The pictures tell it all on this blog - Karen has captured Yosemite brilliantly and my limited vocabulary will probably make this special place sound like all of the other wild places we have visited. It won't stop me having a go though!
The way - leaving San Francisco 19 September 2011
We had kind of agreed that it would be madness to drive in central San Francisco but somehow we had booked a car to be picked up in downtown. It was almost disastrous - Alamo gave you no time to get out of their underground car bunker and to make matters worse, the Satnav allowed us to choose the simulate journey option. I had not even worked out all of the basic controls before the Satnav was already out of San Francisco and over the Bay Bridge. At the same time the hire firm employees were urging me to leave the garage.
I headed down the one way street and parked as the Satnav continued to witter on. I let out a little whimper as I contemplated using a tourist map to negotiate my way around the hills and one way streets of the city. Karen did not hear me though - a fact confirmed when she told me later that she thought we handled the problem calmly. We switched off the Satnav and started again. Now we were off and into the full mayhem of Californian highways.
We travelled east across the top of the California's Central Valley. This is the agricultural heartland of the State and separates the cool coastal regions from the mountainous eastern edges of Northern and Central California. There is not really a lot to see and the towns and cities are nondescript places with carbon copy fast food outlets and gas stations.
The traffic thinned out considerably as we made our last major turn at Merced towards our destination - the Comfort Inn motel at Mariposa. Mariposa is a great little town about an hour out of Yosemite Valley on highway 140. There are interesting shops, cafes and restaurants as well as the necessary grocers and gas stations.
We stocked up on trail maps and local guides (of the paper variety, not the teenage girls kind) at the Park Visitor centre. To the list of warnings we have received (earthquake/tsunami, bear, cougar) we could now add FIRE. Apparently there were several fires on the go in the park caused by controlled burning and lightning strikes. We were told not to be alarmed if we saw smoke flumes!
3 steps to Heaven Nevada Falls - 20 September 2011
Actually it was two giant steps and thousands of up-hill steps by the Barkers to Vernal and Nevada Falls. The walk is superb and offers several views of the falls on the way up and way down. It is a loop walk that is upwards one way (610 metre elevation) along the left hand side of the water course and then around a cliff on the opposite the side of the water course before switch-backing down to the start of the walk in the valley.
Lunch involved a vigilant session of fending off the ground squirrels that surrounded the rock we were using as a table for our picnic. They often pretended not to be interested before suddenly darting towards us to see what was on offer. The squirrels were joined by a group of Stellars Jays who bobbed along the rocks and branches that surrounded our luncheon venue.
The way down from the falls presented views of Liberty Cap, Grizzly Peak and Mount Broderick and has a great section on a cliff wall under small waterfalls. A group of people picked up our accents and engaged us in conversation as we walked down this stretch. It quickly transpired that one of the women in the group had a brother in Skipton (near my eldest brother's home) so we gave her a few tips on where and when to visit.
Jacobs ladder Upper Yosemite Falls - 21 September 2011
This was a hard hike but the views from the top and sightings of speedy lizards alongside the ubiquitous ground squirrels rewarded us for our efforts. Upper Yosemite Falls is the fifth highest falls in the world and the walk is more than a match.
Before we began the main walk we had to walk about a mile and a half from the parking lot at the visitor centre - a nice warm up for the tough walk ahead.
The first stage of the walk involved many switchbacks up to the first viewpoint, Columbia Rock. This put pressure on the calves and lungs but was nothing compared to the next stage. After a slight walk down hill we began another set of switchbacks that seemed never ending and in full glare of the midday sun.
The overall climb was 823 metres over a distance of 3.4 miles. At the top I contented myself with a great view of the valley whilst Karen continued on to an overlook that afforded a view down the falls as it plunged vertically.
On the way up the route we exchanged travelling notes with an Aussie (he was heading to the UK eventually and we are heading to his home town, Sydney) who was travelling the world but still doing his internet based jobs as he did so. We also met a friendly American Asian who gave us tips on where to go after Yosemite. Having spoken to him as we overtook him on the way up, he gave us a few more tips as we passed him (still going up) on our way down!
Further down the route we passed three old hikers who serenaded us with their version of the Happy Wanderers. Karen joined in as I muttered my preference for Edelweiss.
We were really struggling towards the end but speeded up when the weather closed in and we began to hear thunder. I spotted lighting across the Valley and we hurried on. Back in the car we returned to Mariposa and a nice Mexican dinner round the corner from the Motel.
On top of the world Glacier Point and Sentinel Dome - 22 September 2011
We headed up to Glacier Point - the most popular view in Yosemite. It is an hour's drive from the Valley floor and some of the turns are very hairy. It is amazing how quickly you get to 6000 feet.
Karen's pictures of Half Dome and the routes of our earlier walks give some reflection of the breathtaking views from the Point. Clouds moved quickly over the sky and their shadows meant that the views were constantly changing. We surveyed the two walks we had undertaken in the days before and marvelled at some of the trails we had followed, particularly as they were below our new vantage point.
We met a nice retired couple at the Point. Their son was married in Brasenose College Oxford. We explained the connection that Cropredy (near our old village in Oxfordshire) had with Brasenose College. They then revealed that they had lived in Windsor (my old borough). It has been very strange how many of the people we meet have a connection to areas we know well - there was even a Sikh cabby in Vancouver from my home town Maidenhead. Sometimes I think we are travelling in our own version of the Truman Show.
After Glacier Point we stopped the car about a mile back on the road down to the Valley and made our way on foot to Sentinel Dome where you could see 360 degrees. This was a short walk but led to the highest point of our trip so far (2476 metres) - a position from where we could view El Capitan, Cathedral rocks, Half Dome and many high peaks in the distance, several over 14,000 feet..
A couple were having their wedding 'photos taken at this incredible site. They had been married for only three hours at this point. It was funny seeing the bride put on her hiking trainers to walk back down to their transport as the groom shuffled down the Dome in his leather loafers.
We caught a brief glimpse of a bird of prey. It was probably a Golden Eagle - it was certainly large enough and was clearly brown and orange in colour.
A slow walk back and pleasant drive ended our time in Yosemite. There is still so much more to see and do in the area but that will have to be for another time.
A song for whoever
And now a little ditty ….
If you're a regular reader of our rambling rolling blog,
you'll have spotted lots of randomness amongst the journeys log.
Whilst facts are always covered, some details are not true,
and there may be innuendo but the lines are never blue.
Along with elements of fantasy and music references (often bad),
there are my attempts at humour (sometimes weak but mainly sad).
Flora and fauna information and weather details (often sunny),
can be found alongside cost of beer, size of meals and funny money.
I hope by now you may have had an insight into my head,
I'm off back to my padded cell to be tied back to my bed.
The floor is left to Karen to describe our latest mission,
but I'll be back to mangle English if I escape my loony prison.
Till the next time.