May 4, 2010 -Day 14-We get to Yosemite National Park (2 weeks on the road and no one is dead yet)
It’s not easy living 24/7 with the same people day in and out in a small space, I’m surprised we are doing so well but this togetherness is starting to wear on each of us and I think we need some activities away from each other soon.
This was our morning to sleep in so we are up by 8 am and make an actual breakfast of pancakes and take it easy on getting ready to move on to Yosemite. We are finished and packed up by 9 so we head out to get some gas to top off before arriving in the park. CC has a hard time with the gas, I guess we just picked the wrong station. First there is no credit card reader so CC has to go inside. Then he mistakenly tells them the wrong pump number so when he comes out his is not reset. He just makes do and grabs the other one to pump, lucky for him it reached. Then when it shut off after $75 he had to go to tell them to turn it on again and the lady was taking orders for chicken wings and pizza. Remember this is 9 am! Then she had to talk to a trucker that wanted to weigh his truck. I think CC said she was trying to do 5 jobs at the same time. I guess we were fortunate it only took 20 minutes to fill. Finally we get back on CA 99 to connect to CA 41 which will take us to Yosemite. This is supposed to be an easy entry into the park. For the first 100 miles it was no problem it was those last 30 miles that I never want to drive again. First we would go up then go down and the roads are all tilted sideways not level. On the passenger side for the last 30 miles there were either rock walls or nothing but a chasm straight down. Most of the time I thought CC was going to knock our mirror off with the snowplow poles that are placed right against the road edge. Finally after this thrill ride we get to the entrance station and show them our pass and ask where do we check in. The ranger told us at the campground. OK so off we go. We stop at Wawona near the Pioneer Area to have lunch and breathe deeply after the ride we just had because we know more is coming. We are still 25 miles from our campsite. So lunch is over and we get back on the road. CC is now fortified with his Diet Coke so he should be good to go for awhile. We thought the roads outside the park were bad, just wait until you drive these. It will make the hair on your head stand up. We were never so glad to see some road maintenance going on so we could stop. We were able to go slow once we started back up because of the buildup of cars from stopping. It felt like we were going NASCAR speed down the hills but I think it was only about 30 mph. Very deceptive but unnerving too. There is still snow on the sides of the road from the snowfall late last week. The road to Glacier Point and to Badger Pass Ski Area are closed still. Finally after a billion turns and curves we reach the Tunnel to Yosemite. This is a person’s first view of Yosemite and all its awesomeness. CC has taken a video inside the tunnel. We had to hug the center line because the walls arch and on the sides they are only 10ft4in. If we go near them we will lose the side of our RV because we are 12ft6in. So we hope we don’t meet a tour bus who needs lots of room. So after the fun in the tunnel we see our first look at Yosemite. It is beautiful. There are really no words to do it justice. I think we are glad we drove an extra 1000 miles out of our original way to see this. We see granite walls and 3 waterfalls. Bridalveil Falls is full as well as Yosemite Falls. Horsetails Falls is smaller but flowing. There are thousands of trees in the valley.
We follow signs until we come to a sign that says camping reservations. LCC goes in to check in. This turns out to be the place to go if you DO NOT have reservations which we did. I finally talk to a ranger and we find out we are supposed to go right to the camp so we do. We get there and there is no ranger to check people in so we find our space and park ourselves and decide we will check back later. Unfortunately we haven’t chosen the best site since we can’t put out our living room slide. But we are able to get our bedroom slide out so no big deal since were really only sleeping and eating here for the most part. There are other spaces that would have fit us better but when you rely on Reserve America you get what you get. I’m just happy the car fits too since we would have to leave it about ½ mile away if it didn’t. We take our pics of the site and walk around the camp. Just down from us is the bathroom. It only has 2 stalls and 2 sinks no soap because of the bears so we must remember to bring our own if using it. In the middle of the bath there is something that looks like an overgrown toilet that you can dump grey water into if you have a blue tote or a dishpan. There is also a faucet without threads that you can use to fill your fresh water tank. You need something called a water thief to attach to it. We bought one because we knew we might need to fill up fresh water at some point. After looking around we see the host is back so we check in. He lets us know we can only run generators to recharge 45 minutes at a time to give neighbors a break from loud noises. Also none are to be run between 7p-9a. So we will have to plan accordingly. Also any food needs to be kept inside and windows and doors closed or in the bear boxes in each site.
