BNP Paribas at Indian Wells

What a great trip to Palm Springs and Indian Wells with my mom! We arrived on Sunday and after getting a tour of our boutique hotel, Hotel California with bikes, a lounge area, pool, fountains, and public kitchen, we toured the streets of Palm Springs. It didn’t take long to find the candy store. I’m not sure why we decided we needed a bunch of salt water taffy and “old-timey” candy, except we were hungry. We were trying to just eat a few pieces to tide us over before a very early dinner at Spencer’s, but that wasn’t enough as we stopped for a snack at one of the restaurants on the strip. Continue reading “BNP Paribas at Indian Wells”


Fallbrook, California

Well, after an 8 month hiatus from blogging, I am back!  I almost don’t remember how to do this, despite positing every day for a year!

I just recently took a weekend trip to Fallbrook, California to celebrate my dad’s cousin’s 60 1/2 surprise birthday.  Many of my dad’s cousins, who I met for the first time on my trip around the USA, came for Bill’s birthday as well, so it was like a family reunion!  We enjoyed a nice dinner outside in Bill and Pam’s backyard with beautiful weather. Continue reading “Fallbrook, California”

Day 291 – Sequoia National Park

Day 291 – Sequoia National Park, October 3, 2011

So this morning I left Kings Canyon National Park and headed
south to Sequoia National Park.  On the
way, we passed by the world’s largest Sequoia Grove.  The grove covers five square miles and contains
over 2,100 sequoias larger than ten feet in diameter.  I wonder who counted that.

As we continued on through the forest, we eventually reached
the General Sherman Tree which is the largest tree in the world in terms of
volume, 52,500 cubic feet.  There might
be taller, wider, or older trees, but no other tree in the world has more wood
in its trunk than the Sherman Tree.  Its
top is dead, thus the trunk no longer grows taller, but it still grows wider
adding wood equal to another good sized tree every year.

Its girth is 103 feet, it weighs 1,385 tons and it is
approximately 2,200 years old.  Its first
branch is 180 feet from the ground and its largest branch is 6.8 feet in
diameter.  If its trunk were filled with
water, it would provide for 9,844 baths or one every day for 27 years.  Looking up at the tree for a six-foot human
is about the equivalent of a mouse looking up at a six-foot human.  The General Sherman tree is about 1,000 years
younger than the oldest known sequoia, but is larger simply due to its location
and ideal growing conditions.

After taking the mile roundtrip to the tree, we moved on to
Hospital Rock.  Hospital Rock is
decorated with painted designs by the Patwisha Indians.  Their meaning is unknown.  Hospital Rock was given its name in 1873, 10
years after the Indian village was abandoned.
Alfred Everton was hunting with George Cahoon, when Everton was shot in
the leg upon stumbling over the rifle-set they were preparing for bear.  A doctor treated Everton at this village
site, thus the rocks namesake.

Nearby Hospital Rock is another large rock full of mortar
holes.  Indian women ground acorns with
five to ten pound pestles in these holes.
The tribes in this area depended on acorns as their primary source of
food.  Each family collected one or more
tons of acorns each year.  Before the
acorns could be safely eaten, they had to be leached to get rid of the poisonous
tannin.  Hot water was poured over the
acorn meal in a leaf-lined sand pit until the meal no longer tasted

Since 1865, no Patwishas have lived in this village.  They seemed to have vanished with their
past.  Causes other than war such as
small pox, measles, scarlet fever, loss of hunting territory, and broken spirit
killed or dispersed the Indians.  In fact,
the impact of civilization on Indian cultures and most tribes was
disastrous.  From 1770 to 1910, the
Indian population of central California declined from 32,500 to 3,125.

After our morning in the park, we headed south to
Bakersfield, took advantage of the showers at 24 Hour Fitness, and then turned
east toward Barstow…on my way home. Many thanks to all my followers…I will be sure to make a
final post upon arriving in Texas…ETB


Day 290 – Kings Canyon National Park

Day 290 – Kings Canyon National Park, October 2, 2011

Over the past year, I heard that Kings Canyon and Sequoia
National Parks are as pretty as Yosemite, but without the crowds.  Before returning to Texas, I thought I would
see about that and drove 50 miles east from Fresno to the Northwest entrance of
Kings Canyon National Park.

