Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Vacation Time - Revisited

As you might have noticed, my on-line activities have been slow in the last month, mostly due to summertime slump and vacation travels. From my occasional "woo-woo" debunking, I switched to my additional passions, which always have been: travel, hiking and outdoor photography (fortunately, they go together well). This year was slightly different, since it was the first time we went on an extended "exploration" trip with our 5 year old son. The "exploration" trip in our book means renting a car and going on an extended road trip from one hiking destination to another. Most of the time it also means extensive driving in between strenuous hikes. I was very worried how he would like the long walks, early days, strange hotels, and general lack of "quality" kids entertainment (Sponge Bob, for example), but I was very surprised to find out he loved it and he wanted more.
Our trip this year took us to Central and Southern California, a place I always wanted to visit, but never had a chance. We started in San Francisco, visited Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake surroundings (including Lone Pine), Death Valley National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, made a quick stop in Legoland, explored Los Angeles a bit, and finally hit Big Sur on our way back to San Francisco.
We traveled in a fairly large group (three families, with kids around the same age), so it made it easier, but our various hikes stand as a testament, that kids can be introduced to nature at a very early age. In Yosemite for example, we managed to hike to the top of the Nevada Falls (hike descriptions here and here), a trail not easy to accomplish for most of the city dwellers of much more advanced age.
In addition to hiking, we managed to see a few gems that were worth every minute.
First one was the Alcatraz Island, with its famous prison. I was worried that it would be boring for my son, but he loved it and even managed to walk the whole personal audio tour by himself.
The second one was an unforgettable night at the Death Valley Junction's Amargosa Opera House Hotel. According to the management, it is one of the most haunted places in America, which I would believe, if only I'd been able to see anything out of ordinary... nope... not me. I did not see, nor hear, nor feel anything weird, and I suspect it is just a marketing plot (surprise, surprise!!!). However, the history of the place, the setting,  and the Opera House itself with its amazing paintings is really something to see, so don't miss it when you are exploring the Death Valley and its surroundings.
Now, you can tell that I have been doing mostly image processing for the last few weeks, as I managed to stack up 5000 shots on my old, trusty Nikon, but that's what digital photography is all about: cheap volume and selection.