10 Day California road trip cont…Lassen Volcanic National Park!

More and more people are heading out to explore America’s national parks because of being cooped up in the house with the COVID-19 pandemic, to reduce their exposure by being outside, to avoid crowds and tight spaces while traveling, and for a new found appreciation of the ability to explore! If any of these reasons sounds like a driver for your trip, you are in the right place! Road tripping is one of the more economical and COVID-19 safe ways to travel, but I have noticed in the past year, its also getting harder. I am picking up where I left off on the 10 Day California road trip with Lassen Volcanic park. North of Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, it is less visited but still amazing. We actually visited Lassen before South Lake Tahoe on our way south of the east side of California. Keep reading to see our budget friendly and not so early planning of trip of Yosemite, and more!

Day 4 (24th July): Drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park (4-5 hours from Eureka).

We traveled through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest (route 299) and stopped along the road for a stretch and breathtaking views of the river. Shasta is a beautiful area, that in parts, has been badly damaged by fires. Be sure to stop to appreciate the beautiful river and the large pine cones. A great way to stretch the legs. In general, I want to spend more time in northern California, and next time Mt. Shasta and Burney Falls will be on the must-do list, with more time in Lassen.

I should mention that if you are camping like we did, there is a big Walmart along the way to load up on supplies and food. Warning- this is serious outdoors. Once you get near and into the major national parks, clothing, grocery, and supply stores are few or non-existent. And what you do find can be expensive. Speaking of expensive. Gasoline in California. If you are not from CA, you need to create a separate budget for gas and double whatever you normally pay for petrol.

Somewhere along Rte. 299.
King Creek Falls Trail

Upon driving into Lassen Volcanic Park a bald Eagle flew right in front of us. It was majestic and the perfect beginning to an amazing American treasure. We headed in from the Manzanita Entrance and drove south before reaching our first and only “substantial” hike in Lassen- the King Creek Falls trail. There are 5 main areas of Lassen with levels of difficulty ranging from 1-4, so plenty to do and see, and something for everyone. We stuck to the Southwest area as we drove south out of the park for South Lake Tahoe.


Somewhere on the King Creek Falls trail we missed the path to the falls and ended up by ourselves high up in the mountains. Not that I am complaining. Fairly early on in the trail, I found one of my top 3 spots of our ten day trip. It was a valley with a small creek. It was beautiful and serene. Maybe 2 or 3 people when we came upon it and no one there upon our return. At least no person. There was a humongous, grizzly bear drinking from the creek bed. When we saw him or her, we were high up, so we could view the bear quietly from a safe spot. Make no doubt about it thought, there are bears! And you do not want to be near one. Stay away from the bears. You are not supposed to, but definitely do NOT take your dog on a trail.

I spy with my big brown eyes a big, brown bear! Do you?
Zooming In. Notice I didn’t say a closer view.

One exceptional reason to visit Lassen Volcanic National Park over Yosemite (if you have to choose), is the thermal activity. Now we have spent a lot of time in New Zealand visiting thermal parks (top choice is Wai-O-Tapu) so seeing bubbling mud pots and steam vents was not a top priority, however, if you have not had to the chance to see something like this before, then you need to check out this park. Lassen is unique in that you get all 4 types of volcanos- a shield, composite, cinder cone, and a plug dome. Lassen Peak is itself a plug dome. If you haven’t caught on, Lassen is a great park to learn and teach a lot about landscapes, geo-thermal activity and diverse ecosystems. I am sure you are all also wondering right now, are these volcanos about to blow? The last explosion was in 1921. No one knows for sure when the next big one will hit, but science has paved the way for a more ample warning system. You might also be wondering if its dangerous? No doubt about it, if you stray, jump or fall off a boardwalk or trail, you may end up severely injured or killed by boiling acidic water. Like I said with the Grand Canyon, do not take your child if they are unruly and undisciplined. If they are a kid that tries to run away from you in a parking lot, darting in front of vehicles, this is a no go.

If you are a geothermal junkie, then you need to check out Bumpass Hell Trail.

One thing my son who has spent most of his childhood in Florida appreciated, was the snow! Patches of ice and snow were still to be found even in July, though you could comfortably hike in shorts and a t-shirt.

Lake Helen-named after the first white woman to make the summit at Lassen (I am guessing as oppose to Native American, American Indian or Indigenous native), has beautiful blue and aqua colors. Apparently it gets is color from a mineral but I can’t seem to find out which one. If I had to guess- limestone? Points to whomever can tell me which mineral and the history behind the name.

The drive from Lassen to South Lake Tahoe was 3 hours. However, it felt longer. And was pitch black as we entered into the winding entrance of South Lake Tahoe. Next time we camp and explore more.

I hope you enjoyed this blog and learned a little more about different options in California and Lassen Volcanic Park. Please feel free to leave your comments, especially with insider tips for our next trip here. Thank you! Coming up next…Yosemite!

8 day Greece trip continued…Naxos!

Once we arrived in the morning from Milos on the ferry, we met our AirBnB contact who took us to our stay and arranged a car for us. This was a bit of a whirlwind and maybe not the smoothest of transactions but it actually worked out pretty well and was cheap. Once settled in we threw on our bathing suits and went straight out to find a good beach. Our first stop was Aliko or Alyko beach.

This beach is great. Clean and less packed. No restaurants or hoards of tourists here. A small grocery store nearby. Clear, clean water. Perfect for relaxing and exploring.

On our way down we did not ride along the coast because we were eager to get in the water, however, we drove up along the coast to get back to the main town center where we were staying. Our next stop was Mikri Vigla. At first glance this beach may seem crowded, and I would say most of the beaches going north on the west coast were a bit busy BUT if you walk over the rocks on the north of the beach you will find a beautiful cove! A small little beach and a shallow pool to swim in. It was beautiful. Take a look. This was my favorite beach spot on Naxos.

The cove and beach.

After these two great stops and the sun setting we headed into Hora (main town of Naxos) to clean up and have dinner. Our first night we checked out a busy tourist restaurant along the docks. It wasn’t that great so I won’t elaborate.

Near Filoti, On the way to Mt. Zas

Day 2- The Mountains of Naxos.

the only part of the climb that had “steps”.

One of the main reasons I wanted to venture to Naxos was because of it’s diverse terrain. We got up early and headed to Mt. Zeus/ Zas. The drive along the way is great. It was a cool, misty morning and on your way you can stop at one of the beautiful cafes in Filoti or Halki. We needed to be back in Hora early to get COVID-19 tests done so we didn’t stop but came back later (at the local hospital for cheap- you can book an appointment in advance). Make time to stop at all the little churches and structures along the way. Especially stop if they are open because most likely they won’t be on the way back.

There is a strip of road to park at the entrance of the Mt Zas climb. It is narrow and you need to park on the road (no parking lot), so also getting there early is a plus as you can park closer to the entrance. At the entrance you have access to water and can see where a car went off the cliff (so it does happen). I am pretty fit and this climb was not too strenuous or long BUT it is very rocky and has some steep steps (leg lifts not actual steps). In the beginning of the hike there was a path but there isn’t really a clear path either. I wouldn’t take my Mom or little ones on this hike but I still loved it. It was probably my favorite thing we did in Naxos.

I absolutely loved the Billy goats on the mountainside. All I kept thinking of was the story of the Billy Boat Gruff.

How many goats can you see in this picture?