My first stop was to see the General Grant Tree, a giant
sequoia.  In fact, it is the widest known
sequoia, forty feet across, and the third largest tree in the world in terms of
volume.  It stands 268 feet high, weighs
1,254 tons, and its circumference is 107 feet around.  Its largest branch is 4.5 feet in diameter
and its first branch is 129 feet from the ground.  A few interesting facts about the tree:

  1. If its
    trunk were a gas tank on a car that got 25 mpg, you could drive around the
    earth 350 times without refueling.
  2. It would take 20 people holding hands to circle
    its base.
  3. If its trunk were filled with basketballs, it
    would hold 159,000; and 37 million ping pong balls.
  4. President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the General
    Grant Tree to be the Nation’s Christmas Tree in 1926.  In 1956, Dwight D. Eisenhower designated it a
    National Shrine; a living memorial to those who have given their lives for our

After taking the half-mile walk through the sequoia grove, I
steered VANilla along what seemed like an endless road…up, down, sideways,
left, right, snaking, winding, curving.  It
wound thirty miles through the forest and skirts the canyon’s edge all the way
down to the river.  The best way to
describe the road is to post a picture of the signs attached to water troughs
that say “Do Not Drink…For Radiators Only”.

The cliffs reflecting a myriad of shades; browns, greens,
greys, were dotted with trees and towered above the river below.  I followed the river all the way to Roaring
River Falls where I took a short walk along a paved trail through the trees to
a waterfall that surged between granite walls.

After visiting this waterfall, we retraced our steps toward
the entrance and stopped at handful of overlooks on our way.  Many of the overlooks are actually in the
Sequoia National Forest as the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway passes through forest
land to reach the park.  One of the stops
in the forest land was Grizzly Falls.
Because it was in the national forest and not the national park, Petey
got to take the short fifty foot walk to see the water bounce and spray over
the rocky ledge.

From this waterfall, we briefly stopped at a cave, but it
required guided tours which left on the hour for $13.  I’ve seen enough caves over the last year, so I
opted out of waiting half an hour.  At
the gift shop; however, a sign stating “You Break It, You Buy It” caught my
eye.  At first, I thought REALLY.  They have posted a sign like that for junky
souvenirs?!?  Then I saw geodes and a
vice.  People who want a geode can pick a
rock and break it open…and of course buy it.
I thought it was clever.

It seems like signs entertained me today.  I found another that said, “Caution Ice”.  The one beneath it said, “Cream Ahead”.  The sign was in the shape of a double dip

While the park was lovely, I wouldn’t compare it to
Yosemite.  Kings Canyon’s peaks are
jagged, while Yosemite’s are smooth, polished, and very unique.  I’ll be curious to see Sequoia National Park
tomorrow.  I have found a campground
close to the border of both parks.  It is
an ideal location except for the fact two forest fires are burning within the
park…one very close to the campground.  I’m
not too excited over the smoke!  Oh well,
it’s my last few, fulltime days in nature…I’ll make the most of it.  ETB


Day 289 – Yosemite and Beyond (Part 5)

Day 289 – Yosemite and Beyond

Well, I survived the forest fires, fear of active bears, and
camping roadside last night, though VANilla reeks of smoke and dead animal
smell.  Whew, I hope it goes away
soon.  I returned to Yosemite for one
final visit.  First I swung through the
valley to take advantage of the only shower facilities in the enormous
park.  I couldn’t believe how low the
Merced River was flowing.  In May, it was
swelling out of its banks.  Today,
sandbars were poking up in the middle of the river.  Many of the waterfalls appear to be seasonal
as well, as I didn’t notice some of them today.
For a waterfall lover, the best time to visit Yosemite would be as soon
as all the roads open.  I believe this is
generally in May, though this year due to the heavy winter, I believe it was

After my shower, I headed toward the southern portion of the
park where we followed Glacier Point Road 17 miles to Glacier Point parking lot.  A four-mile, round trip trail that changes
over 3,000 feet in elevation each direction leads to Glacier Point.  Under different circumstances, I would have
opted in, but with a late start, Petey in VANilla, and a wound that still needs
more time to heal, I chose to enjoy the vista just fifty yards from the parking
lot.  The overlook provided a remarkable
panorama of Half Dome, Nevada Falls, and Vernal Falls even on this smoky day.

