A Birthday in Napa Valley by Courtney Stewart

Frog's Leap Winery, Mumm Napa, Duckhorn Vineyards, and O'Brien Estate

For my brother-in-law's girlfriend, Hannah's birthday (that sounds confusing!) we wanted to show her around one of our favorite destinations, Napa Valley. As I have said before, living in SF puts us in close proximity to a lot of cool things, one of which is Napa, home to over 400 wineries. The drive is only about an hour to an hour and a half, so we often drive up Saturday and drive back Sunday. 

So, we set out early for our first reservation at Frog's Leap Winery. Reservations aren't required everywhere, but popular wineries like are usually booked to capacity. I like to be on the safe side and always have a reservation unless he winery doesn't take reservations.

Frog's Leap

Frog's Leap is our absolute favorite winery, not just because we enjoy the wine (which we do) but because the atmosphere is laid-back, cozy, and really just makes you feel like you are hanging out on your family's back porch.

At Frog's Leap you can choose from a Garden/Cellar Tasting ($20) where you stroll around the property while tasting wine, or a Signature Seating Tasting ($25) where you get to sit on the porch and enjoy light snacks while tasting (which we prefer). Adding to the coziness that day was the fact that it was rather chilly weather, but Frog's Leap was prepared with outdoor heaters and cozy, soft blankets. One of the other things we really like about Frog's Leap is the people who work there. Everyone is really down-to-earth, knows a lot about wine, and is just fun to talk to. They give just the right amount of information about each wine so that you know what you're tasting but don't get bored with too much info.

 View from Frog's Leap's Deck

View from Frog's Leap's Deck

Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen

After that, we were intending to head to Gott's Roadside for lunch because it's not only great food, but it's also one of the cheaper places to eat in Napa. However, Gott's only has outdoor seating and it happened to be pouring down rain so we ended up at a lunch spot called Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen. Being called a "Backstreet Kitchen" you would think it wouldn't be too pricey but we were wrong. I ordered a bowl of borscht, which I love, because the waitress said there was duck in it, which I also love. However when it came, there was no duck to be found which made it a really expensive bowl of beet soup. Alex ordered a lamb dish that was on special that he really enjoyed, but we overall felt the experience was not a great value for lunch.

Duckhorn Vineyards

Our second tasting of the day was at Duckhorn Vineyards in St. Helena. This was our first visit to Duckhorn. Tastings cost $30 and are by appointment only. This winery while it wasn't terrible, it just wasn't our favorite. Anytime the first thing you walk through is the gift shop, it's usually a sign of a winery without a lot of personality. Perhaps it would've been nicer had we gotten to sit outside on their porch and have a view of their beautiful property, but due to the rain we were seated at a table inside. The duck theme of the winery was just a little too overdone with paintings of ducks and duck decoys everywhere. And, the man that served us our tasting didn't really give us enough information about each wine, just the varietal and a few of the tasting notes. While the wines were good enough, the atmosphere isn't one that will cause us to return. 

 Vineyards from the car

Vineyards from the car

Mumm Napa

Whenever we do a birthday in Napa we always try to hit up Mumm. (It's a great spot for a bachelorette party, too) . They are one of a few wineries in Napa that produces mainly sparkling wine and I think that gives the tasting room a fun, energetic vibe. Unlike other wineries where they have a set 4 or 5 wines they give you to taste, Mumm gives you a menu with a few different tasting flight options which range from $18 to $25. We really enjoy Mumm because you have the opportunity to choose what you taste. One of the more unique things they serve is red sparkling wine, which we can't say is our favorite but was really interesting to try. 

Ca' Momi Osteria

For Hannah's birthday dinner, we booked a reservation at Ca' Momi (like many other things in Napa, it's good to have a reservation). Ca' Momi touts itself as authentic Italian food; so much so that they don't slice your pizza for you because "that's how they do it in Italy". The food overall was pretty tasty but our waitress seemed like she would rather be anywhere than serving us. The highlight of the meal, though, was watching an adorable teenage couple that sat next to us. The girl ordered a dessert and had them write "Prom?" on it, which was really cute to witness.