After the COVID-19 test, we headed to Agios Georgios Beach. We actually didn’t mean to stop here on our way down the coast but it looked beautiful and quiet so we stopped. I really liked this spot and wanted to try the wind surfing but I couldn’t get anyone to join me so we just snorkeled. When you snorkel, I recommend going further out. It isn’t deep. On my way back to the beach, I got hit in the head by a windsurfer board. Now, I had on a large, hard snorkel mask so it protected my head but it gave me a fright and could have been bad.

After this beach we kept going south to Orkos and Plaka Beach. A lot of sand chairs and restaurants in this area. A bit crowded but again if you are looking to sit in a chair with a cocktail in hand this is great. Lots of kids around and plenty of fun to be had. On Plaka Beach there was a bit of nudity. FYI if you have virgin eyes or want your kids to have them. Always an eye opened for a teenage son. I didn’t take any pictures but enjoyed the hot sand. Water was a bit choppy.

Day 3- Naxos

Our final day before we flew back to Athens in the evening was filled with small stops around Naxos and some last minute shopping in Hora. We never found the Tower of Ayia but we did manage to find the Kouros of Flerio/ Fluoros. Faragi Kouros, I think? At least one of them. And the quarry.

We kept walking for a while but we never came upon an aqueduct or spring. There is an ancient site that if you are into archaeology, you will appreciate. We are talking 500 years BC old. The only thing is the signs were a bit faded so it was hard to read them but it can’t be helped in that sun. We saw these beautiful yellow butterflies whose wings looked to be flying backwards. The locusts or cicadas were serenading us. There is a shady path to the kouros. I really liked it there.

The olive branch

On our way back to Hora, we drove to Halki or Chalkeio (also known as Tragea btw) and had some amazing baklava. The church was closed 😦

Caffe Greco

After we grabbed some gifts we visited the Tower of Sanoudos and the Kastro. The view at the top and the restaurant looked fine but it was too hot for us to sit outside and stay. We viewed the Temple of Apollo from afar as it was crowded and also hot. We thought about going at dusk but there were just many people and not great circumstances during a pandemic. I really liked Hora. It has great little shops and narrow, windy, alley ways to get lost in and explore. There was a lot more to see and do (and taste) just in Hora alone so we would definitely go back. It makes me sad to see so many things that we ended up missing but we did do a lot.

We flew back to Athens on Olympic Air that evening and it ended up being a bit of a nightmare. Still I would go back to Naxos in a heartbeat. There is so much more to do and see and as the biggest island in the Cyclades, you can’t go wrong with Naxos. It offers everything- tramping/hiking, beaches, food and history. I hope y’all get a chance to go and keep checking back for the next adventure! Thanks for reading!

8 Day Greece continued…Milos!


Day 1-Athens/Milos

We took an early evening flight out of Athens. We decided to fly because it was much quicker. I don’t think the flight was even 45 minutes from take off to landing. HOWEVER…………………We flew Olympic Air. The boarding of the plane took a while so we landed late. We managed to get our rental car and checked into our AirBnB before dark but it was a late dinner and night after all. Our Airbnb host suggested a a few restaurants, including O! Hamos! but we couldn’t find it (I know it sounds silly but I guess it wasn’t lit up?) so we ended up having dinner at mikros Apoplous. It was so late we weren’t able to get a table by the water but that’s okay, our kitten company was across the main road. We had an amazing array of appetizers including Bruschetta with Stingray and Baked Feta sticks with Jam.

We had a solid two days to play in Milos. If I could do it again in a short period of time, I would have added one more day. to visit Kleftiko, which has to be accessed by boat. We thought about taking a charter boat tour out but it would have been a full day affair. However, if I could come back longer or often, I would come back annually with the family and stay in Pollonia. It just seems like a great place to make memories.

Sarakiniko Beach

As you can tell by now, I liked Milos. There is some sightseeing to be done but this was the island part of the trip, and I am going to call DAY 1- Rocky Beach Day. We visited 3 beaches. The first one, the most popular beach, was Sarakiniko Beach. This is the moon beach and it was has something for everyone. There is a sandy beach where little ones could ease it it. On the other side the rock cliff jumping for the adventurous. For solid swimmers you can go out and swim around the rocks in the cool, clear, deep blue. I didn’t see a lot of fish but I also didn’t see sharks. This may sound ridiculous but I live in Florida where there are plenty of sharks and the water is warm. If you generally don’t swim out in the deep, the water is mostly calm when you go out but stay clear of the rocks where you can get banged up. I think this was my favorite beach in Milos but not my favorite chill beach. It was beautiful.

Two levels for cliff jumpers. The only thing tricky about this is getting back on land.
In the middle is where the beach resides and on the other side of the rock on the left is where you can jump the cliffs. Plenty of moon walking to be had on the right.


I read that Papafragas was badly littered so I opted for this Mandrakia. When we came in we stopped to our left to check out Tourkothalassa beach which from afar looked gorgeous but turns out was littered. Mandrakia, Μανδράκια is the town on your right. Cute little fishing town. Medusa, the restaurant here, is supposed to be really good, but we didn’t stop here long enough to eat. We did take a quick dip in the water below where I could of swore there was some warm spring spots and checked out the small church before heading off. I didn’t really see a place where people were swimming so we made our own.


Our final beach for the day was Firopotamos Φυροπόταμος. This is a great spot to walk in and swim. The water is calm. Not as clear near the shore but beautiful out in the deep. We took the opportunity to swim far out to the left near a hole in the rock. It was a shrine/cave of sorts. The sand was rocky but not unbearable with some towels. There are a few trees but it does feel up quickly so take an umbrella if you want to stay out of the sun. In the small fishing “town” a lot of people were taking the opportunity to get their professional photos in. There’s a jumping spot off a high dock. The Church of Agios Nikolaos is here. It’s a beautiful church from the outside. It was closed when we were there though. And of course a neat treat here is a temple door but I apologize, I don’t remember its name. Finally, make sure your vehicle has decent power and tires to get up the parking lot hill. All of the cars I witnessed, including our own, had to start back to gain momentum to get up the hill when leaving.

After a clean up we took a drive up to Polonia/Pollonia and had dinner by the water at Enalion. My favorite main dish on Milos and maybe my favorite main in Greece was here. It was the Octopus. It was my one Octopus try in Greece and it did not disappoint. But it wasn’t the only good thing there. The fried goats cheese and the variety of local goats cheese were also fantastic. The squid was good too but everyone agreed my dish was the best 🙂

Day 2- Milos continued….

On day 2 we were eager to find a sandy spot to just swim and soak in the sun. Our first stop was just that- Agia Kiriaki Beach. It was blazing hot and the sun was burning our feet. There is not much shade which is fine because I needed an excuse to rent a sandbag under a umbrella! Best 12Euro of the trip spent. To the left of the chairs and sand chairs is a bar. But have plenty of cash because both are cash only. We could stayed here all day. Most relaxing beach by far. Great for the young and older. And when you are ready to eat head over to Thalassopetra restaurant and tavern. Their signature salad with anchovies is amazing, especially that homemade dressing.

Paleo Hori

Paleo Hori is your volcanic beach. The rocks on this beach are amazing. Such a variety of volcanic rock with a stunning sulfuric backdrop. Grab your boogie boards and closed water shoes. The water is more choppy and those pebbles can be painful. If you go down a little further you can find some beautiful spots without having to pay for a chair but if you want to be served yummy drinks under an umbrella, this is the place to do it. Just not cheap.

