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Travelblog Gone with the Wine Blog

Travelblog and lifestyleblog. Life under the Californian sun - Gone with the Wine. Trips, food and wine from all over the world. Solo and family adventures.

California's Most Popular National Park Threatend by Fire - Yosemite

Paula Gaston

At the same time as we are excited and waiting for our new baby to arrive in the world, we are also watching news from the recent forest fires around California. There are 15 fires around the state, and the biggest one of them is right next to Yosemite National Park. This fire, which is called the Detwiler Fire, has not spread to the park yet, but it is in Mariposa County and very close to the redwood forest in Yosemite, called Mariposa Grove. People from Bear Valley have been evacuated and some of the roads are closed. Yosemite is still open, but there is some smoke around the park and the visibility is not very good (you can check the web cams for that). 

 

We visited Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove a few years ago. We even stayed the night in Mariposa, very close to where the fire is. On that trip we got a reminder of the seriousness of these fires by driving through an area that burned in the 2013 Rim Fire. This was the largest forest fire in the Sierra Nevada mountains in its history and seeing it was really sad. 

The saddest part of these fires is that they often could have been prevented. Even the Rim Fire in 2013 which was started by illegal camp fire set up by a hunter. 

The saddest part of these fires is that they often could have been prevented. Even the Rim Fire in 2013 which was started by illegal camp fire set up by a hunter. 

Burned trees as far as you can see. 

Burned trees as far as you can see. 

Yosemite is an incredibly beautiful and popular park. In 2016 the number of visitors were over 5 million people. The nature there with all the valleys and water falls reminds me of our childhood trips to Norway. One of the most photographed spots when you arrive in the park is the Tunnel View. Another favourite of ours is Glacier Point which you can reach by hiking or driving. The views don't get much better than this!

The most famous mountains in the park are El Capitan and Half Dome, and the most beautiful waterfall must be Yosemite Falls which is also the tallest of them. Rock climbers are all over the park. Besides seeing these famous places, one should also try one of the less known hikes where you can actually enjoy some peace and quiet. We were thrilled to find a trail where there was no one else except us. 

Tunnel View.

Tunnel View.

Half Dome. 

Half Dome. 

Yosemite Falls. 

Yosemite Falls. 

Hiking with a little miss in her backpack. 

Hiking with a little miss in her backpack. 

Thursty!

Thursty!

There are three redwood groves in Yosemite. The most known of them is the Mariposa Grove, since the other two require real hiking to get into. Mariposa Grove is located right by the southern entrance of the national park, so it is easy to stop by when you arrive or leave the park. The forest has been closed for maintenance work for a while, but it should be re-opening by fall 2017. Now it is of course threatened by the fire. Even though fires also help the redwood groves grow, I'm hoping that it doesn't destroy the whole place.

The oldest tree in Mariposa Grove is the Grizzly Giant which is said to be 1900-2400 years old. It is also the biggest tree in this grove. It is so much fun walking around the forest and wondering what all these trees have seen during their lifetime. One of the most photographed tree in Yosemite is the California Tunnel Tree. The tunnel was carved in 1895 but this tree still manages to live. I'm glad these kind of tunnels wouldn't be allowed anymore!

Grizzly Giant and some people under it. 

Grizzly Giant and some people under it. 

California Tunnel Tree.

California Tunnel Tree.

And off we go!

Traveling While Pregnant

Paula Gaston

I am sweating here under the Californian sun with in the last weeks of my pregnancy. We have experienced a long real heat wave and I'm sure there are still many to come. Everything has gone mostly well and I have been feeling great. At some point after the baby is born, we will travel to Finland to see my family, but we have not decided when yet.

During my first pregnancy I flew to Finland and back on my third trimester. On the second trimester, we also did a honeymoon trip to Hawaii. At that point I felt really good and I didn't stress about traveling. With this second pregnancy some little things already started bothering me earlier. Technically I could have still traveled in the beginning of June, I just felt like it might be too much for me at this point. Especially since I would have travelled with a 5 year old with me. I did go to Europe in the very beginning of my pregnancy and later we did a longer road trip here in California. Traveling is fine and fun as long as you feel good about it and don't get too stressed. 

FLYING WHILE PREGNANT
 

Flying always takes its toll on your body, so if you are already not feeling well, I would just avoid it. Usually the recommendation is that you can fly until week 36, if your pregnancy has gone well. Some airlines will require a doctor's note after week 28. These rules may vary on different airlines, so always make sure what the requirements are before booking a flight. Some american airlines for example, don't force them; they are just recommendations. 

Drink plenty of fluids on the flight, since the low air pressure on the airplane may cause some dehydration. You might not be experiencing "edema" (pregnancy swelling) yet, but sometimes long flights will make your ankles swell. Drinking more water can help with that too. I also made sure to get up and walk a bit every once in a while on my flights. In order to do that, I chose an isle seat when I booked my flight. I also use compression socks which prevent swelling and blood clots during flights. Your seat belt should be used under your belly just like in a car.

