The Wild, Wild West (Part 2. Napa Valley, SF, Chowchilla, Yosemite Park, Sequoia National Park, Mojave Desert)

Day 8:  Friday, August 11

NAPA VALLEY, Napa County

Known for its wine industry.  Part of the Wine Country, a region of Northern California known world-wide as a premium wine-growing region since 1838. Napa Valley in Napa County features more than two hundred wineries and grows many different grape varieties including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel and other popular varietals.

someday, i too, shall dine in there

The French Laundry... someday, I too, shall dine here

Pretty landscape. Pretty vineyards.  The grapevines were drooping to the ground because of the bunches of grapes. We stayed only for a short while.  As usual, the trip going there took longer.  So I had no chance to really explore the place. One of the reasons we went there was because my aunt who likes wine wanted to do some wine tasting. And she wanted to have her picture taken beside this saucy restaurant where you had to make reservations for thousand-dollar-dinners for at least a year in advance.

Day 9:  Saturday, August 12

MY COUSIN’S WEDDING in SF

The mass took place at noon.  It was such a simple, earnest, and heartfelt ceremony. After the ceremony, the guests return to their hotel to freshen up, eat lunch, rest a bit, while the entourage and the newlyweds had their pictures taken.  We ate lunch at Denny’s.  My lunch consisted of giant pancakes swimming in butter and syrup.  We took a little walk at the plaza of the Japanese community.  There was a fair and there were stalls selling kitschy stuff, bracelets, home decors, figurines, bags…

The reception was in the evening.  Just like the mass, the reception was simple and delightful.  The best man and the maid of honor gave such sincere, lovely speeches, the guests were laughing and probably crying at the same time. So many cousins.  Beautiful wedding!

Day 10:  Sunday, August 13

CHOWCHILLA

Hey, it’s the Brady Bunch! Haha. Nope. Just the family reunion.  With the Hawaiian theme.  So many people. Am I really related to all of them?

And so another adventure begins. With a different group this time– My dad’s side of the family.  We stayed at the Chowchilla Inn for the night.  There were 11 of us in all going on a cross country tour the next day.

Day 11:  Monday, August 14

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK the Second time around

FAST FACTS: I just can’t get enough of everything I’ve seen and gone to.

in this green where elves and faires i have seen

...in this green where elves and faires i have seen...

Established on October 1, 1890; the nation’s third oldest national park. It is a showcase of spectacular geological features, including the greatest concentration of granite domes in the world and the largest exposed granite monolith in the world.  The area’s first residents were Native Americans who inhabited the region perhaps as long ago as 7000 to 10000 years.  Various tribes lived in the area over the years, the most recent of which was a Miwok tribe that called Yosemite Valley Ahwahnee which is believed to mean, “place of the gaping mouth”.

the grizzly giant greets its guests

The Grizzly Giant Greets it Guests

It was love at second sight with the Sequoias. Majestic.  Magical.

TRIVIA:  Giant Sequoias are the most massive trees in the world and are one of the tallest and longest-lived.  The Mariposa Grove’s Grizzly Giant is 2,700 years old and is thought to be the oldest of all Sequoias. Coast Redwoods that live along the Northern Californian Coast are the tallest and the Great Basin Bristlecone Pine of Eastern California are the oldest.

Isn’t this nice, yakking on and on, telling trivias and backgrounds of places we go to as if I’m a real expert…

 Day 12:  Tuesday, August 15

good morning worldDOWN BY THE CREEK BEHIND THE BUCKEYE TREE LODGE in the morning

Brrr. The water was freezing but it looked so clean! And those boulders!  Is everything here in America so big???

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK

FAST FACTS:  Located in the southern Sierra Nevada and spans 1,635 sq. km.  The park spans a broad range in elevation:  The Ash Mountain entrance is at 1700 feet while approximately 35 miles east, Mount Whitney attains 14,505 feet, the highest point in the continental USA.

kiss the skies

That's me in the purple sweater! sooo tiny!

FASTER FACTS:  Sequoias get so large because they grow fast over a long lifetime.  They live so long because they are resistant to many insects and diseases, and because they can survive most fires.  Sequoias do have a weakness – a shallow root system.  The main cause of death among mature sequoias is toppling.

Can’t get enough of sequoias.  When I wandered alone, I saw this sequoia with no fence around it.  Some sequoias, like the Giant Grizzly at Yosemite and General Sherman, like celebrities, are famous and cordoned to protect their roots from being disturbed by obnoxious tourist feet.  So, ignoring the fact that I, too, have obnoxious tourist feet, walked up to it and touched its beautiful red bark. What a thrill to behold such a mighty and ancient being.  Imagine, those trees have been on earth since the beginning of history in the western world.

Behold, the Largest Living Thing on Earth, the Majestic General Sherman in Sequoia National Park

Behold, the Largest Living Thing on Earth, the Majestic General Sherman in Sequoia National Park

TRIVIA:  Sequoias are adapted to fire.  The wood and bark are fire-resistant.  Their reproduction also depends on fire.  The tiny seeds require minimal soil for germination, and seedlings need sunlight.  Historically, frequent natural fires opened the forest, thinned out competing plant species and left rich mineral soil behind.  Now, prescribed fires, intended to simulate natural fires and improve the health of the forest are now set.

True to its name, the General Sherman Sequoia Tree stands like a sentinel of the earth; mighty, stately, and majestic as ever — withstanding harsh climatic changes, forest fires, insects, diseases, and even tourist feet disturbing their roots ( a pair of them mine) for over 2000 years.

I love how this shot is made even more significant with the contrasts it depicts:  The General’s reddish bark striking and brilliant against the lush, verdant surroundings; Its colossal size towering above the tiny specks that are its visitors; it’s strength and resilience stark against human frailty; and its age timeless against the mere fragment of time that we humans spend here on earth.

 NEEDLES

On our way to the Grand Canyon! We crossed the Mojave Desert in mid-afternoon. Not a good idea to be in the desert earlier than that. Stayed in Needles for the night at the America’s Best Value Inn. My hair became frizzy and my split ends even have their own split ends!

CROSSING THE MOJAVE DESERT

Just watching the scenery through the window of our van makes me want to reach for a bottle of ice cold Gatorade. And what large, dry region it is = 35,000 square kilometers!

(to be continued…)

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