Final meal we went back to mikros Apoplous because O! Hamos! was too crowded and we just wanted to eat. This time we got a nice spot by the water. Two of us had the seafood linguini and Mousaka respectively. Ours was very good but I think their appetizers/starters are better than their mains. I only tasted the mousaka but I think it was the best of the mains. My son wanted to try the sea urchin linguini. He was okay with it. It’s an acquired taste, I think.

The next morning we were up early to catch a ferry to Naxos. At the time, we were hearing reports of massive COVID-19 outbreaks in Mykonos. I didn’t think to check whether our ferry stopped at Mykonos on our way to Naxos but it did. Thankfully, I don’t know who this guy was, but one of the ferry employees walked around the whole ferry ride and ensured people were wearing their masks. And he would stand by them and wait until they put their mask on. Barely anyone was on the ferry when we left but it was packed by the time we got off. The ferry itself was a lot more comfortable than the plane. I will say though that when we arrived in Naxos, the line of people waiting to board in the blazing sun was crazy. It looked miserable.

Check back soon to read more about Naxos, Greece’s largest island in the Cyclades, and a great one!

8 Day Trip- Greece!

I went to Greece for a a few days back when I was 19 but I like to say it didn’t count. My best friend and I went to Corfu while backpacking around Europe and the Pink Palace was a real life replica of what happened to Pinocchio’s friends who turned into donkeys. Anywho…. I have always LOVED mythology and western civilization history. 7th grade was my first real step into the ancient world. When you get older there are few things you truly remember and Greek day at Mahaffey Middle School in Ft. Campbell, KY was one of them. We brought in Greek food and wore togas. Later we got to visit the Parthenon in Nashville, TN and I stood in complete awe of the Athena replica. So when my son learned about mythology in 6th grade, I was so excited. When we were trying to decide on where to go for a vacation pre-COVID he said Greece. He loves snorkeling and he loves clear water. But it was so expensive to fly. So when Greece opened up and flights were cheap, we snapped up the opportunity to go. This time I wanted to see the real Greece and all its historical glory. Athens was a must. Finally, I was going to see the ancient Acropolis. And to boot, a pescatarians food dream come true. Of course, we couldn’t go to Greece without exploring some of the islands. Because of the pandemic I really wanted to steer clear of busy, touristy islands. I looked for more off the beaten path islands with limited time. I REALLY want to see the mountain north of Athens and Crete but we just couldn’t do it all. So we have an excuse to go back! Keeping reading to see what we saw and how we managed in 8 days (during a pandemic mind you)- Athens and 2 islands- Milos and Naxos. Efharisto!

  • Day 1 Arrival and Athens
  • Day 2 Athens all day
  • Day 3 Athens morning and early evening flight out to Milos
  • Day 4 Milos – Rock beaches and north of the island
  • Day 5 Milos- Sandy beaches
  • Day 6 Early morning ferry ride to Naxos and Naxos west coast beaches
  • Day 7 Naxos all day- Mt Zas (Mt. Zeus) and beach
  • Day 8 City center Naxos/Flight to Athens
  • Day 9 Flew out.

Athens- DAY 1

We arrived around 10am and hit the town around 12:30pm. First we stopped for lunch at Glykys. We loved it there. It’s outside, its tucked away in a quiet spot. And they had a bunch of yummy food. Our first visit included briam. Amazing. Then we headed to Anafiotika. This is probably my favorite place in Athens. It’s tucked away, quiet, and an enclave of flowers, little doors, and open windows to homes. You feel like you’ve been transported to a small village in Greece. There are cats everywhere. And there is man who plays a traditional Bouzouki to the cats. From Anafiotika, we walked towards Hadrian’s Arc. The main road from the center to the Arc is extremely busy. Be very careful, even at the crosswalks. Cars and scooters run the lights. The lights are quick. Right beside the Arc is the Temple of Zeus. The entrance to the actual site is Leof Vasilissis Olgas. It was here that I bought the 3 day pass and I think it’s a good deal. Unfortunately, the majority of the temple is covered in scaffolding and it’s mostly wide open to the blaring sun. We enjoyed it but if I was limited on time, I might just walk by this one and not pay to go in. But it is included in the 3 day pass.

Next we walked the National Garden. Now gardens are my favorite so if you want a really nice place to relax and enjoy much needed shade, this is beautiful place to go. There is a little pond with turtles in it.

We ran out of time since we started mid day but if we had started earlier I would go ahead and visit the Panathenaic Stadium which is on the other side of the National Garden. But again, you have to cross a very busy road, Ardittou.

Athens- DAY 2

Below is our exact walk from place to place. Everything we saw was on the way to the next stop. The breakdown of each place is below it.

Syntagma Square & Monument of the Unknown Soldier-Cathedral Church of Athens-Church of the Virgin Mary Gorgoepekoos and Saint Eleutherius (12th c.)- Hadrian’s Library- Monastariki Flea Market-Ancient Agora of Athens (Temple of Hephaestus/Odeon of Agrippa/Stoa of Attalos)- the Roman Forum of Athens- Greek Orthodox Church Pammegiston Taxiarchon and Panagias Grigorousas.

Heading out our first stop was the changing of the guard at Syntagma Square. It is slow and continual so you can’t miss it. As I’ve said a lot in Athens, get out early as the sun beats down hard and there is no shade. From here we walked to Cathedral Church of Athens. It was beautiful but the real gem is right next door, the Church of the Virgin Mary, a Byzantine church, with a mix of pagan and Christian symbols. Please, cover your shoulders, I know it’s hot but it takes nothing to carry a light scarf or cardigan. I carried mine in a camera bag.

Hadrian’s Library It was neat. No shade whatsoever. No seats. You could probably walk around the site if you didn’t want to pay. However, if you do pay, you can have a closer look at the Tetraconch Church, believed to be the oldest Christian Church in Athens.

At the entrance of the Monastariki Flea market are the Church of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary – Panagia Pantanassa and the Tzisdarakis Mosque. Both were closed or we didn’t see the entrance. We bought cherries in the market outside the metro station. I didn’t really see anything I wanted to buy. It was a little packed so we stayed outside of the shops.

Ancient Agora. Probably my second favorite stop in Athens. Believe it or not, I think I liked it more than the Acropolis. It is spread out with different points of interests, some shade, more intact structure and a great museum which is included in the price and has seating and bathrooms. The museum, or Stoa Attalos, was outside but covered. It had some of the best marble sculpture I have ever seen. A stoa is a covered walkway and in this example, once was a marketplace. From there we visited the The Church of the Holy Apostles (Άγιοι Απόστολοι Σολάκη), a 10th century Byzantine church. It was open. Masks required btw in all churches. It’s a beautiful church and the Arabic looking tiles outside are very beautiful. From here we walked to the Temple of Hephaestus. Much more intact and almost as majestic as the Parthenon. A stunner. You absolutely must check this out along with the Stoa Attalos when you visit Ancient Agora. There are lots of things to see here, including the Odeon of Agrippa, a 15BC open theatre donated to Athens by Marcus Agrippa.

The Roman Forum’s most cool relic is the Tower of the Winds, a meteorological tower, thought to have been built around 50BC. Similar to Hadrian’s Library in layout and lack of shade. But you can see inside the Tower. Let your imagination build the walls and columns as they would have been. It’s not every day you get a chance to stand in archaeological sites from 1st century AD.

Athens- DAY 3

We saved the best for last. I think. The Acropolis is amazing. We really enjoyed visiting inside it. But I also enjoyed walking beneath it. I enjoyed glancing at it while eating. I enjoyed it it in silence at night under the moon. It’s just majestic. Yes, a visit is a must. But make sure you savor it. Take time to take it in, despite the crowds.