O'Brien Estate

We rounded out the weekend with a stop at O'Brien Estate. We had never been here before, but it quickly became one of our favorite wineries (even despite the fact that we couldn't have our tasting on their beautiful vineyard due to the rain). I had booked a reservation via email a month prior (they have tastings by appointment only), but they didn't have it in their system for some reason. Not to worry though, they grabbed one of their other wine servers, Jason, and he was happy to host our tasting. We were actually really lucky to have him because he is a sommelier and knows more about wine and wine tasting than many other winery workers. He gave us a great mini-course in how to taste wine. They have a trio of reds that are incredible: Romance of the Heart, a Merlot/Cab blend, Seduction, a Bordeaux blend, and Passion of the Soul which is a Cabernet Sauvignon. Despite the slightly cheesy wine names, we loved the experience so much that we became members.

 O'Brien Estate

O'Brien Estate

All in all, another great visit in Napa. And we love it so much, by the end of this trip we had already planned another.

Being tourists in our own city by Courtney Stewart

Alcatraz, The Presidio, and the Palace of Fine Arts

ALCATRAZ
We had been wanting to go to Alcatraz since we moved here, but we wanted to save it for when we had someone come visit from out of town. So, when we found out Alex's parents would be coming for his Dad, Dean's birthday we thought tickets to Alcatraz would be the perfect present. 

We had heard two things about booking tickets. One, if you can do the night tour, DO IT. And two, book your tickets far in advance. We took both pieces of that advice and booked our Alcatraz Night Tour tickets with Alcatraz Cruises about a month or so in advance. The night tour is $7 more expensive, but it is also more complete and allows you to spend a little more time on Alcatraz exploring. And as a bonus, the sun sets while you are on the island so you get beautiful views of SF and Marin County.

On the day of the tour, they tell you to be at Pier 33 (where Alcatraz Cruises leave from) 30 minutes before departure. Because Pier 33 is not directly accessible by BART, we chose to use ParkWhiz and reserve a spot in a deck nearby (You can reach Pier 33 by taking a streetcar from BART, though). ParkWhiz is great because you can secure your spot in a particular parking lot or deck before you get there, so the lot is not full when you arrive. 

While it's not imperative, it does help to get there rather early if you want a good spot for taking pictures and seeing the best views from the boat.  On the day tours to Alcatraz, the ferry just goes straight to the island. But on the night tour, it goes a longer route which makes it the best for snapping photos. 

 The back side of Alcatraz Island with SF in the background

The back side of Alcatraz Island with SF in the background

Upon arriving at the island, you disembark in groups and a tour guide leads you up a pretty long path. Then, you are directed into what was once the communal shower at the jail where you are given a headset for an audio tour. At first we were hesitant about the audio tour, thinking it was kind of lame we wouldn't be learning from a tour guide, but the audio tour was PHENOMENAL. It was way better than a tour guide because the narrators are former prison guards and former prisoners who actually experienced Alcatraz when it was open. One of the best things about the night tour is that they open the prison hospital, which they do not do during the day tours. 

The tour does a good job of leading and guiding you through the prison, but certain points did get clogged with people just because so many people choose the night tour. If you are wanting to miss the crowds, it may be better to try one of the daytime tours or even the Early Bird tour which is the first tour of the day.

 The watch tower

The watch tower

 The wardens of Alcatraz

The wardens of Alcatraz

After we finished the audio tour, the tour guides put on several different talks that you could choose to listen to. Alex and I chose to listen to one about the different escape attempts from Alcatraz. We thought it was pretty interesting, but we had already learned about several of the escape attempts from the audio tour. It just wasn't all new information. Glen, Alex's brother, went to a talk on the lengths prisoners went to make alcohol without the guards finding out, which he enjoyed because it was something he had never heard nor thought much about before.

After these two talks, we went to a demonstration of the slammer which is the mechanism used to open and close the jail cell doors. This is a CANNOT MISS! It was really awesome to see how it worked and hear the sound the prisoners heard every day of their time there. Glen and Alex probably loved it even more because of the engineer in both of them.

PRESIDIO

The Presidio in San Francisco is a park now, but it was established by Spain as a military base in 1776. Since then it changed hands to Mexico before being passed to the US. It is truly gorgeous to drive though; all the roads are shaded by beautiful eucalyptus trees and structures built in many different architectural styles. It's a place we have driven through countless times to go over the Golden Gate Bridge, but we have never actually stopped to spend time there. 

But, there's more to the presidio than just eucalyptus trees. There are several hiking trails and scenic overlooks as well as Fort Point and other military outposts. One of the coolest attractions, though, is is collection of outdoor art installations by Andy Goldsworthy. There is a 3 mile walk/hike you can take to see all four installations, but unfortunately we only had time to see one. We chose to see Wood Line, which you can see below. It was pretty amazing to see and to walk along, but we will definitely have to go back to see Spire, Earth Wall, and Tree Fall.

