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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

Visiting Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah

Paula Gaston

When we arrived in Cedar City, we had reached approximately the half way point of our road trip. We were still going to spend Thanksgiving with our family in Utah, and then drive back to California through the Bonneville Salt Flats and on through Nevada. It was now travel day number five, and we had already driven over from California and visited Manzanar, Death Valley, Las Vegas and Hoover Dam. One reason we went to all these places, was that most of the national parks in Utah were already snowed in, and some of them were even closed. Otherwise, we would have rather been in Utah for most of the trip. Now we were thinking about visiting either Zion or Cedar Breaks, and we chose Cedar Breaks, since we had already been to Zion before. Also, we knew that Cedar Breaks was a relatively small park and we could definitely do it in one day.

 
A frozen waterfall on the road to Cedar Breaks

A frozen waterfall on the road to Cedar Breaks

Cedar Breaks National Monument reminds me a lot of Bryce Canyon, which I think, is the most beautiful national park in the United States that I have seen so far. The amphitheatre of red rocks and hoodoos is just amazing! But Cedar Breaks is much smaller than its big brother Bryce, and one can easily drive through it while stopping at the overlooks in a few hours. There are four overlook areas on the main road, and some hiking trails that start from them. In the summer time, they are probably much more fun, but now they were all very icy. The monument is officially open only from June to the end of October. So now the visitor center and the facilities were closed. But if the road is open, one can still drive over and see the beautiful rock formations. Updated information about the road conditions can be found from here, or one can check out the web cam to see the road by choosing the location “Brian Head”.

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I would recommend to drive around Cedar Breaks, since it doesn’t really take a lot longer than just turning around and driving back. While we visited, the ski resorts on the other side of the mountain were already open and there seemed to be more than one of them. During the winter there are many snowmobile trails and it’s probably a great place for snowshoeing too. During the summer time there is also a camping area that can be used by the guests. We stayed in Cedar City at Abbey Inn, and we really liked it! The hotel was quite average, but there were many small things we loved: super friendly staff, a clean room, great breakfast and some little extra things like chocolate gifts, a huge tea selection, separate make up towel in the bathroom, and so forth. No wonder they had such great reviews!

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I must say, that after living with the wild fire smoke in the San Francisco Bay Area and staying two days in a smokey casinos in Vegas, I fully enjoyed breathing the clean mountain air. We love being outside in nature, and Cedar Breaks offered us a great setting to do just that!

 

We Visited the Hottest Spot on Earth - Death Valley

Paula Gaston

Our road trip from California to Utah had started well. We spent the first night in Mojave, California, and then visited Manzanar National Historic Site. After that it was time to head to Death Valley which is right on the border of California and Nevada. We visited Death Valley for the first time, even though we had been planning to go there many times already. The drive from our house to Death Valley National Park is only seven hours, and somehow we still had not been there. But now it was time to see this famous place with our own eyes!

 

Death Valley is a desert valley close to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It got its name during the Gold Rush when many gold miners and others were passing through never made it out of the valley. Summer temperatures in the valley are brutal and during the winter nights there might be frost. Death Valley became the hottest spot on earth when they measured record temperatures there in 1913, +56,7 C (134 F). Wow! The normal temperatures during the summer months are usually around 50C (122 F). So I would really consider whether I would want to visit Death Valley during summer. Sometimes winter rains cause flooding in the valley, and last year for example, two people died due to flooding. In many ways, the conditions in Death Valley are challenging. It is also the lowest point of the United States. At its lowest, Death Valley is 86 metres (282 feet) below sea level. It was added to the National Parks System in 1994.

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Unfortunately, we were not able to enjoy Death Valley for very long since our visit to Manzanar took so much time, and we had to drive to Las Vegas that night. It would have been great to explore more and go hiking, but we mainly stayed on the main road. I would have liked to see at least Devil’s Golf Course, Bad Water Basin salt flats and the Racetrack, where rocks mysteriously move around over night. Even though I feel like I have seen enough deserts for a while now, someday I would like to return to Death Vally and maybe camp in the area. In recent years they have also experienced a rare super bloom in Death Valley due to plentiful spring rains. Desert flowers have been blooming like never before. In that sense the spring time sounds like the best time to visit the valley.

We visited Furnace Creek which is the deepest spot of Death Valley. We also saw Mesquite Flat’s sand dunes which seemed to draw a lot of people. Even on the main road of the valley there were things to see and we stopped a few times to take photos. Furnace Creek visitor center had an interesting exhibit about desert animals and plants which is worth a visit.

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We can now check Death Valley off from our bucket list even though we felt like we were too rushed on our visit. For those planning on a trip there, I would definitely plan to stay the night somewhere and leave some time for exploring the area. When darkness hit Death Valley, we headed to Las Vegas and on to new adventures. So stay tuned for that!

 

Manzanar - The Internment Camp California Would Like to Forget

Paula Gaston

What? Is there really some prison camps in America too? The first place we visited during our trip to Nevada and Utah was Manzanar in California which is an old internment camp. Manzanar was not like the concentration camps in Europe, but I have also seen that word used when talking about it. It has also been called a “war relocation center”. What ever the name is, the history of this place really humbled us right from the beginning of our road trip.

Manzanar is located in California, between the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Death Valley. We didn’t really know what to expect from this visit since Manzanar is not so well known, and I hadn’t read much about it either before we went. I did know that it was used during the war between 1942 and 45, and it was where Japanese Americans were incarcerated. A total of 10 camps were opened around the country. All the Japanese and Japanese Americans were forced to leave behind their homes and lives, and register to one of these sites, as they were now considered as a threat to the United States. A total of 110.000 people lived in these camps.

 

Life in Manzanar was not easy. The camp was self-sufficient, which meant that internees had to farm the land and work hard to get some food. People lived in barracks which were not made for the extreme weather conditions of the dessert. Summers were brutally hot and during the winter it sometimes snowed them in. Manzanar was like a small town in the middle of no where, and people there were isolated from the rest of the world. When the camp was finally closed, people were given $25 and a one way ticket to wherever they wished to go to. But many of them didn’t have a place to return to anymore, since they had given up everything, and some even refused to leave. Just like they were forced to move to the camp, now they were all now forced to leave as well.

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Today Manzanar is a museum and part of the National Parks System. Almost all of the original buildings of the Manzanar Internment Camp were destroyed after the people left the camp, but they have reconstructed some of them so that the visitor can get an idea of what the life at the camp was like. While visiting one can tour around the area with a car and stop at different spots like a barracks or cemetery, and the Visitor Center has a comprehensive exhibit of the camp. They show a touching movie about the people living in Manzanar, and show case some artifacts found from the area.

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Our visit to Manzanar National Historic Site was very interesting and we were quite surprised about the place. We thought it would be a place that we could quickly visit, but it turned out to be a big museum with quite a few other visitors in it. We would have been happy to spend more time there to learn about it more, but we still had a long drive ahead. We are still remembering many sad stories about the people who were living their normal lives one day, and the next they were imprisoned in the middle of the desert.

 

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!