San Francisco

Do you ever go somewhere and not totally enjoy it and then look back and realize you had an incredible time? That’s how I feel about our time in San Francisco. There were so many people and so many cars and so much waiting and so many traffic jams that I was ready to get outta dodge. But now that I’m looking though my pictures, I am reminded that we had a good time. We saw so many neat things and added memories to the memory bank.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island

The reason we were in San Francisco in the first place is because Little Mister wanted to go to Alcatraz. It was a really cool experience and I’d recommend it if you are in SF. I had the great idea to book 9am tickets thinking the island would be less crowded. While that was the case, I didn’t realize we would be headed into San Francisco during morning rush hour. Doh. We had to leave the campground ridiculously early but we didn’t get caught in rush hour and we made our ferry with plenty of time to spare.

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island is gorgeous. Not only is the architecture cool, the flora is stunning, and the views are to die for. There are even good views from inside the prison.

Flora on Alcatraz Island

You absolutely must get the headphones for the Cellhouse Audio Tour. Get off the boat and walk to the very top of the island to get your headphones. The audio tour walks you though the prison and the grounds and gives so much history. You can go at your own pace so there’s time to see everything.

I did not realize that American Indians occupied Alcatraz Island for 18 months after the prison closed. They were attempting the claim the land for the tribes of North America but were unsuccessful in the end. Evidence from their time there is all over the island.

There are incredible views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge around the backside of the island so be sure to go outside. If you’re listening to the audio tour it will take you out there.

Golden Gate Bridge

The hills at Alcatraz are no joke but if you have mobility issues there is a tram that will take you to the top of the island where the main prison is. Once at the top, the prison is easy to get around so as long as you can get on and off the ferry and can walk (ride or roll) around on flat surfaces you can enjoy Alcatraz.

Golden Gate Bridge

Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge is so cool and totally worth the $7 toll. At least once. We also stopped near the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center to get a closer view. We were hoping to grab some of the rentable bikes to ride across the bridge but they were all in use.

Muir Woods National Monument

I was surprised to find that Muir Woods National Monument is basically in the middle of the city. They have limited parking so if you want to park on site you have to make a reservation. The other option is to take a shuttle into the park. We made parking reservations for first thing in the morning and I’m glad we did. There were few people in the park and it was still very peaceful.

The canopy is dense and it was chilly! Be sure to bring warm clothes. One kid was in shorts and sandals so we didn’t stay terribly long. We walked the trails that bordered the stream and it made for a lovely morning walk. I would loved to have taken one of the trails that takes you above the tree line. Next time.

Walking through the redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument

Point Reyes National Seashore

After leaving Muir Woods we headed up the Pacific Coast Highway/Highway 1 to visit Point Reyes National Seashore. This was my first time on the PCH and holy moly is it narrow and windy. There are some great spots to stop and take pictures though.

There is a lot to do in Point Reyes but it’s pretty spread out. At the advice of a ranger we headed to Drakes Beach. Wowza…it is gorgeous.

Drakes Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore

There is a small gift shop that sells food and coffee and we were so thankful. It was cold and windy so we grabbed warm drinks before heading to the shore.

We spent sometime walking along the beach looking at all the neat rocks, shells and crabs.

We stopped at the Cypress Tree Tunnel on our way out of the park to take a walk through the trees. It was a beautiful walk, albeit people were illegally flying drones through the tunnel.

Cypress Tree Tunnel

We stopped by the Inverness Store to buy peanut butter because we left our jar at the campground. The store is rather pricey so I would advise not leaving your lunch at the campground. Since we were there we took the short walk behind the store to see the shipwreck.

Shipwreck, Point Reyes National Seashore

San Francisco North KOA

We stayed at the San Francisco North KOA and it is one of the better campgrounds we’ve stayed at. First of all, and most importantly, they have an awesome game room! We had a blast playing air hockey, teaching the kids to play pool, and setting high scores on the arcade games.

The park is huge and there is tons to do, particularly if you have kids. Every evening they had a train or wagon ride go though the park around dusk. They were bumping kids music and everyone looked to be having a ball. We had a back-in spot in the Redwood Grove Area and it was awesome. I would definitely stay in this spot and campground again.

Tips for Visiting San Francisco

Have a big ‘ole dose of patience with you. I am not use to big city driving which includes leaving extra, extra early to account for the seemingly never ending traffic jams. I have friends from the Bay Area and they know how to get around this so maybe next time I will go with one of them.

Make reservations in advance for all the activities you are interested in to avoid missing out. For us that included booking ferry tickets to Alcatraz and a parking pass for Muir Woods. There really is so much to do and is was neat to see some of the iconic San Francisco destinations.

After San Francisco we made our way back to Arizona but not before stopping at my favorite bakery in L.A., Erin McKenna’s.

Box of goodies from Erin KcKenna’s Bakery

If you missed the other posts from this trip check out:

Highway 395 in California

Lake Tahoe

Rainbow Rim Trail

I have been waiting to ride the Rainbow Rim Trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon for years. We finally made it happen and had the best time. The Husband and I left the kids at home and headed north for a long weekend. It was just the two of us, the camper, and our bikes. ❤️

Rainbow Rim Trail

The Rainbow Rim Trail is a 22.6 mile trail on the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. The trail is not in the national park but rather on Forest Service land right next to the park. The trail is open to hikers, horses and bikes but I think it sees bike traffic the most.

