February 20, 2013

Big Sur Pfeiffer Burns State Park Overlook Trail

Location: 37 miles south of Carmel, CA
Distance: very easy 1 mile
Time of Year Best: year round

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is home of the beautiful 80 foot McWay Waterfall that can be viewed from the Overlook Trail.  There is camping above the cove. While driving, it is easy to drive past this cove and never knowing it was there.  For more accurate trip planning, the address of the parking area is: 65100 Cabrillo Highway (Highway One); Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park; Big Sur, CA 93920. You can either park in the official parking area and pay a day fee or park along Highway One for free.  The trail heads north of the cove offering expanding views of the coast and ocean.  The Overlook Trail to McWay Waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is awesome.

February 19, 2013

Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Penitentiary Sign
Alcatraz Island as a penitentiary shut down in 1963.  Now it is a National Monument and a throbbing hub of tourism attracting over one million visitors per year.  It has been a main stay in the top attractions in the San Francisco area.  Before visiting Alcatraz, there are some preparations you can make.  And once you are on the island, there is much to do, see, and learn.

How to Prepare:

Properly preparing for a trip to Alcatraz Island can make your visit much more enjoyable.

First, know what day and time you want to visit Alcatraz and then reserve your tickets with Alcatraz Cruises.  There are several different tours and prices to choose.  These reservations can fill up weeks in advance

Give yourself plenty of time to arrive before your departure time due to traffic or any other unforeseen problems.  The boats leave from Pier 33.  Parking in the area is expensive ($40 for the day).  A few blocks
away from Pier 33 is a $10 flat rate all dayparking area between Kearny Street. and Montgomery Street.

Bring food.  There is no food sold on Alcatraz Island.

Bring a hat and good walking shoes.  The sun is bright and there is a lot of standing and walking involved in a tour of this island.  Wear layers of clothing.  It will be chilly early and in some of the deeper parts of the prison, but being in the sun will warm things up even in the winter.

Educate yourself.  There are some excellent books and movies about Alcatraz.

What to do on the Island:

Immediately after being dropped off, a National Parks staff member will welcome the guests descending from the boat and explain the do's and don'ts.  At this point you will be able to get a brochure type map.  From the map, you can plot your path.

There will be some walking and a lot of standing.

There is an audio tour in the main prison that lasts about 45 minutes.  Don't miss this part of your visit.

Throughout the island there are plagues, short videos, and tutorials to visit.

Also, if you have a smartphone, there are some geocaches on Alcatraz Island.  Finding this role play cache could be fun.

Take pictures.  Have fun and be happy you are visiting as a tourist.

Alcatraz Island Early Morning Fog

Alcatraz Prison Recreation Area
Alcatraz Prison Jail Cell

Alcatraz Prison Guard/Tourist
Alcatraz Prison Mess Hall

Golden Gate Bridge from Alcatraz

Alcatraz Island Dock

Alcatraz Island Departure

February 18, 2013

Muir Woods Main Trail

Muir Woods Entrance

Location: 30 minutes north of San Francisco
Distance:  2 miles
Difficulty: very easy
Elevation Change: climbs 100 feet above Redwood Creek 
Time of Year Best: year round, area is heavily shaded
Recommended Map: Mount Tamalpais/PT.Reyes -CA (National Geographic Maps: Trails Illustrated)

Muir Woods National Monument has several trails within the park.  Entrance fee is $7 per person.  Parking can be a nightmare.  Plan accordingly.  The trail is very easy.  The bottom portion of the trail that follows Redwood Creek is a boardwalk and stroller friendly.  The loop back to the parking lot climbs above the creek and is well used, but not stroller friendly.  There is a tour that begins every 30 minutes from the Muir Woods Visitor Center.  The trees are glorious.  There are much longer hikes in the area.  See this page for more hikes in the area.  Also, to plan your trip to Muir Woods, see my prep page.

Muir Woods Redwood

Muir Woods Posing

Muir Woods Main Trail Squeeze

Muir Woods Redwoods Up

Muir Woods Redwood Trunk

February 5, 2013

Book Review: The Puritan Dilemma - The Story of John Winthrop

Author: Edmund S. Morgan
Genre: US, English, and Religious History

John Winthrop was a Puritan.  A Puritan was a Calvinist.  A Calvinist is someone who sees God's hand in everything.  A Puritan did not call himself a Puritan.  A Puritan called himself a godly man striving to please the Lord in all aspects of life.  The Puritans of the early colonial Massachusetts Bay Colony segregated into two contemporary Christian denominations: the Presbyterians and the Congregationalists.

In 1629, John Winthrop found himself elected as the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony on an expedition to the largely desolate New World.  Four ships landed near the Charles River in present day New England in April 1630.  Until his death in 1949, Winthrop served 12 annual terms as governor, and played a vital role in strengthening and building the New England colonies.  He proved himself a competent, intelligent, and persuasive leader who created peace among men with tendencies to disagree.  He paved the road to the representative form of democracy that the United States experiences today.

I highly recommend this book.  Subectively written, the author does an excellent job of understanding the mind of a Puritan and explaining their actions and decisions. The writing flows well and involves the reader. I found myself with an open map next to me looking up towns as I read.