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Mammoth Lakes, Long Valley Caldera and Mono-Inyo Craters, California

Long Valley Caldera is a 20x10 mile caldera located in Eastern California. It is a result of a super eruption 760,000 years ago, estimated to be more than 2000 times the eruption by Mount St. Helen’s in 1980. This eruption released more than 150 cubic miles of magma from a depth of 4 miles beneath the Earth’s surface. The Earth's crust sank more than a mile after the magma was ejected, forming the large caldera.

Castles of Bavaria, Germany

Castles of Bavaria

Germany is full of castles. In our month long adventure in Germany, we saw 5 castles, 4 in and around Munich and 1 castle two hours away. We purchased the 14 day castle pass for 2 or more people for 44 EU, which covered entry into all castles in the state of Bavaria. There is also an annual pass for 65 EU. Kids are admitted free into castles. So though it sounds like a no brainer, you might want to calculate whether it is a good deal for your situation. On our visit to castles, we saved about 15 EU to 20EU with the Castles Pass, since my husband was not always able to accompany us. Admission into the castles that we visited ranged from 6 EU to 12 EU per person. Here are the Castles we visited:

Lake Tahoe, Eastern Shore Coves, Nevada

Ever since I saw a picture of Secret Cove in Lake Tahoe, I knew I had to visit. The clear blue water interspersed with light granite boulders just spoke to me. We started our trip at 5:20 am for an almost 4-hour trip to east Lake Tahoe.  We parked at a US Forest Service parking lot across the street from Chimney Beach and started our ½ mile gentle downhill walk to the first beach, Chimney Beach. Chimney Beach has its namesake from a chimney standing on its shore, the remains of an old cabin. We arrived at Chimney Beach at 9:30 am, found the company of perhaps 10 other people there. It was much too cold for us to take a dip then at 50F, so we decided to push on further down shore.

High Peaks-Tunnel Trail Loop, Pinnacles National Park, California

Last weekend we explored an ancient volcano a couple hours south of the San Francisco Bay area. The ancient volcano was cut into two by tectonic forces about 20 million years ago. Two thirds of the volcano eventually became Pinnacles National Park while the other side of it became the Neenach Formation almost 200 miles south. The side that we explored is on the Pacific Plate, which is slowly drifting north, while the Neenach Formation is on the North American plate, slowly pushing westward. As an active volcano, Pinnacles Volcano stood 8000 feet tall and 15 miles long, located almost 200 miles south of where it is now, where it's other half still stands today. The “Pinnacles” that we encountered were massive fingerlike projections made of dark rocks reaching for the sky, along with rounded rock formations just as massive. These rock formations were caused by the erosion by ice, water and wind.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California

South of Point Lobos State Reserve, about an hour's drive down Highway 1’s winding road, you'll find a view that might be familiar. I had seen the classic picture of Big Sur many times - waterfalls dropping onto a white sand beach just feet from blue-green waters of the ocean. A short hike (less than a mile) led me down to this beautiful view.