Just as I was preparing to leave the parking lot, a Ferrari
Club pulled in.  At least ten different
Ferrari’s hummed to the end of the parking lot.
I hope they didn’t have to follow an RV up the winding road.  That wouldn’t have been any fun for the
drivers!  On our way back down, we made a
final stop at Washburn Point before making our way to Fresno for the evening.

I see why Yosemite is always full.  It isn’t very far from large California
cities and frankly its commanding and unique landscape is inspiring.  In Fresno, VANilla is going in for some TLC
before we make two unscheduled visits to Sequoia and Kings Canyon as we depart
the Golden State.  Technically, I have
completed all the scenic road trips listed in my Reader’s Digest book with the
exception of the ones in Alaska and Hawaii.
My blog and adventures will be coming to an end within the week…ETB



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Day 288 – Yosemite and Beyond (Part 4)

Day 288 – Yosemite and Beyond

From Reno, I followed Highway 385 south to Mono Lake,
located just east of the Tioga Pass entrance to Yosemite National Park.  Mono Lake, nestled in a basin of sagebrush
bordered by volcanic peaks is over 760,000 years old, making it one of the
oldest lakes in North America.

The lake has no outlet.
For thousands of years, streams have carried their minerals into the
lake and evaporation has removed water from it.
As a result, the mineral content has risen to almost 10 percent.  The salty waters afford swimmers a delightful
sensation of buoyancy.  While fish can’t
survive in these alkaline waters, it is still one of the most productive lakes
in the world.  It supports millions of
brine shrimp, alkali flies, and migratory birds.

In fact, Native Americans who lived in the Mono Basin
collected the abundant alkali fly pupae and used them as one of their main food
sources.  The Kutzadika’a traded with the
Yokuts for acorns.  The Yokuts called the
Kutzadika’a the Monache meaning “fly-eaters”.
Monache was shortened to Mono by the early explorers in 1850 and it is
how the lake got its name.

A picture of the lake’s tufa is what attracted me to the
area.  Much to my chagrin, due to the
snowy winter, I believe the lake’s high water level covered much of the tufa, but
there was still some to be seen on its southern shores.  These strange calcite formations are formed under the water’s surface when carbonates in the water combine with calcium from fresh water springs that feed into the lake.  Over time, the hardened minerals pile up
forming knobs and spires.

After visiting Mono Lake at 1,951 feet above sea level, I
followed Tioga Pass road through the eastern entrance of Yosemite up to 9,945
feet, the loftiest highway pass in the Sierra Nevada.  The drive led me through golden meadows, past
numerous alpine lakes, beneath the shade of evergreens, and offered spectacular
views of some of the park’s many granite peaks and domes.

We made brief stops at a handful of pullouts along the way
including a visit at Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake and Olmsted Point.  Tuolumne Meadows is the largest subalpine
meadow in the Sierra Nevada. Numerous streams wind through the golden
grasslands attracting a handful of deer.

Tenaya Lake, once named Pywiak (lake of the shining rocks)
by Native Americans, is surrounded by massive granite domes, a rock climber’s
paradise.  Its blue waters and sandy
shores offer a lovely place for picnicking and fishing.  Petey and I simply admired the view.

Olmstead Point is named for famed landscape architect Frederick
Law Olmsted (1822-1903) when Tioga Road was opened to automobile traffic in
1961.  Olmsted is best known for his
design of New York’s Central Park.  He
was the chairman of the first commission to manage Yosemite Valley.  The overlook affords commanding views of
Tenaya Lake and its surrounding peaks.

In addition, a geologist pointed out to me the most
fantastic part of the view from his perspective; the glaciations evidence and
a checker board pattern.  Chambers of
magma deep within the earth slowly crystallized over 100 million years to form
hard granite rock.  Over time, erosion by
rivers and glaciers formed and polished the rock.  In addition, large rocks toppled down on the
bedrock as ice melted away.

From the overlook, we continued west to a spur road leading
to a trailhead to May Lake.  The poorly
maintained, narrow road wound through the forest two miles to a parking area
which led to a variety of trails.  I took
the trail to May Lake which basically ascended 1.2 miles up to the lake.  The view of the lake was somewhat
anticlimactic relative to the views the zig zagging trail provided of the
granite peaks blanketed in dark clouds, yet reflecting still reflecting light
from the sun in the west.

