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Our last big trip of the year is over! Although the trip was great, I am so very happy to be home now and for the next long while. We just returned from a vacation spanning Yosemite National Park to Carmel, California – planned around our friends’ wedding north of San Francisco. We have been to three weddings in the past ten months. As of right now the only marriage we have to look forward to is our own!

wedding san rafael

The new married couple at the Falkirk Cultural Center.

Our friends had an adorable vintage-inspired wedding at a mansion and gardens in San Rafael. I love vintage items as well and wore a vintage dress I found at a shop in Asheville – the bride recognized that the dress was vintage right away! Sharp eye.

yosemite hiking

Our trail quickly turned into THIS.

We started our trip off by driving straight from the airport to Mariposa, a town outside one of the entrances of Yosemite. We spent a few days hiking and exploring areas of the park we have not been to before, plus some encore stops.

Mirror Lake Yosemite

Mirror Lake is getting dry!

You might remember Mirror Lake looking a little more full on my last trip to Yosemite. The California drought is affecting everything, but this particular lake is slowly and naturally filing with non-drought-related sediment over time and will eventually fill in.

A spot we completely missed last year is this odd tourist-made rock zen garden adjacent to Mirror Lake:

rock garden

Yes, I’m taking a selfie! No, I do not own a selfie stick!

Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley from Tunnel View.

One of my favorite hikes of the trip was to Sentinel Dome, the second highest peak in Yosemite Valley. This is just part of the 360-degree view from the top:

Sentinel Dome hike

Sentinel Dome summit.

On our last trip my love got some great night photography shots. These were difficult because the partial moon had either just set or was rising and any extra light detracts from the quality of star photos. Fortunately, we were treated to a moonless night on this trip–and had not even realized it until we were in the park! The Milky Way was stunning and my love got this shot of me at Glacier Point:

glacier point

Milky Way

merced grove hike

Hiking to Merced Grove.

If you are planning a trip to Yosemite in the next few years, be warned that the famous Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia is closed until 2017. We knew this beforehand and scouted out other spots. There are still two opportunities to see giant sequoia in the park, but they are only reachable by hiking – and I know at least one (Tuolumne Grove) is only accessible during the warm months when Tioga Pass is open. We hiked to Merced Grove (trailhead not far from Tuolumne Grove) and thought the short (very steep) hike was worth it. If you are a fan of National Parks, check out my earlier post from our Grand Teton-Yellowstone visit–especially for tips on WiFi if you plan to have a working vacation like I did. Stay tuned for Sequoia, Joshua Tree, and more in 2016.

Merced Grove Sequoia

One of many sequoia at Merced Grove.

monterey aquarium

Adorable sea turtle at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

After Yosemite we went to our friends’ wedding and then drove down the coast on US-1. I had been to the Monterey Bay Aquarium years ago and absolutely loved  it–which says a lot because aquariums and zoos generally make me feel depressed. I don’t like seeing animals in captivity. This visit was not as spectacular. The place was crowded and the exhibits felt much smaller than my last visit. We were done in two hours. I don’t really plan on going back here again, and would rather donate to their efforts instead.

I had stayed in Carmel about six years ago for one night and fell in love with the town. I love the unique cottages, the relaxed vibe in town and the beach, and the dozens of unleashed happy dogs running in the surf. Returning here was restorative and I’m glad it was one of our last nights of the trip. We stayed in one of Clint Eastwood’s inns. Our space had a small kitchen, fireplace, and community patio with outdoor fireplace. This is the type of place I would love to stay for a few days, a week, or more and simply write. Writing retreat penciled in the calendar for Carmel in the years to come! It is no wonder so may writers have used this town and the greater Big Sur-area as a space to write. John Steinbeck, Sinclair Lewis, Jack London, Upton Sinclair, and George Sterling, among many others.

pebble beach harbor sealCarmel and the surrounding areas are pristine. Although I am not a beach person, I don’t mind these beaches–and I loved seeing the harbor seals along the shore!

Now that my working vacations are over for the year I can look forward to my upcoming first-ever staycation later this summer. If you have ever organized a staycation–please give me tips!