The main things you can see inside the Acropolis and while ascending the steps include:

  • the Theatre of Dionysus (on your way up). Ancient theatre.
  • the Propylaea. The first big thing you actually enter in. The main gate to the Acropolis. It really sets the stage.
  • the Temple of Athena Nike. This is the little temple on your right as you enter the Propylaea.
  • the Erechtheion. This is my favorite structure on the Acropolis. It’s on your left and includes the beautiful women holding up the frieze called caryatids. There are actually two more structures here. Make sure you see the olive tree to the right of the it. The legend goes that Athena planted the olive tree as her gift to the city after winning a competition against Poseidon.
  • the Parthenon (on your right). I swear there is one section of the frieze that looks like a rock was used to prop up a section of the gable or roof from falling (see pic below). Side note: It was very nice to see the frieze from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. I have seen another section inside the British Museum in London. Sometimes I wish I had Bill and Ted’s phone booth to jet back in time and get a glimpse of what it would have been like. This was one of those occasions. But I’m not a fan of sacrificing animals so in this case my imagination was fine.
Is that a fallen horse holding up the roof?
  • Odeon Herodes Atticus (on your way down). This is not as ancient and when we were there it was being set up for a performance so it’s still in use today. Imagine performing here! Goals for out budding performers!

When you can’t take anymore wind, sun and neck craning, there is a little spot where you can purchase some orange juice or frozen drinks and snacks at the bottom. If you aren’t completely tuckered out, there is a great rock/overlook of the city called Areopagus Hill. It is not flat but it does have stairs. But if I was back there, which hopefully I will be, I would hit this at sunset, right after dinner. From the picture below, this was taken during the Greek fires in outskirts of the city center.

Needing a cool off, we next headed to the Acropolis Museum. To avoid the lines, purchase your tickets on your phone. There is a sign beside the queue with a QR code that will take you to the website. You still need to get your tickets printed out once you are inside but the line is less long and there is air conditioning inside.

The museum itself had an excellent collection of ancient Greek antiquities. I loved being able to see below us ancient ruins. We were literally walking above an archaeological site. My favorites inside were the caryatids, again. No pictures inside. If you can, take a break and lunch at the Acropolis Museum restaurant. Small portions but very tasty and an excellent view. I really liked his place.

Where we stayed: Plaka- Nikis Street and Falirou Street (great, cheap food all around).

Some places we we ate: Glykys; The Greco’s Project, Acropolis Museum Restaurant; Svoura Cafe, Φουρνος Χριστίνα (bakery with homemade ice cream cones and so much more!

Helpful tips:

This is my biggest learning lesson in Greece. Get the Greek name of each place, site or street you are visiting. It is hard to identify the name of a street or road if you don’t speak or read Greek. A lot of travel books list the names of places in English. And some taxi drivers and most signs are not posted in English.

Get to know Hadrian. Roman Emperor, who had a love of Greek civilization, and had a lasting impression of Athens to this day.

The bus or metro are the cheapest and fairly easiest ways to travel into the city from the airport. Everyone was wearing a mask on the bus or metro. The bus on the way into the city was hot. The 2nd time it wasn’t. When you step out of the arrival doors turn right and the bus ticket booth is down on the right. You can tell the attendant where you want to go. There are plenty of buses heading to Syntagma (last stop). I think it was around 6Euro one way.

All of the main sites in Athens are pretty close so we didn’t use transportation around town.

Start early when it’s more cool and less tourists, but don’t be afraid to go out at night for a stroll around some of the sites. The outside of many sites and overlooks at dusk are beautiful.

When it says don’t put paper down the toilet, it means toilet paper. With this said, maybe carry a trash bag with you.

Marble, marble everywhere. So it is slick even with tennis shoes. And most streets and sidewalks are not flat. I slipped so many times. And I have really good balance. Just be careful. We were there in the heat wave and didn’t experience rain once. But I can only imagine how slick it is when it rains.

There is so much more to Athens so make time and make plans! Enjoy and coming soon Naxos and Milos!

Camping at Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo

So this isn’t my normal type of camping. When I camp, in Florida especially, it usually involves a spring, a tent, a campfire, etc. in a state or national park. This was a little something “extra”. My camping buddy asked me if I wanted to try @westgateranch in Lake Wales, Florida. I checked out the website and discovered here was where one goes “glamping”. Y’all they got fancy teepees and double wide wagons to rent. Not such a fancy pants, I wasn’t sure it was my thing but then I checked out the activities and decided to give it a whirl. Glad I did!

Things to Note

The tent on the platform option does not seem any better than bringing your own tent. The tent size was not bigger than mine. If you really want electricity than this is an option. The water pump at the site was at the entrance so everybody could use, whether you brought your own tent or rented one of theirs. And let’s be honest, the party was in the open field. So many kids running around, riding their bikes, making friends, climbing trees. This is what it’s all about!

Try to camp during the week. We got there on on Thursday and the field where we could choose a spot was wide open and we found a beautiful location right under a perfect climbing tree. There are no designated camping spots so you can pick wherever you want in the field, but this also means people can camp as close to you as they want or can. On Friday night, the field was a totally different place! It was packed!! If you get there early, you can grab a spot with a picnic table.

There were spots to build a campfire. When I read the camp site description, it did not say there was a fire pit but we found one. It also did not say we couldn’t bring in our own firewood. We ended up purchasing their firewood because we didn’t think it was an option but if we do it again, we will bring in our own. There firewood bushels were around $10. That’s a lot in my opinion.

The lines are long. The wait is long. I don’t know if they have cut their staff in half because of COVID-19 but the wait to check in took forever. Then we had to wait longer so someone in a golf cart could escort us to a giant field. Big waste of time. The line/wait at the General Store was long. One person on the cash register, and they were also taking food orders. I understand you want to distance people and space them out at check in but it beats the purpose if they are standing in line for long periods of time. Especially if people aren’t wearing a mask (no surprise here but not everyone (guests) wore a mask.

Be at each activity you sign up for at least 15 minutes in advance. They make you check in (and there are lines again).

Bring your own soap for the bathrooms. The bathroom near the campsite (also beside the general store and skeet and shoot range) were almost always out of soap. Thankfully, someone always left some soap behind. Thank goodness. You would think that during a pandemic this would be top priority but I guess not.

The rodeo starts at 7:30pm on Saturday’s only. They say be there at 6:30pm. We purchased tickets in advance and found seats easily once we got in but again, we had to stand in line for 30 minutes until the gate opened and it was packed. Buy your tickets in advance, but don’t necessarily feel like you need to be there at 6:30pm, unless you like standing in lines, during a pandemic, around people with no mask. I will note, one of the doorman walked around and asked people to put there masks back on. This made me happy. I also noticed that people brought in there own food and drinks, FYI.

Everything cost money. And it cost a lot. Book everything in advance. We couldn’t purchase rodeo tickets until we checked in but for everything else, book online and book early.

Things We Did

The Rodeo! What can I say. I had fun! It’s very all American so if you have friends who aren’t American and want to show them a very American tourist show. It’s great. There is just something majestic about the horses galloping at a fast speed with riders bumping up and down. I don’t know if it’s because I am Taurus but I love counting the seconds riders can hang on until a bull bucks em off! It was good clean fun, music bumping to put you in the mood, and some friendly competition between riders. I have been to other rodeos and in the past I have felt uncomfortable at the way calves were handled but not at this place. The price for an adult was $25.01 with tax. Kids were $15.00 (5-12).