We then jump on our bikes and ride to Curry Village to the Visitors Center to get our NP stamp and CC’s pin and work on PTCC’s Jr Ranger book which we bought ahead of time since they sell them in Yosemite(everywhere else they seem to be free). We walk around the visitors center and look at the displays, check out the bookstore and then ride to the base of Yosemite Falls where there is a path to walk near the base. We park the bikes and start walking. We had all changed into shorts and t shirts when we got to our site now I’m rethinking that as we get closer to the falls. It is misty and very cold since all the falls come from snow melt. Well LCC toughs it out (she has goosebumps and is very wet) and we make it all the way around. PTCC evens shimmies across a log that has fallen across the Merced River to an island and then shimmies back again. We then go back near the Visitor Center when we see a museum and stop and go in. There is an Indian lady telling of life in the early days of the Indians living in the valley. We then go behind the museum to the Indian Village that is there and walk through it while reading the displays. LCC saw the Yosemite graveyard as we biked up so we visit there next. This is where all the early settlers and some of the founders of the area are buried. I believe in the motto of the park service to let nature take its course but I wish the cemetery could be maintained better. Lots of limbs and pine needles are everywhere obscuring the graves and it is hard to tell where one ends and another begins.
We’ve had enough fun for awhile and go back to camp to make dinner and relax before PTCC needs to go to a ranger program for her Jr ranger badge. We’ve decided to go to Yosemite’s Top Ten Firsts. Most of all because it is in the amphitheater right in front of our site. So it’s really close and we know how to get there. We have dinner that CC cooks on the camp stove so we can save our propane for heating, refrigeration and hot water. Since we don’t know how cold it will get while we are here we are conserving in case we run low. Lots of RV’s have pony bottles sitting outside so this might be a bad sign, we don’t know. We then walked through the other Pines campgrounds and decided at least we had picked the best campground if not the best site since ours is smaller and there is more space between sites.
Well it’s time for the ranger program and overall it was interesting. Ranger Karen gave the talk about the first time something happened in Yosemite. Some of them were: the first time Half Dome was climbed, the first winter resident, the first time a bear had to be put down because it was too used to people and their food, etc. Mostly we were all thinking how cold it was getting and how we were so tired that we wanted to go to sleep. It’s been a long day so as soon as she finished we jump up and head back to the RV and sleep. Tomorrow the plan is to go to Mariposa and Wawona.
May 5, 2010 Day 15 We go back to Mariposa Grove and Wawona
We get a late start since we were so tired from yesterday but we are finally in the car and going back to the entrance station where we came in yesterday. We see deer in the field as we pass by the meadow area. It takes about an hour to get there and we hit the construction traffic just right because we did not have to wait in line. We make it to Mariposa area where the giant sequoias are and find out it is closed to parking. The entrance station is a mess and it is backing up. The gates to go up are closed and it is a 2 mile hike to get to the parking area. Cars and rental RV’s are parked all over the sides of the roads. We decide to forgo seeing the grove this time since we saw sequoias 2 days ago. So we head up the mountain to Wawona and the Pioneer History Center. We get to walk through a historic covered bridge, the first one I can ever remember seeing and we walk around the village. All of these buildings are historic but they were not here in this spot. They have all been moved from other locations in the park to make this pioneer village so they wouldn’t be torn down and forgotten. On the weekends there are park personnel acting out the roles of the people who lived here at the time. After that we look at the map and see a road up to a walking path that leads to a swinging bridge so we head there. We get there and this is a very picturesque spot. We take lots of pics then head back down and find a place to have a picnic which is what PTCC wants to do. We spread out the blanket get the food out and we are sitting right next to the South Fork of the Merced River. I don’t think we could have found a lovelier spot to picnic. After eating we go shopping in the Wawona store and get our picture frame for Yosemite and CC and LCC bought new jackets that should keep us very warm. PTCC bought another bracelet and since we spent so much she got a bear blanket for a little extra with a store promotion. Hopefully we won’t need the extra blanket but we don’t seem to be good judges of weather lately. Maybe it is an omen?
We get in the car and drive up to the Wawona Hotel to take some pics and look around. It was a pretty swanky spot in its day. It’s a large Victorian hotel with balconies and a tank pool, tennis courts and a 9 hole golf course. There is an artists building right next door but it wasn’t open when we checked. After checking the hotel out we got back in the car and drove to the Wawona campground that is nearby. We were thinking if we ever do this kind of trip again and come in from the south we will stay at Wawona and check the area out and then move to the valley since it is an hour each way driving.
