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Thursday, March 29, 2012

101 Places to See Before You're 12 - A Forest Canopy

A Forest Canopy

The second place we went to in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was the Muir Woods National Monument.  This was a really fun end of day excursion.  We would have loved to hike more in this area and see more.

**If you've seen last year's Rise of the Planet of the Apes - James Franco takes Cesar to play in the redwood forest - that's Muir Woods National Monument.

We read a couple of books that mentioned John Muir when we were getting ready for our trip.  He introduced Teddy Roosevelt to the Yosemite Valley.  He and Ralph Waldo Emerson were good friends.  He was a naturalist and author who started the Sierra Club.  He famously walked 1000 miles from Indianapolis to Florida in 1867. He has a number of ties to Stanford University.  California celebrates John Muir Day on April 21st.

I love how not far from San Francisco the landscape changes to beautiful mountains and lush vegetation.

This part of the country is absolutely gorgeous.  We all enjoyed our time walking the trails here.

More on "Old-Growth Forests" in another post soon.

The forest canopy presented me with all sorts of photography "opportunities".  It was beautifully shadowed, dark, and stunning here.  I really got to play with my camera settings!

The rings show this tree was more than 1000 years old.  It highlights important events over the last 1000 years to give you a sense of how large the tree was when Columbus sailed for example.

Always time for some dance moves

The redwoods are beautiful (and really large!)

From the Book:
#8 - A Forest Canopy
Looking up from the forest floor at the dappled sunlight filtering down through a canopy of leaves is a beautiful experience.  But can you imagine what the view is like from the top, what it must be like to see as the birds see, soaring above the treetops?  In a few rare and wonderful places, you can do just that.  Climb to the top of a forest, and then walk on a swinging bridge through the trees or zip along the forest canopy on a harness and wire, like a bird in flight.  In the few years they've been studying the forest canopy, scientists have discovered tons of new species.  It's like a whole secret world up there, and being among the treetops is an experience you'll never forget.

101 Places to See Before You're 12 - An Animal Rescue Center

An Animal Rescue Center

After you cross the Golden Gate Bridge, you enter the beautiful Golden Gate National Recreational Area.  We visited two places in this area while touring San Francisco.  Our first stop was in the Marin Headlands at the Marine Mammal Rescue Center.

This center is a hospital (and educational facility) that rescues and rehabilitates sick or injured marine mammals.  I believe it is almost entirely run by volunteer physicians and administrators.

A view of the Bay from the Marine Mammal Center.

A life-sized adult male elephant seal.

When we toured the area where the animals were rehabilitating, we had to be very quiet, just like in a regular hospital.  Most of the animals were very still and sleepy.  Recovery takes a lot out of an animal!

Look how small this adult elephant seal is in comparison to the bronze statue of a normal sized one.  This one was found abandoned but is making a full recovery.

The center is certainly impressive, and they do great work.

We were glad we got to stop by and see this site.

From the Book:
#8 - An Animal Rescue Center
From oil spills to predator attacks or mean owners, animals face a lot of dangers in the world.  Just like people, they need a safe place they can go for food, shelter, and the care they deserve.  Animal sanctuaries, refuges, and rescue centers are those kinds of places.  They take in injured wild animals, treat, and release them, or give orphaned, abused, and neglected animals a happy home.  Some animal sanctuaries specialize in certain kinds of animals, while others will take any animal in need.  If you're an animal lover, you've gotta meet the people who make the world a safer place for animals, and you've gotta give their animals a little more love!

101 Places to See Before You're 12 - A Place Where They Make Cool Stuff

A Place Where They Make Cool Stuff

In San Francisco we headed to Chinatown, specifically looking for the Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory listed in the 101 Places book.  It gave us a chance to see Chinatown up close as well.

We even saw men playing Go

In an alley street we found the cookie factory, and I must say it's not what I expected, but a little place that is super busy. The gentleman who owns it speaks very little English, but waits outside the door directing tourists in.  Little did he know we were actually looking for his store.

They apparently make cookies over 3 shifts and ship box after box after box all day long.
The people making the cookies work for 5 minutes or so, then stand up and switch positions. 
They're always moving.

He gives everyone who comes in a fortune cookie, and was so happy to take our photo. 
He was not about to let me take his photo though.
He hugged the boys several times and gave us a bag of fortune cookies to take home.
I ended up buying water bottles from him because I felt like I needed to purchase something for his kindness.

Doesn't she look fierce?  She was actually very sweet.

From the Book:
#81 - A Place Where They Make Cool Stuff
If you've ever tried to make anything yourself, you know how hard it can be to get it just right.  Whether it's a batch of cookies or a model airplane, if one little thing goes wrong, you might not get the results you want.  That's why it's so interesting to visit a place where products are made - whether it's potato chips or guitars - to see how they get things done.  You can watch as wax is turned into crayons, or see big vats of gloppy sugar made into candy.  Find out what makes airplanes, cars, and snowboards move, and what keeps them from falling apart.  Your tour guide will explain how everything works, and you may just learn a few tips that you can use in your own creative endeavors.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

101 Places to See Before You're 12 - A Prison or Jail

A Prison or Jail

Well, we couldn't go to San Francisco without taking a tour of Alcatraz
Brennan couldn't believe we were going to start off Spring Break with a trip to a PRISON! 
I thought it was fascinating and David really liked the tour. 
At least we didn't follow through with our promises of sending the boys over to Alcatraz for a "kids day camp".

Here we are first thing in the morning getting ready to board the ferry to Alcatraz.  Brennan's doing his "petrified of going to Alcatraz" look for you.

Coit Tower and the Transamerica Pyramid from the Pier.

Our first good glimpse of Alcatraz from the ferry.

The city from the ferry.

Alcatraz became a National Park in 1973.  If you know the history behind it you'll know in the early 70s it was the site of a peaceful protest for American Indians to reclaim land in the U.S.

Much of the island is largely unchanged, just maintained.

Alcatraz means Cala Lilly in Spanish. 
That name came after the original meaning of Pelicans, because there were a lot of pelicans on the island when Spanish settlers arrived in the 1500s.

Alcatraz is now a botanical wonderland, with lots of volunteers tending the plants and flowers.

And up to the cells

The inmate showers

A typical prison cell at Alcatraz.

Some of the most infamous criminals incarcerated at Alcatraz.  That's Al Capone on the far left.

We listened to the audio tour.  There's Thomas coming out of the solitary confinement cells.

The recreation yard.  It tortured prisoners to be so close to the bustling city of San Francisco, but not be able to go there.

A fire destroyed parts of the island.

Before our trip we read a fascinating book about kids who lived on the island.  I had no idea!  They were children of the prison guards, the military personnel who lived there before it was turned into a penitentiary, the American Indians who protested there, etc.  The children loved living on the island and took a ferry to San Francisco every day to attend school.

From the Book:
#89 - A Prison or Jail
For some reason, law-abiding citizens love to visit jails.  Alcatraz, the famous prison on an island in San Francisco Bay, is one of the most visited tourist attractions in all of California (and there are a lot of amazing places to visit in California!).  So what is it about jails that's so intriguing?  Make a visit to one and find out.  You'll learn the true stories behind some of history's most notorious criminals, discover escape plots, see weapons made out of soap, and take a chilling glance into the cells where convicts waited out their sentences.  You'll also learn a lot about the justice system and how it has changed through the years.  And you'll leave feeling very glad you're not required to stay.