Airboat Ride.

Adults 13+ were $30.00. Kids (2-12) were $20. I did an airboat ride in the Everglades and this one was better. We didn’t see a lot of critters but in my experience you don’t because you are going so fast. Our driver took us up close to an area with baby gators and we got stuck. I have to say it was a lot of fun and a mini adventure because a pontoon boat had to come and pull us out. We loved it. And it gave our driver an opportunity to tell us about the waterways and the abundance of gators!

The Petting Zoo.

It was cute. There was not a lot of animals but there were some and it was nice. If you want to feed the animals, have quarters only for the bubble gum style food dispenser. The had baby kangaroos. My son said maybe they are rescues. Hmmm. I’m not a big fan of that. And I don’t need to see kangaroos at a farm in America.

How cute are these calf’s teeth?

Horseback Riding.

It was $48.15 with tax/per person for an adult and a 12 year to ride. It was nice. Wear sunblock while you wait for everyone to get saddled up. If they don’t offer, ask about getting a helmet. They had younger people running the counter and to me, this seems obvious for inexperienced riders but I guess I am biased as public health practitioner. I did see a horse decide to lay down mid trail with a woman still on. She was okay but here leg was a little trapped there for a bit. Kinda pricey for the ride but hey, it’s not something you get to do every day.

Meet Katie.

Swamp Buggy Rides

Adults 13+ were $30.00. Kids (2-12) were $20. So much fun. Cold! But fun. It wasn’t very swampy but it’s been dry lately. We went through some pretty big puddles and met some cows along the unbeaten patch. See video below. You might want to mute me gushing over the cows and calves running.

We loved it.

The Pool.

There is a pool and a hot tub. The pool was heated. The hot tub was hot. I read about there being a pool in the resort but it was not marked on the map or listed as an amenity in the flyer they gave me. But we found it behind the apartment or hotel looking rooms. It’s not a fancy pool but it does the trick. I was just so happy it was warm and towels were provided.

The Archery.

$10/per person. It was good way to practice your skills and kill some time. No instruction or instructors so maybe watch a YouTube Video beforehand it you didn’t go to 4H camp as a kid. I don’t think I saw mini or small bows for little ones but I could be wrong about that.

Things we didn’t do.

Rent a golf cart.

Visit the saloon.

Participate in the Adventure Center. Each activity in the Adventure Center cost money. For example, the Mechanical Bull costs $9/per person. But we didn’t go because of the money, It was because the kids just got too busy running around or riding their bikes and making friends. Also, the adventure Center didn’t open until 4pm. I wanted to play putt putt but we just didn’t get to it.

The Drive In Movie. Alert. It’s only for people in golf carts. The parking lot for the drive in only allows for golf carts. They don’t mention this. Bit disappointing. The Drive In Movie is free and on Friday nights.

Craft Shack. Or whatever it was called. It was closed.

Skeet and Shoot. Seemed hard and it was expensive. The age minimum is 13 so we missed it. Give it a go if you want to though.

We definitely had fun. I wouldn’t say it was the safest for a COVID-19 free get-away despite being outdoors, but it was close. We would do it again and I don’t think you need to have the glamping experience to get the best out of it. Matter of fact, you might have more fun amongst the tent campers. But definitely have some cash put aside for all the activities. Happy Camping!

10 Day California Road Trip continued…Mt Tamalpais, Patrick’s Point, Redwoods and More!

This post focuses on our 10 Day California Road Trip once we left San Francisco and continued north along Route 1 to Route 101 up until Eureka. The first day was Mount Tamalpais and Eureka. The second day we spent exploring the Redwood National State Park and the dramatic landscapes of Trinidad. Keep reading below for more details.

Mount Tamalpais. San Francisco in the background between clouds.

Day 2 (22nd July): Drove up the west coast on Route 1 stopping at or through Mt. Tamalpais State Park, Stinson Beach, Bodega Bay and the Avenue of the Giants (Humboldt Redwoods). Night in Eureka, CA;

Day 3 (23rd July): Explored the Redwoods. Hiked Lady Bird Johnson Trail and Fern Canyon Loop trail. Camped at Patrick’s Point State Park (total $42.99- Abalone site).

So we got up early from our AirBnB in San Fran and headed to Fisherman’s Wharf for breakfast. I feel like this was a very touristy area with a lot of chain restaurants. We decided on Darren’s Cafe for breakfast. It was good but expensive for a diner, in my opinion, and we would probably have been better off grabbing a coffee and pastry or biscuit to go and saving time and money. From here we drove over the Golden Gate Bridge along Highway/Route 1 to Mt. Tamalpais State Park. This was a beautiful, scenic drive with no clear state park signage. I wasn’t sure if we had passed or missed our marked spots. We did stop for some cherries and apricots on our way up the mountain and a hiking trail along the road.

We intended to stop at Muir Woods (we drove past it) and Point Reyes National Seashore but we just did not have enough time. If I had to do it again, I would have added another night on the west coast between San Fran and Eureka. I would skip Stinson Beach and camp near Mendocino. We currently live near the ocean so we decided to omit the estuary habitat and go for gorgeous trees and mountains.

Once we left Mt. Tamalpais we ended up in the town of Stinson Beach. I think we were looking for a quick lunch cafe, but as we saw mostly restaurants, we ended up going for ice cream at the Parkside Snackbar. Now I am going to complain a little bit again about the restroom situation here. There is an adjoining restaurant and even though we were patrons at the ice cream parlor, they would not allow us to use the restroom inside the restroom. A father at the near by park just walked into the restaurant with his child and used their restroom, but when I politely inquired with the host beforehand, he said no. So I wasn’t happy and wish I hadn’t purchased the ice cream, which was window service. Though everyone else with their big, messy ice cream cones were content. Oh well. In the town of Stinson Beach there is nice shop called Livewater Surf Shop with swimsuits and gear if for some reason you need a little boutique browsing escape from your family (no judgement) or forgot your swim gears. They also provide board rentals and surf lessons.

Next stop was Bodega Bay. At Bodega Bay we found public parking right on the beach with a large parking lot, restrooms, and outside showers to rinse off sandy feet. This is wide open beach with plenty of room, warm sand and choppy Pacific water. Great place to stop for a swim for seasoned swimmers and surfers. From Mount Tamalpais to Eureka, CA it is about a 4.5 hour journey not including any stops.

By the time we got closer to Eureka it was getting dark as we drove through Humboldt Redwoods State Park and we did not stop. The ONE BIG REGRET of this trip because I absolutely loved the large, giant redwoods we did encounter on this 10 day trip and couldn’t get enough of them. I could dedicate a whole trip to just the Redwoods in California (Cathedral Grove in Muir Woods, Avenue of the Giants, etc.). That night we stayed at an AirBnB in Eureka. My impressions of Eureka is that its a small, logging town with lumberjacks drinking coffee and retirees bird watching. Haha. It’s quaint and a great launching spot for the next day.

Day 3- My Redwood Dreams Come True.

The next morning we had breakfast at Old Town Coffee & Chocolates on F Street. So glad we were able to find a local coffee shop with yummy baked goods. Did I mention I live for pastries? But this was not my favorite spot on the leg of this trip. What we found afterwards was… the Lady Bird Johnson Trail. This is a very easy and perfect hike for the kids and grandparents. It was flat and had wide open paths to accommodate lots of people, though we didn’t see that many people outside of the parking lot. The restrooms in the parking lot are also holes in the ground BTW with no sink/hand washing available.

My favorite photo
This was a very peaceful place. Beauty in silence. Majesty in trees.

Plenty of opportunities for the kids to climb trees, make pretend tree forts and hide in old tree trunks here!

I was doing some serious tree hugging on this trail. Such a beautiful place. It really shows you the importance of protecting our national forests and parks!

After we left Lady Bird Johnson National Trail, we headed to the Fern Canyon Loop Trail located inside Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park. This trail is known for being used in Jurassic Park.


Both trails are a part of the Redwoods National and State parks. You can find more details about these trails and others at the National Park Service webpage, as well as temporary closures.

To access the Fern Canyon loop trail we drove down a dirt road, past the beach and into a sandy parking lot. I say this because 1.) you can take a detour to the beach and 2.) your vehicle WILL get dirty and you WILL track sandy dirt into the car. The car parking lot was busy and packed. This trail was more populated than Lady Bird but we had enough space to physically distance ourselves from others.

My son said he preferred this trail but he is a water baby so whenever there is a creek he is happy. He was able to dip his head in the water dripping off the cliff-side ferns. Because of the cold water and shade, this is also a cool trail. As we were coming from Florida in July, you can see we had jackets wrapped around our waists for cool morning temps and coastal winds.

This is also a great trails for teaching children about different types of ferns. Plant lovers will revel in the unique and ancient species of ferns found here. This easy hike is a .7 mile flat loop, with opportunity to join longer trails if you want more. Would definitely come back here again and again.

After we were done with the Redwoods for the day we headed back down south to Trinidad. What a cute town!

We headed down to a restaurant on a pier called Seascape Restaurant and really lucked out with a great dinner and evening. I had clam chowder and it hit the spot from being on a chilled, windy beach.

Dinner view inside the restaurant. Eye spying some seals.

Turns out this restaurant is owned and managed by a local tribe – Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community. We also went to Murphy’s Market and Deli in Trinidad to stock up on groceries and firewood for our night camping. They have pre-made meals as well and a decent selection of beverages.

Next to the Pier is the Trinidad State Beach and Lighthouse. What an amazing beach! We had a beautiful evening. Some were kite flying. Others walking. Lots of critters to explore on this beach as well.

I would say this was one of our favorite moments of the trip. An after dinner stroll, drawing our names in the sand, chasing each other with seaweed, and walking off dinner. And aren’t moments like these what its all about?

I spy a yellow slug.

Afterwards we headed to our campsite at Patrick’s Point State Park. As this was our first campsite, we were really impressed with how nice it looked and its location. But if you read my first post about this trip you might remember my comment about the bathrooms in California campsites. Basically, you need to have quarters to take a shower at THIS campsite. And by the time we headed into the bathroom at night for a shower, the campground attendant (who I guess makes change for people) had closed down for the night. And again because people either didn’t know like we did or didn’t want to spend the money, the sinks were clogged with dirt and paper towels from where people were trying to take sponge baths in them. There was a pump outside near our campsite and even though it was freezing water, I opted to wash my face, brush my teeth and rinse my feet and hands off here. Funny thing, in the middle of the night I went to use the bathroom and came across a SKUNK! Thankfully I spotted him before I got too close and he/she did not spray me. 🙂

The real appreciation of this campsite did not come into the morning when my son and I woke up and decided to take a little stroll. A little path near our tent led to the most beautiful, dramatic lookout and kindred wild flowers. Top spot alert.

Dramatic drop off leading to the Pacific ocean and craggy rocks.
This reminded me of Goonies.

The area right outside of the campsite was also very pretty and lends itself to lots of picture stops. It’s very hard not to keeping stopping which is why the more time you can spend in CA, the better, or you’ll have to come back like I hope too.

From Patrick’s Point we headed to our next stopping point, Lassen Volcanic National Park. The drive was between 4-5 hours and since we had been going non-stop, this was a great opportunity for passengers to catch some ZZZzzz. Please check out my post on Lassen Volcanic Park coming soon!

Thank you for reading and feel free to comment below with any questions or suggestions for our next trip. Happy traveling!


As you can see from my chicken scratch below, my initial plan was pretty ambitious. But you should have seen it before when I was planning a Washington to Santa Cruz trip! But with all travel, especially when you are traveling with children, flexibility is key.

Below I offer an outline of our

10- day California itinerary:

Day 1 (21st July): Flew into San Francisco- Explored San Fran. See below 10 day itinerary for our day details in San Francisco;

Day 2 (22nd July): Drove up the west coast on Route 1 stopping at or through Mt. Tamalpous, Muir Woods, Mendocino Beach and the Avenue of the Giants (Humboldt Redwoods). Night in Eureka, CA;

Day 3 (23rd July): Explored the Redwoods. Hiked Lady Bird Johnson Trail then visited Fern Canyon. Camped at Patrick’s Point State Park (total $42.99- Abalone site).

Day 4 (24th July): Drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park (4-5 hours). We traveled through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and stopped along the road for a stretch and breathtaking views along the river. We hiked the King Creek Falls trail at Lassen Volcanic Park (from Manzanita Entrance) then traveled down to South Lake Tahoe (3 hours). Night at Hotel.

Day 5 (25th July): Hiked Eagle Falls Trails to Eagle Falls Lake. Camped the night at Emerald Point (total $32.99 tent site at Lower Point). Dinner in town at @bluedogeatstahoe We had pizza and my partner discovered his new favorite beer, Great White from @LostCoastBrewery in Eureka, CA.

Day 6 (26th July): Hiked on the Rubicon Trail from Emerald Point campsite to Vikingsholm and Kayak Tahoe. Drove to AirBnB (Coulterville) outside of Yosemite.

Day 7 (27th July): First Day in Yosemite. Hiked the “4-Mile Trail” and visited Bridal Veil Falls. Stayed the night back in Coulterville at AirBnB.

Day 8 (28th July): Second day in Yosemite. Drove down to Mariposa Grove and hiked the Mariposa Grove Trail to the Mariposa Grove Cabin. The evening camped out at Cedar Bluff inside the Sierra National Forest (total cost- too much-charged for 2 sites).

Day 9 (29th July): Drove to Santa Cruz and straight to AirBnB. Explored Santa Cruz Wharf and harbor. Dinner at The Crow’s Nest and night at AirBnB.

Day 10 (30th July): Drove to San Francisco and flew home 😦 Depending on your flight time, there is the possibility to do at least one hike in Santa Cruz or highlight in San Fran.

Mariposa Grove Trail, Yosemite

Be sure to check out my other posts for more in depth details about each stop along the way!

Cost Breakdown

This is the first time I have posted a cost estimate of my trips but for this trip I kept better notes on expenses and I want to show people that you can accomplish a lot with a little, even in an expensive state like California (gas prices were insane!). This is not an exact price list but it can give you a good idea for a starting budget.

  • Plane tickets from Florida to San Francisco- $ 394.30 /per person
  • Travel Insurance for flight – $51.26
  • Car Rental for car pick up and return at San Francisco airport (10 days) – $ 440.44 (not including insurance, insurance was included with my personal car insurance policy);
  • Total accommodation costs including 3 camping sites, 1 hotel and 4 Air BnB’s (1 for two nights) – $1335.06;
  • America The Beautiful National Park Pass– $80.00

Day 1- San Francisco!

Day 1 (21st of July): Fly into San Francisco- We arrived at 9:40am and went straight to the Golden Gate Bridge. We hired a rental car from the airport and compared to Tampa, FL, the driving was stressless. We checked out Fisherman’s Wharf and grabbed an expensive but delicious panini from the Round House Cafe, right near the visitor center.

