the bed, no chairs, no tables for work space, and no toilets - just the bed and sink. We (24 rooms) have to share 4 toilets (4 rooms) down the hall. Also my room is right at the head of the stairs above the bar area so there is lots of loud noise until about 2AM. Fortunately we will be moved to a supposedly better room tomorrow.

We enjoy a "plated" dinner (prime rib if you can call it that - almost all fat and gristle) in the lovely Garden Room of thet Mendocino Hotel. Later a local expert presents a class on the Pomo Indians of the area. Lodging: Mendocino Hotel and Garden Suites. The hotel is listed on the National Register. It is a restored Victorian decorated with many beautiful antiques. The Participants (only a few of us) are housed in the garden suites, lovely garden setting. Lobby has fireplace (for July??) and (not) ocean views (2 nights) (BLD)

Day 13, Thursday, July 25 Mendocino
After a very late breakfast ("plated" with no choice so all I got to eat was a small cup of fruit), we board the coach for the field trip through heavy fog which lasts until late in the morning. First stop is the Pt. Cabrillo Lighthouse. The area was home to hundreds of sawmills because of the rich forests. The demand for lumber became even greater after the 1906 earthquake and conflagration in San Francisco, and that same year Congress appropriated $50,000 for a lighthouse on Point Cabrillo. This turned out to be a very nice stop thanks to the excellent docents who volunteer there.

Construction on the station, which was considered one of the most desirable assignments in the district due to its proximity to supplies and a school, began in 1908. The combination lighthouse and fog signal building resembles a small church with a 47-foot octagonal tower attached to the eastern end of the small one-and-a-half-story fog signal building. Two eighteen-horsepower engines housed in the building ran an air compressor that powered twin sirens protruding from the western end of the roof. A third-order Fresnel lens, manufactured in England by Chance Brothers, was installed in the lantern room. To produce a white flash every ten seconds, the four-sided lens was made to revolve three times every two minutes, using a weight suspended in the tower.

Our next stop is the Botanical Garden, the only public garden in the continental US that sits directly on the Pacific Ocean. Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens offers everything from colorful displays to thunderous waves. The mild maritime climate makes it a garden for all seasons. Manicured formal gardens, a dense coastal pine forest, fern-covered canyons, diverse plant collections, and flower-filled coastal bluffs overlooking the blue Pacific Ocean are among the many attractions. Whale watchers can take shelter in the Cliff House to view winter and spring migrations. Bird lovers will delight in the over 150 species of birds that live in or visit the Gardens annually. This is where we have another boxed lunch - to be skipped.

After lunch we walk along the garden paths until mid afternoon, then return to Mendocino. There we can visit the two museums or stroll the small town streets. The hotel management has by then switched our luggage to our new rooms which are very much nicer than the closets we were stuck with last night. We are served a "plated" dinner (the hotel strikes out again - it's 45 minutes later than scheduled) in the Garden Room of the hotel. At least it's much better than the junk last night. A local musician entertains us with an evening of music. (BD)

Day 14, Friday, July 26 Depart
We have another miserable "plated" breakfast; nothing for me but orange juice. We board the coach at 8 for our foggy return to the San Francisco International Airport. This is just a driving day: no special stops, just get from Mendocino to SFO between 8AM and 3PM with an hour or so in the middle for a lunch. En route we cross the coastal mountains, then travel through Sonoma County's vineyards. We learn about the northern California wine industry as we go as well as local history. In Marin County we see the Civic Center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1957 and travel (not) across the Golden Gate Bridge with a view (not) of Alcatraz Island.

We stop en route for a simple but very nice Italian farewell lunch (spaghetti and meatballs) at the Olive Garden. We arrive at the airport in San Francisco where the program ends early about 2:30 pm. I have to take a very late flight since if our scheduled 3PM arrival at the airport is slightly delayed, I wouldn't make the earlier flight. As it turned out, I could have easily made the 4:15 flight.

The flight was delayed a bit in push-back and then a long 20 minutes just standing on the flight line while some fouled up paperwork was cleared, but with a plane only half full, they managed to make up most of the time.(BL)

United UA 454San Francisco - Houston7:17P - 1:10A4:09

Day 15, Saturday, July 27 Arrive Home
With that after midnight arrival, even with a quick deplaning and luggage pickup, I don't get home until 2:30AM. It was basically a very nice trip with excellent tour directors, but the Ptomaine Palace episode and the much higher than expected heat along with my unexpectedly high response to the high altitude made much of the trip not nearly as enjoyable as I had hoped.

Hotels
Day 1Doubletree Hotel, Burlingame
Day 2-3Holiday Inn Airport, Fresno
Day 4-5Yosemite View Lodge, Yosemite
Day 6-8Plaza Hotel, Carson City
Day 9Red Lion Inn, Redding
Day 10-11Red Lion Inn, Eureka
Day 12-13Mendocino Hotel, Mendocino


Selected pictures
Click to enlarge

Mission
General ShermanYosemite
Bridal Veil TrickleOlmstedFishingCarson City Mint
Museum
Virginia City School
Dixie II
Lassen
Pt Cabrillo Lighthouse
Yurok Village
Big Trees
Botannical Gardens
BIrdhousesBee
Elk
OspreyHummingbird