I had planned on making May Lake my final stop before going
in search for a campsite outside the park.
The ranger at Mono Lake suggested that the park was full and that I
could camp anywhere along Evergreen Road just outside the northwestern entrance
for free.  As I headed west along Tioga
Pass Road, I came to a screeching halt.
VANilla was one of many cars in a line that ended up stretching more
than three miles.  The road became our
parking lot for three hours as firefighters and rangers managed a forest fire
that was started by a lightning strike a week ago.  Park visitors threw Frisbees, skateboarded,
and even jogged in the open lane while we waited to be cleared through the
smoke and flames.  Others skipped into
the woods to relieve their bladders while some drivers simply gave up and
turned around.  I guess they didn’t need
to get to the western side of the park, as exiting and going around the park
would have taken longer.  After I edited
some photos and read a bit, Petey and I had dinner in VANilla and took a short
walk before we were finally directed in the dark through the burning forest.

We eventually made it outside the northwestern edge to
Evergreen Road where we found a spot to pull over.  It was not exactly how I had pictured
it.  Others were pulled over as well, but
we were more or less stretched out along a two lane highway.  With the thought of active bears, a fire
burning, and on a roadside, I expect it will be a restless night…ETB



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Day 287 – Mount Shasta – Cascade Loop (Part 5)

Day 287 – Mount Shasta – Cascade Loop, September 30, 2011

Another park that was closed due to snow in May when I was
in the northern California area was Lassen Volcanic National Park so as I head to
south to Texas, I have revisited the park, this time on a beautiful day at the
end of September.

The landscape in the park is extremely varied.  As I passed through the northern entrance of
the park, I passed by beds of pumice which looked like rocks from the
moon.  I made a few quick stops before I
finally settled on taking a hike to Kings Creek Falls.  Judging by the cars, it looked like a popular
destination.  Having said that, given
summer is over and it was a Thursday, there weren’t that many.

The hike was lovely.
The three mile roundtrip passed through a meadow, crossed several dry
creeks, and then descended rather steeply to the falls area.  Hikers were routed via the horse trail as the
cascades trail was considered too dangerous.
I was still able to turn up river to admire the tumbling waters before
turning downriver to see the waters spill over the steep cliff.

As I was headed toward the falls, I met Ron, Sylvia, and
Teresa from Redding who were finishing up for the day.  Upon my return to the car, I caught up with
them again as they had just finished exploring a side trail.  They found a very rare wildflower which I
can’t recall its name while trying to snap a photo of some deer.  Sylvia had been wanting to see the flower for
years.  She was so excited that she took
me to see it.  Knowing how I feel when I
see elusive wildlife, I commented, “This must have made your day”.  She responded, “It made my year!”  It was a very small white flower with green
lines running up the petals.  I would
have never known it was something so special.

After my hike, we made a few more scenic stops at Bumpass
Hell, Emerald Lake and Sulphur Works.  At
Bumpass Hell, I met a couple from Palo Alto who talked me out taking a three
mile walk along a boardwalk to an active hydrothermal basin to view mudspots and
fumaroles.  I wasn’t that gung ho and
when they commented, “We’ve been to Yellowstone enough”, I thought the same
thing.  I’m glad I didn’t take the hike
given Sulphur Works which was roadside had a few.

Emerald Lake, so named for its color was also roadside and
simply gorgeous.  It used to be home to
the Cascade frog, a species whose population has declined dramatically.  In the 1920s, there was a frog for  nearly every yard around the lake.  Now
the lake is devoid of the species.
Researchers are asking citizens to inform them any time one is located
so that they may determine what is causing the decline.

From Lassen, I headed south to Reno where I stayed for the
evening.  Tomorrow, I plan on visiting
the parts of Yosemite that were closed due to snow in May.  ETB


Day 162 – Yosemite and Beyond – Part 3

Day 162 – Yosemite and Beyond, May 8, 2011

Wow, what a day!  A cool front, light rain or perhaps mist, and low clouds blew into the valley.  I crossed my fingers and hoped the overcast skies would offer some good photo opportunities and not interfere with my sightseeing for the day.  It was amazing how different the park looked with just a change of weather.  Yesterday, El Capitan was gleaming in the sunlight, today it was barely poking up above the clouds.

