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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.

Filtering by Category: National Parks

The Paramount Ranch we Just Visited Burned Down

Paula Gaston

Last April we visited some national parks in Southern California. One of those places was an old Western town at the Santa Monica Mountains where they have filmed many movies and television shows. The town is actually just a movie set so none of the buildings are really real. Even so, hearing about the latest news about the Paramount Ranch, made me really sad. The whole place burned down in one of the wild fires raging in California right now, the Woolsey Fire.

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Paramount Ranch was established in 1972 when Paramount Films bought it for a filming location. Different kinds of setting were built depending on what they filmed, everything from the city of San Francisco to a western village. The last sets had been used to film Dr Quinn, Medicine Woman which was starred by Jane Seymour. Other shows filmed there are for example X-files, Charlie’s Angels, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, The Mentalist and many others. So many movie and TV stars have been working there, like John Wayne, Gary Grant, Warren Beatty and Lucille Ball. Today the ranch is part of the national parks system and therefore projected.

Paramount Ranch used to be a popular place to visit and there were multiple hiking trails around it. It was also very popular amongst the horseback riders who would bring their horse there, meet each others at the parking lot and go for a ride. Many people just wanted to see the movie sets and enjoy the nature around it. Visiting the ranch was free of charge.

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Woosley Fire started on Thursday from a canyon called Woolsey, and then rapidly spread due to the Santa Ana winds. Today, over 200 000 residents of Ventura County and Malibu have been evacuated, and the fire is still spreading. It has burned at least 170 houses and is heading to the area where many famous and wealthy people live. Some have found help from friends, some are staying at shelters or even in cars and tents. What makes things even more difficult is that there are no changes in the weather on days to come.

This what the Paramounts Ranch looks like now. The only thing standing is the church:

We hope that all these fires will be contained soon, and people can return to their homes or start rebuilding. Someone at the news said, that California is not anymore just known for it’s beautiful weather and beaches, it’s now known for it’s fires.

If you want to see more about our life in California, go and check out my Instagram account @paulagaston. Among the photos you will also see some videos on instastories.

 

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!

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!

 

Bryce Canyon, Utah - My most unforgettable national park experience

Paula Gaston

Today marks the 100th birthday of the United States National Park Service. On August 25th, 1916, the act to establish the national parks in the US was signed by president Woodrow Wilson. The very first national park, Yellowstone, was actually protected before that. Today, there is already 413 protected national park units

My most unforgettable national park experience so far has been a visit to Bryce Canyon in southern Utah. It was breathtaking and I had never seen anything like that! I really thought it was even better than Grand Canyon. 

We visited Bryce Canyon a couple years ago. We arrived to the park early since we knew it could get very crowded. Before entering the park you will drive thru Red Canyon which also has a lot of beautiful rock formations. We did a quick stop there at the visitor center, and we walked a little bit around the rocks. I'm sure there would have been great hiking trails in this area, but like most other people too, we were here to visit Bryce Canyon. 

 Red Canyon

Red Canyon

Soon after entering Bryce Canyon National Park you will see the visitor center. I highly recommend stopping there to get at least a map of the park, but also to get tips from park rangers for your hikes. Since we were hiking with a 2 year old in a carrier, we were a little limited with the number of hikes, so we decided to do the loop from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. It allowed us to visit the bottom of the canyon and see the most gorgeous views like Queens Garden and the hoodoos, without being too demanding. The hardest part was the climb back up. From Rim Trail you can also continue to other, longer hikes if you wish. 

Bryce Canyon is full of amphitheatre-like rock formations. They are formed due to frost weathering and erosion. It has the most hoodoos in the world: tall, thin rocks standing proudly in the desert. 

 Thor's hammer

Thor's hammer

 Here we go...

Here we go...

 Wow, that's where we just came from!

Wow, that's where we just came from!

 At the bottom of the canyon - Queens Garden

At the bottom of the canyon - Queens Garden

When hiking with kids, I suggest doing the most demanding part right at the beginning when everyone is still in a good mood and with full strength. After our hike, we had some snacks and headed on auto-tour for the rest of the park. Bryce Canyon National Park is perfect for those who only wish to drive around with a car. There are multiple look outs where you can stop to see the canyon, rock formations and arches. But there are no words to describe the views at the bottom of the canyon, and photos don't really do justice to it, so I do recommend the hike if possible. It is spectacular!  

