Journey To The Northern Part Of California

I’m back from my long hiatus!  If you were wondering what in the world I was doing for two weeks, I did not, in fact, drop off the face of the earth or go on a super secret spy mission.  Although that would be pretty cool….  I took a two-week-long trip to the lovely state of California with my family!  (The title of the post is a terrible play on words–I’m reading Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne at the moment)  This post will be entirely about my trip, so if you were looking for one of my normal posts on writing tips, check out my previous blog posts!  I live on the eastern side of the US of A, so we had nice looooong plane rides across the country.  First, we went to San Francisco, then a youth camp, then the national park, Yosemite.  But why tell you when I can show you? 🙂

Here is a wonderful view of Lombard Street, the crookedest street in the entire world! We drove down it, and the whole time, my mom was telling my dad to stop taking video of it so he wouldn’t crash the car. 😉
The clam chowder in San Francisco is TO DIE FOR!! Seriously. If you haven’t gotten clam chowder in a sourdough bread-bowl before, do it now. (I recommend Boudin’s Bistro & Cafe, where we got ours.)
And who can forget the hilarious antics of the sea lions? They wrestled and flopped around on the floating docks while we laughed. If no one has ever told you before, sea lions bark really loudly.
This is Coit Tower. I can’t remember what it’s for, or why it’s impressive, but it seems kind of like one of those towers you would find in the middle of a desert, filled with ancient relics. If you live in a fantasy world, that is…. 😉

Alcatraz! (dun dun duuunnn!!)  It’s probably the most known prison in the world, if not the country.  Famous inmates included Al “Scarface” Capone, the Birdman, and “Machine Gun” Kelly, among many others.  It’s really a pretty cool place, and EVERYONE (yes, even that maintenance guy in the corner) will talk to you and give you a little history about random parts of the island.  For instance, we talked to a maintenance guy (are you laughing now?), and he pointed out a damp and dark hallway that Nicolas Cage and Sean Connery filmed a scene in their movie, The Rock.

The sign says it all. Don’t you love the random sea gulls all over the picture? There are so many birds on the island, it’s ridiculous. But it was named Isla de los Alcatraces (the Island of the Pelicans) for a reason….
The architecture all over the island was amazing. Does this staircase look like it belongs to a federal prison?? Nope. But it does.
I think this cell (and by that I mean ALL the cells) is 5′ by 9′. This is all the space these prisoners had!! Some of them were even confined to their cells 24/7! You can see why they began to lose their minds after a while. Who else would start to get claustrophobic?

This is Cell Block D: Solitary Confinement.  Basically, they shut you in a pitch-black version of your 5′ by 9′ cell.  For up to 19 days at a time!  On our audio tour, a prisoner commented that when he was shut in Block D, he would play a game.  He would take a button off of his uniform, close his eyes and throw it somewhere in the cell, then spin around a ton of times until he was disoriented, then hunt around for the button until he found it.  That’s how he kept himself from going insane.

A view of San Francisco from Alcatraz.
This is just a weird, bloody handprint I saw above a door. I don’t know what it’s from, but it gives me the creeps!

These are the guys who escaped Alcatraz!  They dug through their cement walls with spoons, then somehow got out of the maintenance hallway the holes in their cells opened into and escaped.  The maintenance guy I mentioned earlier in the post told us that the sister of two of the escapees was visiting San Francisco for some anniversary of their escape, and while she hasn’t been in contact with them, she believes they lived. O_o

Alcatraz was absolutely gorgeous, these pictures being just a few of the amazing flora and fauna I saw on the island. If you look back at the picture of Alcatraz, you can see this big purple spot–that’s all flowers!

Moving on from ‘the Rock,’ we also went to the Golden Gate Bridge! This is how big one of the cables supporting the bridge is (the ones hanging on the top). It’s made up of a bunch of smaller cables.
We walked halfway across the bridge, just for sake of time, and the view of the bay is amazing! I didn’t notice this until we went to the gift-shop, but apparently, the GG Bridge is orange. Did anyone else know that? You can actually buy the paint color of the bridge in the gift-shop. 🙂 Happy 75th GGB!
A view of the San Francisco Bay from the GGB. That big land mass is Angel Island.

Now for China Town!  China Town was pretty awesome.  We were told by some friends to get dim-sum (dumplings) from this one bakery, and they were so delicious!  I know I had a picture of my clam chowder, but I ate my dumplings so fast that I didn’t have time to take a picture of them for you!  We went in a bunch of the shops, and I got an old Chinese coin (which has inspired me with currency for my book series) and a cool necklace.  Below are another shot of the CT streets.

Random fish statues outside of our hotel….Anyone else thinking of Poseidon? No? Okay then.
This is a shot of Pier 39, and it made me laugh because from the way I took the picture, it looks like a gigantic crab is attacking the wharf. Never fear, it’s just a sculpture. 🙂
The famous San Francisco cable cars!

