We left Nicolaus and made the drive north to Paradise, CA. We were excited to visit Paradise because we were going to visit Sara, a former coworker of mine from my teaching days in Charlottesville, VA. Sara and I last saw each other twelve years ago.
The Elks Lodge was almost full and was a nice place to stay with full hookup sites. After settling in we met Sara and her family to attend Sara’s daughter’s violin recital. Lucy played ten pieces she had memorized. She is so talented and it was amazing for someone her age to memorize so many pieces.
The next day we went on a hike on Table Mountain in nearby Oroville. It was a great day that included waterfalls, beautiful wildflowers and even some kite flying!
We finished the day at Sara’s house where her husband Ross showed us his excellent barbecuing skills! One of the many wonderful thing about this lifestyle is being able to catch up with dear friends around the country. Thank you so much Sara, Ross, John, Lucy, Oliver and Franki! We can’t wait to see you again down the road!
Our next stop as we continued north was Weed, CA. After almost three months in California, this was our last stop before crossing over into Oregon. As we traveled north we were excited to see Mount Shasta in the distance.
We were last in Weed in the fall of 2014. A week after we left, a catastrophic wildfire burned hundreds of acres and destroyed more than 150 structures including 140 homes, two churches, the library and community center. But most important, no lives were lost. It has been a long recovery for the town and we were told many people took the insurance money and left instead of rebuilding.
We settled into our campsite with an amazing view of Mount Shasta, elevation 14,179 feet.
Last time we were here was in September and most of the snow on Mount Shasta had melted. This time was very different. Mount Shasta has seven named glaciers.
One day we drove up Mount Shasta but discovered the upper road was still blocked by snow. We still managed to go up almost 7,000 feet. Last time we were here we were able to drive all the way up to the Alpine Lodge.
We stopped throughout the day to find many geocaches. One geocache took us to the headwaters of the Sacramento River. A really neat and unexpected place which reminded us of the headwaters of the Mississippi River we visited last summer at Itasca State Park in Minnesota.
At one point on a beautiful pedestrian bridge a man stopped to ask Bill if he needed any help since Bill appeared to be searching for something lost. Bill decided to take the opportunity to introduce him to geocaching. He thought it was pretty cool.
Leaving the Hollister area we drove to the town of Lodi for a stay at the Elks Lodge. Lodi is a major wine producing region with more than 80 wineries located in the area. The town has nicknamed itself the “Zinfandel Capital of the World”. We enjoyed doing some geocaching and found the people to be very friendly.
Beside the road was this exchange library where we found a geocache hide
Next up was the town of Nicolaus about thirty miles from Sacramento, the capital of California. Even though we drove on major highways, the roads were really rough in some places. California really needs to spend some money repairing their roads!
On Saturday we drove into Sacramento to visit the state capitol building. It is our quest to visit every capitol building in the country. I will start with the bad comments first. You may have heard on the news that California has an alarming number of homeless people living on the streets. That fact was very evident in Sacramento. I am not usually frightened by this, but in Sacramento wherever we were there seemed to be several people arguing loudly, cursing, and in one instance approached me for money. It is common to see people wandering the streets with suitcases or carts with all their belongings or sleeping along the roads and in parks. In and around the city, bathrooms in restaurants and stores are locked and you must ask to use the facilities. Their situation is very sad, very disturbing and a little frightening.
California has a lovely state capitol building and we took their tour with an exceptional tour guide.
He clearly loves his job. California became the 31st state in 1850 and construction on the capitol building began in 1860 and concluded in 1874. Sacramento was chosen as the capital during the gold rush era because it was located near the highly populated gold rush areas. The capitol is modeled after the U. S. capitol building and has a beautiful 120 foot high rotunda.
A page boy, Queen Isabella and Christopher Columbus
We loved the statue of Ronald Reagan and seeing the legislative chambers.
