I know. You cannot wait. Hold your applause.
First, we’ll start with the end of day five, when we rolled into Northern California, home of the Redwood National and State Parks.
Day Five: Klamath to McKinleyville, Calif.
My face positively lit up when I saw Paul Bunyon and Babe on the side of the road (at the Trees of Mystery). I am a sucker for a good tourist trap. And Ryan couldn’t turn me down.
Don’t I look happy?
Then, as we headed towards the hotel, we went over a bridge on the Klamath River and saw a huge number of people on the bridge, motioning to each other, taking pictures and just genuinely freaking out.
Well, obviously we had to stop.
We thought it may be a bear. (Only because there was a statue of a bear near the bridge and we are masters of deduction.)
Then, we heard the blow of a GRAY WHALE!!! There was a gray whale in the RIVER.
What are the odds of being on the coast of Oregon for two days and seeing a gray whale up close when driving over a river?
It was getting rather dark, so the pictures are grainy. But she was just huge and amazing. We learned that she had come into the river in June with her calf. The calf eventually left, but the momma stayed there for months, despite scientists’ best efforts. She became a bit of a local celebrity and we just happened to see her on our way through.
Needless to say, she holds a special place in my heart. Unfortunately, the momma died about a week after we left. We were so sad to hear about it. Read more about the whale and her time in the Klamath River at the Huffington Post.
At that point, we were totally zonked out. And our fabulous hotel in McKinleyville upgraded us to a suite. (We got so lucky with hotels all week long. Please let this be your object lesson to become a reward member of a hotel chain.) We slept quite well, with dreams of gray whales in our heads.
Day Six: Redwood National Forest
In the morning of day six, the name of the game was the Redwood Forests. My husband is fascinated by the redwoods. (I already told you he was a bit of a tree hugger.) He tried to grow a tree he brought home from San Francisco on our honeymoon. He has dreams of growing a redwood forest in the middle of Illinois. But that’s a story for another day.
We decided to focus on the Avenue of the Giants, which is a really cool 31-mile portion of Highway 101 that actually parallels the current Highway 101. There are so many neat parts to see, it can easily take all day.
We loved it. The trees were so majestic.
It’s really worth a stop if you are in the area.
My husband was in heaven.
Okay, and I may have hugged a tree or two, too.
We checked out the Founders’ Grove.
We spent $6 to drive through a tree. It was totally a tourist trap. (And I love tourist traps!) But, hey, it’s kind of necessary to drive through a tree when you can.
How often do you get to drive through a tree?
We spent the majority of the day in the Avenue of the Giants. Checking out the trees. Hiking. Just generally in awe. It’s a neat place.
We drove about 260 miles on day six. This was probably Ryan’s favorite day of the trip!
We ended up cruising into San Francisco that night and we were thrilled.
San Francisco holds a special place in our hearts. It’s one of our favorite cities in the country. More on that tomorrow. But, first – Look at this view from our room. ANOTHER suite on the top floor. I know, now I’m just showing off.
Day Seven: San Francisco, Calif.
Since we’ve been to San Francisco before (on a nine-day trip for our honeymoon in 2008), we decided to just spend some time checking out our favorite things again. We just wandered and had a good time reconnecting with some of our favorite scenery.
Our hotel was right on the Van Ness cable car line. It also happens to be the least busy line, which is a perk.
We hopped on to get to our first stop – The Cable Car Museum – which Ryan and I believe is one of the hidden gems of the city. It’s free.
And it’s kind of neat to see all the cables for the different lines.
Ryan would ride the cable cars all day if I’d let him.
We definitely got our $12 worth. (We bought the day-pass to ride public transport all day.)
Although I like them, too.
Then we hopped on the trolley to the Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. I know some people don’t care for the tourist-y-ness of the Wharf, but I really like it.
But, I will say that it was crazier than we remember. August is certainly peak season for San Francisco. I think we prefer May and the weather wasn’t all that different. But the trolleys – this is how they were during parts of the day.
Packed like sardines.
We got bread bowls with soup (chili for Ryan and clam chowder for me) at Boudin Bakery in the Wharf. So yummy but really crazy busy.
We also walked around China Town.
I really wanted to take the night tour of Alcatraz on this trip. We loved the day tour on our last trip and I was really looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I waited too long to book. All the night tours were booked more than six weeks out. And after I sulked for two weeks, the day tours were booked. Bummer.
At the end of the day, we had the opportunity to meet up with Ryan’s friend Michael. He’s busying himself with very important and scientific things in his PhD program at Stanford. He explained it to us, but we didn’t remember. 😉
It was the pasta. So. Very. Good. We went to Little Italy and ate at Caffe BaoNecci. It’s the top-rated restaurant on yelp in Little Italy. Now we know why. The food was awesome.
It was a small little place, but we only waited a few minutes before getting a table at 8:30 on a Friday night.
And with that, our lovely day in San Francisco came to a close. (Actually, when we got back to our hotel, my husband wanted to go take the trolley ONE LAST TIME since the line was open late. But, we were both so tired, we ended up passing out before we had the chance.)
We flew home from San Francisco the next morning. More flight troubles (like overbooking our connecting flight where WE were the people who would get booted), but we arrived on-time and intact.
We are so happy that we had the opportunity to take this trip. If you ever have the chance, you should take it. It’s a lot to pack into seven days, but I think you’ll agree that it’s worth it.
And now, we’re taking a vacation from the vacation. 😉