Monday, December 7, 2015

Family Road Trip - 2015 (Part 6: Santa Cruz and Monterey)

Day 11: (Oct 25)

After enjoying our hotel breakfast one last time, we loaded up and headed back to San Jose.
Grant's friend Jae, with whom he's been friends since 8th grade, was able to come over to see us. That was really exciting, since we hadn't seen him in several years.

After a grocery shopping trip to Trader Joes (oh, how I miss having one nearby) and loading back up the trailer, we all headed to the Santa Cruz area.

We stayed at the Santa Cruz Redwoods Rv Park - with our trailer nestled right underneath the giant trees. 

Grandpa and Grandma met us at the campground - and 77-year old Grandpa wasted no time in scaling this redwood stump with Corban. Pretty spry! We had plans to roast hot dogs and s'mores, but due to the drought, there was a burn ban and no fires of any kind were allowed near the redwoods.
The up side was that now we had the opportunity to drive into Santa Cruz and visit the grandparents' favorite special occasion restaurant, the Crow's Nest. 

We got there just as the sun was setting and got a few photos. Such a gorgeous view!

Jae and Grant - friends forever. 

Grandpa and Corban

We enjoyed a lovely dinner and even got to spot a harbor seal outside around the dock a few times. Jae spent the night with us in our trailer so we could have more time to hang out. The grandparents went back to their home with the plans to meet up with us the next day. 

Day 12: (Oct 26)

We drove less than a mile down the road to Henry Cowell Redwood State Park. I was so excited - the redwoods were one of my must-sees for the California visit. There were a lot of things I was willing to sacrifice seeing, but redwoods weren't one of them. 

They estimate this tree was about 1700 years old. Wow! 

We strolled along the wide and level path which meandered through the forest, sometimes just stopping and staring up at the incredible height of the giants. Their immense size and just the knowledge of how old they are is mind-blowing. 

That tree in the center is the largest in the park - estimated to be well over 2,000 years old.                                                                        

This tree is pretty special - you can enter through that hole and stand inside the tree. Apparently they've fit 85 people inside there before - which was hard to believe - but we were perfectly comfortable with 10 people in there. 

Inside the tree!

It's always frustrating when photos don't do the scenery justice, and that was particularly true here. You just have to experience being in a redwood forest to truly appreciate it. I could have stayed there all day. 
Definitely one of my very favorite places of the entire trip. Grant agreed. 

We even got to spot a banana slug - a species unique to redwood forests. Apparently we were pretty lucky to see one; they're not usually out in that temperature for some reason. The park ranger seemed excited that we saw one, so we were excited too. :) 

As much as we wanted to stay longer, we had to check out of our campground by 11:00, so we couldn't linger. 

Our next campground was about 8 miles south of Gilroy, the self-proclaimed garlic capital of the world. They aren't kidding - you can smell the garlic when you drive through town, with the windows closed. Yeah.  Our RV park was really out in the  middle of nowhere, but it was half the price of the ones closer to Monterey, and nicer as well. 

After getting set up there briefly, we headed out for a 40 min. drive into Monterey to visit the well-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. Now really, it's not a cheap visit. It was actually less expensive for our family to get a year season pass than individual tickets. The grandparents ended up purchasing the tickets and got their season pass with it, so they can go back anytime they want. 

I've never been to an aquarium before - and neither had the kids. But since we studied swimming creatures in science last year, it was especially exciting to get to see in person many of the creatures we had discussed. 

The jellyfish exhibit was particularly mesmerizing. 

Goofing off with Grandma on one of the balconies.

Miranda was fascinated by the itty-bitty jellyfish. Some were no bigger than her pinky toenail. 

The Deep Sea Exhibit was incredible. 


One of the highlights to us was the penguin feeding. Those little guys were so interactive and adorable!  We loved the Sea Otter feeding time too - but I didn't get any great photos. 

The Kelp Forest feeding time was also really cool. 

An interactive exhibit 

Hurray for Sea Turtles!

There are numerous touch tanks to experience a variety of sea life. Since we were there late on a Monday afternoon, it wasn't busy at all. Especially near closing time. 

More examining the touch tank area. 

It ended up being closing time before we had even seen the whole aquarium, which was disappointing. The girls did take the time to peruse several gift shops and pick out some penguin and dolphin stuffies. Because we just don't have enough stuffed animals at our house. (eye roll)

After a fun dinner at a nearby burger joint, and another quick stop into the Trader Joe's next to it, we drove back to the campground to get some zzzzzz's. 

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