Waterfalls and Crutches and Bears, Oh My! — Our California Vacation

by on July 14, 2011
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Wheeling to Sequoia

On the second day of our summer vacation, our daughter E fell and broke her foot while hiking on a rocky trail in a remote part of Sequoia National Park.  We were about half a mile away from the trail head on our way back, and we hadn’t seen one other person on the trail when she fell. Attempts to get her to her feet just resulted in screams and tears, and my husband was considering running to the ranger station for help when miraculously another couple appeared around a bend in the trail. The man, a very athletic tourist from England, offered to pick E up and carry her halfway out. And he did. I raced back to get the car as close as possible to the trail head while D carried her the rest of the way down the trail. Consultations with EMT’s and an Urgent Care doctor followed, with the result that E was put into a splint, given crutches, and told to stay off of her foot until we could get home to her doctor.

This was officially the start of a somewhat different vacation than we had planned.  Hiking in Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks, which we’d spent so much time researching and planning, and sight-seeing up and down the hilly streets of San Francisco were now out; driving tours and stops at places easily accessible on crutches or with wheelchairs to lend were now in. We were determined not to let the accident ruin our vacation, and it didn’t. I know we’ll all remember this as the vacation when E broke her foot, but I think we’ll also remember it as one of our best family vacations.

Here are some of the highlights:

Sequoia View Cottage

The lovely view from the Sequoia View Cottage where we spent five nights. We cooked every night in its well-equipped kitchen and ate outside when we could tolerate the heat. (It got up to 110 F the first day, but it was a dry heat more bearable than the humidity we slog through at home.) The cottage was lovely and even nicer than it sounds on its website, so if you’re looking for a private escape near Sequoia, we highly recommend it.  (E took this photo of D and me the first night, before her accident.)


Raging Rivers

Raging rivers. A very snowy winter made all the rivers and lakes swollen and all the water white.



We saw countless small waterfalls and a few large ones. This one was memorable because E made it all the way to it on crutches.


Piggyback rides

Piggyback rides. E made it all the way up to the waterfall, but needed a little help getting down.


A mother bear

Yes, there really was a bear! We hiked up to a waterfall the first day and passed this mother bear and her two cubs along the way. Her tiny cubs (they looked like small dogs from a distance) quickly climbed up a tree and out of sight, but the mother bear continued eating grass and berries along the river. If you could zoom in on this photo, you’d see the grass in her mouth.


Green mountains

Green mountains


Western Divide of the Sierra Nevada

…and snow-capped mountains, both beautiful in their own ways.


Wheeling through the mist

Rolling through the mist after a sudden hail storm to get to the largest tree on earth.


Deep canyon of King's Canyon National ParkThe rugged wilderness of King’s Canyon National Park.


Hopping (literally) aboard a cable car in San Francisco

Donning hat, jacket, and jeans to hop (literally) aboard a cable car in 60-degree San Francisco.


Butterfly at California Academy of Sciences

Vibrant butterflies in the rain forest inside the California Academy of Sciences


Living Roof

…which also sported a living roof that looked like something out of Teletubbies.

Finally, there are so many things we’ll remember that we don’t have photos of, including the fruit–succulent plums, peaches, and apricots–which really is better in California. And the restaurants. Once we got to San Francisco we were eating out twice a day, but I don’t have any photos because I don’t like taking photos in restaurants.  But we have some fabulous memories of meeting up with old friends and their new twins at Cha-Ya in Berkeley (much better in my opinion than the Cha-Ya in the Mission district) and of  an incredible meal at Source, a new vegetarian restaurant whose owner went out of his way to make sure we were happy with our meal (he brought E a complementary Almond Joy smoothie when she said her parents were too cheap to order one). E was smitten and we were all delighted with the food–I can’t recommend it highly enough.

We visited several of the restaurants I’d heard about from people on Facebook and Twitter, but E’s favorite was Cinnaholic, the vegan cinnamon roll shop that was past closing but stayed open for the girl on crutches who was so excited to see vegan cinnamon rolls.  And we actually ventured off the recommendations list and found ourselves at a little Thai restaurant called Marnee Thai, near Golden Gate Park, and were quite happy with their vegan Pad Thai and Tom Ka soup.