It was July and it was windy/cool, so bring a jacket. There is a mild hike near the bridge and we did see one homeless person but other than that, it was beautiful, and we felt safe. This was the only homeless person we saw btw. I think San Fran gets a bad rap for homeless people but I honestly have seen a ton more homeless people in San Diego. I only say this for any safety concerns. Personally, I use it as a teaching lesson.

Next, we met up Kara from Chinatown Food Walk: Tea & Dim Sum experience from AirBnB. This was the first time I tried an AirBnB experience and we really enjoyed it. Of all the things we did for 10 days, my son said this was his favorite! Granted, he is a foodie like me. We went to a tea shop, a temple, THE Fortune Cookie Factory and three food stops. We tried dim sum, a moon cake, pork roll, boba tea and tons of tea! From this experience, my son and I became hooked on Boba Tea. I thought it was like Thai Tea and I find Thai Tea too sugary so when we tried traditional, Chinese black boba mile tea, I was pleasantly surprised. You don’t know unless you try things! When we got home we immediately scoped out the best Boba tea shop in Tampa. I won’t specifically name where we went on the tour, you’ll need to contact Kara for that 😉 https://www.stretchy-pants.com/sf-food-tours/chinatown-food-tour-san-francisco/

Pork Roll. First stop. Not Vegetarian.

Side note: this tour is not for vegetarians. Contact @stretchypantssf if you would like them to try a vegetarian menu. They might be able to accommodate. I generally don’t eat meat but I make exceptions for special occasions. My child has a shrimp allergy and they were able to help us with this.

After our tour we went to our AirBnB. Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay out late due to flying in from the East coast and London so we were exhausted. We stayed at Jonathan and Sally’s AirBnB in the Twin Peaks area. Not much to eat within walking distance but a nice and safe area. The home was clean and cozy and offered a rare, second closed bedroom for an AIrBnB.

Next morning we hit the road up Route 1!

Tips and Tricks

If you don’t read any more of my posts about this trip I wanted to make you aware of a couple key things that you may not see on any official website or in a book.

At the San Francisco airport the cell phone waiting lot is not at the airport! It was about 6 miles away further down the interstate. Don’t make the mistake I did!

Showers are NOT included in the price of your camp fee at California State Parks. Some required quarters, some tokens- one had no shower at all (though it might have been a federal camp ground?)! So please, please do yourself a favor if you are camping and contact each campsite to see what they require to take a shower.

Gasoline prices are no joke. In areas outside of major cities, like Shasta, the cost per gallon was pushing $5.

Not all restaurants have bathrooms. Not sure how they got around this but we learned this to be true. AND the public restrooms at gas stations are NASTY. The majority of ones we stopped at didn’t even have soap. I can’t imagine the situation now with COVID-19. So while you are at stopping for supplies, grab some toilet paper, disposable wipes, soap, gallon of water and hand sanitizer!

Please continue reading my other “10 Day California Road Trip posts” to see fun photos, honest reviews and good details from each major stop!

Thanks for reading and please feel free to ask questions in the comment section. Happy travels!

10 Day California Road Trip Cont… South Lake Tahoe

On days 5 and 6 we traveled to South Lake Tahoe from Lassen Volcanic Park and spent two days exploring this beautiful area. The drive from Lassen was about 3 hours. The road into Lake Tahoe was windy. We arrived late our first night and stayed at Beach Retreat & Lodge Tahoe https://www.tahoebeachretreat.com/?utm_source=google%20my%20business&utm_medium=listing&utm_campaign=visit%20website. I don’t remember the room being especially nice. It was outdated but clean. However, the staff were really nice and there was a nice laundry facility right beside the pool. Since we got there late, parking at the hotel was difficult to come by. Even though we didn’t experience this, I would guess this is a great place to stay for a bunch of young friends in the winter, where they ski during the day and enjoy the night life at the end of the day. It is close to shops and restaurants/bars.

We were not out the next morning very early because I had a call and still managed to find street parking somewhat close to Eagle Falls Trail. The parking lot definitely does not hold enough visitors so plan to park on a windy, steep road and walk to the entrance of the trail. I believe there is a fee to park on the road or in the parking lot. I don’t remember paying it but we also had a national park pass decal so that may have been why. We hiked from the parking lot to Eagle Falls Lake.

Warning: the bathroom facility in the parking lot is a hole in the ground. I opted not to try it. Despite the scary bathroom, my son said it was his favorite hike of the whole trip.

It takes about 1/2 mile to get to the cascading water itself. When you cross the bridge there are some stones to rest on, cool your feet off and take a freezing dip if you are so inclined. We rested for a minute or two and then headed on to the lake.

While we were hiking up a little chipmunk followed beside us on the rocks. I think it thought we had some food.

Pretending I had food in my hand. As you can see, it was not shy. It was however, cute as can be!

Clearly some people are feeding them. Please do not do this. Later we discovered some carry the plague.

This is posted at Emerald Lake Trail bathrooms. Oops.

This hike is beautiful. It was a little steep in places and some of the footing was tricky but overall it is a pretty moderate hike with water to play in and stunning scenery.

The lake itself is not for the faint at heart. It is FREEZING. And you guessed it, all of the people in it were from Northern Europe or Canada. Except for my son, the island water baby and my poor freezing soul.

Cold water shock is real so make sure you read up on it ahead of time and expect to burn twice as much energy swimming in freezing water. BUT the reflection of the mountain on the lake and the scenery will leaving you feeling #blessed and invigorated.

You get great high up views of Lake Tahoe and big boulders to warm up on after a freezing swim in the mountain lake. This trails is about 1.8 miles one way.

Our second night we checked in at Emerald Bay State Park. The campsite was very clean and there is a nice spot to hop into the lake, HOWEVER, you need coins, not quarters to use the showers. After our first fiasco at Patrick’s Point where we discovered we though needed quarters to use showers, we came prepared with at least $20 in quarters. And after a long day of hiking and swimming we were ready to shower up and headed to the showers with a bags of quarters only to discover you needed tokens to shower. It was dark when we went so if there was a machine outside to change quarters for tokens, we did not see it. And of course, because either we aren’t the only ones who didn’t know this or some people don’t want to pay, the one big sink outside the bathrooms was busy with people cleaning up. I guess at least they offered that big sink? The showers were not very close to our campsite but there was a small bathroom across our site with 1 stall for women and 1 for men. If you don’t like bugs, than don’t go in. That’s all I can say. Also, bears are a big deal here so make sure you don’t leave any food or “smellies” aka deodorized toiletries out or in your car. You need to use the bear-proof storage lockers provided at each site.

On day 2 we tried the Rubicon trail that starts inside the Emerald Bay State park (near the entrance/exit). It was an easy, hike down and back to the lake and Vikingsholm.

At the time, Vikingsholm was undergoing some reservations so we did not go inside and do the tour but there is a little guest shop and neat restroom (complete with stalls and toilets) nearby. The guest shop was able to tell us a little bit about the family that built and lived in Vikingsholm, which was informative and free.

Then we headed down to Kayak Tahoe https://www.kayaktahoe.com/index.htm. There is a line, or two lines, to rent kayaks so go early and be prepared to wait a little. I don’t believe we waited long because we opted for paddle boards instead of kayaks, which seemed more popular. They are very friendly and can take card payments. You get a few minutes instruction and life jackets.

