2019 - West Coast USA - Day 13
Today was an early start as we had read on the National Parks website that on the weekends the car parks in Yosemite are usually full by 9am. Once that happens sometimes the roads can be closed for 2 - 3 hours whilst they wait for spaces to appear. We didn’t want to have come all this way and miss out. So the alarm went off at 6.00am. At 6.30am we were waiting outside the breakfast room waiting for it to open. It was hardly worth the bother and was easily the worst provided breakfast of the trip so far. I ended up having to prepare some porridge myself back in the room. Still at least the tea was hot and the toaster worked.
We then loaded up the car and were checked out of the Hotel by 7.15am for the drive into Yosemite via the Tioga Pass. This entrance to the park is only open for a few months of the year due to the snow laying at the high altitude. This part of Yosemite is known as the High Sierra’s.
There was little traffic about as we made our way to the official Park Entrance, where we were pleased that our Annual Pass covered the $35 entrance fee. That means we now only need to find $38 of more value to have justified our outlay.
We were at the visitors centre by 8.30am which was a shame as it didn’t open until 9am. The car park situation was strange as you could only park for 30 minutes at the visitor centre and were then directed to off road parking at the trails and sights you wanted to stop at. It was all haphazard and not what we had been expecting nor had experienced at other National Parks.
Whilst waiting for the visitors centre to open we decided to double back on ourselves and went back to the Soda Springs trail. There was hardly anyone about. This short trail was amazingly beautiful as it followed a stream up to its source. There was so much wildlife everywhere and so we slowed down to watch the Marmots, ground squirrels and chipmunks. Then the few other people that were on the trail all seemed to disappear and we seemed to have the whole park to ourselves. The air was as clear and clean as the water. The sun was still rising in the sky and it was breathtaking. We felt truly blessed to be there.
Almost reluctantly we made our way back to the car and drove to the now opened visitors centre. It was small and cramped but functional. We asked a Ranger for recommendations of suitable trails for us and she directed us to another one to a Lake through some wild flower meadows and so we agreed that would be our next point of call.
We did learn one fact that saddened us for the next two days from the visitors centre. Everytime you drove past a ‘Speeding Kills Bears’ sign that had a picture of a bear in Red, it marked a spot where a Bear had been killed by a car in the last year. Each time we went passed one we said “Poor Yogi or Poor BooBoo’ as tribute to them. There were a surprising number of these signs which saddened us.
On the way to the trail at Lukens Lake we drove past Tenaya Lake where we stopped for a while to admire the view and open a can of cold drink. It was very picturesque. Then we stopped again at Olmsted Point to take in the views down the Yosemite Valley in the distance including Half Dome. There was a Ranger there who had a telescope trained onto Half Dome so that we could see the climbers making their way up there. I told Karen that as a surprise the boys had arranged for her to have a permit to climb it the next day. She wasn’t impressed with that as half as much as she was with the view.
At this point I think I should return to a topic from a previous trip. How long do a pair of trainers last. In particular a pair of Skechers. I was still wearing the same pair from last year. They have now been on several continents and have been through the washing machine on numerous occasions. They are still remarkably comfortable. Yet the soles have taken one heck of a battering and looking worse for wear. They have easily walked several hundred miles. Through all the walks and trails from this trip they are now looking decidedly grubby again.
They also happen to be the only trainers I brought with me. I only packed some them alongside some flip flops and sandals. Today whilst at Olmsted Point I noticed that they have a hole appearing in the top of them. My normal thrifty self says that perhaps some superglue might fix them, but is it worth it? I think I may leave them here at the end of trip but I am not sure how I feel about that . When I was a boy we used to patch up holes in our shoes by lining them with cardboard from cereal packets. It never feels right to me to throw something away when I could get more use out of it/them. I will report back at the end of the trip.
Anyhow we drove onto Lukens Lake to find the side road up to it was closed, which took us by surprise. It was far too far to walk to from the main road and so disappointed we drove on.
