For our next trip, things will be a little different: this time Cedric is on vacation, so he will be with us the whole time. As usual, it starts with a trip to the storage to leave our stuff.
Saturday morning we start with breakfast at Milo Cafe, our favorite coffee place on North Lake in Pasadena. Then driving North to Bakersfield, the next big city on the way. We stop at an Indian place, we love Indian food but sometimes the cream (lactose) it’s not such a great idea for Basile and Cedric…We stop in Porterville for groceries, more difficult to find organic products in stores when out of big cities, even though we are in the middle of farmlands. As we turn to the mountain side, we see the beautiful panorama. The grass is yellow and shows a nice contrast with the green trees and the mountains.
Lake success is close to our final destination. They are having a racing boat competition. Funny to see those V8 engines uncovered and with free exhaust! On the lake they also rent funny boats, like a bicycle boat or this “party boat” with 2 storey and a slide to jump in the water.
We end up at our BnB in Springville, in a nice neighbourhood in the middle of orange trees, there are horses and goats, we even see some deers ! The place is small and made to look like in the 1800s. They have great antiques and a lot of funny things from the old times when this was place was all about mining and ranching. The funniest though is that we learn they bought a lot of those antiques… in Pasadena!
As it’s not really late yet, we’re going to Springville city center. They have a park, which is very important for Olivine and Basile ! There’s also a couple of cafes and boutiques, we have dinner at the Mexican restaurant.
We are just outside Sequoia National Park, it’s a bit of a ride to get to the huge trees, but what a beautiful ride though! The mountain road gets us to see some waterfalls, a lot of different trees, birds, squirrels, but also cows that are free in the park!
We park in a campground near the trail of 100 giants; some people have come here with very special pedal vehicules! It is difficult to capture the gigantic trees with a camera, the views are spectacular. Some of the trees have fallen and show their huge roots. Some have assembled together
On the way back we are stopped by some cowboys and cowgirls moving cattle to different pastures, spectacular!
The road back to our BnB is beautiful, with a lot of different panoramas from the mountainside to the pastures and little villages.
We didn’t want to go as far for the next day, so we went to Camp Wishon, but that wasn’t such a great idea: we get attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes, and there’s not so much to see around.
On the way back we find a trail that is just on the outside of Sequoia, it’s SciCon, a place for schools to bring kids for camps about nature. It’s a very nice setup, with trails, places for conferences, The person is nice enough to let us go in, we’re alone in the park and follow a beautiful trail.
We stop again at the Springville park, the kids love this place and play without stopping despite the slamming temperature.
It’s now time to leave Sequoia for Yosemite; we have decided that we would have more activities for Olivine and Basile. As we stop to take some pictures of the beautiful fields of yellow grass, we meet Phil and his dog. He explains that the local agriculture is shifting from traditional farming and ranching to orchards and groves for nuts, which consume a lot of water. The water problem is becoming real here, as the waste is incredible and general public starts to be concerned, we see signs along the freeway.
We stop in Visalia for the Adventure Park, but it opens at 11, so we go to the local library, they have a lot of books for kids. The park is a lot of fun, they have a 3 hour unlimited pass, and there’s not that many kids today! It’s very hot, and the bumper boats with their water cannons are refreshing. There’s also a baseball machine, Olivine and Basile get batts and helmets and try to beat the ball. Basile get to drive on a nice go kart circuit, he will not forget that!
Next stop is Bravo Farms, a farm shop that is also a stop on the highway. They have made a nice little petting zoo with a donkey, some goats, some chicken, it’s all very fun. There is a big shop where you can see the cheese factory, and a lot of products from their farm and others.
Almost no organic products there (I found a couple of tea bags…) and not too many healthy options, as in a lot of places around: it is sad, in this region that produces so much food (said to be the “bread basket of the world”) to sometimes feel it’s difficult to find food that is not harmful, a lot of over processed products with a lot of ingredients you don’t really want. So we have another stop for groceries at Whole Foods, like LA hipsters, and get us some nice salads at the salad bar. We’ll have a nice picnic on the way. Last leg of our trip to the campground is spectacular, we cross a beautiful valley as the sun goes down. We arrive at our tiny house, everybody goes to bed after such a great day.
