When we left you it was Friday 15th August and we were in San Francisco.
We walked down to the car hire company and were offered the choice of three cars, an enormous Chrysler 300, a Mazda people carrier or a Volkswagon Jetta.
After an inspection of all three cars we settled for the Jetta which has an enormous boot/trunk and is a similar size to the car we drove in Florida.
We took the car back to our hotel and after loading it up we headed south to the Monterey area of the California coast where we met up with Jim and Carmen.
We were introduced to "Sonic" the Doberman Pincher and "Ritzy" the Jack Russell terrier who were real characters.
We had a fantastic weekend. On the Saturday we had a short hike to the top of Fremont peak which gave a panoramic view over the Salinas valley, followed by a visit to probably the best sandwich shop we've been to during our travels. We then went for a stroll around Monterey bay where we saw sea otters and seals.
On Sunday we went to a nearby National park called "The Pinnacles", which has been formed by a combination of historic volcanic activity and the movement of the San Andreas fault. It was very hot so we packed lots of water and had some caverns included in our route for shade.
In the evening we went to a local seafood eatery where between us we tucked into fresh Halibut, Swordfish, Calamari and crab cakes, Yum!
We would like to thank Jim and Carmen for a great weekend, their company and their hospitality. We hope to replicate this when Jim and Carmen come over to the UK.
On Monday we said our farewells and headed towards Yosemite national park.
We stopped about an hour from the park gates in a small town called Mariposa where we decided to base ourselves while we're visiting. We would have liked to camp inside the park but the majority of campsites require bookings well in advance and were all fully booked so we treated ourself to a hotel in Mariposa instead.
On Tuesday we had planned to drive a circuit of the park leaving by the southern exit which is about 50km away from Mariposa but a wild fire had sprung up and the firefighters had closed the road (and evacuated the town of Oakhurst) so we had to change our plans.
We headed into the park for the day and decided to drive around the scenic view points. As we drove in we were almost immediately treated to a view of El Capitan also known as "El Cap" to the locals. El Capitan is a granite monolith that is about 3,000 feet (900 m) from valley floor to summit at its tallest face, and is one of the world's favorite challenges for rock climbers.
We drove deeper into the valley and then headed to higher viewpoints at Tunnel view and Glacier point that gave magnificent views looking into the Yosemite valley and later looking over to Half Dome. We finished with another view of El Capitan and then headed back to Mariposa for the night.
One of the most popular hikes in Yosemite is the 16 mile, 5,000 feet ascent of "Half Dome" which is the iconic symbol of Yosemite national park and a rocky summit that is gained by climbing with the use of cables.
Due to its popularity, access is restricted and you require a permit which you apply for months in advance.
Getting one of these permits is as rare as rocking horse droppings. If there are any permits left over, you can enter into a daily lottery in the hope you may get lucky.
The lottery is held 2 days prior to your planned hike. We entered the Tuesday lottery to climb on Thursday and were informed at 10pm that we were lucky enough to get a permit.
On Wednesday we decided that we would prepare for the Half Dome hike, we bought a map, got advice from the ranger service and located the trail head and Carpark.
We still had a bit of time to spare so we hiked to the base of El Capitan.
On Thursday we had our ascent of Half Dome and had to get to the trailhead for sunrise so we had another 4am start
We arrived at the trail head just as the light of the morning was changing the night sky and a short while later we had a sunrise.
The air temperature was perfect for walking and our route on the "Mist trail" took us alongside a couple of impressive waterfalls. We managed to walk to the base of Half Dome without feeling the effects of the sun. Here we met a park ranger who checked our permit, without one this would have been the end of our hike.
After an increasingly steeper approach, the final ascent involved several hundred feet of granite stairs. The final assent up the peak's very steep (and due to foot fall the increasingly smooth) face, couldn't be achieved without technical rock climbing equipment. To allow hikers to gain the summit you pull yourself up with the aid of a pair of post-mounted braided steel cables and thin planks of wood. This was quite a workout with our arms and hands aching as we reached the top.
After admiring the amazing view, having a snack and taking a few photographs we commenced our descent which was a little easier as we hung off the cables and slid down. There is also the added element in that as the way down is also the way up you have to pass people as you grip on to the cable (YouTube has quite a few clips of people using these cables). Helen now needs a new pair of gloves.
We had a brief chat with the park warden and then returned by the same route. By now it was midday and the sun was quite fierce with the temperature reaching about 36 degrees centigrade (97 Fahrenheit) so we kept to the shade as much as possible. We both drank 4 litres of fluid during the hike, eventually arriving back at the car in under 10 hours, which according to the guide books isn't a bad time.
We had a sound nights sleep, Helen woke herself up several times with her loud snoring (partly due to the cold that Nigel 'kindly' shared with her).
Today is Friday 22nd August and we are still in Mariposa.
We have struggled out of bed with aching arms and legs, probably due to our mild period of exercise yesterday.
We have decided to have a rest day and prepare for next week which will involve long periods of driving as we head east.
We've been overwhelmed by the offers of hospitality while we're in America, we really need another couple of months so we could visit everybody, so a big thank you and our apologies to everyone we haven't managed to incorporate into our route.
We fly out of New York on 22nd September so there's only one month of our epic trip to go!