I’ve been fortunate to spend some time in The Golden State in November
and December. I haven’t made it over here much, as it’s a long way from where I
have been based in the east of the states.
Part 1 - San Francisco
After working most of Friday from the ThoughtWorks office in the SoMa (South of
Market) area, we took a walk through Chinatown to Coit Tower on Telegraph Hill,
where I got my first views of the bay.
Despite being very hilly, SF is a walkable city. We continued down to
Fisherman’s Wharf and on to the Palace of Fine Arts in the
Marine District. I didn’t get many photos, but it’s an interesting place
originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition.
We rented bikes on Saturday, and rode from North Beach across
the Golden Gate Bridge, back to Sutro Heights and through the Presidio on the
way back. Lots of great views, the photos below don’t really do it justice!
I think this might have been the first time I’ve seen the sun setting over an
ocean … I’ve always lived near eastern coasts so sunrise over the ocean feels
more normal! 😂
Part 2 - Los Angeles and Joshua Tree National Park
In early December I was in LA for a couple of days before flying back to
Australia for the Christmas break. We did a bit of hiking, and saw a little of
LA as well.
And to Griffith Observatory to get the obligatory selfie with the
Hollywood sign before flying out on Sunday:
Part 3 - Drive from LA → SF
After landing in LA on Boxing Day morning, I took a couple of days to drive up
to San Francisco, mostly along California State Route 1 (a.k.a. the
Pacific Coast Highway). It’s a lovely drive, a few highlights include:
For Thanksgiving this year I stayed with some friends at a house in Pawleys
Island, a town and island in Georgetown County, South Carolina.
It was a relaxing time, with lots of walks on the beach and way too much food.
We were also there for a king tide, which produced some minor flooring and had
us worried for out rental car. It was amazing to me how many of these places
are so close to the ocean, you could see the dunes getting washed away during
the higher tides.
My fourth trip in what has turned into a very busy October was to Acadia
National Park in Maine, the easternmost
state of the US. I flew into Boston, drove up to Acadia & stayed in Airbnbs
Acadia National Park is beautiful, and is the first coastal park I’ve visited
(other than the Everglades NP, it’s nice in a different way).
The first hike I did there was up Cadillac Mountain along the South Ridge
Trail. Cadillac Mountain is the highest point along
the North Atlantic seaboard (though it’s still not very high at 466 meters).
The weather wasn’t great to start, but the views were still worth the effort.
Some pretty strong winds had the clouds blown away in no time!
The last part of the loop went down part of the A. Murray Young
Path which had amazing fall colours on display.
Last weekend I was able to do some hiking near Salt Lake City in Utah. There
were some stunning views of Great Salt Lake from the flight. The Lucin
Cutoff causes differences in salinity in three parts of the
lake. The corresponding difference in algae growth is visible in the photo
I flew into Anchorage after work on Thursday night, landing at a reasonable
time thanks to Alaska being four hours behind Eastern Time. We stayed in
Anchorage on Thursday, did some work from there in the morning and drove up
towards Denali National Park on Friday afternoon.
Before leaving Alaska, we stopped at an outdoor store to buy some bear
deterrent spray. This National Park Service
convinced us, though it was unlikely we’d run into a grizzly on the hikes we
had planned. Neither of us fancied running into a male bear given they can tip
the scales at 680 kg and stand 3 m tall.
The drive was nice, we were lucky with the weather for the whole
weekend. We did a couple of short hikes on the way, at Thunderbird
before arriving at our accomodation for Friday and Saturday nights. On Friday I
saw a little of the northern lights;
our host woke us up as they were out. When he woke me up I raced outside in my
pajamas with a jacket on top which was inadequate given the weather! In
hindsight I wish I’d gotten dressed and stayed out there longer. It
was a bit bright where I was standing so didn’t get any good photos.
We were staying about 35 minutes south of the park entrance, so we still had a
short way to go on Saturday morning. We ended up driving further north in
search of coffee, and ended up at the nearest ‘large town’ of Healy (population
around 1,000) where we found somewhere that was still open. We drove through a
few small communities that were all boarded up for the winter which was bizarre
to see. A lot of the businesses shut down completely and the people
working there move south to somewhere warmer for the winter!
The drive along the eastern edge of Denali National Park featured some
breathtaking views of the mountains. Denali Mountain was almost always visible
It’s the highest mountain peak in North America, with a summit of 6,190 m (for
reference, the highest mountain in Australian peaks at 2,228 m). The upper half
is permanently snowy.
The first hike was the Savage Alpine
I took on the hike was of a ‘bears frequent this area’ warning sign so we were
happy to have the spray. It was super windy in some parts, here’s a
which tries to capture it (turn your volume down before opening it). After the
hike we drove into the park until reaching the point where the road is closed
for the winter at the Teklanika
On the way out we got our wish of seeing a bear from a safe distance, I’m
glad we got to see one in the wild. It’s a fair distance in this
but it gives you some idea of the size. A group of people assembled to watch
and as you can see about half way through the video it must have got a bit
spooked! We didn’t do loads more on Saturday, but did head out again late at
night to try and see the northern lights.
Sunday was a late start, but we did a full on hike at Bison
Gulch (a ‘gulch’ is
the name for a valley formed by erosion). I recorded the hike on
Strava and plotted it on Google
Photos from the hike start
in the album. It was pretty brutal, we climbed 1,259 m and a lot of that
towards the end was over very loose shale. Here’s one of us up near the top:
It’s lucky we went when we did; a couple of weeks later and it would have been
rather chilly! I think the snow there is from some early falls a week before we
arrived. We were ridiculously fortunate with the weather. It was relatively
warm, with clear skies. The whole place seemed so remote, the air was super
fresh and the stars were all out. Other than the bear, we also saw a couple of
moose and a pair of mountain goats.
All the photos from the trip are in an album on Google
Photos (some of the links above
should jump to certain spots in the album).