Yosemite National Park, Northern California

Yosemite National Park, Northern California

Yosemite National Park is a location you will not regret taking the time to go see for yourself. The park is so vast it includes a variety of different landscape and sights. Although the park is very popular, tranquility can be found easily.

It is a great place to do camping (there are many camping sites in the valley), stargazing (watch a meteor shower from the Glacier Point!), hiking, picnicking, animal watching, photography and surely, simply sightseeing and enjoying nature at its best.

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Stargazing from Glacier Point.
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Taking time to enjoy the majestic view.
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Taking in the view down in the meadows.

It is well known for its numerous and beautiful waterfalls and rivers. Hiking trails can be found following the watercourse.

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Vernal Falls, Yosemite (during drought).
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Top of Nevada Falls.

The majestic giant sequoia trees are found throughout the park.

The granite mountains and granite cliffs surrounding the Yosemite valley can be observed from almost any viewpoint. In between the mountains are deep valleys in which you’ll find villages, wildlife, meadows and forests.

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Sunset on the mountains.
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Bird watching and the Half Dome.
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Valley and granite mountains.
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Valley.

 

A weekend getaway in Saranac Lake/Lake Placid

 

For¬†the weekend of October 16-18 2015, Nick (my boyfriend) and I decided we would organize an impromptu getaway. We had trouble deciding on our destination, but ended up booking a room at Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn, in Saranac Lake, New York. None of us had visited this town before. It was the perfect place for a calm couple’s getaway in a natural setting to take our mind off of school , and we weren’t up for city-sightseeing. And a bonus: lodging was excessively cheaper than in alternative destinations such as Boston or NYC!

 

So, we drove about 2 hours and a half in total, passing through the border to get into the U.S. and stopping in Plattsburgh for a little shopping session. We then arrived at Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn, where we were greeted and shown to our room. The inn is right on the edge of Saranac Lake and at the time of our arrival, the sunlight was illuminating the lake and surrounding autumn colored mountains in such a beautiful way.

Gauthier's Saranac Lake Inn, Saranac Lake
Gauthier’s Saranac Lake Inn, Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake

On the evening of our arrival, we took it easy and didn’t do much other than eat dinner at a cute place called Eat N Meet Grill in Saranac Lake. The food was great. I got the lamb souvlaki and the lamb was incredibly tender.

Eat n Meet Grill, Saranac Lake
Eat n Meet Grill, Saranac Lake

The aim of our roadtrip was to enjoy the remaining fall colors on the mountains, the towns of Saranac Lake and Lake Placid and some quality time together. However, this weekend was particularly cold and the weather forecast even predicted we’d be having the first snow of the season. So, on the second day, we slept in until lunch time and grabbed lunch at Blue Moon Cafe, another lovely casual restaurant in Saranac Lake, on the main street. The hazelnut coffee was excellent and the salmon gravlax bagel was just the light but filling meal I wanted.

Blue Moon Cafe, Saranac Lake
Blue Moon Cafe, Saranac Lake

We then drove about 30 minutes out of town to Mount Jo. It is a small mountain in the Adirondack Park, which only took us 2 hours roundtrip with quite a long break at the summit. Although the mountain is small, the view at the top is gorgeous and makes it a quick but very rewarding hike.

Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack

To get there, follow signs to the Adirondack Loje and you’ll end up at the parking, where they charge 5$ per car after 1PM or 10$ per car before 1PM. The beginning of the trail was just next to the parking. At the start of the hike, it was hailing like crazy. Then, it snowed intermittently during the rest of the hike to the summit. It wasn’t the easiest of weathers to hike in as it was cold and wet, but we were dressed properly and ended up appreciating the weather. In fact, the hike was beautiful, as the yellow, orange and red colors of the leaves on the ground and on the tree were covered by a thin coat of snow. It was a very unique landscape.

Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack

When we arrived at the summit, we were disappointed because there was absolutely no view to take in, since we were probably in the middle of a very dense cloud and couldn’t see anything around Mount Jo. But, we were patient and waited until, luckily, the sky cleared out slowly and the magnificent view was revealed to us. Not only could we observe the fall colored mountains covered in just little bit of snow, but we could also see the lake at the bottom of the mountain, Heart Lake. I highly recommend this hike, since it gives such a nice view for such a short hike!

Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack
Mount Jo, Adirondack

After we came back down from the mountain, we explored the surroundings and ended up on the edge of Heart Lake, where, once again, the view was very nice.

Heart Lake, Mount Jo, Adirondack
Heart Lake, Mount Jo, Adirondack

After the hike, we spent the whole evening in the town of Lake Placid, on the main street. It is an adorable town. The main street is right on the edge of Mirror Lake and it is full of small and cute shops and restaurants. We also saw some olympic buildings from the winter Olympic games which were held there a while back. We walked down the whole street and visited some of the shops. We chose to eat dinner at a restaurant called Smoked Signals, which we saw had great ratings on Tripadvisor. The maple syrup ribs were great and the portions were huge!

Smoked Signals, Lake Placid
Smoked Signals, Lake Placid

On our third and final day, we checked out from the Inn and took in the view behind it for one last time. Since it was too cold at this time of the year, we would really like to come back during the summer to use the bikes and canoes they had for us to use for free but didn’t get a chance to use!

Saranac Lake
Saranac Lake

Then, we headed back to Lake Placid, where we ate breakfast/brunch at the Breakfast Club… It was delicious.