It’s another 2 hours drive from our campground to get to the Yosemite Valley, and again a spectacular ride in the mountain, stopping to see the valleys and the waterfalls. The park itself is already very busy: a lot of people camp inside, or stay in the lodges, everything is full. There’s also a lot of busses with tourists coming from all around the world. It is very successful and welcomes about 3 million people a year.
It’s all well organised with nice access roads, a bus shuttle to connect the trails and the campground, but it’s already very crowded; feels weird to be stuck in a bus as at rush hour in the city, while being in such a place! It must be something in August when temperature is much higher and there’s even more tourists. We finish our visit at the museum, where we can see how volcanoes formed the mountains, the people and animals that have lived there. The trip back to the campground is beautiful and the kids still have a lot of energy to play with the other kids!
The manager of the Yosemite Westlake Campground told us about Carlon Falls, a nice trail on the side of the West park that ends with some nice waterfalls. Those falls are said to be some of the nicest in the region. It’s a beautiful hike along the river, with a lot of burnt sequoias : there’s been a big fire in 2013 that spread over 100 km2. Olivine is walking fast, as I’m running to get back to her I’m overtaking a couple that say ‘that’s your daughter? she’s on fire!” There’s a little climb and at the top we can enjoy a flat place where we can put our feet in the fresh water! It’s a popular place.
On the way back we decide to stop in Coulterville, the closest little city. We have some drinks at the local cafe and walk around up to the museum before going back to the campground where Olivine and Basile play with other kids. There’s a farm stand in an old barn on the way, we stop to buy some vegetables.
On AllTrails we have found a little hike very close to the campground, that ends with some waterfalls. The campground manager said it would less cold and that we could even swim there. It’s a place for the locals, there’s no sign on the road for the trail and the parking space is pretty rough. We are first on the trail and after less than two miles we arrive in this little piece of paradise: beautiful falls with the mountain around, lot of butterflies, bees and dragonflies. The dragonflies are fighting in impressive choreographies, red vs silver blue.
We have lunch at a local restaurant and head back to the campground, this time Olvine and Basile don’t have kids to play with, but they decide to build a bridge… so they pick wood around and after a couple hours come back as dirty as if they were miners! That night we see one of the biggest camper trailer we’ve ever seen, driven by a man in his 80s, still don’t understand how he managed to get it in the camping space!
After this great time in Yosemite, we take the road to some place half way to Monterey, Santa Nella. Along the road we have found some funny things to do: first stop is at Splash-n-Dash, a water park that is in a lake… great idea! Olivine and Basile truly loved it. There were 88 cheerleaders at the same session!
After two hours of playing, we have to find food! We stop at a Mexican restaurant in Snelling, it’s not even on Google Maps. There’s a pool there, and as the kids want to understand how it works, we have a try at it. We cross California from East to West in that part that is all about agriculture. We see some cows pasturing in some beautiful panoramas, but we also see some industrial farms, cattle in bad condition, old gear, lot of water pipelines to bring water to the crops, sprinklers everywhere in full day, even a plane used for pesticides… pretty sad. We stop in Merced, just to have a coffee, visit the local music store and some antiques shop. The kids start to like them as there’s pretty much always cheap used toys there. They have a half-mile race in town that night, we see some of the cars getting ready. As we’re getting out of the city, we have a quick stop to catch some tractor pictures.
On the last leg of the trip, we stop in a beautiful reserve where there are birds and animals; when we go back to the car, a huge snake is under the car! It gets in the engine compartment and as Cedric start the engines and moves the car to make it go away, it moves to the wheel and get stuck in the rim… another couple of miles and we get in Santa Nella, the sun is going down over the little city that is essentially a truck stop. It was an old dream for Cedric to take some pictures of those trucks that he had as posters on his bedroom walls when he was a kid.