 Andy Goldsworthy's  Wood Line

Andy Goldsworthy's Wood Line

PALACE OF FINE ARTS
To round out our weekend of touristing, we hit up the Palace of Fine Arts which is right on the edge of the Presidio. The Palace of Fine Arts was built to house art exhibitions for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. In fact, it's one of the only structures that is still standing from the Exposition. Besides the Palace, there is also a lagoon surrounded by trees and walkways as well as a theatre where you can see ballets, stand-up comedians, and recording artists. It's a great place to spend the afternoon and just enjoy some beautiful views.

We can't wait to have more adventures like these in SF!

San Diego Part 3: La Jolla and some San Diego breweries by Courtney Stewart

Check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Before the trip, we had decided to rent a car one day so we could go up to La Jolla and some local breweries at our leisure. So, Sunday morning we woke up and took an Uber to the airport car rental center to pick up a car. Unfortunately because it was Sunday, none of the car rental places more near our hotel were open during the hours we wanted to pick up and return our car, so we decided just to get one from the airport.

After getting our ride, we went to Streetcar Merchants of Fried Chicken, Doughnuts, and Coffee for some morning fuel. Boy, were we in for a treat. Knowing we were in for a full day of stuffing our stomachs with wonderful food, we skipped the chicken and opted for the doughnuts. They had their daily assortment of doughnuts and what they called "dessert doughnuts" which were their regular doughnuts with toppings. Obviously we had to get the dessert doughnuts. I got the Cookie Monster doughnut which was a cookies and cream doughnut piled with whipped cream cheese and Oreo crumbles. Alex chose the ATL Peach Cobbler as an homage to our hometown. It was a glazed donut topped with peaches, brown sugar crumble, coffee cake pieces, salted caramel and whipped cream. Both were really tasty!

 Coffee and dessert donuts at Streetcar Merchants

Coffee and dessert donuts at Streetcar Merchants

When we had had our fill, we hopped in the car and headed to La Jolla. The first place we stopped was Scripps Beach. There was a parking lot right at the entrance to the stairs which only cost about $3 per hour. We weren't sure how long we planned on staying, so we overpaid because we only ended up hanging out there for about a half an hour. This particular beach wasn't so great for just hanging out on, but judging by the number of surfers there, it must have been a prime place to surf. We spent time watching the surfers and then walked down to an incredible pier that was part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.  

 It was pretty foggy when we first got to Scripps Beach.

It was pretty foggy when we first got to Scripps Beach.

 There may have been 30+ surfers in the water, but it was so foggy it was hard to tell.

There may have been 30+ surfers in the water, but it was so foggy it was hard to tell.

 The Pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The Pier at Scripps Institution of Oceanography

We wanted to see more of the beautiful beaches we had heard San Diego is famous for, so we drove farther south towards Children's Pool Beach, which is apparently where a bunch of seals like to chill. By the time we arrived and found parking nearby (which was free, but difficult to come by) the fog had rolled out, and the water was the most amazing turquoise/blue color. I had always thought you couldn't beat the clear blue water of the Caribbean, but this color sure did rival it. 

 The turquoise-blue waters of La Jolla

The turquoise-blue waters of La Jolla

 A beach near the Children's Pool

A beach near the Children's Pool

For lunch, we headed even further south in La Jolla to Oscar's Mexican Seafood for fish tacos. I'm sure there are a lot of good places for fish tacos in San Diego, but the tacos we had were down right delicious. I ordered the Battered Fish Taco and the Spicy Shrimp Taco. Alex got a Battered Fish Taco as well, but also ordered the Surf and Turf Taco based on recommendations we saw on Yelp. If you go, don't miss the different sauces they have in the windowed fridge next to the counter (they really put these tacos over the top). I thought both of my tacos were great, but Alex said his Surf and Turf Taco was tastier than his Fish Taco.

 Our yummy tacos from  Oscar's Mexican Seafood

Our yummy tacos from Oscar's Mexican Seafood

Even though we were pretty stuffed after lunch, we couldn't miss out on ICE CREAM! We walked a couple blocks and ended up at a an ice cream sandwich shop called The Baked Bear where we got an ice cream sandwich with chocolate chip cookies, vanilla ice cream and sprinkles. YUMMM!

