The drive out was pretty rough with all the rush-hour traffic. Plus, the weather was not looking good. Very cold and rainy. But luckily Drew and I were prepared for the inclement weather.
We got to our site and set up our tent and then turned our attention to dinner.
It was cold and a little wet, but most of the storm had passed by, so we didn’t have any wind. It ended up being a nice night despite the cold.
In the morning, we got up decided to hike up to the top. Lone Rock is a popular place for climbing but there were plenty of routes up that didn’t require any ropes or gear.
On the top there were some pretty impressive views.
Drew was pretty excited about finding a few geocaches in the area, but unfortunately, the information sheets were left at home so we didn’t get a chance to look them up.
Really the only drawback was the litter and shells and casings that got left behind by target shooters. The scouts did a pretty good job of leaving no trace, and even cleaned up several hundred extra pieces of garbage from around our campsite. Definitely left it better than we found it.
But before driving down, we had to make a stop at The Coffee Cup for brunch with Uncle Matt amid the pouring rain.
The drive down the I-5 was through crazy heavy rains. We eventually arrived in San Diego and hung out at my mom and dad’s apartment complex for the evening.
Cabrillo National Monument
We packed some lunches and drove down the Point Loma peninsula to Cabrillo National Monument. We explored the tide pools and walked along the beach.
We looked for whales (didn’t see any), toured the lighthouse, and ate a picnic lunch while overlooking Coronado island. It was a beautiful area of San Diego and a fun place to visit for an afternoon.
Mission Beach Ride-athon
On Saturday morning Claire and Grandpa were putting together an electric assist for his wheelchair. After a few false starts and a trip to Home Depot to cut off a couple inches of aluminum tubing, we finally got it working.
After playing around with it for no more than 5 minutes, we decided to go to Mission Beach to try it out among the general public on a crowded and popular boardwalk. What is the worst that could happen?
Grandpa Mike would have been bored cruising along all by himself, so the rest of us rented various conveyances and we set off on a ride all around Mission Bay and then the boardwalk along the beach.
A group like ours must have freaked out the folks we passed. We avoided causing too much havoc as we cruised around the bay on the bike trails and side streets.
After we’d explored and had our fun on the bikes, trikes, and electric scooters, we found a table in the park and had a picnic lunch. My folks had some missionary work to go do, so we parted ways and then we went to go visit the Denney family. We spent the afternoon at their house, catching up and letting all the kids play together before heading out to dinner.
Between our two families, we have 15 people. So even missing Jake who is in El Salvador, our combined crews are still a sight to behold, especially in Southern California. Despite all the stares and pointing we had a nice dinner at The Taco Stand in Encinitas and then some fancy dessert at Sidecar Donuts.
We had to get back early to pack up all our luggage and prepare for our long drive home on Sunday. We had a great week, from Hollywood, to Disneyland, and finishing up in San Diego, but it’s always good to be back home.
Doing an unexpectedly big hike the day before tackling Disneyland with a 3-day park hopper pass might not be the best strategy. Nevertheless, we were up and ready early Monday morning.
We drove our car and did the $25 all-day valet parking at Tony Romas right by the park entrance. It was very convenient, and all the other parking is the same amount, so if you can’t take a free shuttle, I think that’s a pretty good way to do it.
Day 1: Disneyland
We got into the park and went right to Adventureland for a quick Jungle Cruise, Indiana Jones ride, and then walked right onto Pirates of the Caribbean, and then a quick tour of the Haunted Mansion. By then the crowds had arrived and the wait times started to grow. So we stopped by the Mint Julep bar and got some Mickey-shaped Beignets.
If there was a theme for our Disneyland visit this year, it would be beignets. This was the first of many, many stops to procure these treats.
The other possible theme was MaxPasses. This upgrade was recommended by a few friends who had recently visited Disneyland. We became quick converts. We used the Disneyland app on our phones to purchase the ($15/person!) upgrade, but then we were able to book Fastpasses right from our phones. In addition to the FastPasses, it also allowed us to get pictures from all of the park photographers and the ones from the rides too.
Day 2: California Adventures
Tuesday the park opened a little later and closed a bit earlier, but we still put in a full day of fun.
We started off early doing the Incredi-Coaster, but that may not have been the best strategy, because it seemed to rattle Manina a little bit more than the rest of us. It didn’t stop the kids though. We rode a bunch of rides all morning long, and then finally got to sit down to watch the Frozen play, which was a nice diversion and place to rest our weary legs.
That evening, we headed back into Disneyland. Drew got upset and ran away for a brief time, which caused some unnecessary commotion, but we got everyone together again. We enjoyed even more beignets and then capped the night off with a final Pirates of the Caribbean ride, where Megan got in trouble for trying to stand up in her boat. Rabble-rouser.
