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Quintessential Tours Clients - The Weisz Family

About the Weisz Family   |  About their Trip   |   Letter from Nicole  
TRIP SNAPSHOT
Trip Length: 9 Days
Pickup Date: August 4th
Drop-off Date: August 12th
Rough Distance Traveled: 950 Miles
Pickup Location: Friend's house in Brentwood (Los Angeles)
Drop-off Location: Palace Hotel, San Francisco
Overnights: Pismo Beach, Big Sur, Monterey, Fish Camp (Yosemite), Calaveras Big Trees State Park
Group Size: 2 adults, 4 children
Vehicle: Passenger Van
Guide: Bob Cunningham
 
WHERE DID WE TAKE THEM AND WHAT DID THEY DO?  
Photo: Jeff Lowe
Los Angeles Several days before we joined them

We picked the Weisz family up in Brentwood mid-morning on a Friday. I still remember my first introduction to the family as being a quick round of drive-way soccer with 2 of the boys, while waiting for Andrew to return from a trip to the shop.

We set off shortly thereafter for what was to be a truly enjoyable expedition, not only for the Weiszes, but for myself.


Photo: Jeff Lowe
Pismo/San Simeon Coast 2 nights

You can't stay on the Central Coast, on a summer weekend, for less than 2 nights, unless you want to sleep on a rock. So, we chose Pismo as a centrally located spot from which to base our exploration.

Arriving on the evening of the Weisz's first day of travel, we spent one full day exploring Hearst Castle, Piedras Blancas and Montaña de Oro State Park, before departing for Big Sur after our second night.

San Simeon Coast Highlights
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Took an extended stop at a secluded beach in Montaña de Oro State Park to play in the surf, and do a bit of scampering on the big rock that stood at one end of the beach.
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Had fantastic Italian meal at Giuseppe's in Pismo.
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Hearst Castle
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Molting elephant seals at Piedras Blancas

Photo: Jeff Lowe
Big Sur 1 night

After visiting Hearst Castle, we headed up the coast into Big Sur. The Weiszes, despite being firmly a big-city family, were really looking forward to getting out in the tranquil outdoors of Big Sur.

Big Sur Highlights
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Took two excellent hikes through streamside redwood groves, oak-lined hillsides and out to a waterfall that lands on a secluded sand beach.
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Stopped for a wonderful dinner, perched high above the Pacific Ocean.
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Enjoyed an evening sitting around a wood-burning fireblace in a rustic cottage set in the redwoods.
Photo: Jeff Lowe
Monterey Peninsula 1 night
Departing Big Sur, the group headed north, looking for more scenic beauty, nature walks and wildlife.
Monterey Highlights
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Taking a ranger-guided nature hike with views of sea otters and harbor seals in Point Lobos State Park
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Visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium
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Drove 17-mile Drive and browsed art galleries in Carmel by the Sea
Photo: Jeff Lowe
Yosemite 2 nights
After Monterey, it was time to head for the Sierras. We left late in the afternoon, in order to allow 2 full days in Monterey, while staying only 1 night. The van was now full of sleeping bags and camping gear, in anticipation of our "wilderness experience" that would come after Yosemite. The sleeping bags came in handy, as the kids ran out of steam about half way across the valley, and slept their way into the mountains.
Yosemite Highlights
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When the crew got hungry, en route, we sought food in the town of Los Banos. Burnt out on pasta and Subway, the Weiszes settled on a very authentic hole-in-the-wall taqueria, where we all sat down and enjoyed nachos and quesadillas.
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The view from Glacier Point
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Hiked to the top of Sentinel Dome. I had the pleasure of joining the family on this hike, carrying one of the kids on my back for the steeper parts of the trail.
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Went rafting on the Merced, through the heart of Yosemite Valley.
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Got ambushed by waterballoon throwers while rafting.
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Took a walk through an apple orchard, where a mother bear and her cub had recently been seen. According to a man we encountered in the orchard, we missed seeing the bears by about 30 seconds.
Photo: Nancy Carnihan
Gold Country/Calaveras 1 night
After 2 amazing days in Yosemite, we headed up Highway 49 from Oakhurst, into California's Gold Country. This was a moment that the family had awaited with great anticipation, as it would be where we would have our "wildernessy" experience, camping in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. The drive was beautiful, although a little unsettling for youngest child, Evie,who got a bit carsick.
Gold Country Highlights
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Stopped for lunch at an historic Gold Rush era hotel.
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Visited Columbia State Historic Park, which preserves 1850's style streets and buildings.
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Went wilderness camping in Calaveras Big Trees State Park. Read more about this below.