 Alex chowin down.

Alex chowin down.

Then it was time for some beer, so we drove over to Green Flash Brewing. If you love IPAs like me, this is the place for you. We counted that they had 10 IPAs on tap when we went. We didn't partake in the tour because we feel like we've been there done that when it comes to brewery tours. But, we heard that the tour more than pays for itself in the beer samples that you get. The inside was a renovated warehouse and they had nice picnic tables outside that were unfortunately all full, so we found a couple stools near the bar inside.

The one thing we thought was cool about Green Flash is that you can order a full pint of a beer, but you can also get half pours and tasting-sized pours.  We both had the West Coast IPA and then the Tangerine Soul Style IPA intrigued me so I tried it. I enjoyed it at first, but then the tanginess and tangerine flavor became a little overwhelming after a few sips. Alex had a the Ristretto Porter for his second tasting, which he was super excited about because he loves porters, but they are rarely found at breweries.

 Alex enjoying his Ristretto Porter

Alex enjoying his Ristretto Porter

We rounded out our tour of San Diego breweries by hitting up Modern Times Beer. This was by far the coolest brewery we have ever been to. One of the walls had a gigantic mural made out of post-it notes. Another was covered in comic books, and the bar was made from stacked books. It was just a really awesome place to hang out and drink beer, especially because it wasn't crowded. 

The chill vibe of Modern Times made it a great end to our short trip to San Diego! We will definitely be back in the future.

Again, if you missed the other parts of our trip, check out Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

San Diego Part 2: Balboa Park and Coronado by Courtney Stewart

Read Part 1 of this trip here.

Saturday
We got up early and walked a few blocks to Lucky's Lunch Counter. It wasn't busy when we got there around 9:30, but it soon filled up. I had a pancake, fruit and hash browns, because I can never turn down hash browns. The fruit was legit because it had mostly pineapple and strawberries with only a little bit of cantaloupe. Alex had the Sunrise Bagel Sandwich. Maybe it's that we've gotten used to the high prices of SF, but this seemed like a fairly good deal for breakfast/brunch especially since it filled us up so much we weren't hungry until late afternoon.

We planned to stick pretty close to our hotel that day, so we took an Uber up to Balboa Park. This park contains several museums and attractions including the San Diego Museum of Art, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the San Diego Museum of Man and of course the San Diego Zoo. Most of the buildings there were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and were done in the Spanish Colonial style, so walking around really made me feel like I was back in Spain.

For our afternoon adventure, a friend had recommended that we check out Coronado while we were there, which is an island just off the coast of San Diego. You can get there by car, but we opted for a more fun mode of transportation: the ferry! It was $4.75 per person each way. There are two places you can catch the Coronado Ferry: the Broadway Pier and the Convention Center. We opted for the Convention Center pick up point because it was walkable from our hotel. The pick up was really difficult for us to find. We walked up and down a zillion stairs at the Convention Center until we finally figured out it was on the back side of the Convention Center across the road. Look for the signs that say "Ferry". 

Additionally, "ferry" is a misleading word for the boat we took. I guess if you leave from the Broadway Pier, you do take an actual ferry. However, since the Convention Center stop doesn't have as many people, they took us on a water taxi. It was a short ride over and we were rewarded with views like the ones below. 


Our friend had told us we needed to check out the Hotel Del Coronado because it was a beautiful, historic hotel built in the Victorian style. We originally intended to eat a late lunch there, but the restaurant menus looked kind of pricey, so we would eat on the way. Alex and I ended up walking the width of the island from where the ferry dropped us off to the area of the hotel. We Yelped and found Miguel's Cocina. They had a large outdoor shaded patio that was perfect for the warm afternoon. Biggest plus: Along with the free chips and salsa, they gave us a little bowl of cheese dip!! We ordered a couple of margaritas (which seemed expensive at first, but they serve them to you in a shaker which really holds more like 1.5-2 margs).

Then, we continued on to Hotel Del Coronado which definitely lived up to the hype. It is beyond gorgeous. You can just walk around the side of the hotel to a wide open courtyard that leads right to the beach. Many people were just hanging out on the lawn and enjoying the sun. 