Once I arrived at the parking lot, I began the day following the paved paths around Lower Yosemite Fall and then ventured up the path to Upper Yosemite Fall.  To reach the top I would have had to follow more than sixty switchbacks over 3.6 miles.  I had a 2 mile roundtrip from the parking lot to the trailhead, so I didn’t have enough time to do the whole trail with Petey in VANilla.  I chose to climb to the base of Upper Yosemite Fall.  I had hoped in so doing, that I would get a better glimpse of the middle cascades that seem to elude my camera slightly, but I was 100% unsuccessful!  The view of the middle cascades was better from the valley floor.  Since I didn’t make it to the top, I can’t say if the view of the middle cascades ever improves, but I will find out some day.  This hike made it a requirement that I come back.

The incline was tough, but the switchbacks relieved the steep ascent I experienced yesterday at Vernal Fall.  Yesterday, I felt like I was riding up Horsetooth Basin in the MS150 at 3.5 miles per hour…I had to keep pedaling to keep from falling over I was going so slow.  Speaking of the MS150, my sister-in-law has MS, and I have participated in the ride the last four years to raise money for the cause.  This year, while I’m not able to participate, I am a virtual team member, which means I have signed up to raise money.  In the past, I have been able to raise nearly $5,000 annually.  This year has been a struggle at best.  I hope to reach the $2,000 mark.  Any donations, even morning coffee money, would be greatly appreciated…simply click on this link…

Ok, back to Upper Yosemite Trail.  The first mile consisted of constant switchbacks until I reached Columbia Rock which offered a superb view of the valley as clouds lingered near Taft Point and Half Dome.  I continued on for the next half mile along a fine gravel, almost sandy path.  It was almost demoralizing when the path turned back down the cliff before it finally twisted upward toward Upper Yosemite Fall where I earned my first glimpse of the powerful force crashing down the cliff before me.  While I was as close as I had ever been to Upper Yosemite Fall, I couldn’t see the top…a cloud moved in and blocked the view, though it provided an ethereal feeling.  I had a burning desire to get closer to the waterfall and to see the whole thing, so I kept going…up again.

The path returned to rocky switchbacks, only this time the rocks were wet from the waterfall’s mist.  I counted seven small waterfalls that flowed through the path where I jumped from rock to rock in an attempt to keep my feet dry.  I eventually gave up when the path acted as a waterfall itself at certain points in the trail.  After about another half mile, I reached the base of the fall where water bounced off the enormous cliff that towered above me.  I had to settle with being satisfied by this view and retrace my steps back to Petey and VANilla.  The view was fantastic and as I scampered back down the trail to the area that provided the first glimpse of the fall, the cloud had shifted and the entire upper fall was in sight!  As I passed many tired souls wondering how much further it was to the top, I concluded that I will have to return to Yosemite sans dog and attack a handful of trails.  They are just too good to pass up.

Arch Rock

While the views of the fall for the first two miles of the hike were few and far between, the trail was amazing for the following reasons:  1.  It was natural…meaning not paved.  2.  It was exhilarating…not too hard, but required effort.  3.  I’m quite certain looking down from the top would be extraordinary.  It went against all my competitive instincts to have to return to Petey, but he’s a living creature that loves me and depends on me, and I don’t like leaving him locked in VANilla for more than a few hours at a time.

He was so happy to see me as he entered into his high pitched whine when I reached the parking lot.  After a quick lunch, I took him for a much deserved walk around a different part of the valley.  This time we started near Sentinel Bridge, walked past Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, through Yosemite Lodge, across the meadow on Swinging Bridge, and back to the parking lot.

After our walk, we took another drive around the valley and went back to the park entry point on 140.  I really enjoyed this entry point, but didn’t stop to take pictures because I wanted to assure myself a good parking spot and hiking time without mobs of people.  We took in the view of Bridalveil Fall from across the valley, stopped at Arch Rock, and admired The Cascades that by August dwindle to a trickle.  By this time it was mid-afternoon, so we went to claim our campsite in North Pines LOCATED IN THE VALLEY!

I left Petey with VANilla in the campgrounds and took one last walk for the day to Mirror Lake.  Mirror Lake is seasonal, meaning the water isn’t always there.  In fact, Nineteenth century tourists admired the reflections on the surface so much that entrepreneurs tried to expand the lake by piling boulders onto a natural dam.  Ironically, this caused the pool to fill with silt and now requires regular dredging.