I hope to return to Bryce Canyon someday for more exploring and hiking. There are several national parks close by, so if you plan to visit, reserve some extra time. If you want to see more about Bryce Canyon National Park, Google Maps is celebrating the 100th centennial by offering a virtual tour of a few parks, including Bryce Canyon. Oh, and don't forget that this weekend you can visit any national park for free!

Happy birthday to the National Parks Service and thank you for protecting these wonderful parks to explore!

Lovely Point Reyes in California

Paula Gaston

We had planned to travel to Mendocino in California for Memorial Day weekend. We were hoping to stay a couple nights on the coast and visit some beaches. By the time we were ready to make the reservations, there was nothing left for accomodation. Nothing! So I guess other people had the same plan and they were smart enough to book their rooms on time.

Eventually we decided to make a day trip to Point Reyes, about 30 miles north of San Francisco. The area is so signifigant that it is part of the national parks system, and called Point Reyes National Seashore. The nature there is protected which is good. There are so many great hiking trails in this area as well as beaches and beautiful views. And the park is pretty big so you should plan ahead what you want to see because you can't see it all in one day.

 

We arrived at Point Reyes in the middle of the park from the east. Our first stop was at Point Reyes Station village where we got some deli sandwiches for our cooler. Point Reyes Station is a nice little village where you can stroll around or sit down for a glass of wine if you can ever find parking. There is also a visitor center in town. A little blue house that looks like a play house. You can forget the indoor restrooms or free maps, they will not offer either even though the lady working there was very friendly. I suggest stopping at the national parks visitor center instead, it is right outside the town. You can check out the exhibit or bookstore, get some tips from the rangers and buy some souvenirs. It is also so much easier to go around with a proper map since there is no cell service in the park. There are also multiple hiking and riding trails leaving from the visitor center parking lot.

The most popular sight in Point Reyes is the lighthouse built in 1870. To visit the lighthouse you will have to climb 300 steps down so consider your daily workout done if you decide to do this. Once you are down to the lighthouse, you will see the beautiful Pacific Ocean and view of the coastline. With a little luck, you might see some whales passing by or some sea lions resting on the beach near by. The lighthouse is partly open so you can escape high winds if you need to, and then it is time to climb those 300 steps back up. Every once and in a while you might have to stop to catch your breath and you will also pass people who have stopped to do the same. A visit to the lighthouse is worth it though.

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Last time we were at Point Reyes we drove past this area and hiked to the end of park. Tomales Point is located between the ocean and Tomales Bay. The views on this hike are spectacular and you might see some Tule elk on your way. At some point they were thought to be extirpated but the species recovered and can be found in a few places in California. We also saw many birds and many beaches down below the hiking trail. Some were not accessible, and some can trap you at high tide. But they certainly looked beautiful. We didn't go down to the beaches because we wanted to reach the end point of the Tomales hike.

On that trip we also stopped at San Augustine to get something to eat. We bought some sandwiches from Inverness Market deli and walked to the tables behind the building. That was when I noticed something I had always seen in pictures. A famous Point Reyes ship wreck right by the waterline of Tomales Bay. Of course it is not the only ship wreck or sunken ship on these waters but it must be the most photgraphed one. I'm glad we saw it because in February I learned that it had been vandalized and burned. I'm not quite sure if the remains of the ship are still there or if they got moved somewhere. So sad!

On our visit to Point Reyes we decided to spend some time at the beach. After stopping at the visitor center we drove up to Drakes Bay and to Limantour Beach. The beach line there seems to be never ending and despite the waves some people where swimming. We on the other hand settled for playing in the sand and searching for clam shelves. Our little girl had so much fun.

There are still many places in Point Reyes that we haven't seen so we will be returning back someday. There are multiple little towns in the area where you can find services, motels and three visitor centers for the National Parks system. If you get tired of city life in San Francisco, just hop in your car and drive north thru the redwood forest to Point Reyes. This is a drive you will never forget!