The scenery to die for!

In my earlier post, I had covered the snow-capped mountains from our California road-trip. On the same trip, we experienced another aspect of similar landscapes – the ones that were lush-green.

We didn’t mind stopping at each such worthy stop as we had plenty of time…that’s the biggest benefit of driving on your own. I was so overawed by the postcard-perfect views that Saru had to drag me at times to get back to the car 🙂

Below shot is of the New Melones Bridge on the lake with the same name, though it is more of a reservoir.

dsc05969dsc05967

Having driven more than 1,700 miles across the state, I would say that California has every aspect of natural beauty, thus making it perfect for a long vacation break.

dsc06347dsc05997

The Giant Trees at Sequoia National Park

Located in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Western region of the United States, Sequoia National Park is famous for the giant sequoia trees, including the largest tree on earth – General Sherman.

The majority of the park is not accessible via motor vehicles because of its sheer wilderness. However, you can still enjoy the beauty of this rare redwood forest area and cover the trails it offers.

There are multiple entry points to the park. But the one we took was the most difficult drive uphill – Highway 198 from the southwest through three rivers. It had hairpin bends which were covered with fog throughout. The winding roads with steep incline were difficult to drive as there was traffic from both the sides. Many were making frequent stops to beat the motion sickness. In spite of all this, this was my second most favorite driving experience because of the views; first being Mount Washington Auto Road.

dsc06242

There were three attractions we wanted to cover.

First was Moro Rock. We went there twice, climbed once – nearly 200 out of 400 steps, but couldn’t see the view of the valley as it was super foggy. The visibility in the parking lot itself was less than 1 feet! See for yourself…

img_7859

However, driving through the woods to reach there, with cold breeze caressing our face made it memorable.

After our first failed attempt to climb Moro Rock, we headed to the Sherman Tree. The Sherman Tree is shown in the 1st pic below. It is the largest tree on earth by volume of its trunk. It can be reached through a 0.8-mile round trip paved path from the parking lot and also gives a close-up view of the grove of giant sequoia trees. The ash in the next pic is necessary for the survival of these trees and most of them can be seen having some form of it.

Our next stop was a mile-long walk – Grant Grove. It’s a loop around tall sequoia trees and is an easy one with information written alongside the trees. I recommend it to everyone as this gives a peek into the history and geography of the area. There are benches and picnic areas in the park, too.

After the leisure walk, we headed back to the Moro Rock to try our luck one more time. The Fog was thinning and we were very hopeful of making it to the top this time. We starting driving down the road but as we were nearing the parking, a thick blanket of fog appeared suddenly. It was quite amazing to see fog appearing and disappearing with each turn on the road. Unluckily, we had to leave from there again!

Our last stop was Tunnel Log. It’s a car tunnel carved out of the trunk of a sequoia that fell over the road in 1937. Drive and click a picture…it’s a fun thing to do. Tunnel Log is on the Crescent Meadow Loop.

fullsizerender

The falls at Yosemite National Park

There are numerous falls at Yosemite – some would just take your breath away!

Most of the tourists just visit the must-see Bridalveil and the Upper and Lower Falls (shown respectively in the 2 pics below). You are allowed to go close to the falls (still at a safe distance) but be ready to get drenched…to me, that is where the fun is!

DSC06020 (1)DSC06134

As you cover the park, you would see many others too – some don’t require much of an effort to reach.

DSC06011

However, one that would require a mile-long steep hike would be Vernal Falls (shown in the very last pic above). With my stamina too, I was all huffing and puffing once I reached the top; but it was all worth it.

Notes:

  1. Yosemite is the perfect place for anybody who loves Nature. You can hike, see the stunning falls, picturesque landscapes, or just get lost in the wilderness.
  2. Keep at least 2 days for this national park, even with that you will just get the feel of it. I won’t be surprised if you spend a week there.
  3. Best time to visit is late-March to end-April. The reason being the falls are in full flow then.
  4. Go to their visitor center first and check out what works best for you. You will be able to park there and take the free shuttle for getting around (or you can drive on your own).
  5. As mentioned in the earlier post, the entry is $30 (per vehicle) which is valid for a week.
P.S. For more pictures, please visit my Instagram account @the_learning_step

The Grandeur of Yosemite!