We took the ferry back to San Diego because we had reservations at Jsix in the Gaslamp Quarter. When we arrived and realized it was in the bottom of a hotel, we were a little wary of it (especially because there were only a few other groups eating and our reservation was at 8PM). Hoping that these things weren't bad signs, we got seated in a really cozy little booth next to the wall. We skipped appetizers since we had a late lunch, but Alex ordered the Squash Raviolis which came with pomegranate seeds and hazelnuts, both of which really complemented the butternut squash flavor nicely. I got the Roasted Scallops and Mussels which came with some of the biggest mussels I have ever seen. 

IMG_0872.jpg

Jsix ended up being a solid choice, and we were glad we didn't let the awkward location scare us off. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to get some sleep because we had a big Sunday ahead of us. 

Check back for our adventures at La Jolla, Green Flash Brewing, and Modern Times Brewing.

San Diego Part 1: Gaslamp Quarter, Little Italy by Courtney Stewart

We are doing our best to maximize our time on the West Coast by traveling to cities close by while we live here. On our list are LA, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and San Diego. This past weekend we got to check San Diego off that list. 

The Flight
While Virgin and United do have nonstop flights from SF to San Diego, we try to stick to Delta because we both have status with them (me: Silver, Alex: Gold) and Delta gives us the most schedule flexibility when we fly home to Atlanta. So, we took a flight that had a connection at LAX. The flight from LAX to San Diego was only 24 minutes which we found pretty funny.

Where we stayed
We chose to stay right downtown at the Hotel Indigo Gaslamp Quarter. The location of this hotel was perfect. The Gaslamp Quarter is so named as a nod to the gas lamps that stood there in the 19th and 20th centuries. Several of these lamps are still there today.  We could see Petco Park down the street and were in walking distance to tons of bars and restaurants. The staff was super nice and we loved the modern decor of our room. 

  Alex getting a little work done before happy hour in out hotel room.


Alex getting a little work done before happy hour in out hotel room.

Friday
When we got to the hotel on Friday, we dropped off our stuff and headed straight for the hotel's rooftop bar, Level 9. I had read online that it was a great place to watch the sunset, and maybe it would have been but there was a large partition up in the middle of the patio that blocked the sunset. That, combined with drinks on the more expensive side, just made this an okay experience. At least we were still able to enjoy the great weather. 

  My wine and Alex's girly-looking drink (an Apple Spice Mule). It was kind of chilly but the bartender turned on the cozy fire for us.


My wine and Alex's girly-looking drink (an Apple Spice Mule). It was kind of chilly but the bartender turned on the cozy fire for us.

After that, it still wasn't quite dinner time so we headed across the street to Half Door Brewing Company. It's in a cute little white house and as soon as you walk in the door, you are greeted with a view of the amazing two-story bar.

  Half Door Brewing Company


Half Door Brewing Company

I enjoyed the House of Hops IPA and Alex had the Peanut Butter Gimmick Ale. Because we were a tad hungry we ordered the Fried Goat Cheese to snack on which was delicious and came with a sweet chili soy glaze. YUM! We ordered our drinks are food just after Happy Hour ended at 6pm but the bartender was nice enough to only charge us the Happy Hour prices. Win!

For dinner, we had reservations at Ironside Fish and Oyster Bar in the Little Italy neighborhood. It wasn't far from where we were staying, but was too far to walk so we took an Uber (our main mode of transportation for the weekend). To say we were highly impressed with Ironside would be an understatement. This was one of those restaurants where every single detail was considered when it was designed. From an octopus arm lamp, to a wall covered in (fake) fish skulls, they didn't overlook a single thing.

  Dining at Ironside


Dining at Ironside

  Close-up of the wall of fish heads.


Close-up of the wall of fish heads.

We ordered two each of the Carlsbad Luna oysters, the Fanny Bay oysters, and the Ironside Select oysters. The Fanny Bay oysters from British Columbia were our favorite. For our main entrees, I got the Fish and Chips, and Alex got the Shark. We both devoured our entrees. Instead of dessert, I opted for after-dinner coffee (one of my absolute favorite things) and Alex chose a Hot Buttered Rum. His drink was sweet and creamy, and we couldn't get enough of it.  Both drinks came in these cool mugs that we were tempted to keep for ourselves (but didn't!).

  Alex and his Hot Buttered Rum


Alex and his Hot Buttered Rum

We weren't ready to turn in yet, so we headed over to a bar I had been dying to check out called Fairweather. This bar is actually on top of another bar/restaurant called Rare Form, so you have to go through Rare Form to find the stairs that lead up there. We didn't realize this at first and ordered drinks at Rare Form before a bartender showed us the way to Fairweather.