Given the river crested last night, I was quite certain that I’d find water…and I did.  Even if water hadn’t filled the pool, the lake is situated beneath Half Dome’s 4,800 foot sheer face which was a tremendous sight itself.  I had hoped to find Half Dome reflecting on the water’s surface, instead I found Mt. Watkins.  While the area was pretty, having snapped the reflection of Yosemite Fall in the river the other day and being forced to follow the road to the lake as opposed to the trail since a landslide was blocking the path, I have to say Mirror Lake didn’t meet my expectations.  Oh well, the Upper Yosemite Fall Trail more than made up for it.  Tomorrow I plan to take Petey on one last walk near The Ahwahnee Hotel and the Royal Arches before I travel to Reno.  For anyone who has visited Yosemite in the summer, I haven’t mentioned Glacier Point or the sights on Tioga Road because these roads are closed for the winter.  I hope to visit these areas in October should the weather cooperate. ETB


Day 161 – Yosemite and Beyond – Part 2

Day 161 – Yosemite and Beyond, May 7, 2011

Yosemite Valley has so much to offer.  It is definitely the place that all visitors should stay when visiting the park.  May I also suggest that tourists visit the park with their bike in tow during the week and during off peak times if possible, or at least not during the summer.  I can’t imagine what the mobs of people or traffic would be like on a summer weekend.  This weekend the weather was beautiful, but due to the heavy snow, many of the campgrounds were still closed, and the park was packed.  I’m so glad I began my day early.

I was on the trail by 8:30.  Given it takes an hour to get to the valley from the Wawona Campground, I felt like I got a good jump on the day.  On our way to the trailhead, we made a short stop at Tunnel View which provides a panoramic picture of the valley including three of its famous landmarks:  El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall.  After admiring the view, I drove VANilla a few more miles into the valley, parked beneath some tall trees, pulled the shades, and left Petey to fend for himself for a few hours while I took a four mile roundtrip hike to the top of Vernal Fall.

Generally, it is only a three mile hike, but I had to make up some distance from my parking spot and my curiosity led me further up the trail toward Nevada Fall.  I had read about the trails and recalled that the walk to Nevada Fall was long, but that the walk to Vernal Fall was only about a mile and not too strenuous.  What I had forgotten was that the walk to Vernal Fall Footbridge was short and simple while the walk to the top of the waterfall was strenuous!  Yes, I certainly missed the memo suggesting goulashes, a raincoat, and the ability to climb what seemed like 500, 12 inch stairs!

The hike was definitely exhilarating, and I’m thankful I brought both my cameras with me.  The trail that led above the waterfall was aptly named, Mist Trail.  I walked for a quarter of a mile, straight up through mist which required me to protect my good camera inside my jacket.  I had towipe the lens of my point and shoot each time I lifted it to snap a photo.  The river was raging – whitewater everywhere.  It’s hard to believe it was the same river in which I snapped the reflection of Yosemite Fall yesterday.  The sun shined on the spray which produced a double rainbow over the river and trail.

With my legs burning and my breath rapid, it was evident I hadn’t been on the revolving stairs at the gym recently.  I pressed forward up the wet, stone path as tourists stopped to pull on raincoats or looked for dry areas to rest their tired legs and racing heart beat.  Just above the top of the waterfall was an emerald pool.  It reminded me of rafting down the Grand Canyon.  Our river guide always warned, “There is always ‘calm’ before the storm”.

Vernal Fall was so incredible, my curiosity got the best of me, so I had to at least get a glimpse of Nevada Fall that was still 1.2 miles away.  Even at that distance, it looked magnificent.  As much as I would have liked to continue, I knew the next mile gained another 1,000 feet in elevation, and I just didn’t feel like I had the time to make it up there with Petey in VANilla.  Some other time I will have to make a day of it and continue this hike all the way to Half Dome.

As I returned down the trail, I met the masses of people.  Half way down through the mist a young boy and his parents were talking about taking a picture with the rainbow which at that angle only half of one rainbow was visible.  I said, “If you go up a little farther, you can see the whole thing, and it is a double rainbow.”  The young boy’s dad thanked me, and then the boy, as he watched me turn down the steps, exclaims, “Dad, it makes you go down?!?”  (Kids are so funny)

His dad responds, “Well, what did you think you had to do.”

“Well let’s go then,” he said impatiently, not the least bit amused that he had to turn around at some point.

