Our journey through the California Redwoods saw us stay at three different campgrounds; Hendy Woods State Park and two wonderful RV Parks found deep within the famous Avenue of the Giants area in Humboldt County California. We were definitely "humboldt" when we saw all these amazing groves of magnificent redwoods!
Hendy Woods State Park
It's no wonder why the majestic redwood forest is on so many peoples bucket list. These giant trees and ancient forests are literally older then Jesus in some cases! I mean who the heck can say they hugged a 2000 year old tree??? Imagine what these trees have witnessed over the course of history? Just the thought alone of a tiny seedling growing into the giant trees we 5 FreeSpirits got to climb on and walk amongst thousands of years later was incredible! To me, my mind was blown and I felt humbled, honoured, ecstatic and amazed (these are the best words that come to my mind) from our hikes and time camping within the redwood forests of California. Hands down a must do if you have any appreciation for nature at all.
I believe the kids were even in awe with the height and width of these ancient trees. They absolutely LOVED our hikes through the redwoods because they got to climb, crawl across, play inside and walk on the trees still standing and fallen ones too. What a playground! Seriously some of our hikes were an entire day long and we would stop to have two or even three picnics (sitting on or inside a hallow tree of course made the picnics more fun) so we could keep exploring and we were all just having that much of a good time. It's such a special place for your spirit and senses in my opinion. It smelled of fresh pine and the air was so unbelievably clean and fresh I almost felt my lungs thanking me lol! But the trees! Oh trees so tall you have to bend your head all the way back and even still cannot see the tops! At times we (me) made the kids stop be still and silent (early meditation practice) to let their bodies and senses feel and take in their surroundings (something I've always loved doing in nature). Shyla said, " Mommy I hear God!" LOL (ummmm yup our 7 year old who is not brought up in an overly religious home just said she hears GOD!!) and Lennon remarked, "I hear trees, water and the wind blowing". Madden of course is not capable yet of doing this exercise, but he was sure cute trying to close his eyes as he jumped off a rather large fallen tree and rolled along the forrest vegetation :). We even got to witness a totally grass roots couple with dreadlocks and purple hair getting married inside one of these ancient trees in one of the many beautiful groves. It was so neat to see that. I felt like woodland fairies were hiding...this place is that magical.
The weather got quite warm a for a few days and we managed to find the best little swimming hole for the kids to play. Eel river, which meanders through this whole area had several spots where you could just jump in and swim amongst all the redwood groves. We found one in particular where an old redwood had fallen to make a natural bridge which led to famous the 'Giant Tree' which was 300+ feet tall and had a circumference of over 50 feet! The water was crystal clear and was refreshing for all of us. We even met another traveling family from Colorado who we hung out with and discussed travel stories while the kids played together.
Hands down one of my favourite places on earth to be, but then again I keep feeling that way with more of what we get to see on this incredible journey. It just makes me want more.
The Avenue of The Giants
We love San Fran!! By far a fun and intriguing city! Wendy and I have never visited there before and so we were looking forward to spending the better part of a week there including Mother's Day. Crazy drives up almost vertical streets (think Inception movie with Leonardo DiCaprio), colourful Victorian homes, parks, Alcatraz, ocean views, Golden Gate Bridge, granola eating liberals and so much more! I mean no wonder it's one of the biggest tourist spots in North America. Over the course of the 7 days we spent in the San Fran area we managed to see A LOT in my opinion which we've captured below in no particular order.
I mean nothing screams Mother's Day like take your wife to prison right? lol
We weren't sure exactly if the kids would enjoy this attraction as we thought it may either scare them OR be a bit too dark and depressing for them. Nonetheless, it was on Wendy's list so we opted to take our chances with our kids enjoying it and jump on the ferry over to Alcatraz Island and boy were we surprised. Not only did the kids love the tour, but they enjoyed listening intently to the audio tour (should we be worried?) while we ventured throughout the entire jail. There was cool stories about prison breaks and the tour walked us in and out of certain cells so we could get a feel of what it was like. Honestly, this is a great day to spend while in San Fran and it was money well spent for us. The views from the ferry and the island back to the city were beautiful and Shyla and Wendy spotted a freaking SHARK in the waters. How fitting is that?
