After Comi-Con, Raccoon, who comments here, offered to let us stay there for two nights, in order to get our energy back for the drive home. So the plan was to go from Fresno to Yosemite and to the edges of San Francisco in one day. What? That’s totally possible right? Well, it turns out it is possible if you are some sort of driving masochist.
The road into Yosemite has not been upgraded since the 60’s and they had stripped many miles so once in the ‘National Park’ lands the two lane road turned to gravel for miles. The up to 5,000+ feet (a mile high) and down again and up again and down again was playing a bit of havoc with my lungs but the scenery was nice and people even stopped for deer.
On the way up we stopped at the Yosemite Steam Train, which is a narrow gauge train that was used in this region for logging and transport and still runs today. If you look at the picture of the engine, straight down from the steam whistle, you can see the vent and the puff of steam venting as the engine is building power. They combine dinner and a steam engine ride, with the number 15 engine in the shed along with some of the other vintage train cars. We sadly didn’t have time for a ride (but picked up postcards!).
We entered the park inner system where you can go left to go to Yosemite Valley or right to go up to the Mariposa woodlands. We went right and started climbing even more. We had wanted to go to the Sequoia National Park but couldn’t fit it in, and to find that the Mariposa had groves of Sequoia trees as old as 1,800 years was a win/win. There was a trail that I was told, “I wouldn’t even recommend mothers take strollers on it.” So we wheeled on the road and then went a bit off road when needed. The road climbed another 1,000 feet so both Linda and I got our exercise that day. The Sequoia’s are tall and majestic and people have been visiting this area for such a long time, most of the trees are named. In fact there is a tree which you used to be able to drive through from the 1880’s until 1969 when it fell down in a storm. Pictures of people taking their wagon teams through the tree show that people like big trees and they like to go through them.
We encountered a fallen giant soon along the path and it was covered with carved initials and dates, the oldest I saw was from 1934 but I am sure if you looked hard there was some from over 100 years ago. A picture of Linda down near the root system gives a sense of perspective on this mid sized Sequoia tree. The Sequoia are a type of Redwood but unique. One of the unique aspects of them are the LARGE pine cones they produce (do not stand under the tree when they fall!). I think you are not supposed to take them from the park but we saw people walking with them (the one photographed was put back on the display stand after). I also think they release the seeds during a forest fire, maybe someone can help me on that. Which would make sense as if you have a forest of 1,000 year old trees you don’t need new ones every year, but when some of them have been wiped out.
While we were up there we looked up at noise and saw a woodpecker who had already made several holes into a tree working away, I don’t know if you can spot him in the bark, as this is up 40 feet or so.
We saw a LOT of wildlife in a very short period of time, which was very refreshing after staring at bad driving, very bad driving and lots of cityscape (hey drivers, there are things called ‘indicators’ you can turn on before you change lanes….just a heads up!).
Here is a blur of a tree, and that black blur is a black squirrel, which I have a film of. He just kept running round and round and round the tree, so I will put a film up of that later, as motion is so much easier to see with animals in the wild. So consider this ‘coming attractions’ once I get the films uploaded to youtube.
We also saw a small type of squirrel called Peco’s which live around the Sequoia. We saw two of them which were running around the place like it was a giant track, first round and round the tree up and down then on to the next park, over the log, down the fallen log, then racing each other right in front of us and around back to the tree again. They did this several times (getting a pictures of two racing Pecos is harder that you might think). If you look at the tree on the left at the bottom you will see a black shape (one Peco) and the other is a grey stretched out blur approaching the tree, the second picture shows the grey on the tree as the black is about to scamper around the corner. It was amazing to watch, like some Chaplin film, or a high energy comedy energy.
There were also three male deer grazing in the valley down from us but blocked mostly by trees and not giving great pictures. However while looking at them a squirrel or Peco jumped up on the stump behind me and started to chitter in chastisement. I wonder what I did? So the wildlife was literally running up to me, in various forms.
Here is Linda between two of the younger Sequoia’s in order to give some perspective on the size of these trees. Soon after we met a couple from Chester in England who said, “You see one tree, you’ve seen them all.” Which I though odd since in the UK, any Oak Tree of significant age is on the survey maps and named and recorded in a national registry. I like lots of trees, the giant Douglas Fir of Vancouver Island, the Moss and Trees of the Hoh, the Redwoods, the Sequoias, and would love to see the gaint Mahogany trees of South America. We have seen the Oaks of the UK, the Black Forest and looking forward to more.