As I continued further down the path, visor damp, hair wet, beads of mist on my face and hands, a few surprised tourists commented, “Looks like you got wet”.  Yes I did I thought, thus the name “Mist Trail”.  One lady, dressed in a white, short sleeved top was about to enter a wet T-shirt contest.

While I have been focusing on the well known falls in Yosemite, I should say there were waterfalls everywhere, from small trickles of water that slid down sheer granite rock to torrents that crashed down into violent waters.  In many places, the emerald river was simply whitewater leaving no trace of its actual color.

After my two hour walk, I met up with Petey and took him for a stroll around the valley floor.  Dogs were allowed on the paved areas in Valley which provided us a lovely four mile walk from the Upper Pines Campground area to Yosemite Village, past the post office, past the Ansel Adams Gallery, around the Yosemite Cemetery, beneath Yosemite Fall, through the meadow, across Sentinel Bridge to the chapel, and back to the campground past Curry Village.  We shared the path with other walkers and cyclists as cars cruised by looking for places to park.

Taking in the sights, from all different angles is a must.  I have driven the valley loop twice, pulled off in several turnouts, and have walked a decent amount of it, and I feel like each time I make a turn, I see something new…generally another waterfall.  Perhaps they are the same few waterfalls, but they just look different, just like Half Dome presents numerous faces depending on the angle in which it is viewed.

While I found myself most intrigued by the natural beauty, Yosemite Valley possesses history.  Yosemite Chapel is the only building remaining from the Old Village and is the oldest structure in Yosemite Valley.  Built in 1879 near the foot of Four Mile Trail, it was moved to its current location in 1901.  Other buildings that used to stand with it were the Wells Fargo station, the jail, guest cottages, photo studios, a hotel, a bathhouse, and a saloon.

The photo studio was started by Harry and Ann Best in 1902 whose only daughter, Virginia, married aspiring photographer Ansel Adams!  The family continues to run the business in what is now known as the Ansel Adams Gallery which we passed by earlier in our walk.

Yosemite Valley has been subject to a handful of floods over the years.  The most recent, in 1997, is also the largest flood on record where flood water levels appear to have stood well above the cars currently parked in the lot nearby the river.

After our long day of walking, I was relieved to find a campground outside the park off of 140.  Having been on three different roads coming from entrances into the park, I believe 140 offers the best views.  Indian Flats RV Park, while outside the Yosemite Park, is actually closer to the valley than the other two campgrounds.  Privately run and thus a bit pricey, it has full hook-ups for campers with 30 amp needs as opposed to 20 amp (bummer) and showers that do not require quarters to operate (Yippee).  It is affiliated with a lodge 1,000 feet down the road that offers a restaurant and lounge, but with a bit of a headache, I just turned in for the night.  Frankly, I’m just thankful to be clean!  ETB.


Day 160 – Yosemite and Beyond

Day 160 – Yosemite and Beyond, May 6, 2011

I awoke just before the ten teenage girls, whose shrill laughs continued at 6 am this morning!  I planned for an early rise, so I could get to a few of the hot spots before the crowds.  Also, I knew at times I was going to have to leave Petey and VANilla, so I wanted to make sure it was cool for him.

After loading up VANilla and boiling some water for coffee and oatmeal, we made our way toward the valley around 7 am.  I didn’t plan to be in the northwest corner of the park again, so I stopped off at the other end of Tuolumne Grove Road as we didn’t complete the eight mile roundtrip last night.

The grove of giant sequoias can be found about a mile into the walk along the road which today was covered in packed snow for about a third of the way.  I jogged the paved portion and walked the snow portion to finally arrive at the Dead Giant, a stump with a tunnel cut through it in 1878.  It was quite an interesting site.  Two spires of bark towered on either side, while standing in the tunnel I could look up through the middle of trunk to see the blue sky above.  I managed to leave my SD card in my computer instead of transferring it to my camera, so no picture.

We left Tuolumne Grove and twisted and turned along 120 toward Bridalveil Fall in Yosemite Valley.  We stopped in a handful of pullouts along the way to admire Cascade Creek which seemed more like a raging river and to take in one of many views throughout the park of Half Dome.

Eventually, we made it to the valley and made Bridalveil Fall our first stop.  The short walk to the falls was along a paved sidewalk.  The walkway led to a vista point near the base of the falls where ice cold water flowed over my feet as the river swelled out of its banks.  As the falls plunged 600 feet over a sheer rock face, the breeze directed a fine mist into my face.  The chill in the air coupled with the frosty water lent to a short visit.

