California dreamin’

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This year, we decided to go away for March Break. Our destination of choice was California. Not only do we have family there, but we knew there would be much less snow.

The vacation gods were certainly smiling on us, as it was warm (low seventies) and sunny the entire time we were away, including in San Francisco. Even the locals admitted the weather was unusually warm and dry. We didn’t care and took full advantage of the fact that we didn’t need boots and heavy coats. Most days, M and his dad wore shorts and t-shirts.

The highlight of our first day was a trip to Alcatraz. We took a very informative tour of the jail itself and listened to one of the Park Rangers talk about the history of the island, starting with its origins as a fort. The cell blocks themselves weren’t too bad, but I imagine on a foggy, cloudy day, they’d be down right gloomy and possibly creepy. Unfortunately, none of my interior photos turned out, but I took lots of pictures of the exterior, including the gardens, which were originally installed and tended by prisoners, but are now maintained by volunteers.

View from the road running around the prison block

View from the road running around the prison block

The Warden's house

The Warden’s house

One of the many gardens at Alcatraz

One of the many gardens at Alcatraz

View of San Francisco from Alcatraz

View of San Francisco from Alcatraz

Another day, we explored an amazing Japanese tea garden in Golden Gate Park (which, to my surprise, isn’t all that close to the bridge). Since the garden was in a relatively small, enclosed space and not very busy, we let M explore on his own. He ran around checking out the various nooks and crannies, including several Koi ponds, while his dad and I toured the garden at a more leisurely pace.

Stone latern

Stone lantern

Zen garden

Zen garden

Early iris

Early iris

From San Francisco, we headed in-land to Yosemite National Park. A family member suggested that March was a good time to visit the park. I`m glad took their advice, because it was spectacular. Beyond breathtaking. M’s dad likes to take pictures and we made numerous stops along the way yo our various destinations within the park. M was very patient and got very creative at entertaining himself – throwing rocks into the river, climbing on rocks, finding sticks. My habit of reading every interpretive sign became a bit of a running joke throughout the entire trip.

Bridal Veil Falls

Bridal Veil Falls

Big rock, little boy

Big rock, little boy

Sequioa toes

Sequoia toes

Tunnel tree

Tunnel tree

The last leg of our trip was spent visiting family and exploring the Monterey area. We spent an entire day at the amazing Monterey aquarium. Although the otter area was closed, M and I spent some time outside on the terrace, checking out the otters in the Bay.

Jelly!

Jelly!

Portrait of a jelly

Portrait of a jelly

Another day, we walked on the beach at Carmel – I walked; M played in the surf. He was plenty happy until he realized he’d have to get in the car with wet, sandy pants.

Boy on the beach

Boy on the beach

On our final day, we went hiking in Pinnacles, a brand-new national park.

Volcanic rock formations at Pinnacles

Volcanic rock formations at Pinnacles

Pinnacles

Pinnacles

We arrived back to snow storm that dropped another 6-10 inches on top of the 2-3 feet already on the ground. However, having spent a week in the sunshine, we knew spring was on its way. Lucky us – we had an early taste on top of a great vacation.

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