After our much needed rest at our hotel in Oakland, we woke up to enjoy our free continental breakfast. I’m not sure where the “continental” part of breakfast comes from for so many hotels, but I doubt it was supposed to mean what we had waiting for us. If I remember correctly, it was lot of fiber and sugar in the form of cereal, bread, muffins, and one of those all-too common “make your own waffle” machines. At any rate, it was food in our bellies.
Our itinerary for the day was kind of short, especially compared to the day before, but it did afford us a great chance to see the vastly different country-side that California has to offer. Where we started in the Oakland-San Francisco area was surrounded by lush green hills like those shown below.
As we made our way into the valley we were quickly surrounded by almond trees and pistachio trees by the thousands! I wish I had some good photos to show you of this, but alas, I do not. We even passed by some orange groves and a plethora of grapevines.
Our first destination was up in the mountains on the east side of the state, Kings Canyon National Park. The part of the park we were going to was inside of the Giant Sequoia National Monument.
By this point in the trip we were, probably, 4,000-5,000 feet above sea level. And we still had a long climb to go! The further we went into the mountains the more snow we saw. This became concerning, as you can imagine. Prior to the trip I had been monitoring the road status in the area. For a long time, a lot of the roads were closed due to the snowfall. But, about a week or so before we flew in, I noticed that the roads were open again, so I thought we would be ok. Check out how much snow there was when we made it to the visitor center for Kings Canyon at over 6,500 feet in the Sierra Nevada mountains!
That’s the visitor center on the left! There was literally a few feet of snow on top of it. When we went inside to talk to the rangers we received some bad news. The roads to where we wanted to go were closed or semi-closed to traffic. We had intended to go to the General Grant Grove to see one of the largest tree’s in the world, but the road to there was closed. We were told that if we wanted to go there that we would have to rent snowshoes, walk about a mile in the snow to the trail, then another 1/2 mile around the grove trail. As we were not prepared for this sort of adventure we decided to decline and just look around the visitor center. We were also informed that the road going into the Sequoia National Park was only open to vehicles with chains on their tires. Again, another bust. But at least while we were there we were able to eat lunch. And we did actually see a few sequoia trees on the drive up to the visitor center. I guess one should never assume anything when it comes to traveling into the mountains, even if it is April.
From here we went out the way we came up. On the way back down into the valley we noticed a waterfall on the mountainside.
When we made it back to the valley there were even more orange groves around us than before. We saw some more almond and pistachio trees too. After turning to the east again at Bakersfield we eventually started driving through the desert. It’s not what you think though. There weren’t sand dunes everywhere, but it was definitely considered to be a desert.
Our destination was Barstow in the high Mojave Desert. Why Barstow you ask? Or, even better, you might be saying you’ve never heard of the place. I would not be surprised if you have not. It is a small town near a few military bases, but that is about all it has going for it. That, and it was where my mom was from. She actually grew up in near-by Yermo, but spent a lot of time in Barstow and went to high school there, so I wanted to see a little bit of the town. Oh, and it is also where the oldest operating Del Taco is. Most of my friends in Kentucky have probably never even heard of Del Taco either, so you may be giving me a weird look over this one too. My mom has talked about it a lot as she used to work there while in high school. Myself, Andrea, and the kids have had it multiple times in Orlando (it’s not far from Universal Studios) and there are some in the Atlanta and Detroit area too. For my east coast friends, I highly recommend checking it out if you happen to pass through either of those cities. Del Taco is infinitely better than Taco Bell, for sure! The first Del Taco was actually not far from my mom’s house in Yermo. You can see the current state of that building below.
But next up is the actual building that we ate in Barstow.
It was worth the trip to go there just to see where my mom grew up. Having the tacos was an added bonus though. 🙂
All-in-all it wasn’t a waste of day. We started near the coast, went up into the mountains, and then into a desert, all in one day. There are not too many other areas of the country where one could see that many different environments in one day. Make sure to come back again for our third day of adventure in California! We had a ton more planned for that day. Oh, and please feel free to leave any comments. We would appreciate any constructive criticism or, really, any comments in general. We look forward to hearing from you!