Rare Form in itself is cool because it has these long, dark wood tables with green lamps that make you feel like you're in a library at an Ivy League school. The vibe upstairs at Fairweather is completely different; when you walk out, it feels like you're at a beach bar. The bar is adorned in blue and white tiles, and there is a wall covered in green plants. There are plush booths with seats covered in navy fabric with white polka dots. It was one of the cutest bars I have ever been to. I ordered a margarita which was pretty good, but when I saw they had frozen piña coladas, I was disappointed I didn't have one of those! Frozen drinks are my jam.

More to come on our adventures at Balboa Park, Coronado, La Jolla, Green Flash Brewery, and Modern Times Brewing.

 

 

A Weekend In Yosemite by Courtney Stewart

One of the best things about living in San Francisco is the city’s proximity to tons of cool things (Napa, Big Sur, Tahoe etc.). We didn't have any Valentine's plans, so this past weekend we took advantage of how close SF is to Yosemite National Park. Alex had never been before, and I had been there once before on a trip for work, so I didn’t really get the whole experience. 

GETTING THERE
The drive is only about 3 to 3.5 hours, so instead of Alex taking time off work, we woke up super early on Saturday and drove there. We got to the park around 9:30 am, but what we didn't realize that once you get to the entrance of the park, it is another 45 minute drive to Yosemite Valley which is where many of the hiking trails begin.  We ended up parking in Parking Lot A in Yosemite Village (which ended up being an amazing choice but more on that later). In Yosemite Village, there’s also a general store, a few restaurants and cafés, an information center and several campsites.

DAY 1
After getting our bearings we hopped on the Yosemite Valley Shuttle, which takes you to the two main villages (Curry Village and Yosemite Village), a few different campsites, and the heads of several hiking trails. One thing we did not really consider before coming to Yosemite in February is how many of the hiking trails would be closed due to weather. We originally wanted to hike to Glacier Point, but that trail was closed due to conditions. We ultimately decided to hike to Nevada Falls from the John Muir Trail. The shuttle dropped us at Happy Isles (Shuttle Stop #16) trail, so we could begin our hike.

  Creek at Happy Isles


Creek at Happy Isles

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It was a pretty strenuous hike, but when we finally got to see the falls it was definitely worth it. 

  View of Nevada Falls from John Muir Trail  


View of Nevada Falls from John Muir Trail  

The trail did continue on past this view, but it looked too treacherous because of snow and ice to continue in my running shoes. Alex made me promise to come back in the summer and hike the rest of the way.

At the end of the day as we were walking back to our car, we noticed traffic was really bad leaving the park. Like cars-were-completely-stopped bad. We were not looking forward to sitting in said traffic but decided to go for it anyways. Pulling out of the parking lot we noticed that the source of the traffic was the four-way stop to leave the parking area and that after the intersection, traffic cleared up. So, we ended up not hitting any traffic at all. Our advice: try to get to the park early to park in the main parking area in Yosemite Valley and avoid the traffic leaving the park (this only applies if you are leaving through the west side of the park).

DAY 2
We woke up early again and parked in Lot A (Yay for avoiding traffic!). This time we took the Shuttle to Stop 17: Mirror Lake. During the late spring and early summer, you can see the reflection of the surrounding cliffs in the water, hence the name Mirror Lake. At this time of year though, much of the lake was covered in ice and snow.

The hike there was only a mile, so we continued on the trail that loops around the entire lake. We walked along Tenaya Creek and eventually crossed over a footbridge to loop back around to the lake. We really enjoyed this part of the hike because there were a lot fewer people and it was very peaceful. Considering we were only expecting to see the lake, we encountered some surprising and breathtaking views.

DSC_0653.jpg
  Views along Tenaya Creek


Views along Tenaya Creek

WHERE WE STAYED
Because this was kind of a last minute trip (and because I'm not the greatest camper) we decided to stay outside the park at the Holiday Inn Express Merced. Although it was a little farther from Yosemite than we would have liked (about 1.5 hours) and there are hotels closer, we booked this hotel for two reasons. Number one: I have an obsession with earning points and miles (which I will hopefully be able to share insights about on this blog as well). Alex has top status in the IHG Rewards Program which the Holiday Inn brand is part of. Number two: The hotels closer to or inside the park were significantly more expensive.

Even though this trip was short, we saw some amazing views and cannot wait to go back. Next time, I am going to suck up my fears and we hope to camp inside the park instead of staying at a hotel.