Friday, September 9, 2016

Rachelle's Wedding Weekend - Thurs & Friday - 9/8 & 9/9/16

Welcome to the first of eight blog entries detailing our vacation to northern California, specifically Arnold and Napa. 

My good friend Rachelle from high school moved to LA after graduating from U of M. She met her her now husband there, Mike (referred to as Mikey), a few years back. His family is from northern California, and they have a vacation home in Arnold, which is about three hours from San Francisco. Mikey grew up spending time in Arnold, and brought Rachelle there to visit many times. They decided it would be a perfect place to get married, and now 180 people are travelling from all over for what they named "The Royal Wedding of Arnold."

Eric and I love Rachelle and we were both excited for the opportunity to visit a part of the country we've never seen. Since we are obsessed with wine, we decided to incorporate a stay in Napa. Why not?

Our trip would begin in Arnold for three nights and then Napa for six. Our flight into San Francisco on Thursday (9/8/16) was flawless. The plane was empty and we had a row all to ourselves. Upon landing, we headed to the baggage claim area and noticed our carousel was empty and there were not any people standing nearby. We walked around checking the screens to make sure we were at the right one. After a few more minutes of inactivity, we walked to the service desk to ask an employee and sure enough, we were in the right place. Now we were really confused. We decided to walk back and check the carousel once more before finally noticing our bag sitting off to the side behind ropes. Eric was in the bathroom after our flight for so long that we missed the entire baggage pick-up. Omg, that was a first!

After that debacle thanks to Eric, we headed to our rental car. My sister Danielle advised we use Silver Car, and I'm glad we did! This company picks you up in a shuttle and drives you to their building, which is only ten minutes away. As we headed to the shuttle, we noticed the rental car section at the airport was packed with long lines. It looked terrible. By using Silver Car, we bypassed that mess and were on our way to Arnold in no time. 

Silver Car only rents Audi's, and a silver A4 was waiting for us when we arrived. The whole process was super quick and easy and I can't recommend it enough. 

The drive to Arnold was smooth for the most part. The highways in San Francisco were major. By major I mean six lanes across on each side and VERY busy, even over 1 hour from the city at 1pm in the middle of the workweek.  Many people seemed to drive erratically and we noticed a lot of junky little cars on the road, which makes sense because people there don't have to worry about weather like we do. After witnessing what the driving is like around San Francisco, we decided we were less enthusiastic about the possibility of ever moving there.

After an hour or so on these crazy highways,  we found ourselves on a two lane road that led us all the way to Arnold. The landscape was interesting for the most part. We passed through a number of farms and in certain areas the road had big rolling hills that went up and down like a roller coaster.

As we neared Arnold it became much more desolate so when we saw a decent looking shopping center, we decided we better stop and eat. Subway was the best option, and it actually wasn't too bad.  After devouring a few subs, we continued our journey.  The roads went from flat farms to winding hills, and we watched our elevation increase on the GPS from 100 ft to Arnold at 4,000 ft.  Our next stop was a grocery store in the center of Arnold.  Surprisingly, the store had a wide selection of organic fruits and vegetables.  We stocked up on $100 worth of groceries for the weekend.

The entire drive took approximately 3 hours and we pulled into our driveway around 6pm. The GPS in our Audi came in handy because the cell service is terrible and you can't rely on your phone.  Stepping out of the car, we immediately could smell the fresh air and pine cones, delightful!  We love the outdoors and desolate, quiet, locations.  The house we rented was surrounded by beautiful pine trees and just as cute as the pictures online.

All the houses in the neighborhood have a name

Exterior of our house

Front Door

Feels just like home!

Very nice big windows and open concept

I love those country style chairs

Very nice updated kitchen

Big King bed!

Eric doing some work on our first night

We walked around and I started photographing the house. Everything was as expected, so we unpacked and settled in. It was a very long day so we didn't make any plans for the first night. We were pleasantly surprised when Rachelle and Mikey stopped by!

This was my first time meeting Mikey, and I could immediately see how he and Rachelle were compatible. They were both so cute together and super pumped for their big wedding weekend. Here is the schedule:

The rehearsal dinner was scheduled for the next day at 5pm, so I asked them to recommend a daytime activity. Rachelle suggested we do the Inspiration Point hike at Lake Alpine, and showed us a picture she took of the view at the top. We were sold! After chatting awhile, they headed out and we prepared for our hike the next day.