We then head back towards the valley. We get to the tunnel and make a turn into the parking area to check out the waterfalls and the rocks. We meet another family with a little girl there and get them to take our picture and we return the favor. They are staying at housekeeping camp for $80 a night and only get electricity for that. They are in a military style tent but were able to bring a space heater to keep warm. We are paying $20 night but don’t have water, electricity or sewer except for when we can use our generator 45 minutes a day. There are also lots of tenters here as well. I was glad they couldn’t have fires all day. The rules are from 5pm-10pm only in the spring and summer. We talked with the family about things they were seeing and doing and what we had seen and done as well. We parted ways but saw them a few minutes later when we went to the Bridal Veil walkway to take pictures there. Yesterday LCC did not have a jacket but today she made sure she had one on the walk and it went MUCH better. Still cold and wet but not as bad as yesterday. We saw rainbows in the mist and walked right near the falls and got pretty wet. PTCC and CC didn’t wear coats so they both were soggy. Lucky CC had a waterproof camera so he was able to get lots of pics. PTCC was taking video of the falls and the walk. We then move on to the Swinging Bridge area but find out the bridge doesn’t swing it is very stationary. But we have an awesome view of Yosemite Falls from top to bottom here so we take more pictures. Then we’ve had enough and head back to camp. LCC decides to write her blog and work on pictures while CC and PTCC go to mail a Mother’s day card to CC’s mom. Also it’s time to turn on the generator so this gives her a good excuse to stay behind. CC and PTCC stop at the visitors center so PTCC can show her Jr Ranger book and get her badge. She was also awarded a patch with Half Dome on it and Ranger Karen was there from the Yosemite talk of the night before. CC also got to take a look at the museum since he had not seen it yet. And they both bought ice cream which they didn’t tell LCC about but she guessed they had some when they got back to camp.
We ate dinner then CC and LCC took a walk around our loop, Lower Pines, marking sites as we always do for when we come back. We have the best campground but not the best site so hopefully if we ever come back(maybe in 20 years?) we will pick better. Then we walked around the last 2 loops of Upper Pines and as we started we saw people standing on the left side near the woods and saw a guy with a dog that wouldn’t stop barking. We asked what was there and they showed us a bear in the woods. We wished we could see it better but the dog was scaring it. I guess it’s a two sided coin. We wanted to see it better because when you come to Yosemite all you hear about is the bears and to be careful with food and toiletries that have smells so the bears won’t come near people, so we wanted the dog to shut up. But the dog was doing the right thing by scaring it away. Anyway we had our first bear sighting and neither one of us had our cameras with us to record it. We got back and PTCC had taken her shower so we commenced with her nightly party. Tonight consisted of charades and a game LCC didn’t like which she secretly calls steal Mom’s oreos, but PTCC calls buzz words. It’s where you can’t say a certain word or your oreo gets stolen away. I thought it was mean to set cookies in front of someone and then tell them they can’t have them because they said the wrong word. Of course PTCC won but she was nice enough to give the cookies back in the end(under duress of course).
May 6, 2010 Day 16- We check out Hetch Hetchy Dam and Happy Isles
Our day starts about 830 am when we find out that we didn’t charge the batteries enough yesterday. Our propane heat didn’t work without the fan running and smelled something awful. So LCC made muffins in the oven to get the front of the RV warm and hot chocolate on the stove and we waited until 9 am so we could start our generator to charge the batteries. So we didn’t leave for Hetch Hetchy until about 9:45 am. It’s about an hour and a half trip to make to get there. We went CA120 which is the same path we will take to leave the park on Saturday. There are 3 tunnels to go through on the way. These are easier than the valley tunnel from CA41 because they are shorter. It is also a more scenic view because you are not worried about falling off the road into a chasm most of the time. We saw some of the fire burned area from 2 years ago when it got out of control and also the waterfall at the Tamarack River. There is still a lot of snow on the sides of the mountain road and PTCC wanted to stop and play in it. We got to the road that leads to the reservoir and before you turn on it you have left the park so you have to show your pass to the park rangers to get back in. After that we were on a very narrow road that vehicles over 22 ft or 8 ft wide were prohibited on.. Most of the time it was only about a lane and a half wide and some of the people we met on it thought no one else would be there because they were all driving in the middle when we met them. Finally we see the dam and lake. This is where San Francisco gets ALL their water from. It gets there strictly by gravity in the pipes. We get out at the parking area and look around. There are 3 waterfalls that help fill the reservoir. We were able to get a lot of pictures of the dam and the water that was shooting out was making a gorgeous rainbow. There are 2 good sized waterfalls, Tueeulala Falls and Wapama Falls. The third was really just a trickle. The wind was really brisk on the top of the dam so we were glad we brought our jackets. We walked until we got to the other side where there was a tunnel to go through if you wanted to hike to the falls which is about a 4 hour trip. The floor of the tunnel had a lot of water so LCC didn’t go through but CC and PTCC went to the other side. LCC walked back along the dam and noticed some small birds that had green backs later identified to her as green violet swallows. They must have been mating because there were 2 of them and they looked like they were doing a dance in the air. They were much too fast to catch on camera though. When all of us finished we had our picnic lunch and then went back down to the entrance station. We stopped so LCC could stamp her Passport book.
