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Spring Break in San Francisco

My second favorite city (Chicago is first)

I always promised my daughter a senior trip. When she was little, I would say, “If you don’t turn into a punk, get good grades, and don’t get in any major trouble, I’ll take you wherever you’d like to go your senior year.” It paid off. My daughter is a wonderful young woman who has been a dream. Her first choice was Hawaii, but, unfortunately the funds weren’t there. It was just too much for right now. I gave her some more options and she settled on San Francisco. This made me happy because I love the city. I had been three times previous but always to teach salsa dancing at a salsa congress so I hadn’t explored the city too much.

We settled on our details, our AirBnB, our car and made plans. Her number one request was the Museum of Ice Cream – a new-ish place in the financial/shopping district. Everything else got planned around that. I’ll probably write about places more specifically but here are some things we loved.

The Big Bus Hop on-Hop Off tour.
Looking back, I would have made more time for this actually. It hits all the spots you want to go and makes it easy to get around. We upgraded our package to 2 days and received entry into quite a few other places. We took full advantage. With the bus tour we visited:

Madame Tussauds Wax Museum
I had no idea this place would be so much fun. Normally, this is not a place I’d visit on my own but since we got in free, we popped in and started our tour. We had the entire place to ourselves. We didn’t have to wait for anyone or take turns. It was a blast and I’m sure having it to ourselves helped the fun factor.

A famous sculpture in San Francisco at the Wax Museum
You get to have a photo with awesome famous people!

Aquarium of the Bay
This aquarium is right on the wharf near the boats to Alcatraz, the bus area, and all the other tourist stuff. Skip it. While we got in with our pass, I wouldn’t want to pay for it. It is rather small and it gets incredibly crowded. If you’ve been to an aquarium before, you’ve seen it. There’s really nothing too special.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not
I love this place. I went once to a location down in Myrtle Beach and thought it would be dumb. It was fascinating. I have no idea how much is really real or fake in there but it doesn’t matter. They had a very cool light show where we took some fun photos. They had one of those walls where a light flashes and your shadow stays on the wall. And they had a tunnel to walk through that the sides spin (you don’t). I couldn’t do it. My vertigo would have kicked in immediately but my daughter made it. Again, we had the place to ourselves which made it all the more fun.

Ripley’s had some really cool light exhibits
Ripley’s had a shadow capture wall. We did it twice to get multiple shadows. I loved this.

California Academy of Sciences
Go here! This place is a fantastic place to visit – especially with kids. They have an aquarium, a rain forest area, a planetarium, and more! The aquarium here is way better than Aquarium of the Bay. In fact, I think it is bigger and had some really neat exhibits. We really enjoyed the rain forest area. It is a circular walk way and you see birds, butterflies, and they had two macaws who were really loud. Then you can go to the top and see the living roof. We didn’t get to go to the Planetarium since they didn’t have a show that worked for our day.

What we did in the city that wasn’t related to the tour:

Lombard Street
While this is a stop on the tour bus, we walked here on our own. I had been there before and don’t remember it being so crazy. So many people. I can’t imagine trying to live there. It was fun watching people drive down the street – many had their phones out recording it. We stopped for photos here although I couldn’t get any good photo of the street itself. I would have had to been higher up and pointing down. Or been there at night for lighting.

At the bottom of the zig-zag looking down into the city. I think if you look down most any street in San Francisco you’ll have an interesting view of something. It’s exciting.


The Museum of Ice Cream
This place really has nothing to do with the history of ice cream. I mean, it does if you ask some of the workers there. They are all knowledgeable about ice cream. The place is dedicated to cute and fun. We walked in, got an ice cream sandwich, and started the tour. We visited a diner, a room full of magnet letters on the walls, a cotton candy room, and more. Everything was delicious and pink. PINK. You move at your own pace and spend as much time as you want in each room. Want seconds? No problem. Want photos? No problem. We had a ton of fun and I’d do it again. At the end of the tour, they had a “Sprinkles” pool. You could go down a slide in a bath of sprinkles. This was my daughter’s number one option when going to San Francisco and it was a great choice.