Children are not allowed beyond a certain point and must share a paddle board with a parent or guardian so my partner and I took turns riding with my child so we could paddle out to the little island in the middle. If you haven’t guessed yet, the water is cold. If you have never tried paddle boarding, this is a calm, relaxing way to give it a go. There are boats on the water with you but we didn’t witness any speeding so balancing on the board was not hard, but you can also lower down and paddle on the bottom or knees. #kayaktahoe is open 10-5pm with the last rental going out at 4pm. It is $25/hour or $35/hour for 2 hours on a paddleboard. UPDATE: Please check their website before going as locations, hours and renting times are constantly changing due to COVID-19.

Raccoon? What do you think?

For more of the 10 day California road trip adventure continue onto the Yosemite post or day 7.

Continued…Grand Canyon to Sedona Road Trip

Flagstaff > Slide Rock > Bell Rock Loop > Pink Jeep Tours > Sedona > Meteor Crater Landmark

That evening we headed down to Sedona but stopped in Flagstaff along the way. We stayed in a clean Courtyard Marriott right off the interstate https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/flgcy-courtyard-flagstaff/?scid=bb1a189a-fec3-4d19-a255-54ba596febe2. A continental breakfast was included and there is a small, indoor pool. The scenery from Flagstaff to Sedona along 89A is AMAZING. It is winding road, covered in big evergreens, and absolutely beautiful. We decided to stop at Slide Rock State Park and boy, am I glad we did! This was by far my son’s favorite part of the whole trip. It’s a beautiful spot to explore and go swimming, including sliding down the red rocks. Capped off with a ridiculously big ice cream cone. Get there early. There is a line, it’s busy and I am sure they have a cut off limit.

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Swimming Hole @SlidingRockPark
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It is slick. Best to ride down on your backside. Even with gripping water shoes, like Keens, you may slip and land on a hard rock. Not recommended for the fragile.
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Ice cream pit stop is a must-do.

Then we headed into Sedona. Again, more amazing scenery along the way.

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We stayed at Orchards Inn in Sedona and the view from our room was great! See pic below. It is also very close to the entrance in the town. And not far from the shops and restaurants. They had a picturesque pool overlooking a valley. https://www.orchardsinn.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=business_listing.

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One major reason we came to Sedona was to hike and learn a lot about geology. It had all of that. Sedona is just beautiful and if you are into all things “earthy” and “artsy” then this is the place for you as well. My Mom taught my son the different types of rocks as a toddler, so despite proclaiming I would never spend money on a rock, it happened. Labradorite….lapis lazuli…..How many can you name and identify? Better yet, how many can you spell correctly? Apparently, none for me .

Bell Rock Loop

Bell Rock Loop is a simple, flat, 3.5 mile hiking trail with great views and climbing rocks is you so desire. Perfect for the grandparents and kids alike.

 As you can see, there are options for every level so if 3.5 miles is too much, you can choose a shorter route. It cost $5.00 to park a vehicle.

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 Just playing in the dirt. Isn’t this what real childhoods are all about?

 Chapel of the Holy Cross. We saw a coyote when driving up. 

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One thing different that we enjoyed was the Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona. I liked it because we got to meet some other families and it gave us a different “perspective” of the rocks. Plus, its like what I imagine monster truck drivers do except on rocks. I only wish the tour was longer. 

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The rocks look amazing wet.
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 Rain on the rocks. Just beautiful. 

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Fossil spotting and the shifting of rocks.

Last stop before heading back to Vegas was the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark. The visitor center was very good and the crater was… enormous. I just wish you could get down closer to it because you can’t fully appreciate how large it is from above. 

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Top family tips for a road trip from the Hoover Dam to the Grand Canyon to Sedona!

We had to go to Las Vegas to cheer on family at a basketball tournament so I thought I would take a detour and to go see the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and Sedona. What an amazing trip! Keep reading and scrolling to see our highlights!

First stop from Las Vegas, the Hoover Dam. All I can say is get there early. We were fine and we went in July. But by the time we were done at lunchtime, it was a-blazing outside! You do have to park a little ways from the entrance and it can be dangerously hot if you aren’t hydrated and able.

There are two types of tours. Unless you are a engineer nerd (nothing wrong with that), the basic tour is good and informative.

From the Hoover Dam, we decided to take the longer but more historic Route 66 to the Grand Canyon.

There are few stops on the drive so make sure you are stocked up on water and snacks just in case.

Needles? I think this was a town but my first thought was that it was a place to dispose of intravenous needles 😦 So I was like, “peace out”.

The scenery was at times beautiful and it paints a picture of a different landscape of America, not one that I am use to coming from the east coast. And I added a quarky stop along the way…Grand Canyons Caverns.

Very interesting back history here. It’s amazing what risks people use to take. This beauty greets you upon entry. It doesn’t look like much from the outside but I will say this was a great little stop and lots of fun. If you can get past the dodgy looking elevator, you are in for a simple, little treat. There was also a little diner and shop inside for refreshments and tourist gifts.

This is where you can book a night stay inside the cave (NOPE). Apparently people get married here too. Whatever floats your boat.

 Wide open paths that any beginner could navigate. 

 I think this was a replica of an ice age groundhog? Haha. 

Grand Canyon Southern Rim

Next stop the Grand Canyon. We stayed in the Grand Canyon Village. If you aren’t taking a tour, I would definitely recommend that you book a hotel here early and stay in the village. Guided tours don’t have to wait in a big line but individual cars do. By staying in the village you have a jump start on early morning visitors and can get it early. We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express and it was clean and comfortable. They have an indoor pool which we enjoyed and offered coverage from the sun. 


We decided to go beyond the look out sites and do some guided hikes. Again, I was traveling with a child under 8 and did not want to do anything dangerous or too extraneous. We chose All Star Grand Canyon Tours and we had a wonderful guide, lunch (provided) and day https://www.allstargrandcanyontours.com/ . We did a 3- hike day tour and would have done more if we had more time. The three different hiking trails were uniquely different and we were able to see a variety of landscapes and walk down into the canyon (not all the way down!). We also got to see some fossils.

I want to caution hikers, if you have unruly children or think you may fall or slip, DO NOT do any hiking tour into the canyon. There are no handrails, etc. so if you jump or fall off, that is the end of you. I am scared of heights and there were times that I was hugging the wall side with my child in between me and the wall. He was fine. And when the donkeys come by you have to move over for them, and not to the inside but the outside! Don’t let me alarm you though, most accidents happen with rafting inside the canyon.

Grand Canyon Tour provides you with a backpack to carry your items and a walking stick.
Our tour guide pointed out the fossils in the rock.
Hiking into the canyon.
Upon entering the Canyon.

When the donkey tours come by you have to move to the OUTSIDE of the path. Meaning, there are no walls or guard rails to keep you from falling.

 Our guide showing us some points at the Grand Canyon visitor center.

One reason I like tours, besides the safety of traveling with others, is that tour guides are so informative and they are usually experts on the locations. That and tour guides can gain your child’s attention better than we can. Why stress yourself out trying to educate yourself before a trip only to have your child tune you out? Try and tour, save yourself stress, learn a lot and make friends!

The visitor center was last on our tour. Great lookouts but crowded. Another reason to take a tour. Visitor Center had lots of great information and hands on exhibits.
Oh Ah Point

There was so much to do and see that it all won’t fit into one blog post! So continue reading more from Flagstaff to Sedona to the Meteor Crater Natural Landmark in the blog post “Continued…Grand Canyon to Sedona Road Trip.

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