Daily Archives: September 19, 2016

California Road Trip : Yosemite Valley & San Ramon

From Riverside, we headed to Yosemite National Park and if you’ve read my previous post on Los Angeles & Vicinity, you know that it was quite an adventure to get there.  Thank goodness for In-N-Out burger which was our dinner on the road for the evening.  We arrived at our destination, Inn the Woods Suites, at 2am and tiredly unpacked the car before crashing for the night.  We loved this well-appointed and pristinely maintained inn.  There are only three suites available and each suite has a kitchen, two rooms, private patio and a BBQ grill.  There is a game room and beautifully maintained grounds outside.  Though, it is located 30 minutes from the south park entrance in the town of Ahwahnee, CA and quite a drive to Yosemite village, I was very happy with my decision to stay here.

Knowing restaurant options in the Yosemite Valley are limited and require some long drives, I had come prepared to cook meals during this stay.  A little research on Google ahead of time told me that there is a Vons in the town of Oakhurst about 10 minutes away so I knew I could pick up perishables after arriving.  The quick trip I had made to Cardenas Mexican market before leaving Riverside allowed me to be more creative in my meals.  This market, which is a chain all over Southern California was an incredible experience for me.  I was like a kid in a candy store as I walked through the aisles, staring at all the specialty foods and produce we don’t get to see on the East coast.  The highlight however was their fresh tortilla counter which produces and packages fresh corn, flour and other varieties of tortillas all day long.  I couldn’t resist picking up a package of large, thick, handmade corn tortillas along with some avocados for guacamole and some fresh salsa.  I had a plan for them. 

The Inn provided some fruit, muffins and oatmeal for breakfasts along with coffee, tea and creamers.  We packed our lunches to go in a backpack cooler since we planned to hike most of the day and ate on the trails.  Lunch on the first day was simple sandwiches, water and bananas.  On the second day, however, I made use of my corn tortillas by making spicy chicken burritos in the morning which I wrapped in aluminum foil.  They were so good and much better than boring sandwiches.  I simply grilled the chicken the night before alongside our dinner.  I also grilled some onion and a serrano chili.  The next morning, I simply cut everything up and put it on a roasting pan in the convection oven to reheat and then wrapped it all in warm tortillas with some fresh cilantro, sliced avocado and tomatillo salsa (also from Cardenas).  I did go a bit overboard on the serrano chile apparently, as my son (who can usually handle some heat) was unable to finish his burrito after biting into several of them.  But he did admit it tasted good which is really all that matters. 

We grilled some prime ribeye steaks and asparagus for dinner the second night and picked up some fresh sourdough bread at Vons to go with it.  I used an herb and pepper rub on the steaks and seasoned with sea salt.  The asparagus I simply grilled with some olive oil and sprinkled with salt & pepper when cooked.  A simple yet satisfying dinner paired with a lovely petite syrah from Tobin James ended the day on a very relaxed note.  On our last night, we had done far more hiking and returned fairly late.  So we decided not to cook as originally planned and instead picked up some cheeses, salami, more bread, grapes and steamed some broccoli in the microwave.  We ate this all “picnic style” while chilling out in front of the TV.

We loved our days at Yosemite National Park.  We hiked the Bridal Veil Falls trail but took it to another level by climbing on the rocks where the falls would normally flow.  My son even found a clear lake at the top since he went much higher than me.  In the summer, the falls dry up significantly leaving this “trail” made of large boulders open for the more adventurous at heart.  We also hiked to the top of Vernal Falls which is a 1000 foot vertical climb within a distance of 2.4 miles, the Mirror Lake trail with lots of wildlife present & more rocks to climb, and the Sentinel Dome trail.  To this day I can’t believe I actually did the last one.  It’s not a long trail at 1.8 miles but the steep final climb up the dome is quite daunting and even more so on the way down.  But I made it and the 360 degree view from the top made the journey worth it.  We also walked around the base village area but the true beauty of Yosemite is off the beaten tourist path.  This was my second visit and again an incredible experience especially since I got to share it with my son. 

Once again, we felt as if we hadn’t spent enough time but it was time to continue and as I drove the windy, hairpin turns through the mountains to San Ramon, the sunset made me wish I could freeze time for just a little while. 

We stayed with friends in San Ramon who I’ve known for a long time and recently relocated from the East coast to California.  Yes, I know people everywhere!!  We were only there for two nights and one full day which was actually a work day for me full of meetings, but my son had a great time touring around with my friend’s brother and his family who were also visiting from New Jersey.  Honestly, it was fun to just sit around and do nothing but enjoy the conversation with some great wines from their collection after our three days of hiking.  I cooked again one night and made chicken burritos with the remaining corn tortillas.  Since we were traveling with two coolers and freezer packs, it was easy to transport the food to each destination.  This time I added some bell peppers and a couple of other ingredients.  I also made some fresh guacamole while dinner was cooking.  The wonderful thing about eating in, is that conversations are always more comfortable and open.  And since there were other kids around, my son enjoyed a little time to escape the adult world.

The next day we got a relaxed start after breakfast and a long walk to burn of some calories.  We made plans to see our friends again in San Francisco when we returned toward the end of our trip and hit the road again towards Napa Valley and Redwoods National Park  
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