Petaluma and Yosemite

Our first stop in California was Petaluma, a town in the Bay Area, about an hour north of San Francisco. We stayed with Melissa’s aunt and uncle, Bev and Alan. Melissa made a website on Squarespace (a simple and cheap website builder where you pick a template and drag and drop content into it) for her mum’s artwork, and Bev had mentioned she’d love something similar for her paintings. We happened to have some basic lighting gear with us, so we set up the lights and Melissa shot Bev’s portfolio and got the site up for her.

Even though we build websites for a living, for basic sites, such as an artist’s portfolio, services such as Squarespace can be perfect. You relinquish a lot of control, but get a cheap, well-designed platform that’s fairly easy to add content to and then edit down the line. Many people in the web industry worry about these tools taking over and there being no work left for web designers. I personally don’t really get this as so much of building a website is making it do the job it needs to do, and that requires a lot of custom work and knowing how to build all the parts that are required. These basic platforms don’t offer high levels of customization, and aren’t designed to for this purpose. However, for small sites which don’t need much functionality, they are hard to beat.

El Capitan.
Yosemite Falls. I think.

After a couple of nights in Petaluma, we headed toward Yosemite. Our friend, Bryan, has been working as a park ranger in Tuolumne Meadows—the main area in Yosemite north of the valley where all the famous features lie—for 13 summers now, and for the past 6 or so, we’ve been meaning to go and visit. We finally made it. I visited Yosemite when I was 10 or so when I came over to California for a vacation with my family, but I really don’t remember much about it. For this reason, I was keen to see the valley and all the famous landmarks. With the trip to Yellowstone fresh in my mind, I was bracing myself for a long slog with lots of heavy traffic to content with. Much to my surprise, once we had descended into the valley, the road that looped around—affording views of El Capitan, Yosemite Falls and Half Dome—was not only short, but shaded and not too densely packed with traffic. We stopped and cooled our feet off in the beautiful clear river that flows through the valley, but then headed back out of the valley to ascend another 5,000ft. to reach Tuolumne Meadows.

The view from our campground
A golden-mantled ground squirrel who caused us some confusion with his squirrely face and chipmunky stripes.
The rather cruelly named yellow-bellied marmot (excuse the quality—I only had a wide lens with me and couldn't get too close, so it's heavily cropped).

Bryan had reserved us an amazing spot in the campground with a fork of the Tuolumne river winding its way through the granite bedrock just over the road from where we were camped. We hung out and enjoyed a beer by the river before Bryan joined us for a bite to eat. It turned out to be our favorite campground of the trip and a perfect way to spend our last night on the road.

Bryan was on his day off, but obliged us by donning the hat and jacket in the ranger station
About to head out of the park and back to Idyllwild…


Jim is the proud owner and driver-in-chief of the small red truck (affectionately named "truck") that will make it all 11,000 - 12,000 miles of the trip around the States with nothing more than a couple of oil changes and tire rotations. When not indulging in delusional thoughts about the abilities of his 21 year old truck with almost 300k miles on it, Jim likes making websites and taking photos and gets paid by people for doing these very things at Apple Canyon Designs.