Everyone ends up looking pink due to the massive amounts of pink on the walls and everywhere else.
Sliding into the pool of sprinkles

Alcatraz Tour
I will write about this in a separate post. For those who think, “Oh that’s such a tourist thing to do.” I mean, it is, but it is way more than that. The history and stories are fascinating.

Alcatraz Island

Ghirardelli Square
A visit to San Francisco isn’t complete until you visit Ghirardelli. Plan to exercise either before or after because you’re going to want to order something tasty at the chocolate factory. I controlled myself and only got a hot chocolate. My daughter ordered a brownie and a milkshake. Everything was delicious. Just a note: There is a separate store for Ghirardelli down the square a bit. If the gift shop is crowded when you order, just leave and walk towards the rest of the shops. There is a whole other location that is much bigger. And don’t forget to grab the free chocolate they hand out.

We also visited Muir Woods National Monument, Yosemite National Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, and other parts along the coast. I’ll write about these separately.

Overall, we had a wonderful trip. I wasn’t there for photography and it shows in my photos. My focus was spending time with my daughter and not having her wait around all the time while I tried to get photos. She was pretty good about the times I did and I appreciate that. We created memories. She’s off to college in the fall and I’ll treasure this trip.

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Pine Mountain State Resort Park

Our spring break trip continued into Kentucky and to Pine Mountain State Resort Park (from here forth known as PMSRP).  We had one stop at Kingdom Come State Park before reaching this park but I will write about that once I have photos uploaded.

Driving through Kentucky was pretty remarkable. I have been to Kentucky before but I was much younger and don’t remember much. The backroads all seemed to follow a beautiful mountain stream and wind through little towns. I would have never reached any destination if I had stopped to take photos every time I saw something beautiful.

PMSRP looks like a very fun place. We only stayed one night but while there we played putt putt golf and hiked to Honeymoon Falls. The lodge was very beautiful and the room we had was cozy. I will say that the walls at this lodge are thin. I did not sleep well at this place as someone had a baby who was up often during the night and I was able to hear the crying. Other than that, really nice place.  The food at the restaurant was good as well.

Our hike took us to Honeymoon Falls. The trail is very easy and round trip is approximately 3 miles. If you’d like all the minute details you can see my write-up on TheOutbound (in face you should sign-up for the site because it is fantastic – check out my adventures.  My son and I had a blast on this trail. There was a really pretty creek to follow, rocks to jump, rocks to climb, logs to cross and, finally, a pretty waterfall.

One of the coolest things we experienced as very cool air coming out of a cave. The opening was very low to the ground. It would have taken a brave soul to try and crawl into it. I imagine it goes deep and connects with the creek which is what provided the cool air. We were warm so it felt really great.  The trail was enveloped by rhododendrons and the rocks were green with moss. Everything was so pretty. We spent some time exploring the rock opening around Honeymoon Falls before heading back to the lodge.

Pine Mountain State Resort Park

Air Conditioned Rock

Pine Mountain State Resort Park

Honeymoon Falls – 25 Foot Drop

We rested, showered, ate dinner and then headed to Chained Rock. That was the suggestion from the front desk for sunset viewing. The overlook is about a 3 mile drive from the lodge. Apparently there is also a trail that takes you to see the actual chained rock. There are differing stories about why the rock is chained. Some say to keep the rocks from crashing down on Pineville and others say it was just a publicity stunt.  At the time, I didn’t know there was an actual chain (I think that would have been helpful knowledge from the front desk) or I would have hiked to it. Instead, we hung out and saw a decent sunset. The overlook down into Pineville is also quite outstanding.

We only stayed one night at this park as we had places to go the next day. I would highly recommend it though. Kentucky doesn’t charge for entry into their state parks and so it makes it all the easier to go and experience them.

Brumley Mountain Trail to Channels of Virginia

Over spring break my kids and I ventured out to Southern Virginia for some hiking. Our main goal was to get to The Channels of Virginia. I had read about them on various sites and the photos told me that my kids would love it. After showing them some of the photos I found online they were definitely eager to hike there. I found the best directions on this site. You can visit and find her driving instructions which were perfect.