My doctor here in California advised me not to go through the modern x-ray machines at the airport security check. You know the ones where you stand in the "X" position while they take your picture. However, the TSA says on their website that they don't use actual x-rays on these machines and they are safe for pregnant people as well, but you are entitled to ask for a pat down instead if you want. 

I have been happy to notice that at least here in the U.S. people are very helpful when they see my big belly. A few times I was directed to the front of the lines at the airport and many people offered to help me with my luggage. In Finland not so much! I had to ask for some help on the train, so I could get my luggage up to the luggage bin. People would eventually help, but I always had to ask them. 

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WHAT KIND OF TRIP SHOULD I TAKE
 

During this second pregnancy, it has been important to me to think about what kind of trip I am willing to do. On my first pregnancy, I was ready to fly on the other side of the world just like that, but now I would rather stay on the ground. So we have done some trips by car where you can more easily control how far you want to go in a day. You can move your seat in the position you want and use the air conditioner when you want. Basically, you can do what ever you want when you do your trip by car. 

When I flew to Finland in January I was on my first trimester, and the jet lag felt overwhelmingly hard to overcome. In the beginning of your pregnancy you feel tired anyway and the darkness in Finland and the time difference really didn't help. I actually had my only morning sickness while I was there and took a train to Helsinki early in the morning. Maybe I would not have booked the trip to Finland if I knew I was going to be pregnant then, but I didn't. Overall, the easiest and safest time to travel while pregnant is the second trimester.

Then you should also think about the program on your trip. On our last road trip for example, I had to start taking it easy, since I noticed that I needed more rest. Doing something all day long gets you tired faster than normal, so does the sun. We had to skip a couple of nice hiking trails, because I wasn't completely sure I could make it. I'm glad my travel companion was very understanding even though we didn't get to do everything we wanted. It is best to take it easy and plan your day based on how you feel at that exact moment with no pressure. It is important to listen to your body!

You also need to consider the destination based on your situation. When we were planning our road trip for example, we had to rule out Texas based on my doctor's recommendation. In some U.S. states and some countries the Zika virus is still a real threat. And over all, I wouldn't travel somewhere where the risk of getting sick is high or there is no good medical care available. Like always, but especially when pregnant, it is important to take good care of your hand hygiene.

Now I have some personal experience of the fact that every pregnancy is different and no one else knows your body like you do. If you are in doubt then it is not worth taking a risk. You just have to trust your own ability to make a decision on what kind of trips you can still do. But pregnancy has never stopped me from traveling! 

Have you been traveling while pregnant? Any tips for those who do?

Photos: JonnaSusa Photography. Please don't use the photos without permission.

 

Missing Home This Summer

Paula Gaston

All these pictures are from my Instagram account. You can follow me @paulagaston

When you live abroad you are likely to have moments when you miss your home country. For me that mostly happens during summertime when everyone is posting pictures of the summer in Finland. Lakes, ice cream cones, blueberry pies and pictures of nightless nights. And believe me or not, I also miss a real thunder storm which people have been talking about recently. We don't really get a lot of them here in California.

Unfortunately, this summer we had to skip our trip to Finland. But I am already dreaming about next summer. I have read about many interesting places there that I would like to visit when I get a chance. I really wonder why I never went to these places when I was still living in Finland. It isn't before you have already moved, that you realise that you never visited the cool places of your childhood hometown or near it. I think we need more than just one trip to visit all these places. 

Last summer I spent some time mostly in my home town Kokkola where all the pictures above are from. The old town in Kokkola, Neristan, is very nice during the summer and you can sit by the ocean and look at the midnight sun. The picture on the right is from Evijärvi lake. I would love to dip into it this summer; it beats the pool anytime!

I also spent some time at our friend's house in the city of Vaasa. It used to be my home for 3 years when I was doing my bachelor's degree. I can't understand that even then I had not visited the Old Town Vasa ruins, the church or Söderfjärden. Next time, when my american husband visits Finland, I will be sure to take him here. 

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Then we drove up north to a town called Kemi to meet my relatives. There is always something fun going on in this town. Kids can drive a pedal car and learn traffic rules at a traffic park for free, and get their very own junior driver's license. Santa Claus had just opened an office downtown and was inviting all the kids over. Santa lives in Finland you know. On our way back home, we stopped at Ylivieska where they were grieving the loss of their church, which was burned down by an arsonist. It was pretty touching. 

All this used to be so close to me when I was living in Finland. After moving abroad, I realised how many places there were in my home country that I had never seen. It's almost like you take them for granted, since they have always been there. I hope we are able to travel back to Finland soon and go visit some beautiful places there!

Do you leave abroad? How often do you get to visit home?

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In the Footsteps of César Cháves

Paula Gaston

This is a place I had never heard of until I started collecting National Park Unit stamps. Since it was on our way to Sequoia National Park, we decided to make a quick stop there to get the César E. Cháves National Monument park unit checked out of our park book. And to be honest, this place was pretty quick to see. 