Golden Gate Bridge
Probably the main attraction in San Fran and it was also well worth the hype. All in all, I think we drove over the bridge and back again around 3 times and each time it felt pretty nostalgic to be actually driving over this amazing landmark. We managed to get some amazing pictures of it from both the south side in one of the parks and also on the north side up the cliffs in Sausalito area. The kids forced me to play the theme song from Full House while driving over the bridge and I'm sure we're not the first family to have done that!
The Crooked Street & San Fran's Steep Roads
We only heard of The Crooked Street through a friend and when we looked it up we were pretty intrigued! I mean who builds a crazy steep and windy street in the middle of a city like that? If you've never seen this road you MUST go here. Even better if you can actually drive down it as we did. It was hilarious how tight the turns were and the fact that people have their homes and garages on this road also. The homes on this part of the street are beautiful and its hard to imagine that people actually live here! Apparently this street used to be one of the steepest in San Fran before there were cars. Once cars were invented, they simply could not go on this road due to excessive grade. Someone had the brilliant idea of making the street a huge windy, curvy switchback road so cars could actually go down it. From there the 'Crooked Street' was born! In addition to Lombard Street we also managed to take our Dodge Ram truck on some of the steepest streets in all of San Fran. This was hilarious to do! We drove up and down Filbert Street which was a 30% grade...I thought my truck was going to bottom out LOL! Seriously though, try parking on these streets...it feels like your car is going to roll over.
Golden Gate Park
We spent one entire afternoon at the Golden Gate Park located just south of the Golden Gate Bridge as there was plenty to see and do there. Our time limited us to what we could do here, so we only managed to take the kids to the awesome kids park and the huge indoor carousel. The park was so green and lush that we could've easily spent another day there as we heard there were also animals, lakes and other cool things to see and do.
The Painted Ladies Hippie VW Bus Tour
When you don't have a lot of time in a big city like San Fran, doing a guided city tour may be a good idea. We found a highly rated one called "The Painted Ladies Tour" which is a small personally guided tour (6 - 8 people max) where they pick you up in a 1970's Volkswagon Hippie Van and drive you to numerous sites around town. Again, we weren't sure how the kids would do on an organized tour, but we didn't have a lot of time and we wanted to see and hear about as many sites as we could. Lucky for us, the kids were toast from the day prior and they managed to pass out in the VW bus for most of the tour which left Wendy and I to enjoy the tour sans kiddies which was great! Some of the cool stops we went to included Twin Peaks, The Woman's Building, Pacific Heights, Golden Gate Bridge, The Painted Ladies, Mrs. Doubtfire's house and the Palace of Fine Arts. Overall the tour was pretty good and the tour guide himself was excellent. It still amazed me how he could drive a 6 speed manual transmission in this city as some of the inclines he took us on were crazy!
Tanner House & Painted Ladies (from Full House)
No trip to San Fran can be complete without seeing the famous Victorian and Edwardian houses called "The Painted Ladies". These beautiful homes are also famous for being in the intro scene from the 90's sitcom Full House. For some reason, Shyla's favourite show is Full House and the new version Fuller House so we absolutely had to see this while we here. Around the corner from the Painted Ladies was the actual house that the Tanner family used in the show and we surprised Shyla and took her by here to see it. Unfortunately they were renovating part of the outside while we passed by but the nice Northern Irish carpenter that was there agreed to take a picture of us sitting on their steps! Nice.
Prior to heading to San Fran we didn't have plans to visit the Exploratorium, but after several recommendations from others we decided to check it out. Similar to the Ontario Science Center (back from where we're from) and ScienceWorld in Vancouver, this place was a hit with the kiddo's! I might even say we found it slightly better than the other two science places we've been. There was tons for the kids to see, play and interact with and even the little one Madden was fully entertained. If you're coming to San Fran with small kids, I would highly recommend taking them here and spending a few hours trying out all the science gadgets here. Even Wendy and I had a huge laugh playing with some of the sights.