The next morning we got up and began our drive to Lake Alpine, which would take approximately 40 minutes through windy mountain roads at 55 mph!  Perfect for the Audi.

We pulled over at this viewing point. Nature is so pretty

Feeling like the King of the Sierra Mountains - 6,780 ft elevation

The drive was so pretty! I loved seeing all the tall trees and of course the California sky was a stunning clear blue.  The weather was in the mid 70s to mid 80s with literally 15% humidity!  So dry, it was amazing.  Michigan and Boston are always 50% humidity or higher.  Thanks to the GPS in our car, we had no troubles finding the campground where the hiking trail was located at approximately 7,000 ft elevation. We noticed a lot of old people in RVs camping at this lake. The wasn't a parking lot, so we pulled over and parked on the side of a dead end road.

Inspiration Point Hike: This one and a third mile climb carries you to the summit of Inspiration Point overlooking the lake. Begin at the road's end at Pine Marten Campground and start along the lakeside trail, but turn left on the trail to the summit. The climb is about 600 feet. 

View of Lake Alpine at the beginning of our hike - 7,350 ft elevation 

Eric found the sign for our "Inspiration Point" hike, which I completely missed!

Impressed by the big trees

View of Lake Alpine as we near the top of our hike - Gorgeous!

Always representin' MSU - GO GREEN

Photo Shoot Time!

Overlooking the National Forest with my guns 


Exploring the summit

Views as we headed down

See how the ground was slanted

The entire trail took a few hours, and we were so glad we did it! There is nothing better than starting your day with an invigorating hike up a mountain! On the way back, we stopped at the grocery store again because Eric forgot his shaving cream. 

My friend Holly and her husband were sharing the rental house with us, and they were scheduled to arrive sometime that day. I ran cross-country with Holly in high school, and upon graduating she attended U of M with Rachelle and then moved to Chicago where she married Jay shortly after. I hung out with Holly at Chelle's bachelorette party a few months back, and I was excited to meet her husband.

By around 4pm, Eric and I were ready to go. Holly hadn't arrived yet, so we took off early and decided to check out the town of Murphys which was also the location of the rehearsal dinner (about 20 minute drive). Believe it or not, Murphys is known for wine tastings, and there were dozens of tasting bars on the main strip. We had extra time so we decided  to try one.

Newsome Harlow tasting

This one was good! It was served at the wedding and I ended up drinking it all night!

Eric didn't like the tasting or the atmosphere, but I thought it was fun. As soon as it was over, we headed to the party which was right across the street. 

Upon entering we were immediately greeted by Mikey's sister, who was hosting the party. She was incredibly outgoing and fun and I am happy we were able to connect before it got crazy.

The atmosphere for the party was so beautiful, and I'm not one to throw around compliments unless I really mean it! There was an open bar located indoors with some seating, but dinner and the rest of the party would take place outside. 

Name tags for everyone (about 80 people) was good idea! In case you can't tell, Chelle is a HUGE Harry Potter fan

Cool open bar reserved for the party

I was quite pleased with open bar selection :)

Vines with grapes outside in the courtyard - cool!

Together under the grape vines

Surprise! Aman (another high school friend) and her sweet baby boy flew in all the way from France!

Me and the beautiful bride-to-be

Rachelle and all her bridesmaids

It wouldn't be a party without Filipino food! That is Mikey making a face

What a beautiful setting for dinner

My plate - yummy

Eric's plate was packed to the max

After dinner speeches going on

Eric and I got a kick out of this picture. That is Mikey on the right and he looks like part of N'Sync

Rachelle's new family includes Dad, Mom, and 2 sisters

Post dinner conversations

We got into a SERIOUS game of life-size Jenga!

I was the star of the game! haha, JK

The party was in full swing as it got dark

All of us graduated from Utica High!! We are making the "U" sign

Right before our departure

If this was any indication for how fun the wedding was going to be, then we were all in for a treat! I went to bed that night very excited for the next day.

1 comment:

  1. nina I read this part last night before bed... will do more tonight... love to read about your travel experience. you are quite the blogger, of course this was passed down from me.. the writing..)) wow how
    beautiful the scenery... the lake the trees.. just gorgeous. great pictures and writing..