George Washington portrait overlooking the State Senators
We heard an interesting story about the portrait of former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He had the portrait commissioned by an artist in Austria, his birth country. The artist chose not to give it an ornate frame or nameplate like the portraits of other past governors and it was hung that way. Not having a nameplate may not be a problem now, but 100 years from now will people recognize the governor without a nameplate?
We went into the gift shop and this bumper sticker caught my eye.
The capitol building is located on a 40 acre park. We always look for the Liberty Bell located at all state capitals.
Next we visited nearby Old Sacramento, a four block area that was the city’s commercial district during the gold rush era and pony express.
The area has cobblestone streets and wooden walkways which give it a feeling of yesteryear. It is very much a tourist area today with restaurants, souvenir shops, carriage rides, paddle boat tours and train rides. We visited the Wells Fargo History Museum.
The Sacramento River is crossed by this yellow bridge
Watch their train here:
We finished the day at Sutter Fort State Historic Park, site of the first European outpost in California.
It was established by Swiss immigrant John Sutter with a land grant from the Mexican government and was known as New Switzerland.
After the discovery of gold the land were taken from Sutter by prospectors. We were surprised to find that the original structures were made by men from Hawaii.
On Monday we made the long drive from Nicolaus to visit Donner Memorial State Park. In order to get there we had to drive over Donner Pass using I-80 and the Lincoln Highway, elevation 7,227.
The snow was beautiful on this bright sunny day.
The state park had a very nice visitors center with displays and a movie about the Donner party, a group of pioneers who set out from Missouri for California in May 1846 in a wagon train.
The trip usually took four to six months, but due to mishaps and bad decisions they found themselves snowbound in the Sierra Nevada Mountains during the winter of 1846-1947, a record breaking snowy winter.
Of the original 87 pioneers, only 48 survived. It is one of the most famous and tragic tales of pioneer journeys, which included cannibalism to survive.
On the state park grounds is a monument to the Donner party.
Next stop: Paradise, CA to see a former co-worker from my teaching days
We left the Hollister area and traveled toward Yosemite National Park. Along the way we passed through more of the California Central Valley agricultural area with fields of crops, pistachio trees, strawberries, many vineyards, sheep and dairy farms with large cattle pens. After stopping for fuel and supplies and dealing with rough roads and steep, curvy mountain passes we pulled into the Mariposa County Fairgrounds. A long day!
When we last visited Yosemite National Park in September, 2014 we stayed in a campground west of the park which required taking the RV up a very steep curvy road. We chose not to do that again and instead stayed in Mariposa about an hour from Yosemite. Also since the park is at a higher elevation, it is colder in Yosemite with the forecast of snow one night and temperatures in the twenties and thirties.
Our main reason for visiting now was to see the many waterfalls in the park. When we were there the last time, all the waterfalls had dried up from the summer heat and California drought. We were determined to see the waterfalls this time. Ideally it would have been better to wait until May since some of the roads and trails were still closed from the winter snows. But April was the best time for our 2018 travel plans. Another benefit of visiting in April is a lack of tourist traffic and crowds.
It was a little over an hour drive to the park but two road construction delays made the drive longer. It took us all day to drive around the park, stopping often to gaze in awe at the waterfalls and of course take pictures. The recent rains and spring thaws were obvious as we saw high water levels white rapids and gushing waterfalls. Beautiful!
Our favorite waterfall is Yosemite Falls, which has a drop of 2,425 feet and is the tallest waterfall in the United States. The following pictures are taken of the upper and lower Yosemite Falls.
No visit is complete without pictures of El Capitan and Half Dome, both famous Yosemite rock climbing landmarks.
We also watched again the movie about the park at the Visitors Center and took a hike to the amazing grand view of Yosemite Falls. We were able to catch the park shuttle bus back to the car.
Here are several other waterfalls for your enjoyment.
Yosemite is an amazingly beautiful place and I am sure we will return again someday.
After leaving Mariposa we will continue to make our way through northern California on our way to Seattle.