2009 March – California-Arizona Trip

Day 1 – San Diego, CA:

San Diego is along the coast in Southern California. It is located at the southern tip of California, almost touching the Mexican Border.

Known for it’s beauty and the moderate weather, it is said that the animals in the San Diego Zoo thrive in this desert area because of San Diego’s moderate climate.The San Diego Zoo has many wonderful animals .. if you do not have anything planned for vacations, start planning a trip to San Diego just for the zoo. It was totally worth it!!! This is the only zoo in the country that has a panda exhibit.

We stopped at the Botanical Gardens on our way back to our cousins’ house. At the Botanical gardens we saw an extraordinary variety of flowers, butterflies and caterpillars that were just magnificent. They have rare butterflies that you wouldn’t just see in your backyard. Overall, a very color-ful-filling visit to the zoo and the gardens.:-)

Day 2/3 – Drive to and stay at Sedona, AZ:

Entrance to Sedona
Early next morning we started on our 8 hour drive to Sedona, via Phoenix. Towards the end of the trip, we had a chance to drive through and enjoy the Navajo country, full of the saguaro cactus (shaped like a person with two arms bent upward). The evening was spent driving around in and around Sedona, and enjoying the beautiful sunset and the moonrise (Yes!! It was a full-moon night) that accentuated the redness of the rocks that were all around us everywhere.

The McDonald’s in Sedona is the only one in the whole world which does not display the golden arches – as per the local laws, any extraneous colors that interfere with the beauty of the country are not allowed. McDonald’s had to give in and display blueish-green arches here instead of the regular ones.

When in Sedona, a hike through the forests over the mountainous rocks is a must, whether it is for an hour or the full day. The Hike next morning was very exhausting but so worth it. The exotic animals and birds scurrying around made it a place to enjoy and take pictures. Throughout the hike we saw a bunch of trees with twisted trunks and branches, something which is said to be the direct effect of the plethora of magnetic fields that exist in the area.

We got a firsthand experience of the magnetic aura by landing in the middle of a major Magnetic Vortex at the end of our 4-hour hike, and did not feel any fatigue at all! Wonder if it was more psychological than the real thing (everyone on the way up or down was raving about it!), but it was good to be not-exhausted at the end of the hike. The presence of a gurgling stream alongside for bulk of the way also helped, I am sure! One of the other highlights on the trek was the arrangement of rocks by the Navajo Indians who had lived in the area years ago.

Most people also visit the area to enjoy the spas, yoga lessons, wellness etc but we decided to give all that a pass and enjoy the evening at our hotel.

Day 4/5 – Drive/Visit to Sequoia National Park:

Grand Canyons
To go or not to go? As we set off to California early next morning, we kept wondering whether we should take a minor(?) detour to Grand Canyon since it was practically “on the way”. WE decided there was no way saying “NO” to Grand Canyon so of course, our quest for seeing-everything-on-the-way won and we made a whirlwind landfall at the magnificent giant hole. This was our third trip there, so we had the been-there-done-it feeling. In my view, the way to enjoy the canyons is to actually take a hike down the canyons or do some whitewater rafting. We did not get a chance to ride a mule down to the bottom, take the hike, do the white water rafting, or camp, but just walked/drove around and enjoyed the view from various vantage points.
You can check out the grandeur of the trees of Sequoia National Park, even before you enter the park. They are visible from the outside itself. Of course, once you are inside, you can park and walk around amidst these tall giants, some of which date back to 1000+ years. The highlight there is General Sherman Tree .. this is the biggest tree there, 2,200 years old, 52,500 cubic feet in volume, weighs 1,385 tons, and 275 ft tall!!! We were lucky enough to find a lot of snow there even though this was the start of spring season. Taking pictures of the tall trees required us to contort our bodies in all possible ways so as not to miss any part of the tree. Some of the trees are so humongous there that they have built walkways through the trees. On a side note … when we visited Redwood National Forest a few years back (giant Redwood trees north of San Francisco) – they have even built railroad tracks through those trees…

Day 6 – Northern California:

Our first stop as we set off back to our cousins’ home in San Diego (from the Fresno area where we spent the night) was the beautiful shore-side town of Monterey. This is famous for it’s gorgeous 17-mile drive that has around 22 spots on the way where you can stop and take pictures – one better than the other. Oh, what beautiful homes along the drive – always wondered, what do they do for a living? 🙂

Set aside at least a couple of hours for the drive, as you will want to stop at every opportunity to enjoy the scenery and take some masterpiece pictures. Our favorites were the Restless Sea, where we could experience some wild surf created by the waves crashing on the rocky shores, alongside the sea-lions resting and then of course, the Lone Cypress – shown in the picture – they don’t allow you any more to be able to go up to the tree, and fairly so – to preserve the area for many years to come! Another picturesque spot is the Pebble Beach Golf Course – we never got down to try our hand at a few shots there (too expensive!) but did have some french pastries in the cafe out there…. heavenly!

Our next stop was the mini-town Carmel, just a stone’s throw away from Monterey … full of flowers and dream homes .. it feels straight out of a fairy tale. Bejeweled with boutique shops and little fancy restaurants, we just stopped there enough to be enamored by the town during a quick stroll and then set off on our drive again. On the way we drove through a bunch of orange groves .. we must have picked the right season because all the oranges were ripe and scrumptious!

BIG SUR is Big only in it’s name (if you are thinking size) … the waterfall that drains straight into the ocean is big not in size, but in beauty! Part of the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the waterfall itself is not accessible to the pubic per Julia’s wish, as we learned in the history about the park. You can just take a stroll around it, or even (illegally) climb up the rocks behind it to get a better view, but there is no way you can get to the fall itself. Perhaps that is what has maintained the beauty and the sanctity of the falls for so long!

Day 7 – San Diego Departure:

Before we left San Diego for back home, we decided to spend the remaining half day soaking in the greenery and weather of California. Balboa Park was a very colorful place, just like the . We saw a botanical gardens from the early part of our trip. Iwe strolled around the park, enjoyed the museums and then decided to CHILLAX at the beach after a delightful Thai meal!!

The beach view from our cousins’ home totally persuaded us to go to the beach and play and have fun in the sun!! The Pacific beach water was cold and the sand was burning hot, a perfect mix of the California weather.

5 Favorite things about the trip:

  1. Overall a magnificent trip where we saw snow, giant trees, desert, red rocks, beautiful Pacific beaches – each item more wondrous than the other!
  2. Giant Sequoias
  3. The Blue Pacific – Beaches are not very conducive to a swim but the beauty is unparallelled
  4. 17-Mile Drive in Monterey
  5. Drive on Highway-1 along the ocean from Monterey to San Diego

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