The Kaibab Plateau, where the North Rim is located, had a wet winter and it was still snowing the week before we arrived. I was freaking out a little bit because the trail is 20 miles down a dirt road and the ranger station was unsure of the road and trail conditions even the day before we arrived. They told us to stop by the station on our way to the trail and they would hopefully be able to give us a better report. When we stopped at the ranger station, as they told us to do, they referred us to the North Rim Country Store because they know the trail conditions better. Um, what? The Country Store is right across the street from the turn off to the Rainbow Rim so it wasn’t out of the way and it ended up being a great stop. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly and did indeed know the road conditions. One of the employees pulled out a big map, showed us a few things, and answered all the questions the ranger station was not able to. It still seems strange that the ranger station was less knowledgeable but whatever. The Country Store also has a coffee trailer and they make the best latte’s. Seriously. If you are headed to the North Rim be sure to stop in the North Rim Country Store and give them some love. They’re good people.

We planned our trip for early June and due to scheduled kid activities and vacation days at work changing the dates was not possible. We had everything necessary to live off the grid for a few days, so we figured we’d make the best of it and see what happened. Fortunately, the weather was perfect, the roads were mostly dry, the trail was dry, and we had the best camping spot.

The trail winds up through the forest and back down along the rim. The rim views are gorgeous but you spend a lot of time in the forest. I actually enjoyed riding through the forest more than along the rim. The aspen trees were just getting their leaves, the pine trees were huge, and the wildflowers were just starting to bloom. It was absolutely gorgeous.

I was surprised by the size of the size of the trees in this area. There were a few times I felt like I was riding amongst the redwoods. This particular tree was so tall we couldn’t get the entire thing in a picture. Every time we rode by it we stopped to take in its grandeur. Our itty bitty bikes are at the bottom to help with the size reference.

The trail is not hard, but it is at 7,500 feet, there is some exposure, and the grade is a tad steep in some areas. The first day we rode I was questioning my life choices until I adjusted to the higher elevation. I may or may not have stomped off the trail on day 1 thanks to items 1 and 3 mentioned above. Fortunately, after taking a break and eating a snack I regained my sanity and got back on my bike. Days 2 and 3 were much more enjoyable.

The clouds were constantly rolling in and out and we were continually treated to incredible scenes.

One afternoon a rainstorm rolled in so we decided to hop in the car and head to the Grand Canyon National Park North Rim.

If you don’t get a sign picture did the trip really happen?

Our first stop in the park was a coffee shop because it was cold and there is something wonderful about drinking coffee and staring at the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon Lodge has a lovey patio with Adirondack chairs and high top tables perfectly positioned so you can relax and stare off into the canyon. There is also cell phone signal in this exact location so we able to check in with the family which was a bonus.

From this spot you can see Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim as well as the San Francisco Peaks near Flagstaff. It’s pretty incredible.

North Rim of the Grand Canyon looking south

After spending a few days basically by ourselves in the forest, all the people and tour buses at the North Rim were getting to us so we retreated for the car and headed back to our little slice of heaven in the forest.

Home sweet home

One of the things I love about the Grand Canyon is that every time you look at it it looks different. Sunrise and sunset are particularly beautiful and we walked to the rim, which was 10 steps one direction and probably 50 in another, every chance we had.

I had the best tacos of my life on this trip. They weren’t anything different than what we eat at home but they tasted 1,000 times better. Mountain biking + high elevation + camping + gorgeous dinner views = amazing tacos.

We were gifted a very nice bottle of wine and brought it with us. We’ve been saving it for a special occasion and decided this fit the bill. And then we proceeded to drink it out of plastic cups. #classy

We had the best time camping and riding the Rainbow Rim. This trip definitely tops my list of favorite trips and we will be back. If you like mountain biking, camping, and gorgeous views I’d recommend adding the Rainbow Rim to your bucket list.

Fall Break in Sedona

When I started this blog I wanted to give a voice to the less popular national parks and to write about family friendly activities. It’s easy to find information on the most popular parks but that’s not always the case for the smaller parks. I kept running into this issue when planning and decided to do my part to build out the content. What I did not expect is the joy I would get in looking back and reading about our trips. As time goes on memories fade. I am so glad I decided to start this blog to capture some of our memories in written form. Now, my blog is part for the world and part for me. This post, however, is all for me because I want to remember the last several days forever. (I wrote this post mid-October and never got around to hitting post. I’m not changing anything because I like the way it was written.) Read more

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Great Basin National Park

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Glacier National Park

Summer is here and we just completed another road trip through this incredible country we call home. This summer we drove a little farther than normal – from Southern Arizona all the way to Northern Montana. It was a looonnnggg drive and the highways through Nevada and much of Idaho are crazy straight. A drive I definitely wouldn’t want to do alone. We learned a lot and had a lot of firsts. First time driving for three days in a row. (It was painfully long.) First time camping for two weeks straight. First time living out of a cooler for two weeks. (We didn’t realize we’d need an ice budget.) Once I finish recapping the trip I’ll write up our lessons learned. Read more

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