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Had a kosher meal for the first time since leaving Los Angeles.
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Found a last-minute local outfitter to take the kids gold panning. Unfortunately, the authenticity of the gold panning guides was taken a bit too far; they were a couple of drunks. I was able to get a refund from the business owner, and we had a laugh about the experience over lunch.
Photo: Jeff Lowe
San Francisco 4 nights after we dropped them off
Finally, after a beauty-filled 9 days together, it was time to head back out to the coast, making a bit of a detour to return the camping equipment and get some ice cream en route. It was after dark when I bid adieu to the family in a flurry of hugs in front of the Palace Hotel just south of Market Street in San Francisco.
ENDURING MEMORY - SETTING UP KAMP AND KOOKING KOSHER!

One of the Weiszes trip goals was to try their hand at camping. I went through the options with them, explaining that they could "camp" while they were in Yosemite, but that the only available option at the time they booked was the tent village of Curry Village. I explained that while they would be sleeping under canvas, they would have dozens of neighbors surrounding them on all sides, and that it wouldn't be a true "wildernessy" camping experience.

Despite being confirmed city-dwellers, Nicole was gung ho for the family to have a more woodsy experience, and asked about other options. I explained that, while we do have campgrounds like the ones common in Europe, which have modern conveniences, we also have what I described as "wildernessy" campgrounds, where you could achieve a much closer-to-nature experience. I told her that I was not an experienced camping guide, but that I had a lifetime of experience camping throughout the Western US, and would be happy to be their guide, as long as they understood that it would be a first for me. She was sold! We selected a campgrount among the Giant Sequoias in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

While the Weiszes settled in for the evening in Monterey, I drove to a Saratoga REI to pick up camping equipment. The next day, I suggested to the Weiszes, who keep kosher, that we could get kosher meat at the local Trader Joe's Market, and take it to the Sierras with us. This prospect thrilled them, as they'd had to eat vegetarian since leaving L.A., due to a dearth of kosher eateries outside of California's big cities. We put the meat on ice, and set out for adventure.

3 nights later, we arrived in Sonora in the late afternoon, and picked up some extra groceries to accompany our kosher meat. Arriving at Big Trees just as the evening was drawing in, we set to work on the campsite. I wanted to make sure to get the tents pitched and everything set up before dark, so I enlisted the aid of 4 eager assistants; the Weisz kids. With almost clocklike efficiency, we had the camp set up just in time to start working on dinner.

Now, of course the pressure was on. I'm a pretty decent barbecuer, but hadn't tried to do meat over an open fire in a long time. I got the fire started, and worked on getting the Coleman Stove operating, so that I could get the side dishes started. When the coals on the fire looked like they'd died to the right shade of red, I put the steaks and chicken on the grill, and said a small prayer.

10 minutes later, we were sitting down, eating some of the most delicious barbecue I've ever had. The kids were over-the-moon delighted to finally have a bit of meat, and when the meal was over, I'm happy to say there wasn't a leftover in sight.

Sleeping outdoors, for the first time, along with the corresponding things going bump in the night and such, had the predictable result that nobody could say with any honesty the following morning that they'd had the best night's sleep of their lives. In fact, I'm pretty sure everyone was quite excited to have a proper bed again when we got to San Francisco. Nevertheless, it was clear, as we sat around the campfire after dinner, and Andrew told stories to the kids, this was a very satisfying moment in time for the family, and I'm proud I was able to help pull it off.

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