Hector and I met in 2005 at a salsa club in Washington DC. Six years later, on September 17, 2011, we tied the knot at the rustic retreat, Thorpewood, in Thurmont M.D. (near the President’s Camp David) with 90 friends and family celebrating alongside us. We were engaged for 2.5 years while Hector finished grad school, which gave us plenty of time to think through what sort of wedding and honeymoon trip we wanted.
We narrowed down our honeymoon choices to three: Croatia, Alaska, and Yosemite -- a very varied selection! Croatia has long been on our list; the Dalmatian coast is supposed to be spectacular and as Eastern Europe has stabilized and modernized alongside the European Union, Croatia is fast becoming a hotspot for European tourists. It’s rich with history and has beautiful beaches, but Helena was too stressed to plan both the wedding and a trip abroad (currency exchange, language, bookings, etc.).
We talked about how there is so much of the U.S. we still haven’t seen. There's plenty to offer right here in our own backyard. We were definitely decided that we wanted the opposite experience of our everyday urbanscape. No big city, no concrete and traffic; something rustic, natural, a place to rest your eyes after the whirlwind of the wedding.
Alaska was next on the list, but it was swiftly decided against since end of September is a less than ideal time to visit. We would have liked to have taken a cruise-tour, where part of the trip is by boat and part of the trip is by train deep into Denali Park. I think it’s a trip we’ll take eventually, but maybe more like in the June/July timeframe of the year.
So, that brought us to Yosemite. The giant redwoods are one of those “bucket list” sorts of things. They are the largest living things on the planet; 3,000 years old (to which Hector blurted out “that’s older than Christ”). Anyway, we decided we would do sort of a combo trip, fly into San Francisco, rent a convertible (at Hector’s specific splurge request), drive up through Napa Valley, and then down to Yosemite. Staying in the country also meant we could take a higher quality trip at a lower cost since there are often airfare sales between major U.S. cities.
Our trip was September 19, 2011 to September 30, 2011, which ended up being the perfect length. It was long enough to switch gears and unwind, but short enough that there was always something new to check out.
Here is our full itinerary. We found that the more specific and planned the trip was, the easier it was for our guests to “gift” us something meaningful. Plus, we could enjoy the trip with everything in place, rather than flying by the seat of our pants, which is also nice for some types of trips. In our Traveler’s Joy registry we even included hyperlinks to the places we were staying and eating so gift-givers could really check out the specifics.
September 19 Flight - Home to San Francisco, stayed one night in San Fran with a great dinner at the well-known San Fran restaurant, Flour + Water.
September 20 After a hearty breakfast at the Ferry Building Marketplace, picked-up the rental car and headed out to Muir Woods, a national monument of old-growth coastal redwoods. After the trails at Muir Woods, we headed up to Sonoma in and spend the night at "Sara's Cottage", at the Sonoma Chalet near in Napa Valley.
September 21-22 Explored Napa Valley wine country. We had lunch aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train and then headed to the Culinary Institute of America for a cooking/baking class! One more night’s stay in Sonoma.
We enjoyed a leisurely bike ride through Napa wine country, experience the mud baths of Calistoga, and had a relaxed dinner at The Girl and The Fig.
September 23 We made our way from Napa Valley up to Coloma, CA (near Sacramento in the heart of California Gold Country) to the Enchanted April B&B to prepare for our rafting trip.
September 24 11-mile rafting trip (The Gorge Run) on the South Fork American River. We ended up in a raft with four burly firemen from Sacramento who were on a bachelor party! I felt very safe as I was the only girl on board and therefore the first to get pulled back in the raft every time we flipped. Hector was less jazzed. These guys were real adrenaline junkies.
We continued on to the Evergreen Lodge, a historic Yosemite hotel nestled in the woods bordering Yosemite National Park.
September 25 Hiking and relaxing at the Evergreen Lodge. I cringe to share this, because the Evergreen Lodge is one of those best-kept secret gems of Yosemite. It’s technically on the border, right outside the park, so prices are way better. It’s much less congested and attracts a younger, more international crowd. It means you can hike and rough-it all day and then come home to modern convenience and gourmet food at the end of your day.
September 26 Day trip to the Tuolumne Grove and to see the giant Sequoias! Also went to Hetch Hetchy Dam which is right up the road from the Evergreen (a controversial place which supplies all of San Francisco’s drinking water without purification with gravity fed piping. It came to be after the great earthquake and fires in San Francisco early in the century).
September 27 Day hike to Lake Tenaya and Cathedral Peak. The scenery is like walking in a painting. Can you believe this is in the U.S.? What a treasure.
September 28 High Country Naturalist Hike to Stunning North Dome.
September 29 Long drive back to San Fran, another night in San Fran
September 30 Flight - San Francisco back home
We estimate that our trip cost around $2,500, and as cheesy as it sounds, we wouldn’t change a thing. We’re still reminiscing over the experiences we shared and the memories that were created during those two weeks. In stressful moments in our fast-paced city lives, I can instantly recall the feeling I had standing on top of North Dome at the end of a 10-mile hike looking out over the natural wonder with my partner by my side at the start of our marriage.
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain