I hope you had a wonderful and bright Easter and treated yourself to some wickedly yummy raw choccie! As for us we enjoyed a delightful feast with friends in Seattle, but I won't tell you about that just yet!
First, let's back up in time a little...
Resting at Millerton Lake
In my last post I shared with you some of the beauty we were surrounded with as we drove through Sequoia National Park. Wanting to shorten our drive to Yosemite, I had found us a campground for the night, but first we decided to pause briefly in Fresno in order to stock up in fresh organic produce at a health food store. On the edge of town we were greeted with fields of purple, orange, yellow and white wild flowers.
It was probably one of our most painless excursions through a city; the streets were wide, the traffic light, and we were in and out of there in no time. As we approached Millerton Lake State Recreation Area we drove along a winding road flanked by green rolling hills. The late afternoon light set them aglow against a cloudless blue sky. Breathtakingly beautiful!
Millerton Lake is man made; a 319-foot dam was built in 1944 where the San Joaquin River flows out of the Sierra Nevada foothills and into the Central Valley. It has since become a popular recreational destination for families.
One of the advantages of traveling outside of the peak season is that campgrounds are often quite deserted, especially on weekdays. And so we shared the only open loop with just 3 or 4 other RVs and found a nice quiet spot with a view of the lake. We had been warned by the super friendly and welcoming camp host that raccoons were rather aggressive around there. We filled up the metal food storage box that was provided but still couldn't fit in the content of our two coolers. Hum, what to do? We decided to place them in the middle of a mound of our stuff and covered the whole thing with a tarp secured with rocks.
The host was right; those raccoons were pretty determined to check out what goodies we were hiding under there, except that they never made it closer than 10 meters from our site! Kylo had the night of his life; he was such a wonderful guardian! We heard him chase them off with a soft bark whenever they came near.
The poor guy was utterly exhausted the next morning. We had to step over him to get out of the van and repack as he lay on the floor, unmoving.
Walking in Beauty in Yosemite National Park
There seems to have been an unconscious theme of visiting national parks going on during this year's travels in the States. We've been so very blessed, as we had an opportunity to see Zion, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree and more recently Sequoia. Next in line was Yosemite. Of its untamed beauty John Muir, the man who founded the famous conservation organization known as the Sierra Club, wrote that "it is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter".
On the official site I learned that Yosemite is one of the first wilderness parks in the United States. Within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and of course waterfalls for which the park is particularly famous. I had therefore prepared what was to be a two day stay by doing some research online. However I soon discovered that while visiting in the winter might considerably reduce the number of tourists, more than half of the park's attractions were not accessible due to the roads being closed. Major bummer! ;-(
And so as we entered the park from the south we didn't stop to admire the Mariposa Grove hosting about 500 giant sequoia trees, as it would have meant walking 4 miles there and back from where we'd have parked. At least we'd already seen ancient sequoias the day before so it wasn't that big a deal.
Until we reached the actual Yosemite Valley the landscape consisted mostly of thick forest. We continued up Wawona Road, passed the turn for Glacier Point Road which was also closed, until we reached the Tunnel View. At the end of a long tunnel awaits the classic view of Yosemite featuring several of the Valley's most popular trademarks, including El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks, and Bridalveil Fall. Even at this so called more quiet time of the year, there were still so many tourists! It made taking all this beauty in rather difficult with people milling about like ants.
Our next stop was Bridalveil Fall. A short walk along a stream took us to its base.
As we stood admiring it we were showered with a fine spray.
We drove deeper into the Valley, surrounded by massive rock cliffs. How these came into existence remains a puzzle for geologists. They think that the granite of Yosemite's walls solidified over 5 miles underground. As the overlying rock eroded away, the granites rose to their current exposed level. Unfortunately the sky began to cloud over; gray rocks against gray sky. Ah well, it didn't take any of the magnificence of our surroundings away.
Yet more waterfalls and cliff views...
We arrived at the Upper Pines Campground sometime after 1pm. The temperature was dropping quickly so we thought best to get set up for the night. The campground was still relatively empty but I was certainly glad we weren't there on the weekend, as the sites are all close together and don't offer much privacy, if any. We spent the rest of the afternoon bundled up and reading inside the van while it actually snowed outside! Eeeek!
There are no electric sites at Upper Pines but on the positive side our spot was directly across from a toilet building. We sneaked over there in order to whiz the Vitamix so that we could enjoy warm soup for dinner. ;-)
As it was getting dark the issue kept gnawing at me; I had forgotten all about the food tucked away in our cupboards! What if a bear was to break a window, sniffing the goodies inside? With our box already full I guess we could have potentially hijacked another one in a nearby unoccupied site, but that would have meant a lot more work and we were pretty much bagged. We decided to take our chances. A bear's first target would undoubtedly be the metal box and its aromatic content which would make a racket. Enters Kylo. ;-)
We're Outta Here
The whole bear issue also meant that we couldn't go hiking the next day as planned, since we'd have to leave the van unattended for hours. Gee! There we were visiting one of the world's most spectacular natural beauties, yet instead of having an enjoyable time we were stressing out about food storage and the possibility of getting fined! "Forget this!" I thought. After talking the situation over we agreed that we'd cut our stay short and head out of the park in the morning.
We got up early and after making our breakfast and lunch, freshly squeezed orange juice and smoothie (poor Don's hands were nearly blue from the cold!), we repacked the van and checked out of the campground. We continued driving along the northern rim of Yosemite Valley.
Before heading out of the park though, we made a point to stop and enjoy a short walk to Lower Yosemite Fall. It was still mighty chilly but at least the sun was out. Yay!
Along the path there was a partly frozen stream.
Right next to it was a pool of water so calm that it acted like a mirror.
The water was so unbelievably clear; you could see right through it. As Don pointed out, "this is how it must have been in the old days."
After spending some time taking these shots I turned a corner and found the boys patiently waiting for me in a ray of sunshine. ;-)
Lovely rock formations as we were walking back.
See the trees' shadows on the white rock?
We hopped back in the van and continued towards the west entrance of the park, stopping once or twice to take in the view.
On the other side of Yosemite was highway 120 and its infamous 6 mile section of what is called Priest Gradealso known as the "Road From Hell".) It's a very steep and narrow hairpin-turn road that forced us to a near crawl. "A true test of a vehicle's engine and transmission," as someone has written.
When we finally made it down this treacherous hill we drove by the Don Pedro Lake.
And a little later... New Melownes Lake
As we traveled along the 49, between Sonora and Angel's Camp, we saw a sign for Mark Twain's cabin. The landscape was so serene; an undeveloped countryside of gentle rolling hills. It felt like being back in time! It was such an absolutely lovely drive! It proved to be hard work, however, as some parts were super windy. "This has gotta be one of the windiest roads in the world!" he declared. "My arms are getting tired from turning the wheel so much!" hehe We both thought it was well worth it, though! ;-)
Two rivers meeting shortly before we got onto the highway.
In the late afternoon we finally reached Marysville, south of Yuba City, where we had arranged to stay at a motel. Our original booking was for the next day but since we left Yosemite earlier than expected we were in a bit of a bind. In spite of that the manager was so accommodating! They didn't have any queen non-smoking rooms available for the night, but after talking about alternative motels in the area for a few minutes he finally said: "Tell you what, I'll find you something!" He set us up in one of their jacuzzi suites instead for just a few dollars extra. Woo hoo! I hadn't treated myself to a jacuzzi for what must have been 20 years! lol It felt somewhat like being in a pool with all the fumes of the chlorinated water, but hey, I guess you can't have it all! *shrug*
Coming up next: our journey back to Canada through Oregon and Washington.