Cable cars weren’t the only things we rode in CA.  Here’s a complete list: planes, trains, automobiles, cable cars, trolleys, boats, buses, ziplines (does that even count?), bikes, moving sidewalks, and escalators. 🙂

Concluding our trip to San Francisco, we began our drive to camp, starting with the beautiful Highway 1.
While we were driving stopped in traffic (how that happens on Highway 1, I’m not sure, but we had to stop because of a foot-race…), I saw this random smiley-face someone had spray-painted onto the rock face. 🙂
Stinson Beach from Highway 1.
Rocky coastline with foggy hills in the distance. Inspiring, don’t you think?
Random shot after driving aimlessly through Muir Woods that reminds me of Lord of the Rings.
We stopped in Napa Valley on our way to camp, so here’s a nice view of the never-ending vineyards.

Since I took absolutely no pictures at the camp we went to (I was busy doing activities and rec games), I’ll tell you a little about my adventures there before I skip to Yosemite.  I faced my fear of heights BIG TIME doing my first ropes course and the piñata, where you get clipped into a harness and swing down from really high up.  The ropes course was probably one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.  But wouldn’t you rather hear about me and friends almost getting attacked by a raccoon?  I was having smallgroup with a bunch of girls I hung out with all week (it was about 10pm–very dark), and two of them start screaming all of a sudden.  We all run screaming into their cabin, and they tell us they saw a raccoon about 4 feet behind our group leader.  We peek out of the cabin and see its head poking up over the deck and run back inside screaming again.  Another raccoon sighting happened later that night, and thankfully, we weren’t eaten. 😉

I forget which waterfall this is, but if I had to guess, I think it would be Nevada Falls. We hiked up close to the base of it and got sprayed with a very fine mist.
I had to include this picture because the cliff and the storm clouds overhead made an inspiringly ominous picture.
These little guys were EVERYWHERE! This squirrel (or whatever it is) literally stood still and stared at me while I took the picture and then scampered away when I was done.
Some of the awesome cliffs/mountains.

I swear on my life that I took this picture!  We saw a bear in a field and were taking pictures of it, along with many other people.  I think it eventually got scared and darted across the road, resulting in this very blurry shot from my camera.  (quick fact–it’s actually a black bear, but since it’s a young bear, its fur is brown)

Here’s another bear we saw!
This is the view of Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View. The big cliff on the left is El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls is on the right cliff, and if you look waaaay back in the shot, you can see Half Dome. 🙂 No picture does the actual view justice though.
After hiking around Yosemite Valley, my family and I headed up to Mariposa Grove, home of the Giant Sequoias. This is the Grizzly Giant, said to be the oldest sequoia in the Grove, if not ever. Its largest branch is 7ft in diameter, larger than any non-sequoia in Mariposa Grove!
You see this sign? It lies! We would follow the sign that said “1.5mi to this tree or this path” and 1.5mi later, another sign would say the exact same thing.
A mule deer.
The second tunnel tree, the first having fallen about 75 years ago. I imagine that it’s very hard to tunnel straight through a gigantic tree.
This is a sequoia seed-cone. The seeds are only released by fire.
This is the Clothespin Tree. I thought it looked more like a pair of pants than a clothespin, but to each his own.
Giant pine cones from the giant pine trees (I don’t remember what they’re actually called 😉 ).
Lichen: a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungus that grows on trees and looks really cool.
I couldn’t leave Yosemite without giving it a little something to remember me by. 😉 (Don’t worry, I wrote it with charcoal from a burnt tree stump. It’ll wash off in the rain.)
Giant Sequoias.
More Giant Sequoias.
Another squirrel who posed for the camera. This one crawled right up to us, and for a minute, I was afraid he was going to attack me and steal my Clif Bar.
All you literary nerds will enjoy this. 🙂 This is Edgar the Raven, introduced to us by one of the lovely park rangers.
You get an idea of how big these trees are when you see a human (me) next to one of them.
We’re still not sure if this was a coyote or a wolf, but we spotted it while driving along the road to Glacier Point, a great lookout spot. (see pics below)
A view of Half Dome and surrounding mountains from Glacier Point.
A view of waterfalls, mountains, and Half Dome.
Remember the first waterfall I showed you a picture of? Yeah, that’s the one at the bottom. We were at its base!
A view of the mountains in Yosemite. If you look out at the horizon, about the middle of the picture, you can see some snow on a mountaintop.

And that concludes our trip to California!  I didn’t get to include any pictures of Tuolumne Meadows (props to you if you can actually pronounce that) because my camera’s memory was full when we got there.  It was amazing though.  Green fields with grazing deer, a sparkling stream with colorful pebbles and rocks, mountains surrounding you, some still with snow on their caps.  At 8600 feet above sea level, it could literally take your breath away.  Yosemite was one of, if not the most, beautiful and inspirational places I’ve ever been to, and it gave me a glimpse into what the fantasy world I’m writing about actually looks like.  I hope you guys enjoyed this post! 🙂

**AUTHOR’S NOTE: I took all of these pictures myself, so please contact me at if you would like to use one, giving me credit for the picture.**


One thought on “Journey To The Northern Part Of California

  1. Oh, wow! That’s all I can say- wow, wow, wow! Haha- that picture labeled “Random shot after driving aimlessly through Muir Woods that reminds me of Lord of the Rings.” reminded me of LOTR, too. 🙂 Can’t wait to see you. 🙂

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