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The photography blog of Victoria Bennett Beyer

Patrick's Point State Park

Victoria Beyer

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Our first night camping along the California Coast was spent at Patrick's Point State Park.  It's a beautiful, misty forest with paths through the woods to the ocean cliffs.  We set up camp and headed out to see where the trail went, and found a rocky spot where we saw some seals.  On our way back through the Jurassic-looking foliage, we spotted this bunny on the trail.  

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The next morning I got up early to take photos.  It was cool, but not cold, and it was so refreshing after spending weeks in the hot and dry southwest.  Patrick's Point was like a dream.

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Point Cabrillo Lighthouse

Victoria Beyer

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We headed up the coast from Santa Rosa, making our first stop at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.  The first floor of the lighthouse serves as a museum.  You can also walk through the 1st Assistant Lightkeeper's house, which is decorated in period pieces.  There are beautiful trails around the headlands.  On our walk we saw some people diving off the wreck of the Frolic, which lies just off the coast.

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Grandpa's House

Victoria Beyer

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We headed to Santa Rosa, CA to pick up my grandpa and enjoy a few days off the road.  His house is one of my favorite places in the world, and I think Wyle feels the same way.  These two are always cracking each other up.

Kings Canyon National Park

Victoria Beyer

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Though they are administered together and are geographically close, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks have some very different areas.  Kings Canyon is also the home to some giant sequoias (more on that later) but it is more than just that.  We drove the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway to its terminus down in the canyon.  It's a windy road that hugs cliff edges and offers superb views of the beautiful South Fork of the Kings River below.

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Near the end of the road, we hiked around Zumwalt Meadow.  It's a pretty green gem, and the trail takes you through rocks and over boardwalks, at times skirting the river.  We were vigilant looking for rattlesnakes, but we are happy to report no sightings.

Our campground was back up the road, walking distance from the Visitor's Center and Grant Grove.  Unlike Sequoia National Park, there are no busses to ferry you around in Kings Canyon.  

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We really enjoyed the paved interpretive trail around Grant's Grove, which includes not only the immense Grant Tree, but also an old cabin, signage about the history of logging in the area, and a giant fallen redwood that you can walk through upright.  I figured that would be my daughter's favorite part of the trail, and I was right.  But I was not expecting to delight in it so much myself.  It just seems so crazy to be walking through a huge tree that's laying on its side.

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You can get a little closer to the trees here on the trail than you could at Sequoia.  Several are hollowed out from fire and this one was just right for a little fox to scramble through.

Sequioa National Park

Victoria Beyer

 General Sherman Tree

General Sherman Tree

Even if you've seen sequoia trees in a small grove before, you should still visit Sequoia National Park.  It is so awe-inspiring to see them everywhere you look.  There are paved trails that make accessing them easy. It's one of these paths that lead to the General Sherman tree - the largest tree in the world by volume.  It's about 2,000 years old.  Many other sequoias in the park are older, but it found a prime spot to grow which is why it is so very large.  It's really quite an experience to tilt your head back and just look up to the top of the tree.

That's not really a solitary experience in the summer, particularly when you are depending on the bus system to shuttle you around.  It was in fact a little distressing to see so many people behaving badly, collecting pine cones in bags, clearly to take home, and stepping off the trail to take photos with the sequoia trees, which hurts their shallow roots.  It was a tough lesson to teach my little Junior Ranger to hold her tongue instead of correcting the many people who were breaking the park rules. 

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We found some solace later by taking the Soldiers Loop Trail.  We saw only two other families on our hike, and we even left behind the sounds of the road. This, to me, was the best part of our Sequoia National Park experience. 

That and not having a bear break into our camper.  When we arrived at our campground, there was a sign saying there had been 3 car break-ins by bears in the past week.  A ranger drove through the campground every 15 minutes to look for any food that had been left unnattended.  I'm happy to report I didn't so much as see a bear during our stay.

 Tunnel Log, which you can still drive through.  Unless you are in an RV.

Tunnel Log, which you can still drive through.  Unless you are in an RV.

Inyo National Forest

Victoria Beyer

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As we left Nevada, we decided to skip Death Valley National Park.  It was hot - very hot - and that park does not offer electricity at its campground.  We figured we'd just be miserable, so we changed the plan.  The fastest way to our next stop, Sequoia National Park, was to drive Tioga Road through Yosemite.  However, that put us looking for a campground near Yosemite in the evening, which is a near-impossible score.  Luckily, our route took us through the Inyo National  Forest.  It was beautiful in the late evening light.  As we neared Mono Lake we found a spot to boondock (that's camping legally somewhere other than a campground - our national forests are great for this).  We found welcome relief from the heat.  And it was the cheapest night of the trip (free!) and put us in a great spot to hit Tioga Pass early the next morning.  Though I have to say, there is no good time to try to get through Tioga Pass, the eastern entrance to Yosemite, on a weekend.  We sat in traffic for at least an hour to get through the gate, but at least the view was lovely.  If you like meadows, then Tioga Road is one of the prettiest drives you can take.

Tonopah Mining Park

Victoria Beyer

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We visited the Tonopah Mining Museum in Nevada, located on the original site of the claims.  It's got a huge amount of equipment on display, as well as several buildings from the mining operations.  There's even a short mine shaft where you can stand in a metal cage over the abyss of the excavated earth below.  

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