As soon as we entered the gates of Yosemite National Park, I was in awe of the magnificence of it! The huge granite rocks, stunning landscapes, numerous falls, lakes, mountains, biological diversity, and much more attracts over 3.8 million people every year.

We were looking forward to visiting this acclaimed World Heritage Site even before our trip, and I must say a couple of days there are highly recommended! If you like going to National Parks, you can buy the Annual Pass applicable to all National Parks in the US for $80. Else, the seven-day pass to Yosemite is for $30 Apr-Oct or $25 Nov-Mar (the fee is per vehicle, not per person).

Most of the tourists spend their time in the seven square miles of Yosemite Valley, giving a picturesque view of the famous El Capitan (on the extreme left in the below shot), Half Dome (right in the middle), and Bridalveil Falls (on the right).tunnel viewWe wanted to see each of them more closely, so we parked the car near the visitor center and took their shuttle (runs frequently across the eastern Yosemite Valley all year round) to see each of them more closely.el capitanhalf domebridalveil fallsAgain, be ready to walk a lot as these and other spots in Yosemite are just not by the road (as you can imagine). I will have more to say on this wonderful gift of nature in future posts.

P.S. If you haven’t noticed, I added the watermark to my pictures for the first time, as few have asked me if the shots here are all mine. Yes, they absolutely are! You can find more selection on Instagram @the_learning_step

The beauty of offbeat places!

Most of us often travel to famous places, failing to realize that small places can be equally charming…sometimes, more so! My experience traveling extensively over the last couple of years says you have to watch out for such hidden gems since they often would be more beautiful than what we might think of.

While doing our research on Lake Tahoe, we found a couple of such stops which are easy to pass by – Sand Harbour for its calming beauty and Logan Shoals for the sunset views.

Looking back, I am pleased to have applied the brakes and stopped at the Sand Harbour beach.

DSC05838DSC05836DSC05847

I had to rush to my next stop Logan Shoals since that is where the sunset was awaiting us ☺️

The vista point is about 12 miles south of Sand Harbour. Many of the tourists just watch sunset from the level of the parking. However, I took the pain to go down through the bushes (there is a visible narrow path) and reach just alongside the lake (but at a height to it).

And a gorgeous sunset it indeed was…

DSC05890DSC05898DSC05919

That completes my journey of the heaven-on-earth, as I would call it – Lake Tahoe!

P.S. Please do not copy these pictures, rather buy them from me! If you see anybody copying, request you to inform me at aloksinghal2003@gmail.com

The charm of DL Bliss State Park

While driving around Lake Tahoe, our next stop after Emerald Bay was DL Bliss State Park. Though the park was closed because of Spring season (early April), it was open for hiking and enjoying the crystal clear water of Lake Tahoe.

After much deliberation, we thought of hiking the Rubicon and Lighthouse trails there, and also going down to the Calawee Cove. We misunderstood the signs there and read 1-mile hike each way, so that was a no-brainer for us. So, with much excitement, we started walking from the parking lot to the trailhead stop. Much to our dismay, the walk to the stop itself was 2 miles (through the winding roads in the park), but then we thought it won’t be long till we hit the water.

Well, we walked and walked, with hardly anybody visible around. The views were no doubt stunning, but soon we realized it won’t be a mile further to the cave. By then we had walked a long distance and had also come down around 4,000 feet. The water was visible and so were the mountains overlooking the lake. Rather than thinking much, we thought of enjoying what we couldn’t believe.

DSC05610DSC05601DSC05607

It took us around 1.5 hours to reach the level of the water. We were stunned to see the ‘untouched’ beauty!

DSC05612DSC05626

We spent a lot of time there, and I, for one, never wanted to leave…but then it was around 4pm and we were afraid of facing off the bears too! We had not seen the (old) Rubicon lighthouse till now and even the new lighthouse, though we took the respective trails alternately while going down.

