Sunday, August 22, 2010

Old Sacramento Undergound Tour

I did the Old Sacramento Underground Tour led by the Historic Old Sacramento Foundation on Saturday, August 21.  In the early 1980s, I took an archeology course that dug underneath the the concrete slab of a building in Old Sac.  It was fascinating to find numerous artifacts buried at this site and to handle something that hadn't been seen in over 100 years.  Needless to say, when I learned about this tour, I was excited about it.
1930s era photo show passages under sidewalk

I bought the tickets online.  While I could have purchased them at the door, they often sell out early on the weekends and I wanted to guarantee our spots on the tour.  I found the cost a bit high.  $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 6-17.  When you buy them online you are charged a "convenience fee" of $2.25 for each ticket.  A family of four will pay $59.00 for a 55 minute tour.  The price did not include admission to the museum, which is $3.00 each.  New total price $71.00.  The museum is a worthwhile add-on.  We only had a half hour to check out the place before it closed, 45 to 60 minutes would have been better.   You must also include the cost of parking, which will run another five to ten bucks depending on how long you spend in Old Town.  The museum sells a very nice 30 page "Official Souvenir Guide" about the tour for an additional $14.95, which I bought. So, a family of four could spend $95 for a two-hour history review of Sacramento. 

The helmeted tour group head to the Eagle Theater in Old Sac.
We met at the Sacramento History Museum.  The twenty tour participants were given green hardhats and a headset with a radio receiver that is worn around the neck.  The headset did not give any prerecorded information, but was used exclusively to amplify the tour guide's voice.  This worked well, and I am sure puts less strain on the vocal cords of the guide.  From the museum we walked to the Eagle Theater and watched a video that provided background information.  Basically, after particularly devastating flood in 1862, it was decided that the city would be raised an average of 9 1/2 feet.  The tour highlights the subterranean spaces below the sidewalks.  According to the tour guide there never was a network of connected tunnels, because tunnels crossing the streets were never built, as the cost for raising each building was the responsibility of the individual owners.

I enjoyed the tour and I thought the guide was was energetic. I also learned some things.  I would recommend it to others interested in Sacramento's history...if you are prepared to pay for it. 
An old archeology pit under a building
Tour guide demonstrates house jack.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Lower American River Rafting

On Wednesday, August 11, I took the two kids rafting down the Lower American River.  We selected River Rat as the company we rented the raft from.  There are basically two companies that service this stretch of the American River: River Rat Raft & Bike and American River Raft Rentals.  They both start at the same place, but River Rat has a bit longer route, adding about an additional 45 minutes to the trip. 

We rented a four person raft for $50.00.  We also paid $4.00 per person for the return shuttle fee.  Additionally, we paid a required county parks boat launch fee of $2.50, plus a optional raft damage waiver of $2.00. 

After renting the raft, we were told we could walk it down an "eight of a mile," or place the raft on the car room and drive it down.  We chose the latter.  It is a good thing, because it seemed like it was a much longer road than they suggested. It was pretty easy driving the raft down, even though only gravity held it onto the car roof.  I ended up parking in the county parking lot for another $5.00.  We then had to carry the raft to the water.  

The day was not in the mid 80s, and was quite pleasant.  We were told that the trip would last about 3 hours, but it was really four and a half.  We made a stop of about 20 minutes to a small island about halfway down to stretch our legs. 

A stop on the Lower American River.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Alcatraz Island - Golden Gate Bridge

Spent the day in San Francisco with the kids on Tuesday, August 10.  We left Sacramento at 9:15 a.m. and arrived in S.F at 11:15 a.m.  We parked in the Pier 39 Parking lot.  We walked a couple of blocks and had lunch at Rain Forest Cafe.  We then walked over to Pier 33 to board the Alcatraz boat.
Approaching Alcatraz from the ship

Our 1:10 p.m. departure time required us to be in line at 12:40 p.m.   It takes a bout 12 minutes to get to the island.  I made my reservation about two weeks before our midweek trip.  I would assume a weekend trip would require an earlier reservation.  The price for an adult and junior ticket is $26.00  A child's ticket is $16.00.

After getting off the boat, a ranger gives a short orientation.  A hike up the hill through the old brick military barracks leads up the the prison.  In the shower room you can collect an headset for the audio tour.

This tour is worthwhile.  Last time I was here they had a ranger give the tour, the headsets allow them to put more people through the island.
Ruins of the warden's house.

We took the 4:20 boat back.  About 4:40 we had diner at the hard Rock Cafe on Pier 39.

A cell with hole from 1961 escape.
Alcatraz cell block
We then drove to the Golden Gate Bridge.  It took us about 55 minutes to walk up and back.  It was pretty windy and cold. We got back to the car at 8:00 p.m.  We were back home at about 10:30 p.m. 

Golden Gate Bridge (allow about a hour to hike back and forth)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Half Dome - Yosemite

I climbed Half Dome in Yosemite with N.M. on Tuesday, August 3, 2010.  All of the hikes this summer were conditioning exercises leading to this experience.
A view of Half Dome.

 We left Sacramento at noon on Monday and arrived in Curry Village about 3:15 p.m. I selected this accommodation based on the recommendation of "Mr. Half Dome" Rick Deutsch. I attended a Half Dome presentation he made at REI and bought his book, which I found very valuable.  Check out his website for some interesting resources.

On April 7, 2010, I made online reservations for a tent cabin in Curry Village.  I was able to obtain a Curry Signature Tent for a total of two nights for $292.82.
Curry Village Signature Tent with bear box.

The Signature Tent is a heated tent during the winter.  It has wooden walls, and three windows and a door.  It had one double and two twin beds, which included towels, pillows, sheets and a wool blanket.  It also has a metal shelf with a digital safe. The sheets and blanket felt crisp and clean.  The towels were small and course, but clean.  The metal bed frame was a bit squeaky and short for my 6' 2" size.
The interior of a Signature Tent.
Half Dome at sunset from Curry Village.

No cooking is permitted and all food must be stored in the bear locker outside of each tent.  Upon checking in, you are provided a key to unlock the padlock on the door of the tent.  You must bring your own lock if you want to keep humans out of your bear locker.  We didn't bring one, but didn't have any problem with theft.  We didn't even hear a bear come through the camp at night.

The big problem with this camp is the rocky gravel they have as ground cover.  I am sure it eliminates the mud problem when it is wet, but at night, you can hear your neighbors making their way to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

These tents have a single electrical outlet.  I used one to to charge my iPhone and used its alarm to wake us up at 5:15 a.m.  I had a quick breakfast of a Clif Bar and a banana.  We drove the car a short distance to the trail head parking lot and then walked about a half mile to the trail-head.

It was about 6:15 a.m. and we had hoped to start at 6:00 a couple of minutes after the sunrise.  After we had gone up a way, I realized I forgot my trekking pole.  I left my hiking partner to wait as I raced back to the car to get it.  By the time I got back it was about 6:45 a.m.  The little diversion added an extra mile to my hike. 
Trail-head sign.

The trail to the base of Vernal Fall has a smooth asphalt surface. The next leg of the trail becomes a bit rougher, but as throughout this trail, significant work was put into building this trail.  This includes a granite staircase up to the top of the fall. 

People has been swept over this fall while soaking their feet, so there is a hand rail at the top near the water.

The next leg of the hike took us near Nevada Fall.  We walked over this on our return, but could see it from a distance.  We got a little closer than most when we apparently took a side trail that fortunately rejoined the main trail. 

Nevada Fall (from side trail).

Mist Trail granite staircase up to Vernal Fall.