Then we made a few stops on the way back to the valley. First, we stopped on the side of the road for PTCC to jump in the snow and throw a snowball at us, then at the fire damaged area, and also at the waterfall where PTCC and LCC climbed rocks on the side of the road to take pictures.
After that we wanted to see what we missed by not coming in on CA 140. There is a really cool rock arch that everything has to pass through and it almost doesn’t look like tour buses would fit through it. The view on this road is nice too as you have the Merced river all along the right side as you enter the valley.
We got back to the RV and powered up the generator and charged up the batteries. We probably should have bought new house batteries before we started because this is the 2nd time the genny wouldn’t start without a boost. We got the RV charged and took a walk while they were charging. Then we came back and got on our bikes to ride to the Happy Isles Nature Center. You have to walk, take the shuttle or ride a bike because no private vehicles are allowed on this part of the road.
Before we went too far we stopped at the stables and signed up PTCC and LCC for a morning ride tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes. LCC gave PTCC the option of morning (9am) or afternoon (3 pm) and PTCC chose morning. Hope she gets up!
Then off we went to Happy Isles. This is a nature center that is devoted to kids. They can touch animal skins, look at dioramas with native animals, and watch videos of the animals. We were lucky we went today as the sign said they wouldn’t be open over Fri-Sun. Happy Isles is also an area where the waterfall diverges and makes an island in the center of the river and you can walk over a bridge to get there and check it out. It was pretty cool once you climbed over a bunch of rocks to get to the point of the island. PTCC was almost attacked by blue jays when she was eating her granola bar here. That was the closest we had seen them yet.
We get back on our bikes and come back to camp to make dinner and then take another walk. We didn’t see any bears this time, probably because CC had his camera with him. We checked out the rest of Upper Pines campsites and didn’t find too many that were up to what we were looking for so we finished our walk and came back. This will probably be an early night to turn in especially since we have to be at the stables by 8 am to check in. CC said he will hike the Vernal Falls trial while we ride tomorrow.
May 7, 2010 Day 17 We go horseback riding (won’t our backsides be hurting!)
PTCC and LCC have a date with some horses at the ungodly hour of 8 am so they get up early and get ready to be at the stable next door at North Pines. CC stays warm under the covers since it’s 45 degrees outside until they clear out. CC says he will hike the path to the base of Vernal Falls.
PTCC and LCC get to the stables and sign waivers that say if they die or are injured it’s not the stables fault. Then they get helmets fitted and watch a short video of horses bucking, biting and taking off with their riders. Then a cowboy shows us how to turn and halt the horses and we get on. PTCC’s horse’s name is Patrick and LCC’s is Pedro. Since we are the only fools to get up and be here at this ungodly hour and temperature, we are getting a private ride just the two of us and our guide, Charlie, who is a girl. We are allowed to have a water bottle and a camera as long as they can go around your neck or clip on your belt. What we wished we brought was our ski gloves, our fingers were freezing for the entire ride.