The tough task now was to climb above 6,000 feet uphill to reach our car. That would take some time and muscles, we knew! In order to read before dark, we didn’t take long stops and soon Saru realized she developed a cramp in the back. But then there was no other option than to keep walking. This time, we were lucky enough to spot the old lighthouse, that looked like a small hut (it was the highest elevation lighthouse on a navigational body of water in the entire world).

DSC05702

Somehow, after much huffing and puffing we reached our car and breathed a sigh of relief!

P.S. For more pictures, you can follow me on Instagram @the_learning_step

Just a few days in the US? Visit Lake Tahoe first!

Many of us have limited time when it comes to vacations. However, if you are touring the US and have just a few days to spend at famous attractions, my top spot would go to Lake Tahoe!

On our recent California trip, after spending a couple of days in San Francisco, our next major destination was Lake Tahoe – the largest freshwater lake in Sierra Nevada, largest alpine lake in North America, and second deepest in the US. It is known for the clarity of water (as some spots you can even see 62 feet deep) and the picturesque mountains surrounding it.

A major tourist attraction in California and Nevada, I strongly suggest driving around the lake and spending some time at the must-see spots. You can do all of that in 2 days, but one can even spend a week in the area, depending on how close to nature you are. If you ask me, I could have stayed there forever!

DSC05497DSC05524

We started from South Lake Tahoe and drove clockwise, first stopping at Emerald Bay – one of the lake’s most photographed and popular locations. Emerald Bay State Park is home to Eagle Falls and Vikingsholm mansion. We thought of covering the mansion next day, but Saru developed a cramp later in the day and the castle requires a steep walk for a mile each way – at an elevation of over 6,300 feet…so we had to miss the mansion.

There is also this island visible from the Bay – Fannette Island. I photographed it from various spots.DSC05467DSC05482DSC05453

As far as taking these breathtaking shots are concerned, I would suggest trekking those trails that are less popular and hence less crowded…but not completely deserted, so as to avoid wildlife there. We did a bit of hike towards the Eagle Point to see the lake from the top and the views were hard to believe!

DSC05439

To do justice to the beauty of the place, I am going to divide the spots across multiple posts.

10 days in ‘heavenly’ California!

I so love traveling to new places – there is something about them that calls me often!

We always wanted to cover the West Cost, a trip that materialized for us early last month (after being in the U.S. for 5 years). We chose to fly with United this time and for rental car I always trust Enterprise.

We had 10 days to see the best of California, and though we wanted to see Grand Canyon and Las Vegas too, that would have made it too hectic for us. So, we took them off the plan and here’s how the layout looked for us – starting with San Francisco and driving clockwise all the way back to it. Essentially, that meant spending at the most 2 days at each major location highlighted in the map…had to adjust for travel time too.alok singhal travel blog

I and Saru are Nature lovers, so our outings are heavy on that aspect…a reason why we left Alcatraz in San Francisco and Universal Studios in Los Angeles. You can plan accordingly based on what you like.

Our first morning in San Francisco was quite misty and we spent a bit of time at the Ocean Beach, while on our way to the Golden Gate Bridge.

DSC04873DSC04886

Then we went to Fort Point, Lands End, Crissy Field, and even to the other side of the bridge to capture these views of the Golden Gate.

DSC05050DSC04949DSC04990

Weather had gotten better by afternoon, but we had few more things to cover that day.

Though it might take many months for me to write entirely about California vacation (and I am yet to complete many past trips too), let me mention this right away: No matter how much of an expert you are in traveling, there are always some takeaways from each escape. Here are the learnings from this long journey:

  1. Alternate between hectic and leisure days…that would give you enough rest.
  2. After every 2-3 days, keep a relaxing day. One can travel to the new location, but don’t keep any exciting adventure lined up.
  3. Listen to your body – Saru got a back-pain while hiking (exerted a lot) in Lake Tahoe…so had to compromise with sightseeing for 2 days.
  4. There are always ways to save money. We could have done better on food this time!

I call Califonia heavenly since the natural beauty is in abundance there.