We ended up at Tuolumne Grove where we stopped and had our picnic lunch. The sun was very hot by now. We then thought we would do the 2 mile trail down to the dead tunnel tree. It was a lovely walk down a made up path. The challenge was not only was it hot where the sun came through the trees but the grove was some 400 feet below the level of the car park. It was a surprisingly steep 1 mile walk down.
What we realised was how tough it would be coming back up. It was a lovely walk down and we only stopped a couple of times to take water on board. We reached the Grove where there were some large Sequoias including one that was dead that had a tunnel cut through it. I believe but am not certain that the tree was dead when the tunnel was cut. Once we reached that point we turned around. My watch said that we had walked over 1.3 miles already before attempting the walk back. If we survived the uphill climb then I thought I would tell someone their trail signs were wrong.
It was hard work going back up. Many people passed us on the way up and then we would overtake them. We had many stops and drank loads of water. Karen did very well considering her knee and foot problems. We were glad to reach the top again having ascended 400 ft on the 1.3 mile walk back in 85f heat.
Congratulating ourselves we decided we had had enough for the day and thought we would head to Mariposa where our next Hotel was for the next two nights. This was about 55 miles away. To get to it we had to go right down into Yosemite Valley itself and then back over the Sierra Nevadas and out again. The road was slow and very bendy and took lots of concentration. It seemed to take an age as well.
We were driving along nicely until we came to some traffic lights. It seemed there had been a landslide and so they had rerouted the road over two very narrow temporary bridges crossing over the meandering river twice. I was at the front of what then turned out to be a long queue waiting for the lights to change. We waited fully 10 minutes and for them to change to green once all the traffic from the opposite direction had passed and then a few minutes contingency. I then slowly led the procession of traffic over the first bridge. As I turned sharply onto the bridge I was somewhat shocked to find a car heading straight towards me. I braked and they just kept coming. Bu now there were other cars on the bridge behind me, meaning I was stuck. I gesticulated for them to reverse but they were doing the same to me. They had clearly get fed up waiting their side and just went through a Red light. I was prepared to just sit there and wait for them to move, but the cars behind me started to reverse off the bridge so reluctantly I did the same. I got back enough so that the car coming the other way could get alongside me but not pass me. I wound down my window and shouted at the bunch of women in the other car who by now had also their windows down.
I hadn’t planned what to shout and should perhaps have been more Churchillian but instead I pointed at the driver and shouted “What you have done is very very wrong’ and as I passed them. Well it made me feel better and I felt I was saying for everyone stuck behind me. Karen said I was very restrained and very British and she thought that by doing so I had had more impact on them.
The rest of the journey to Mariposa was uneventful. Mariposa itself is a nice little town and as Karen described it as seemingly having one of everything. Our room was very pleasant as it should be for the cost per night. This was by far the most expensive of the trip because of its proximity to Yosemite (which was still over 1 hour drive away).
We chilled for a couple of hours and Karen did some washing in the laundry for herself (She must have packed more than 2 pairs of knickers to have lasted this long). We then went to the local garage to fill up with gas. I was pleased it went by the name of Grizzly Bear Garage and had large carved bears by the side of each pump. We wanted to take photos but decided that using a phone on a garage forecourt was not the most sensible thing to do.
For dinner we ate at Charles Street Diner (Mariposa’s No 1 on Trip Advisor - not that it had a lot of competition). It was very full. We both went for the special home made Pasta dish of the day - Fettuncine Alfredo. It was really good. It was also really expensive and we could have had a 3 course in Delias for the same price. But that’s what you get for eating in Mariposa’s number one rated restaurant. Actually I had checked the prices in the other restaurants beforehand and they were even worse.
We retired for the night and for the second time this trip brought ourselves up to date with the latest episode of Poldark whilst drinking a nice glass of wine. It is interesting that we have now watched more British TV (just Poldark) on this trip than we have USA TV.