California Dreaming: Treehugger Heaven

Hello there!  I’m back and I’m ecstatic to say that our trip to California was amazing!  Honestly, it feels like a dream.

I’ve been meaning to take some time to journal about our trip so that I don’t forget a single part of it – but I also wanted to come here and share some pictures.  So, I plan on writing a series of posts about our 10 day trip in an effort to kill 2 birds with one stone.  That being said, these posts are sure to be lengthy, so you might want to grab yourself a snack & a beverage – go ahead, I’ll wait :)

For now, I’ll just be sharing a small fraction of our pictures.  We snapped a ridiculous 2,665 pictures – but I have yet to pare those down to a more reasonable reasonable number.  This blog post is undoubtedly a not-so-subconscious exercise in procrastination.  But nevermind that…let’s get started!

First up, we flew from Baltimore to Dallas/Fort Worth to Sacramento.  I can never resist the urge to take pics of the fluffy clouds:

Air shot

We actually had a bit of a scare on our second flight.  About 20 minutes prior to landing, the pilot announced that the system was indicating a malfunction with our hydraulics, but he felt everything would be fine.  Umm, yikes.  Then he came on again to say that the system was indicating TWO malfunctions so, just as a precaution, emergency crews would be waiting for us on the runway.  Double yikes.  Then the flight attendants came around and made sure we all reviewed how to brace for impact, again, just as a precaution.  Infinity yikes!

Good news: we survived!  Firetrucks did meet us on the runway, and we couldn’t taxi until they said the coast was clear:

Firetruck from plane

I didn’t start snapping pics until the firefighters got back in the truck and the coast seemed clear. And no, we didn’t get to use the emergency slides. Bummer, I know.

We landed around 7:30 PST (10:30 according to our East Coast bodies).  After grabbing our luggage and picking up our rental car (a Mustang Convertible #bestdecisionever!) – we didn’t get to dinner until close to 9.  We continued a tradition that we started on our trip to Michigan: sushi on the first night.  Unfortunately, my anxiety/exhaustion caught up with me, so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would’ve liked.

Around 10 PM, we started an hour and a half drive to Murphys California.  What’s in Murphys, you wonder?  The quick answer is “wine” – but that’s not what lured us there.  A friend of our’s who is originally from California highly recommended going to Calaveras Big Trees State Park which is about 20 minutes north of Murphys.  So, we figured we’d knock the drive out that night so that our first full day in California could be all about the big trees.

Mission accomplished:

Giant Sequoia, Calaveras Big Trees State Partk

This park was amazing: the forest was FULL of giant sequoia’s that you were able (and encouraged) to get up close and personal to.  We got there around 10 in the morning, so the sunlight was streaming through these majestic giants in a way that I can only describe as magical.  Plus, specs of pollen and (lots of) ladybugs were flying through the air, reflecting the sunlight and making it all even more mystical.

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

All my life I’ve been both a metaphorical and literal treehugger.  I went to California planning to wrap my arms as far around these massive trees as I could, sharing as much positive and grateful energy as I could muster.  I got to hug SO many trees…and every single one hugged me right back! :)

Hugging a giant Sequoia, Calaveras Big Trees State Partk

The Giant Sequoia’s … incredible.

I’m SO thankful our friend recommended this park to us – we only had time to do the North loop, but we made the most of it by savoring every moment.

Walking among giants

Pictures just don’t seem to do any of this justice!

Fallen Sequoia

We learned that a fallen Sequoia serves as a “planter box” for new plants to grow.  They also make good seats.

Looking up at a giant Sequoia

In addition to Sequoia’s, there were also Ponderosa & Sugar pines.  Check out how massive the Sugar pinecones are:

Sugar pinecone

While Sugar pines are very TALL trees, they’re still not as tall as Sequoia’s.  Yet, ironically, Sequoia’s have much smaller pinecones:

Sugar pinecones

A Sequoia pinecone



After taking close to 400 pictures (I’m not kidding, I just checked) – we left to grab lunch and lunch supplies for the week.  From Calaveras we were heading about 80 miles down to Yosemite National Park, where we’d be staying IN Yosemite Valley (in a tent cabin!) for 3 nights.

But, we couldn’t quite leave this area of California without doing a little wine tasting first.  So, we picked a winery at random: Twisted Oak Winery.  They are definitely NOT a traditional winery (one of their wines is named “*%#&@!”) – but the wines were good, the atmosphere was fun (lots of laughter) and the views weren’t too shabby either:

Beautiful Calaveras County countrysideAfter getting some tips on must-do hikes in Yosemite, we purchased some wine and hit the road through beautiful rolling hills of golden grass dotted with dark green trees & shrubs. As we neared the entrance to Yosemite, the landscape changed, and we started to climb a windy road up a lush green mountain. I wish I had gotten a better picture, but there weren’t any good spots to pull over & Paul was having a little too much fun with the Mustang…

Windy mountain road

At just around 8PM, we reached the North entrance to Yosemite National Park. Then it was another 18 or so miles down to Yosemite Valley. Despite evidence of forest fires, the drive down toward the valley was beautiful, especially as the moon rose over the surrounding mountains.

The rising moon

Then, we stopped at a pull off, and saw our first glimpse of one of Yosemite’s most distinct features: Half Dome.

Our first glimpse of Half Dome

We also saw 3 waterfalls on our way in, but at that point we weren’t sure which ones they were nor did we stop to investigate as we were eager to get checked in before dark.  Even so, it was just before 9 PM that we got on the long check-in line for our tent cabin in Camp Curry.

Camp Curry

It was still somewhat light while we were waiting on line, but night fell by the time we were done checking in. That’s when I took this picture.

More on Curry Village, our tent cabin & our Yosemite adventures in my next California Dreaming post. I hope you come along and enjoy this virtual vacation with me :)


6 thoughts on “California Dreaming: Treehugger Heaven

  1. Did you have a panic attack on the plane? I would’ve! It’s good you weren’t alone for that. I’m so glad you’re okay!

    You guys had a lot going on your first nite. oof!

    THE TREES!!!! I cannot wrap my head around how huge they are. Did you guys do any reading/learning about them? Were there info signs?

    I cannot wait to hear more! Tell us everything!! :)

    • I definitely had to do some deep breathing on the plane and then had a bit of an adrenaline boost….partially because we “survived” and partially b/c “we’re finally in California!!!!”
      The trees are mindblowing. You feel like you’re wandering through a prehistoric woods where everything is larger, and at moment you might round the bend and see a dinosaur. Sequoias fill me with wonder and gratitude.
      There were some interesting signs, and we DID take pictures of them. We actually went to 3 other Sequoia groves, so I think in the end I might do a post of my most favorite tree pictures – so I’d try to include the sign pics there.
      Thanks for reading! I was inspired to do this after reading (& thoroughly enjoying) your Germany posts :)

  2. I loved the pics on Instagram but the stories behind some of them here on your blog give them more depth!

    Can’t wait to read more (or hear more at our next family gathering).

    Love to you & Paul,
    Uncle Jer

    • Hi Uncle Jerry! Thanks SO much for stopping by – I had know idea you knew about this little corner of mine.
      I’m so happy to share all of these details…it’s nice to sit and recall everything now that we’re back to the grind of real life :P
      Looking forward to seeing you on the 4th – and sharing more stories then :)
      Love you!

  3. Pingback: California Dreaming: Saying Goodbye to Yosemite | Amy's Sandblog

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