During my first year at Interactive, one thing that was stressed to me by several people was that I should pick and attend a conference. I chose An Event Apart. I had been to An Event Apart in the past (once in Washington, DC, and once in Atlanta, GA) and knew it was a quality event with a great set of speakers. But, which one should I go to?
Several events were sold out and the events that remained weren’t that close to me. Wherever I went, I’d have to travel to get there. So, why not the west coast.
San Francisco, CA
The trip to San Francisco was pleasant and uneventful. I left Raleigh around 7 in the morning, changed planes in Denver, and landed at SFO about an hour later where — to my delight — a chilly Raleigh morning had turned into a very mild San Francisco afternoon. Apparently, the temperature in the bay area stay pretty consistent year round. The first couple of days were marked by rain — which was fine. The conference ran Monday to Wednesday so I barely left the confines of the Palace Hotel (the conference venue and my home away from home for the week).
On Thursday, my friend (and fellow conference attendee) Josh Mobley and I set out on our own, leveraging the remainder of the week to explore the California country side. The day started off in a fog, occasionally spitting rain as us as we boarded the ferry on our way to Alcatraz Island. It would break soon enough, but honestly, it didn’t matter too much. We were going see what we could while we could.
Alcatraz Island, famously known for the prison that sits upon it, sits in the middle of bay and is only accessibly by boat. It takes about 20 minutes to make it from the boat to the prison.
In addition to being a prison, Alcatraz also once service as a military camp during the civil war, and then later a military prison. It wasn’t converted to well know federal penitentiary we’re all familiar with today until the 1930s.
After leaving Alcatraz, we packed our bags and headed east across the Oakland Bay Bridge on our way to the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The California landscapes are so dynamic and foreign compared to those I’m used to on the east coast. Driving west, the change is gradual. The hills slowly become more pronounced. Then rocks — smaller, then larger. I mistook them for hay bales at first.
We reached our cabin just outside the park not long after dark. And I mean dark. There are few places I’ve been that get dark like Yosemite — so dark that you can’t see 5 feet in front of you without a flashlight.
The plan was to set out into Yosemite in the morning. We weren’t far outside of the park, no more than a 20-minute drive.
There was rain in the forecast overnight, but we didn’t think much of it, but to our surprise, the roads were slick the following morning. And the closer we made it to the park (climbing in elevation along the way), we watched the wet road turn shades of white until we were on snow — fresh, unplowed snow — and our rental (a Nissan Versa) was sliding all over the place.
We never made it to the valley.
We had to turn around. We wouldn’t have made it over the pass and down to the valley at the rate we were sliding. There was a chance that the road would be plowed later that morning, but being short on time — we decided to turn back westward. This shot was taken not far from our cabin and is about as close as we ever got to the valley:
Later that day, we drove through Napa, Sonoma, and then out to Cape Reyes (which we didn’t make until after sunset). Afterwards, we made our way back down to San Francisco, but not before stoping at Battery Spencer to take in the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge at night.
John Muir Woods
The following day we took a tour bus out to the John Muir Woods National Monument. Not to oversell it, but seeing Redwoods for the first time is pretty awe-inspiring. The photos below don’t do their scale any justice. If you’re in the bay area and don’t go check them out, shame on you.
After leaving the park, the tour bus dropped us off in Sausalito (where I took the shot at the top of the page), leaving us to explore on our own, grab a drink, and eventually catch a ferry back to the city.
The following morning, I woke up way to early (4am) to catch an early flight back to North Carolina.
If you find yourself in San Francisco for the first time like I was, definitely give yourself some time to see the sights. There’s plenty to do and see in the city itself, but if you’re willing to drive a little bit, there’s a lot more to see in the surrounding area as well.