Starting off in San Francisco
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We arrived on time to a warm sunny day at SFO, and went about the usual efforts of retrieving luggage (without incident). We then lumbered over to the rental car building. We had (I thought) reserved a 4 wheel drive from Dollar Rental car, but somewhere in the small print were additional charges for the 4 wheel part.  At least a 4WD was available as it turned out, with unlimited mileage.  We wound up with a Jeep Liberty for...get this...a total cost of (including several hundred dollars in local taxes, airport improvement fees, and tourist fees) $1500 for 2 weeks.

Click here for a copy of the bill and annotaion of the fees, including a "Tourist Surcharge Fee" of 41 bucks.

On the positive side was the very helpful and courteous counter staff.  They were quite sympathetic and worked hard to find us the Jeep we needed when they could have just done nothing. So, 9 out of 10 grade for Customer Service, and 3/10 for general business practice in a greedy industry.

This is more than double what it cost two years ago, and Dollar was the best price of the bunch. That's $100/day, and not one cent of insurance included in that price, just the basic rental. Be sure to shop for the very best deal you can find.  The rental car business is working hard to maximize its profits at a time when tourism is dropping and people are less inclined to tour in far away places.

Anyway, we got the wheels we needed to get up remote mountain dirt roads.  One never knows whether it'll be a "smooth" dirt road - one that even a low-rider could get up - or if the rains have made it damn near impassible for even a 4x4. You never know 'till ya get there.
In short order we visited UPS to pick up a pre-shipped parcel with lots of our gear, booked into the motel and unpacked.

Then it was up into San Francisco and across the Golden Gate for a visit to the Muir Woods.
Nap Time

After a wonderful few hours in the Woods, we headed back toward SF, stopping at the Marin Headlands for some city overviews.
One of the roads takes us through a narrow tunnel which is often used by cyclists.  The one-way pass-through is regulated by a 5-minute traffic light.
  In We Go

  Out We Come

Back through San Francisco down to Fremont. A busy day is waiting for us tomorrow.
Today, the plan is a good hike up Mission Peak, then shopping  at REI for mountaineering supplies, food, ice and a cooler.

On Stanford Road, the Eucalyptus trees are gorgeous - all lined up from careful planting decades ago.
With a sunny day in store, the mountain bikers are getting set to go.  It's only 9am and the parking lot is filling up fast.
On the way to Yosemite
The little map shows our path over two weeks. Starting in San Francisco, we loop clockwise into the mountains, then over the Sierras to the desert. After baking in the sun, it's off to the Pacific coast for camping and exploration, then back to SF.
Our September 2010 Mountain Backpacking trip
to California
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"You Can See For Miles And Miles"
Each pipe-hole has a number. A plaque explains where you're looking, miles and miles away.