We continued along the six mile loop to one landmark after the next:  Ribbon Fall, El Capitan, Upper Yosemite Fall, Lower Yosemite Fall, Curry Village, and Yosemite Village.  At first, I stopped at every pull out.  Then I decided to take the drive around the valley to get my bearings as I have a few days to enjoy the sights.

El Capitan, one of Yosemite’s best known wonders, is a sheer granite monolith that rises 3,593 feet above the meadow.  The durable granite is able to withstand the pressures of glaciers and erosion.  It was first scaled in 1958.  Since then, climbers have explored hundreds of routes.  I’m certain there were climbers up there today, as the weather was glorious, but they were too small for me to see!

Just after we left El Capitan, I ran across two coyotes sitting on the side of the road.  I literally stopped VANilla right in the middle of the road – totally annoying tourist move – and snapped a photo right out the passenger window.  They hardly moved…and I was looking for a bear…the ranger at Bridalveil Fall said a few bears had been spotted by the river near El Capitan.

My final stop before simply driving the loop to scope out the valley was at swinging bridge which afforded a beautiful view of Yosemite Fall which reflected in the glassy Merced River.  Looking at the smooth waters, it’s hard to believe the river is cresting and the rangers may have to move some campers.  That is one of the reasons why finding a campsite has been somewhat difficult…not to mention that all the first come, first serve campgrounds are closed due to the immense amount of snowfall this winter.

Speaking of campsites, I turned south, maneuvered another 26 miles of winding road, waited in road construction traffic and finally reached the campground in Wawona about an hour and fifteen minutes later.  We checked in, unloaded our food and scented items into a bear locker and traveled a few more miles south to Meadow Loop, a 3.5 mile dog friendly walk around a meadow.  Just as Petey and I started the walk, we met a group of horseback riders.  One rider exclaimed, “The little, red flowers are out.”

I replied, “Ok, great”, but clearly with not enough enthusiasm for him.

He said, “You know, the ones that come out after the snow melts.”

“No”, I said, “I’m not from around here.”

“Oh, they are very rare,” he responded, “They only come out for a few days. You’ll see them.”

As Petey and I proceeded, I commented, “Then I guess I’m lucky”.

We spent the next hour or so looping around the meadow, soaking our feet in small creeks that crossed the road, trouncing through mud, admiring Hotel Wawona, and finally ending our journey strolling up a fairway on the hotel golf course.  We never saw any red flowers.  In fact, we hardly saw any flowers at all.  I asked another couple I met along the way if they had seen any.  They both said no.  Oh well, I wouldn’t have known to look for them in the first place.

One more attraction in the southern part of the park is Mariposa Grove, another grove of giant sequoias.  I think I saw so many redwoods a few weeks ago, that I was pretty “treed out”.  I took a short walk through the grove to a few of the main attractions:  Fallen Monarch, Grizzly Giant, and California Tree.

The Fallen Monarch is a giant sequoia that fell centuries ago.  Its tannin rich wood keeps it resistant to rot and unpalatable to many insects, thus the tree remains intact.  From 1891 to 1914, when cavalrymen of the US Army road from San Francisco to Yosemite to protect the park, they used to ride their horses onto the fallen tree and pose for a photo.

The Grizzly Giant, standing relatively short at 209 feet, is as tall as a 19 story building and exceeds the length of a 747 as well as the height of Statue of Liberty.  Its base, 96 feet in circumference and 28 feet in diameter, is blackened with fire scars.  Estimated at 1800 years old, imagine how many fires this tree has withstood with an average fire frequency of 5-20 years.  The Grizzly Giant has a “snag-top” due to its inability to move water from the roots to the crown caused by the large fire scars.  About halfway up the tree, one if its limbs that turns upward is 7 feet in diameter.

The California Tree is a tunnel tree, one of at least three I now know of in the park.  The one I failed to get a picture of this morning, a fallen one within the Mariposa Grove, and this living one.  The tunnel was cut in 1895 to promote tourism.  This tree and the fallen Wawona Tunnel Tree were helpful in publicizing Mariposa Grove which led to its inclusion in Yosemite National Park.

We are currently camping down by the river in Wawona and look forward to a full day in the valley to take in the main attractions tomorrow.  We shall see where I end up camping.  ETB