That morning it was pretty chilly. The temperature was about 38 degrees. We had come prepared with layers and bundled up. We parked on the trail and our car was the only one there. That made me very happy. I was looking forward to some solitude and not having to worry about who we might meet. I had my new SPOT device for checking in with people and leaving GPS locations for safety. Surprisingly though we had phone service. Go figure.

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The trail was really nice. It is well-maintained and wide. It is a gradual climb up about 1200 feet (3 miles). There are portions that are more steep than others but there is plenty to see so if you have the time, stop, look around, take photos. The climb won’t seem so bad. For experienced hikers it should be a piece of cake. My son had moments of complaining but he trudged along with his trekking poles and with the use of my hand. I find that holding his hand helps him up the mountains and also slows me down so we go at the same pace. Plus, he’s 10 and it won’t be long before he won’t want to hold my hand anymore.

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At every turn there is a view. I would stop sometimes and just gaze out at the mountains or valley. I was pleased to be the only ones on the trail that day. I guess that’s the benefit of going on a Monday. Every few minutes I got the, “Are we there yet?” question and I told my son when he saw the fire tower he would know we were there. Cheers escaped his mouth when he saw it and knew the hard work was over. We saw the sign for The Channels and turned onto that portion of the trail.

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On the Spur trail you climb to the top and see the old fire tower and old cabin. I saw a large rock so of course I climbed it. The view was spectacular. The kids are a little afraid of heights but I assured them it was fine so they climbed up too and were equally amazed. The best part about hiking with my kids and witnessing their love of nature.

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After we explored the fire tower area we went back to see about exploring The Channels. All of the photos show people down under the rocks. They were amazing. We attempted to get down in two different areas but they both lead to dead ends. I found a way to get to the top of the rocks so we hung out there and had some lunch. I tried to rock hop a bit and see if I could find a way down but all of the drops were pretty far. My kids were a bit scared of me doing that and I didn’t want to worry them too much so I sat with them. The wind had died down a bit and it was almost warm up there on the rocks. My daughter said, “All of SnapChat is at the beach but I’m here and I get to see this! Their spring break sucks!” That made me so proud. I’m so glad she was happier on top of a mountain, cold, with me and her brother than just hanging at the beach.

On the way down we tried another way to explore the rocks but found nothing. I was pretty sad and disappointed. I don’t know what I did wrong in trying to find the entry. The kids were still thrilled with the hike but I felt like I failed them. We had gone specifically to explore the maze of rocks. My daughter said it was an excuse to go again some time so I guess we will. If anyone reading this knows how to get down under those rocks, please share! I reviewed everything after arriving home and nothing was helpful. All sites make it sounds like the entry to the rocks is just right there.

Overall, though, it was a fantastic hike. It was peaceful and beautiful. You can continue on the trail for quite a few more miles if you so choose. You’d need a pick-up person, however, to get you at the end unless you hike all the way back.

Check out more photos from the hike.
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Spring Break Hiking

I feel pretty happy that I have two kids who love to hike. They don’t complain while hiking unless they are seriously hurt. They like to explore and for the most part, they are able to keep their mouths shut for at least part of it so we can enjoy the sound of silence and nature.

I’ve been planning our Spring Break trip for months. I’m excited because we’ll be going to The Channels of Virginia which is a formation of Limestone rocks that are 400 million years old. I’ve done my research and I think this should be a pretty great hike. The initial climb might be tough – 3 miles gradually uphill – but we’re all in good shape so I’m not worried.

Another exciting thing is we’ll be staying in cabins at a Virginia State Park. This is as close to camping as we’ll get for now. Next week will be full of meal planning so I can be sure that we’ll be able to eat enough and make food that’s enjoyable. There are full kitchens in the cabins so it shouldn’t be a problem.

I imagine we’ll put in quite a few miles over the three days we’ll be out hiking. As always I’ll have full reviews here with photos. I’m not giving out exact information, obviously, because I’d rather be safe than sorry. My last worry is weather. I just want it to be nice. Last year we had a lousy day of hiking and the hike wasn’t even very good. The kids were troopers but I want something more exciting for them this year. And warmth.