There’s a funny German restaurant near our hotel and we have our breakfast there, they have a great split pea soup that is now a favorite for Basile! Next part of the ride is to reach the Pacific Coast, we go straight to Elkhorn, it’s all very gray and cold that day. After a very nice Thai restaurant, we go for some kayaking on the river to see the sea otters and seals around, first time for the kids and a lot of fun!
Monterey! When we went to San Francisco, we had a short stop in Monterey and we really enjoyed it, so we decided this time to stay a whole day. We start with Happy Girl Cafe, a place that makes a crazy gluten-free bread with a lot of nuts… delicious! The cartoonist who invented Dennis the Menace has offered the city a big park for kids, great spot for Olivine and Basile. We visit the old city and go back to the beach, at some point we cross path with deers in the middle of the street!
We start our trip with a stop at the Laguna Seca circuit, that you can find in a lot of car games! Then in Monterey, we take the 17 Mile toll road along the coast that goes to Camel by the Sea, with gorgeous views. Still early, but the kids already go to dig in the sand. Highway 1 is said to be one of the most beautiful views in the world, except obviously when there is fog! It’s called June Gloom, we had a lot of it, and except from lunch time in Big Sur and a very nice hike (Buzzards Roost Trail), we haven’t seen much of the ocean! We were lucky when we came last November.
We stopped again at the place where a lot of sea lions take a nap; and finally we get to San Simeon and have dinner at a very nice Mexican restaurant with a beautiful garden and paintings made by the owner.
We have spotted on the map Cambria, a nice little town next to our hotel, so we decide to go there for breakfast. It’s a nice little city with a lot of retired people and some cool shops and restaurant. As Basile has found a nice hot rod on the parking lot, its owner comes and offer him to get at the wheel. It’s a Ford from 1928 with a Mustang V8 and a nice stereo, really cool! Then we go to the beach, it is beautiful and there’s not much people around. Back in the little city center for lunch, there’s a nice organic grocery store with a deli that prepares salads and sandwiches. Next stop is Morro Bay, there’s a big rock that looks like an ice cream with chocolate drips. From the beach we see dolphins.
When we passed by Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo on our way back from San Francisco, we found the panorama to be really nice, so this time we decided to spend more time around there.
San Luis Obispo is a nice city. The old town has a lot of nice shops and restaurants, there are people cycling, nice trees, great vibe. There’s a boutique garage specialised in old British cars, they have some rarities. We visit the mission which has been nicely restored. We go back to the beach but it’s all cold and windy, so we go back to the hotel as the kids love the pool. We stop on the way at the Madonna Inn, a very original hotel right by. On that night there’s the farmer’s market, every Thursday evening the main street is closed and stands from farmers and restaurants sell food, there’s also artists playing music and doing shows, really nice ambiance.
It’s a 2 hours drive to Pine Mountain Club where we’ll have our last stop. It’s a nice ride across the country side, we stop for an early lunch at the Cuyama Buckhorn, a very nice coffee in the middle of nowhere.
As we climb the mountain we see signs for the bears, which is a special thing here; our arrival at the BnB starts with a 15 min brief about the bear alarms at the windows, never forgetting to close the car, never letting food, and if the bears get in the house just go outside…! The owner is really nice, she works in Pasadena (!) but remotely and go there only a couple days a month. We start with a little hike that climbs to a nice little waterfall.
There’s a nice trail to get on top of Mount Pinos that is 30 min away from our BnB. It’s not too steep and there’s a beautiful view of the valley at the top, and there’s still some snow!
On that day in the club village there’s an open door at the equestrian center. There is a pet zoo and pony rides. Horses here have a nice view!
We go back to our BnB to enjoy the view on the mountain while Olivine and Basile play with Chester the dog.
Now time to head back to LA! This week we’ll stay in Santa Monica, so we go back to the storage in Pasadena to pick some stuff and head to the West Side and the Ocean!
Those vacations were amazing, it was the first time ever we spent 2 full weeks together. The experiences and the panoramas were difficult to catch with a camera, but we hope you enjoy this little story and the pictures.