Upon arriving home, E saw an orthopedic doctor who promptly put her into a large, lime green cast. She’s off the crutches and rolling about on something called a Roll-A-Bout for the rest of the summer. I asked her if she’d be more careful the next time we went hiking, and she said “Not a chance!”  I hope that’s just teenage bravado, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

Visit to a certain famous bridge

No trip to San Francisco is complete without a visit to...

I’ll be back with new recipes after we’ve all had a chance to settle in and get used to getting around a little differently than we used to.


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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jude Eastman July 14, 2011 at 8:36 am

What a wonderful trip. Yes, the plans changed a bit and looks like everyone rolled with the punches! The Cinnamon Bun shop sounds divine. I look forward to vacation inspired recipes to come!


2 Madhu July 14, 2011 at 8:39 am

Beautiful pictures … I so want to take a vacation now


3 Linda July 14, 2011 at 8:50 am

Great pics! My husband’s in Cali for business at the moment, and he keeps raving about the humidity-free heat, too. I’m in Ottawa, and we’ve had the kind of muggy weather in which one doesn’t even have to move and the sweat starts trickling. Horrible. In any case, thanks for sharing! Hope the injury heals fast.


4 SusanV July 14, 2011 at 6:05 pm

I’m ready to pack up and move to somewhere less humid, Linda. California looks promising!


5 Erin Smith July 14, 2011 at 9:11 am

Despite the accident, it sounds like you made the best of it. Your pictures are beautiful!


6 SusanV July 14, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Thanks, Erin! I did my best, but the scenery gets all the credit.


7 Mary (What's Cookin' with Mary) July 14, 2011 at 9:18 am

King’s Canyon is one of my favorite places to visit. It has some of the same qualities of Yosemite (beautiful granite faces), without all the rediculous crowds. Did you all do the Zumwalt Meadow walk ? That’s one of my favorite things to do there. It’s pretty short, but you get some great views. When B and I were there last, we had a bear roll up on us at our campsite!! She was FOUR feet from me!! SO SCARY. Glad you had a great trip 🙂


8 SusanV July 14, 2011 at 6:08 pm

Unfortunately, we had to skip Zumwalt Meadow because it was raining and E was on crutches. There’s apparently a small creek you have to cross that wasn’t so small because of the rain. It would be great to get back up there again some day.


9 Audrey July 14, 2011 at 9:26 am

Your vacation looks like so much fun (minus the foot injury, of course)! What beautiful pictures. I bet it was even better in person!


10 Stef July 14, 2011 at 10:05 am

Your pictures are fantastic! Thank you for sharing your life so liberally with us.


11 Uli July 14, 2011 at 10:24 am

thank you for your little holiday report! and my best wishes to your daughter, i hope she can stand the heat of the summer in her cast!


12 Jacque Jeffreys July 14, 2011 at 10:41 am

I am sure E is making the best of the unfortunate incident which caused her broken foot…yet and still, I send my condolences and compassion to her, hoping her recovery and healing are speeding along.
Thank you, also, Susan, for your faithful pursuance of healthy eating.


13 derek o'neill July 14, 2011 at 10:43 am

amazing photos, not surprising really given the quality of your recipe photos. i’m now officially going to try to get to those park next summer, bit of a trek from ireland but they look amazing.


14 Lisa July 14, 2011 at 10:46 am

So beautiful, I am here in the hot, humid South and nothing looks better than a cool forest with waterfalls, thanks for sharing your family vacation!


15 Emme July 14, 2011 at 10:54 am

Poor E!

But still sounds like you all had a fabulous time!


16 Nancy Tornetta July 14, 2011 at 11:01 am

Ooy! But it looks like a fabulous vacation, so good for you for being flexible and creative. And this will definitely make it a much more interesting vacation story for next years return to school! The cottage looks awesome. Thanks for sharing.


17 eva @5fruitsNveggies July 14, 2011 at 11:02 am

oh poor E!…ok, so i always caution my girls 9 & 7 to stop any risky behavior in fear that they will end up in a cast for the rest of the summer…i know E’s was an accident, but it seems as though my girls look for ways to make their lives more exciting….
i was born and raised in SF—so your pictures were nice to see….i was just there visiting my mom for a week and we had to bring a completely different ‘fall’ wardrobe for those 6 days….ugh, then a completely different wardrobe to head down the coast to Santa Cruz, a beach town, where the coast actually gets warm….
not sure if you are still traveling, but enjoy the rest!