Breakfast Club, Lake Placid
Breakfast Club, Lake Placid

We had planned on driving up Whiteface Mountain on the Whiteface Veterans Memorial Highway on our way back to Montreal. It is at about 50 minutes Northeast from Saranac Lake or 30 minutes from Lake Placid. I hear the view from up there is amazing and that the drive is beautiful. However, there is an expensive toll to get through, so we made sure there would be a view worth going for… and there wasn’t. You can do so by checking out the live camera feed which refreshes the picture every few minutes. Since there was no view to be seen, we decided to skip this activity and to head back to Montreal directly and come back for it eventually. Now, we don’t have a choice to plan to go back one day! ūüėČ

Gorgeous sunsets and Sunrises in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Earlier this summer, I had the chance to spend a week in Cape Hatteras. This cape is located on the coast of North Carolina and it offers a multitude of places from where you can catch a beautiful sunset or sunrise on a nice weather day. In fact, if you refer to a map of Cape Hatteras, you’ll realize that you can go from the west¬†side of the cape to the east side in no time, as the cape is formed by¬†a very thin stretch of land.

Cape Point is¬†near the town of Buxton. At the tip of the beach, you can witness something quite out of ordinary: Two currents coming together. The beach is very beautiful and it isn’t too crowded. There are many people fishing on the side of the bay¬†and they are a joy to watch. They very often catch some fish, little sharks and stingrays (don’t worry, they always let the sharks and stingrays go and they have a limit of fish they’re allowed to bring home). The walk to the point is a long 30-minute stroll in¬†the sand which can be discouraging… But it is absolutely worth it, especially to watch the sunrise or the sunset, as both should be visible from this site.

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Sunset at Cape Point, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
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Sunset at Cape Point, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunset at Cape Point, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunset at Cape Point, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.

Avon Fishing Pier is also a very photogenic site in Cape Hatteras, especially during sunrise. This is the last pier remaining in operation in the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. On the morning we visited the pier to see the sunset, we were the only ones there and the tranquility of the place just added to its charm. The sunrise makes a beautiful background for the crooked pier.

Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunrise at Avon Fishing Pier, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunrise at Avon Fishing Pier, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.

On our last day in Cape Hatteras, my friends and I wanted to watch the sunset one last time. We went to the Lighthouse, but we quickly realized we wouldn’t be able to see much of the sunset from there. So, we drove on route 12 and decided to stop at a little¬†spot on the side of the road from where we could catch the sunset.

Sunset at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. May 2015.
Sunset at Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras, May 2015.
Sunset from Road 12, Cape Hatteras, May 2015.

Things to do in Cape Hatteras

A great way to spend some time away with friends or family is to rent a cottage in Cape Hatteras. My friends and I rented one in Avon and we loved it. The cottage had 2 stories and a half. It was located at 2 minutes from the beach (by walk) and at 2 minutes in the other direction from a few stores (supermarket, dollar store, nut store and restaurants). It was equipped with many bedrooms, a spa, a game room (with a pool table!), a huge balcony and it had a good layout for the kitchen, dining room and family room area.

Avon, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Avon, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.

Avon is a quiet and very relaxing town. Spend your days chilling in the cottage, relaxing on the beach, surfing or swimming, doing extreme watersports, fishing, collecting seashells, visiting the lighthouse and the beaches, longboarding on the nice and quiet little streets, or chasing sunsets and sunrises.

Avon, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Avon, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Point, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Point, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Point, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.
Cape Point, Cape Hatteras. May 2015.

The drive from Sacramento to Yosemite National Park

Whomever decides to travel in order to visit Yosemite National Park, one of the grandest national parks in North America, will often be based in San Francisco or Sacramento.

Sacramento, capital of the state of California, is the closest city to Yosemite Valley. Located in the High Sierra in Northern California, Yosemite National Park is well known and highly visited. Not only are the City of Trees and Yosemite National Park beautiful locations to visit, the drive is also not to miss. Try your best not spend the whole ride sleeping in the backseat of the car!

About 2 hours and 45 minutes depending on where you are heading in the very vast park, the drive includes inevitably a portion on the highway, but then transforms into a long nice road while the mountainous landscape unfolds ahead. The yellow hills extend far away and the drive is a breeze.

On the way to Yosemite. 2015.
On the way to Yosemite. The road in the valley.
On the way to Yosemite. 2015.
On the way to Yosemite. Endless yellow hills.

At one point, all you can see on each side of the road are hundreds and hundreds of trees in plantations. I found the vibrant green pistachio trees particularly alluring with the trees all aligned in the horizon and the contrast between them and the red and brown soil.

Pistachio trees on the way to Yosemite. 2015.
Pistachio tree plantations on the side of the road.

Once you get closer to Yosemite National Park, you pass through mountains and villages and follow along rivers. The mountains are peculiar, with their vegetation growing sparsely on the yellow grass.

On the way to Yosemite. 2015.
On the way to Yosemite. Between the mountains.

The Arch Rock Entrance is reached by taking route 140. Cars pass right through it, underneath the small tunnel formed by some carefully placed rocks. It is also the main entrance to the park from the East.

Arch Portal Entrance to Yosemite National Park. 2015.
Arch Entrance to Yosemite National Park. 

Once you are in the park though, be careful because the drive can be a strenuous one on bad weather conditions especially. The amazing view you get from the road can also be distracting and the other accustomed drivers tend to drive faster. Also, driving on the endless winding roads right on the edge of multiple cliffs can be difficult for some drivers. Don’t let this discourage you from visiting though, it is well worth it! Just drive carefully, respect the speed limits (they’re there for a reason… for your safety!) and plan on going when the weather is nice.