On to Yosemite, Linda saved me a hard wheel by driving down to meet me. We drove for another hour before the Yosemite valley started opening before us (This was taken by me while Linda drove). You go through a long tunnel and then the valley is there, broad before you with half dome in the back, Angel Falls on the right and El Capitan on the left (apparently this year you have to reserve to do the 3-5 day rock climb up it – just in case you don’t have enough things to do or train for). I guess the park service got tired of people stopping so they put in a view right at the end of the tunnel and I got a picture of Linda and the Yosemite Valley. When planning Linda was ‘Why do we have to drive all those hours to Yosemite?” and I kept saying, “It is just something you have to see.”
Yosemite IS something you have to see, along with the giant mansion sized boulders on the ground which are just a ‘cracked chip’ fallen off of these giant granite faces. Thanks to Ansel Adams (who has a museum of his work here) and others, this valley is preserved and an ad saying “Pepsi” or “Got Milk?” is NOT spray painted across any of the majestic towers.
It was close to 7:00 by the time we made it down into the Yosemite Valley Drive and we didn’t know when the visitor center closed or if it was already. Linda had gone out and took a picture, but on the way back two squirrels were getting ‘busy’ which we were told later was not sex, but just ‘playing’, er, okay, well, here is a picture of them and you can decide (Yaoi: Squirrel Style?). I hit the horn to get Linda to look up as I found the visitor’s center closed at 7:30. We drove, we got lost, we got lost again, and then we found the visitors center, with Linda going ahead to look in the gift store. This picture was taking by a kind and very nice looking German female (hee hee!).
On the way in we had passed a sign reading “Speed Kills Bears” with a picture of a bear. I guess it was supposed to make us slow down but considering most people are scared of bears, maybe it ended getting people to speed up? Linda wanted a picture but in the visitor’s center we found a magnet of it. We also got a FEW (dozen) postcards in the 12 minutes we had. Plus I talked to a Ranger and showed him the videos, and he identified the Peco’s versus the black squirrels.
The Ranger also let me know that because we had the blue badge I could drive on an ‘official use’ and ‘do not enter’ road which went out to Mirror Pond and from there we caught the sun shining the sunset on Half Dome.
Yes, these few hours were a fast and rushed tour of Yosemite and while we wanted more, it was enough. On the way back we saw a male buck with antlers feeding with the Yosemite Valley behind. The park seemed to have animals and scenery everywhere we looked. Two cyclists rode between me and the buck deer while I was about to take the picture, the husband saying to the wife "Deer, what deer, I can't see anything?" as he passed by 10 feet from the deer and rode past and away, never seeing.
The sun continued to descend and up above, in the clouds, the sunset continued. We headed out of the park stopping to make some sandwiches and prepare for drive to San Francisco. Eiki Eiki and I had not left the van much but we had seen a lot and taken a LOT of pictures (ohhh, about 200).
The road down from Yosemite is a twist rapid elevation drop which is the hardest on me and made me pass out complete for about 90 minutes (not sleeping but literally BAM, unconscious). It was as we neared San Francisco that Linda let me know that she wasn’t EXACTLY sure where she had the directions to Raccoon’s house.
Oh. (It turned out she had left them……at Raccoon’s house on the way down).
So we hit a lot of exits since a lot of them got the ‘that looks familiar’ to Linda. As for me, since it was a week ago, I had no memory at all. Eventually I decided we would systematically take EVERY exit, and we had eliminated each one until we had one left. It was 1:00 am and we were both punch drunk from exhaustion. There were orange cones and there seemed to be a gap so I directed Linda into what I thought was the ‘construction exit’. I directed her instead to a police car waiting in the dark which popped on the lights, and started writing things down and checking Linda’s eyes (that red is exhaustion, not drugs, honest!). The police officer let us go, but he didn’t know how to get to Raccoon’s address. He did know that the Trader Joe’s we knew was nearby to Raccoon was ‘around here’. Great.
We didn’t get a ticket and after one final wrong turn, corrected we finally made it to Raccoon’s where I lay down, irritating his two cats who had claimed the futon as their new plaything.
Yosemite was worth it, though I woke up the next morning in shock with blue fingers and shuddering. It was good to know we could have a day to rest up as well. Because after that we were headed into the unknowns of southern Oregon, then a long driving day from there straight back to Cheryl’s (who had flown back earlier).
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