18 moonwatcher July 14, 2011 at 11:09 am

Dear Susan,

Since California is my home state, I am so glad you got to sample some of the beauty of it. And the fruit, too, is the best. Very Sorry to hear about E’s accident, but she is handling it like the teenage champ she is. As someone else posted, I, too, hope the cast is not too uncomfortable in the summer heat. Getting to roll around on it might compensate some, though, and also the fact that it’s lime green. 🙂 The photographs are beautiful. I’d love to stay in a cottage like that! I could smell the cinnamon, taste the pad thai, and feel the soothing coolness of the Almond Joy even without your gorgeous photos.

Hope you are having a good calm settling back in. And congrats on making a wonderful vacation of it–sometimes the unoforeseen turns its own kind of miracle out for us to appreciate, if we well.




19 lisa July 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm

What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing!!


20 Bethany Marsh July 14, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Where is the picture of the world’s largest tree?? You said you were on your way up to see it, but, sadly, I don’t see any photos.

Hope E is feeling better! Thanks for sharing these amazing photos and highlights of your trip. : )


21 SusanV July 14, 2011 at 12:27 pm

Thanks! My photos of the tree itself were not great, so I didn’t post one. But you can see one of my reject photos here: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/images/non-food/general-sherman-tree.jpg


22 brianna July 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm

San Francisco looks AMAZING!!! I’ve always wanted to go. And vegan cinnamon buns would be great right now…think I’ll bake some. And some vegan croissants too. Mmmm, carbs.


23 Katie July 14, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Source is so awesome! My husband and I discovered it last weekend after the Giants’ game. The owner chatted with us a bit and it was clear that he is truly invested in what he is doing – supplying wholesome meals in a serene environment. We have been plotting a way to get back up there ever since.

The pictures from the wilds are lovely. I’m so glad you were able to continue with your trip, broken foot, hail, and all! The high Sierra is beautiful this time of year, especially with the rivers full. Hope everyone is recovered soon!


24 Ricki July 14, 2011 at 1:52 pm

So sorry to hear about E’s accident, but glad it turned out so well anyway! Your photos are stunning (of course) and everything sounds so appealing. If I ever get back to San Fran, I am going to those restaurants! How nice of the owners, too, to let you in after officially closed. E looks very happy despite the crutches!


25 Chery J July 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm

Thank you for sharing….we won’t be venturing out until November so living vicariously through amazing pics is loads of fun. Hope E is up and running sooner than later.


26 Elise July 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Sorry to hear about the accident. As a kid I always managed to come back from holiday with some kind of illness or injury. I got scarlet fever in Scotland and an inflamed bursa on a cruise. It used to drive my mum nuts! I hope returning to normality after your holiday hasn’t been too hard. x


27 Karen July 14, 2011 at 5:56 pm

You went to Marnee! That place is across the street from my house! Glad you had a blast in chilly san francisco!


28 SusanV July 14, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Wow, Karen! I like your neighborhood!


29 Sherry July 14, 2011 at 9:53 pm

So glad you visited us here in lovely California! Yes, we love our dry heat and the glorious stone fruit we get in summer. Glad that despite the accident, your vacation was still great! The Bay Area is definitely a great place for vegans nowadays. And, I love your blog Susan–your recipes are awesome! Keep ’em coming!


30 Vegan on a Shoestring July 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm

The restaurants and dishes you tried sound amazing!


31 Laina July 15, 2011 at 6:13 am

Beautiful pictures! Sorry about E’s foot. My husband and I went to the West Coast 6 years ago and have been thinking about the low humidity there this summer. Here in St. Louis, you open the front door to walk outside into a steam room. So hot and humid! I can’t remember the last time that I had a good hair day. Frizz!


32 Laloofah July 15, 2011 at 6:44 am

I’m not surprised that you all turned what could have been a disastrous vacation into a wonderful, fun-filled adventure. Kudos to E for her pluck and to all of you for your resilience and resourcefulness! I’m glad you were rewarded with a great vacation, as well as after-hours vegan cinnamon rolls. 🙂

Your photos are fantastic, as always! What a view from your Sequoia cottage! Beautiful, beautiful country. Gazing at your pictures of misty forests, snowcapped mountains, rushing rivers and waterfalls may even help to cool you on those muggeh days. The I’m always trying to convince people who haven’t experienced it that dry heat, even when it’s triple digit, is far more tolerable than that suffocating humidity. I don’t know how anyone endures that stuff.