Our ride starts out sedately and then after a few hundred yards we start going through rocks on a very narrow path. Next thing we know we are climbing over them. This is not for the faint of heart because the horses are slipping and sliding over all of these rocks. LCC keeps thinking if she falls off it will really hurt while PTCC’s horse just wants to eat the weeds on the side of the trail and is mad because his buddy was left behind at the stables. We walk along on this rocky path until we come to Mirror Lake. It was good to get up early because Mirror Lake only looks this way in the morning with the sun off of it and no wind to disturb it. It’s reflecting Half Dome and it is really spectacular. Charlie tells us that in the afternoon Mirror Lake is just a lake and you can see all the silt at the bottom so it’s nothing special then. They actually have to dredge it to keep it a lake so when the snow melts it has someplace to go. We keep traveling until we come to the end of the trail for now because the Ahwiyah rock slide came down awhile ago and is blocking the path. Used to be you could ride the entire circle around the lake but not anymore. So we backtrack and go back on the path then change course to follow a new one. This one has more of a path like vibe but there are still stairs to climb and rocks to walk over. We come to a fallen log and have to go around it then we get to go through a tunnel of granite. Charlie calls it Headache Tunnel because if you don’t duck low enough you’ll get a headache. Now we’re on the way back but we are still frozen and our fingers feel like ice. We walk along the Merced River for awhile and then turn back towards the stables. We both have a hard time getting off our horses because our joints are so cold they feel like they are frozen in place. It was a great ride minus the super cold temperatures. The scenery was beautiful and Charlie wasn’t over talkative which was nice, we could just enjoy nature. We didn’t see much wildlife, they probably were all still asleep in their warm cozy homes. At least I hope they were.
We get back and CC is not back yet so we download our pictures and turn the heat on high to thaw out. After 30 minutes we are feeling much better. CC shows up about 45 minutes later and we have lunch and decide on what we will do this afternoon.
We are going to visit the Ahwahnee Lodge and the Yosemite Lodge and then walk the Yosemite falls trail again. If we still have energy after that we will spend the rest of the afternoon in Yosemite Village at the visitor center and shopping. We change out cameras for this portion of our trip. We brought a manual camera that actually uses film that PTCC wants to use to take pics for her 4 H fair contest next year. So we load some color and also take the black and white film we brought with us. We decide to ride the bus system the park has and it’s pretty nice and convenient and quiet. We have to get off at the Village because the working on the road to the Ahwahnee and we have to take a special bus to get there. What they are really doing is tearing up the road and making a mess and we sit on this bus for about 10 minutes not moving. We decide then we will walk back because there is a nice path away from the construction. We finally get to the Ahwahnee and look around. This hotel has rooms from $400 up a night. I think it looks dark and gloomy inside but a lot like the Wilderness Lodge at Disney which is modeled after it. I know a man designed it because the men’s restroom is on the 1st floor with all the public rooms and the women’s is up on the 2nd floor around two corners as far from them as you can get. We check out the store and then walk outside to take pictures of the Royal Arches which is a face of the mountain. We get our pics and then leave by the walking trail. The traffic was piling up on the road as we walked back because of the construction and we also beat the bus leaving. We might have got to the Village first if we hadn’t stopped to take even more pictures. Then we go to the Yosemite Lodge and were disappointed because it is nothing fancy, mostly a point where tours start. So we walk the Yosemite Falls path again and CC finds out he has cracked the screen on his camera so he can’t see a thing he has taken pictures of. (Later he downloads what he has and can see them on the computer but not on the camera). He has had several problems with this camera and has sent it back on warranty issues twice because it is supposed to be shockproof and waterproof, and he thought it would be nice to have when we canoe or swim and snorkel. Word to the wise DO NOT BUY AN OLYMPUS CAMERA. We will stick to Canon’s for now on. After PTCC has used up her color film we switch to B&W and let her finish that as well on the trail.
Then we head over to the visitor center and LCC buys her animal for the RV collection. This time she gets a Stellar Bluejay as she keeps seeing them everywhere here and PTCC was almost attacked by one yesterday for her granola bar. We continue to walk through stores and see what they have and PTCC gets herself a box with shot glasses inside it which she will give to LCC to hold something. She likes to collect boxes to keep things in, mostly her rock collections. She also gets a shirt. Then we head outside to go to the Village Store and get ice cream, since they had some the other day and LCC didn’t get any then.
After that more stores and we find an outfitters store that if you didn’t bring the first thing with you to camp you could buy everything you need here including underwear. Then we decide to eat at the Village Grill because no one wants to cook on our last night. So we order and eat and then head back to camp. We charge the batteries on the RV and clean up camp so we can leave early, hopefully around 7 am, tomorrow. We are heading to Salt Lake City but will probably only get to Elko or Wells, NV. That should be about an 8-10 hour drive. Remember CC hiked a strenuous trail and PTCC and LCC rode horses in the morning, who do you think will hurt worse?