Day 3: The rain arrives
We were all pretty wiped out by Wednesday, but headed back into the park to hit the highlight rides again and to cross other things off our individual to-do lists. Claire got to try her “Grey Stuff” from the Red Rose Cafe, Katelyn got her popcorn, and I’m pretty sure we also ate more beignets.
We didn’t do the MaxPasses on Wednesday, and that worked out OK. We were all more than a little tired, and the rains kept the crowds away. Thankfully, we had found some ponchos and were able to brave the storm.
We were selective on our rides, and were absolutely tuckered out by about dinnertime. We put in about 10 miles of walking each day in the park, so no wonder we were all exhausted. We left around 6pm and eventually found a Chick-Fil-A to fill our bellies and reminisce on a great Disneyland visit.
But, we weren’t heading home yet. Next stop was San Diego.
Our big Christmas gift to our kids this year was tickets to Disneyland. We had the opportunity to head down a little early to spend some extra time in Southern California before the main attraction.
To break up the drive, we decided to stay a night in St. George. We were looking for a hotel for the night but ended up booking someone’s fifth wheel from AirBnB. It was cheap and convenient, but some of the kids (mainly the teenagers) weren’t too happy with the accommodations.
We certainly missed having access to the friendly confines of Gary & Kathy’s place, and it was always fun to hang out with them for a couple days on these kinds of trips.
Church with Uncle Matt
We got to Anaheim on Saturday afternoon and did some shopping and got ourselves settled and prepared for Disneyland from Monday to Wednesday. But we needed some plans for Sunday.
Thankfully, Uncle Matt called and invited us to come down to Long Beach to go to his ward (Long Beach 10th). We got to sit with Matt and his cool missionaries who have been helping him out.
After church we went over to Matt’s house for some lunch. We hung out and chatted for a while and played with the dogs. Then the missionaries came over and so we enjoyed some pie and ice cream together.
Hiking Griffith Park
Despite the rain in the forecast, we decided to chance it and try to go for a hike. I had one planned close to Anaheim, but Manina suggested going to walk up to the Hollywood sign. We had time to kill on a Sunday afternoon, so why not?
Manina had done the hike before on a girls getaway weekend with some of her friends and told us it was a pretty easy hike along a paved trail, “you can practically drive right up to it,” she said.
So navigated us up through the traffic and crazy downpours, but the weather started to clear as we approached our destination. However, she kept saying that this wasn’t quite familiar as we followed her phone’s map directions to the parking lot.
We got out and walked up the trail a bit to see if we could jog her memory a bit. The rains had stopped, and the conditions seemed good, so why not walk around for a while. We were in a bit of a canyon with poor cell phone reception, but we eventually found a trail map.
We were not prepared for a big hike, but from where we had parked, we had almost 3 miles before we could get to the Hollywood sign. The kids weren’t happy about it (mostly just the teenagers), but we decided to give it a shot.
It ended up being a great hike! We took a lot of pictures on the way up of the beautiful views overlooking the valley. And the weather played nice, getting better and better as the hike went along.
We finally made it up to the viewpoint (Tyrolian Tank) that we had originally set out for. We ate our remaining snacks, enjoyed the view, and took a bunch of pictures.
We made it back down to the parking lot right as it was getting dark. Our hike that was supposed to be super easy and short ended up going on for 5.64 miles and took us over 2 hours of walking time. We were all pretty exhausted when we finally got back to our rented apartment in Anaheim, but we were all excited to get to Disneyland early the next day.
Ancestry allows employees to check-out a pair of Ski Utah Gold passes once a year for some skiing. These are awesome passes which are pretty much good at any ski resort in the state. We missed last year, due to some unfortunate timing on my part, but got the opportunity to return to Deer Valley for the first time in a while.
It was a perfect day up on the mountain. There was not a cloud in the sky, and there was no wind. The only thing that would have made it better would have been some fresh snow — we’ve got a bunch of snow, but no storms for about a week.
Manina and I went all over the mountain. We found a really cool app that let us track all of our statistics on our Apple Watches, which led to some serious (for one of us, anyway) competition.
After a few runs, we stopped in for some lunch out on the sunny deck at the Empire Canyon Lodge. You can’t go to Deer Valley without enjoying some of their world-famous turkey chili.
Then we got back to skiing. Manina and I got separated when she made a wrong turn, but for the most part we stayed together the whole time. We braved mostly green runs, but I did a couple blues that Manina routed around, even though she easily could have managed them. She just needed a little time to warm up.
Toward the end of the day, Manina kept asking me what my stats were for my top speed for the day. She was trying to play it cool, but I noticed her trying to slow up, lag behind for a bit, then rip down a steep spot to catch up every once in a while. She’d zoom ahead, and then stop and say she wanted to take some pictures of me, but her strategy was revealed at the end of the day.
On our way down the Jordanelle Gondola back to where we had parked our car, she shared her stats with our whole family on our group iMessage — she claimed victory in the top speed competition, topping out 33.6MPH vs. my wimpy 31.9MPH.