Enjoy your post-vacation “decompression” and reliving your fun memories – and planning your next family vacation (or relocation! I can sure picture you living in that part of California!) E’s lime green roller boot sounds pretty cool, wish they’d had those back in medieval times when I was a teen on crutches. 😉 Think she’d allow you to post a photo? Wishing her a speedy recovery!


33 Jessica @ Dairy Free Betty July 15, 2011 at 7:41 am

Beautiful!!! Love that you guys made the best of it!! The photos are incredible! 🙂
I bookmarked the sequoia place in case we ever have time for a trip!! 🙂


34 Barbara Hinz July 15, 2011 at 9:15 am

I enjoyed reading about your trip and your photos have made me put this stop on my wish list. Thank you!


35 Laina July 15, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Wow, how beautiful……………the pictures and your daughter. 😉 Love the lime-green cast.

Hope you had a wonderful time and it’s good to see that you’re back all bright and chipper. Welcome home!!!


36 Lady Amalthea July 16, 2011 at 7:42 am

What a great write-up! Thanks for sharing your memories and absolutely-gorgeous pictures. I hope E feels better!


37 veganlinda July 17, 2011 at 11:51 pm

Poor E! I hope she heals quickly. So glad you all had funny anyway. What a wonderful part of the country!


38 Fiona July 18, 2011 at 4:09 am

That Roll-A-Bout is hilarious! I’m surprised she’s not embarrassed to use it lol. California has so many good veg restaurants; I hope you got to try Dharma’s in Santa Cruz/Aptos. I live in CA but am away for a year in Australia right now and can’t wait to get back home. Thank you for sharing the personal side of your life, I really love seeing those pics and getting your recommendations for places to see and restaurants to eat at and I know I’m not the only one!


39 SusanV July 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

Fiona, she loves the Roll-A-Bout! She uses it like a scooter, speeding through stores and museums, and my biggest fear is that she’s going to break her other leg–or someone else’s.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to Santa Cruz, but I’ll put it on our list for next time.


40 Noelle {Baby in Broad} July 18, 2011 at 10:01 am

It looks like a fabulous vacation, crutches or no. I hope E heals up fast!


41 Gena July 18, 2011 at 11:11 am

Aw! I’m sorry to hear that E hurt her foot, but I also have to say (not having seen a photo for a while) that she looks beautiful and so grown up!


42 Brenna July 18, 2011 at 4:52 pm

I’m new to your blog but have to say your pictures are beautiful. I feel for your daughter. I broke my arm on a remote beach in mexico several years ago. Thank goodness for the Ameri-Med hospital and the tiny little lady who make a splint out of her sons granola bar box for me!


43 leon sobon July 18, 2011 at 9:01 pm

thank you for the great public service that you run. We get ot SF once a month or so. Do you have other reccomendations other than Happy Cow? Leon


44 SusanV July 18, 2011 at 9:22 pm

Here’s a great website for SF restaurants: http://www.bayareaveg.org/ug/ If you choose the middle option, City/Address, it will show you on a map all the vegetarian/vegan restaurants in the area.


45 Kylie Hayward July 23, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Thanks for sharing your vacation story and photos. Loved them both and hope E. heals up soon!


46 Diana J July 25, 2011 at 9:08 pm

I can relate to E’s mishap. We recently returned from a lovely vacation in Oregon, where I tumbled off a hiking path, not even a mile past the trail head, into a ravine! Luckily for me, I walked away with only scrapes and bruising. While she’s ended up in a cast, I’m sure you were all grateful that it was not an even worse injury. So glad that you all enjoyed the rest of your trip! Both Sequoia National Park and San Francisco are fantastic places to spend time.

Thanks for sharing about your adventures! This is my favorite blog to visit because there is always something great waiting here for me.


47 Katie Beane July 28, 2011 at 10:35 am

Looks like you all had a great trip! My husband and I just got back from a very similar one. We spent two days hiking through Yosemite (fortunately with no broken feet), then headed to SF for a few days. What a great vacation to see some great sights, eat great vegan food, and escape the heat!


48 bathing suit models September 1, 2011 at 3:29 pm

WOW! Looks like a fun vacation. My wife and I have traveled all over the bay area and we love it. The weather is almost perfect and you cant beat all the beaches and beautiful terrain that California has to offer.


49 kathy October 1, 2011 at 4:45 pm

You have a beautiful family and it looks like you had a good time!


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