WHO WAS CÉSAR CHÁVEZ?

César Cháves was a human rights activist who started a labor union for farm workers in California. As many of you probably know, California produces most of the fruits and vegetables eaten in the US., and the farm workers don't always live in the best possible conditions. Cháves' achievements are not only known in California, but also in the whole United States, some states even celebrate César Cháves Day.

César Cháves worked on farms until 1952, until he became a labor leader, human rights activist and idol for Latin American farm workers. He was able to raise the salaries of farm workers and improve their work conditions at farms. 

CÉSAR E. CHÁVEZ NATIONAL MONUMENT


This monument is located in a small town called Keene, close to the mountains of Kern county. It is one of the national park units and therefore protected. A small, twisty road took us to it and there was no other cars in the parking lot; nor was there anyone else at the monument neither. It consists the home of César Cháves, which also served as the headquarters for the movement, a garden and a grave site. Since there was no one else there, we had all the time in the world to talk to the ranger and walk around the little museum in the house.

After that we went to the gardens. There are two sections in it; a rose garden and a cactus garden. We were there at the best time of the year, since both of the gardens were blooming. Behind the garden there is an old mission style house, Villa la Paz, where they still continue Cháves' work. The Villa is mostly used for meetings. We did not go in but instead went to see the grave site of César Cháves and his wife Helen Fabela Cháves. The place was beautiful and very peaceful.

A visit to the César E. Cháves Monument is free of charge. 

 
Example of a farm worker's room

Example of a farm worker's room

The rose garden

The rose garden

The grave site

The grave site

BEST LUNCH OF THE ROAD TRIP

After spending some time at the César E. Cháves National Monument it was already lunch time and we started to get hungry. I had seen some recommendations for the Keene Cafe, but when I saw what it looked like I was a little hesitant to go in. There were no other restaurants close by, and I'm glad we went in, since it ended up being the best lunch we had on this trip.

There were many locals having lunch in the Keene Cafe and the food was delicious. We chose to try some tacos and everything tasted very fresh. Also the staff was very friendly. If you are near by, you should definitely stop here and it is very close to the monument. Afterwards, I found out that it was actually run by the César Cháves Center, and has been a popular breakfast place of farmers as early as the 1920's.

After lunch we headed north as we had planned to visit some redwood forests in the mountains. Everything went well until the temperatures started to reach 30C and my car air conditioning broke... but more on that is coming later!

 

Peggy Sue's 50's Diner and Route 66 in California

Paula Gaston

Our Southern California road trip was about to continue. So far we had seen Disneyland, we went to a family wedding in Temecula Valley, spent some time in San Diego and in Joshua Tree National Park. Mojave National Preserve was a little disappointing, so we didn't spent a whole day there but instead we started driving towards Barstow and our next hotel.

Our route followed the legendary Route 66 for a while which ends in California. Just to feel nostalgic, we got off the freeway and drove along Route 66 for a while. Someday it would be cool to drive the whole stretch across America.  

Barstow is about half way from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, so many stop there on their drive. Right next to Barstow is Calico Ghost Town which we skipped this time, since it was already closed by 5 pm. Calico is fun but not very authentic. It is full of souvenir shops and over priced restaurants, and therefore more like a tourist trap than a real ghost town. Where are the abandoned, old buildings... and the ghosts? But if you want to see something along the way to Vegas wild west style, or visit an old mine, Calico can be a good stop.

Instead we were looking for Peggy Sue's 50's Diner which is located in Yermo. The diner was opened in 1954 when it was still built of railroad ties. After the place was re-opened by its' current owners in 1981, they tried to capture the original atmosphere as much as possible. The new owners brought in their large collection of movie and TV show mementos, which now can be seen in the diner. Most of the walls are covered with photos and posters from well-known movies. Right at the main door you will be greeted by Betty Boop. 

If you visit Peggy Sue's Diner, you should walk around to see different rooms. They are all decorated differently and they also have a big souvenir shop. The menu has traditional diner foods from sandwiches to fried chicken, but I was happy to also find some home made meat loaf on it. I think I ate from my daughter's meat loaf at least as much as I ate my Buddy Holly Bacon Cheeseburger. They also have a Marlon Brandon Mushroom Cheeseburger and some Elvis Presley Shakes on the menu. If you want to try something very American, try the Root Beer Float or an Old Fashioned Ice Cream Soda. I am not a huge fan of sodas with ice cream, but you must at least try them. 

Don't forget to check out the Dinosaur Park in the back yard of the diner. There are some giant metal dinosaurs in a garden by a pond. There are also some carp and turtles in it, and our little daughter had fun trying to spot them in the water. 

Peggy Sue's 50's Diner is a fun place to stop if you are passing by. We had a little trouble finding it since our map application located it at a different spot than where it really was. From Interstate 15 you must turn on Ghost Town Road and from there, Yermo Road to find the diner. A great spot for food when you are going or coming back from Vegas!