COOPER DISCOVERER Workation Road Trip, 5 Days Sacramento, Yosemite Valley, Morro Bay

My employer needed to send me to Sacramento, CA at the end of March for a single day conference. Since it was the end of the fiscal quarter, they just cut me a check thinking I would fly up Tuesday evening, hotel for one night, conference for the day, return Wednesday evening, and be at work Thursday. With my boss and my boss's boss in a conferences on the east cost during this same period, I brought up the fact that work would have been very slow anyways, so with their blessing (my boss and boss's boss, HR and the accountant) I turned it into a Workation funded on the company dime.

My plan: ROAD TRIP

I would drive and camp at Folsom Lake just 20 min outside of downtown Sacramento, do my conference the next day, write my debrief report at a local coffee shop, then hit the road to Yosemite Valley then Morro Bay on 2 days vacation.

I left early Tuesday morning to avoid rush hour traffic. The drive up was uneventful and I made great time arriving at Lake Folsom just after lunch.

My campsite was very quite and serene

It was just walking distance from gorgeous views of the lake itself.

Weather was very nice, partially cloudy high 60's during the day and low 40's at night. I also really wish I brought my road bike. There is a dedicated bike path around the perimeter of the lake, and a bike path that seldom touches roads that heads the 30 miles into downtown Sacramento. O well, next time...

I broke camp Wednesday Morning just before sunrise, did my conference, wrote my report, and I was on the road to Yosemite by 3 pm.

Thanks to daylight saving's time, sunset is around 7:30pm, and I got to tunnel view with about an hour and a half to spare.

Tunnel view is one of the best vantage points overlooking Yosemite Valley

Yosemite Valley is only about 5% of Yosemite National Park's land area, but it is where 95% of the visitors to Yosemite NP go. During the summer, this 7 mile long, 1 mile wide valley becomes as crowded as Disneyland on a Weekend, but much more difficult to navigate since you have cars and lost tourists. Luckly, in the spring, it's a lot more manageable. I would describe it as being as busy as a grocery store in the evening after work. Spring is definitely the time to go to Yosemite. The weather is cool and the traffic is light. The end of March is also right before Yosemite and the surrounding hotels start transitioning into "peak" mode. I was lucky. I was able to book 2 nights at a hotel a few miles outside of the entrance into Yosemite valley for only $70/night. Next week, they said their rates would have quadrupled to $280/night for the peak season.

I never had to fight for parking along Yosemite roads. I was able to quickly stop, grab my camera, and take this picture of El Capitan

I believe El Capitan is the largest granite monolith in the world.

I was able to take this picture of Yosemite Falls from Yosemite Meadow without anyone cluttering the shot

Also, in the Spring, the waterfalls are in full flow. This is Yosemite Falls, I believe one of the tallest waterfalls in North America

Some snow is still on the ground as well, just in the shade though

Day hikes are the beauty of Yosemite Valley. Just park your car at the visitor center, and take the free shuttle to any of the trail heads in the valley. The hikes are as long as 17 miles round trip to half dome, or as short as 1 mile to the base of some of the falls. I did nearly every day hike, except half dome within the span of the day and a half I was in Yosemite Valley.

Mirror Lake:

Yosemite Valley is a photographer's dream. I am just getting into photography myself. I really like black and white landscape shots

More mirror lake:

Lower Yosemite Falls:

My time in Yosemite came to a close, so I packed up my truck and headed towards Morro Bay along the Central Coast of California that Friday just before lunch after spending nearly a day and a half (Wed evening & all of Thursday) in Yosemite Valley.

I planned on going to Hearst Castle before heading to camp along the coast. I haven't been since I was a teenager, and Hearst Castle is something worth visiting if you like photography. For those who do not know, wikipedia states William Randolph Hearst (April 29, 1863 – August 14, 1951) was an American newspaper publisher who built the nation's largest newspaper chain and whose methods profoundly influenced American journalism. His mansion, Hearst Castle, on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean near San Simeon, California, halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, was donated by the Hearst Corporation to the state of California in 1957, and is now a State Historical Monument and a National Historic Landmark, open for public tours. Hearst formally named the estate La Cuesta Encantada ("The Enchanted Hill"), though he typically referred to it simply as "the ranch".

His mansion is amazing to say the least. During construction, he constantly changed his mind, so by the time of his death, it was estimated that the ranch was only 50% complete. It has multiple buildings, several gorgeous pools, and even a zoo. If anyone plans to visit, I recommend watching the biographical movie first shown in a theater by the visitor center (the movie is included with the purchase of a tour ($25)) so you have a sense of the man, understand the significance of Hearst Castle and it's history before going on the tour.

Grand hall and dining room bulding

View from the guest house balcony

One of the pools

Since many tourists do not know the area, they eat a lunch of really bland food offered at the visitor center. A asked a tour guide where is there a good place to grab lunch, and they recommended Sebastian's cafe right across the highway from Hearst castle. 5 min drive, MAX. That is where you can purchase Hearst Castle Wine and steaks from their grass fed cattle. Yeah, Hearst Castle has their own vineyard and is also an active cattle ranch.

$11 for a burger of grass fed beef. It was delicious.

Also, the tasting fee ($12) is waved with a purchase of any bottle of wine. I'm not really a wine guy, more whiskey and scotch, but I know enough to be competent at a tasting, and it was GOOD. I mean, really GOOD... Their wines are award winning, but because they're sold in a really small niche markets, Hearst Castle Wines aren't seen in major stores or restaurants. Apparently, other than a small store in Los Angeles, and ordering online, you can only buy and taste at Sebatian's Cafe. I ended up buying two cases of wine to bring home and to give as gifts.

I sobered up with a walk along the coast, then took my time Driving along the highway, there are many places to stop and take in the view

Made camp in Morro Bay at a campsite:

Then made the 5 min walk to the beach to take more pictures:

I spent most of the evening into the night playing with my camera, taking more photos of the landscape, and ended up going to bed around midnight. I woke up at dawn, made a relaxing breakfast and headed home that Saturday Morning.

Overall, it was an amazing trip and worth the time. When I turned in my receipts on Monday, I actually came out ahead being much cheaper than if I stuck to the initial plan of flying, hotel, conference, fly back. My bosses work happy, and I was definitely grateful for the opportunity for a great road trip and a great work environment.