… continued from previous post ‘I Know What You Did This Summer – Part 1‘
Traveling around in July within California and a little beyond was all the more memorable with my sister here for her first-ever visit to the United States. A beautiful 4th of July fireworks viewing at San Francisco was followed by a one-day visit to Big Sur on California’s coastline (‘Breathtaking‘) where we stopped to view a little waterfall. While we mostly tend to see big ones, this time I got to admire the smallness and uniqueness of one that fell from a cliff close to the beach directly into the ocean waves below. I jokingly nicknamed the trickle of McWay Falls ‘the peeing waterfall’!
We then journeyed to enjoy our first time to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. From up in the airplane, Las Vegas looks as if the Golden Goose dumped her shiny eggs in the middle of a lifeless desert. At night, the strip shimmers and glitters to completely dazzle the human eye. The themed casinos with their over-the-top decor make you feel as though you are in a dream. If your purpose is mostly sightseeing and not necessarily partying in one place, you keep walking until your legs hurt and still don’t manage to cover all of the casinos.
The route to Grand Canyon which was our next destination possessed a strange beauty in its dry, desert-like landscape with bare, rough-looking mountains, flat plains stretching away as far as the eye could see and dreamy white clouds silently casting huge shadows on the shrubby plant covered land. A funny thing was that I kept looking for tall, red mountains as we approached its location since I had mistakenly formed an image of looking down into the valley called Grand Canyon that would be surrounded by those mountains. But before we reached, I realized to my partial amusement and partial embarrassment that it is a “canyon” that is basically a gigantic hole in the ground deeper beneath the current surface level and has nothing to do with mountains at all! And man, what a breathtaking geological wonder it truly is! Indeed, no other adjective than ‘grand’ could have done justice to this canyon.
The San Diego visit, which was a second one for the hubby and me, included an enjoyable trip to the San Diego Safari Park that is nestled in a beautiful valley. At night, we strolled along the shores of the Coronado Island admiring the San Diego skyline when, without warning, fireworks began to explode over the buildings in the night sky! What a pleasant surprise that was! After that, Los Angeles, also a second time visit, was all about Hollywood and stardom with lots of fun at Universal studios, the Star walk of fame and Rodeo drive.
Lake Tahoe has seen many visits from us but its enchanting natural beauty with pine trees standing tall on the mountains surrounding the silent lake never fails to send out peaceful vibes. A different activity we did this time was rafting over the Truckee River. You settle into a rubber raft, steering your vehicle only when necessary as it gets close to the banks and float calmly downstream over the cool clear water flowing gently over the mostly shallow and sometimes deep riverbed. It is only at the very end when the journey ends, that the river turns a bit angry and gives you a little glimpse of what real adventure white water rafting must be like, when it crashes madly over sharp, protruding rocks throwing the raft around this way and that.
In September, we visited Zion national park and Bryce canyon with friends. The colors that the sandstone mountains display with such splendor (a majority of them being an eye-catching red) makes a visitor feel as though this could not be earth but a planet like Mars that he or she has landed on. Even the name ‘Zion’ seems perfect for a mysterious planet far away in space! There are numerous trails and hikes through Zion valley, one of which involves wading through water since the trail route is actually a stream that flows between two narrow sides of a mountain. A simple hike was to a place called weeping rocks and hanging gardens. I think I was in love with those names themselves, to begin with! It is fascinating to see that as if by magic, the rocks have water dripping out of them continuously due to the presence of sandstone beneath the hard exterior rock.
The vegetation on the rocks is part of “hanging gardens” that are created by nature’s landscaping and gardening skills due to the water from the weeping rocks. You stand beneath the shelter of the cave-like structure, water droplets sparkling in the sun, dripping down from the top of its entrance in front of you as if gazing out of a window. You look out at this stunning view of emerald green sizzling up from the valley under red mountains, take a deep breath of the moist air and you want to scream, “Aaaaa! I could stand here turned into a weeping-with-joy stone forever!”
Bryce canyon is another example of nature’s unique and skilled handiwork. There are rock formations called ‘hoodoos’ formed due to weathering elements such that they acquire a strange cone-like shape – wider at the bottom and tapering towards the top. They have layers of different shades of color over them and when observed together, the long bands of color come together and ripple across the landscape making them absolutely awe-inspiring.
The last beautiful place we visited as Summer 2012 came to a close was when we went to a nearby place from where we live in Bay Area, California to view the Milky Way. These are my husband’s words describing the view and the experience of that magical night along with a very aptly titled photograph “Speed Limit – c”:
“Isn’t it just mind boggling to think that even at the speed of around 671 million miles per hour, it takes years and years for some light to reach us? The fact that we are even able to see the light that was emitted years ago by a star is just so amazing! May be that’s why everyone wants to be a star, so that their light continues to reach others long after they are gone!”