On and Off The Mountain-Stephanie Grubert

I have gone “Off the Mountain” as my column lists both options. Charlie and I and the Dicus family traveled to San Francisco last weekend for the start of our 2017 western National Parks tour. Getting from Wilkes Barre to San Fran was OK after my TSA Precheck in Avoca experience let me enjoy an excellent trip with Delta.

The rivets in my sandals set off alarms, which resulted in shedding the shoes, jacket and a pat down and swab for explosives. “We have to do this because of the underwear bomber” the unsympathic TSA employee told me. I was not impressed that the US Government harassed a 70-year-old grandmother with an impeccable travel record. How do all the illegal criminals make their way in the system?

Charlie told me, “Well we didn’t have to wait in line.” Yes, the TSA Precheck on our boarding passes allowed us into the short line for screening. There were only 5 people ahead of us and 100 waiting for the regular screening in the very long line. Something is wrong here. I was not impressed.

Traveling nearly 3000 miles coast to coast on a tiny seat in a commercial aircraft is a challenge. But the end of the rainbow is the beginning of an adventure. We landed mid-morning in California after our 6:05 a. m. departure and had many hours to find our way to the Airbnb rental that we were to share with Lara and Mark Dicus and the grandchildren in a residential neighborhood about 20 minutes from San Francisco. We stopped at our favorite warehouse and big box stores for dinner and supplies including a charger for one of my electronics that I had left behind. Packing enough to enjoy a month of traveling, and in a suitcase that I can manage is challenging. There is always something left behind.

I love the GPS on my iPhone. Input the address and you will find your way. How did we ever do it in olden times with paper maps? Charlie is the driver and I am the navigator. Text messages that arrive during the crucial finding our way time are ignored. Sometimes the message would have been helpful. There is only so much a senior can manage.

We arrived with dinner and enjoyed a family night. Lara and Mark and the Dicus children had been touring all day as they had arrived in San Fran one day before us. The ravenous hungry family devoured the prepared dinner. It is pretty much six adults to feed three times a day. The children are at the peak of their growing. The seniors are more tempered with meals, but a nice dinner on vacation is due.

Saturday morning dawned foggy

and overcast in the Bay area. Seattle is similar. Morning fog burns off by noon to reveal beautiful sunny afternoon skies. We decided to start our day at the Embarcadero, which is the street in San Francisco along the bayfront. There are numerous historic piers, most restored in recent times, that welcome ferries, ships and private boats to dock. You can walk for miles along the shore to the Golden Gate Bridge at the far western end past Alcatraz and the Presidio area.

Cable Cars This day we walked a few blocks

into town and waited to board one of the cable cars to take us up California Avenue to Knob Hill, the highest point in the city. I had walked up that big hill 7 years ago, when I came to visit our daughter Amy Grubert and her husband Chris Wolpert when Amy was getting her Physician Assistant degree. The hill is steep, but comparable to the steep hike I take though the gamelands everyday.

The cable cars are fairly small vehicles holding about 50 people, that glide along tracks pulling the cars up the steep hills. They must be replicas of the original cars as 159 years of service in the same cars would be unexpected. The length of the cable ride is 3 miles round trip. We went to the end of the line and walked back, first up a medium steep hill and then down the much steeper grade toward the bay.

There are three cable lines still in service today since they were opened in 1858, nine years after the California Gold Rush established the city as the first large west coast city. Seattle saw its first settlers row ashore in 1851. Statehood followed in 1889. Los Angeles had been settled by the Mexicans prior to 1848, when California became a state. San Francisco is built on many hills. It is ground zero for earthquake activity.

Muir Woods Our afternoon excursion was to

be a trip north over the Golden Gate Bridge to the Muir Woods National Monument, an enclave of ancient redwoods in a protected grove in Marin County. The trip from San Fran is only about 30 miles and one hour, but the favorable weather and the summertime tourist traffic prevented us from parking at the sight. Charlie Grubert, Charlie Dicus and I missed the “parking lot full shuttle option sign” and we were barred from parking when we arrived at Muir Woods. Lara and most of the Dicus family took the shuttle and experienced Muir Woods. We followed a loop road away from Muir Woods and back to San Fran. We knew we would see more big trees in Yosemite and Olympic National Parks in the weeks ahead. John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt and Ansel Adams were crucial to establishing and preserving the western national parks for all of us to enjoy.