Friday, June 25, 2010

Yosemite National Park (June 7-9)

After leaving Lake Tahoe, we drove into complete barrenness… last, I could go to sleep without having to worry about missing any views! The drive was about 5-6 hours to get to Yosemite and we knew that we weren’t going to make it into the park having left Tahoe in the afternoon. We had no idea that the east side of the park which we chose to enter from was extremely remote and services/campsites were few and far between. ‘Where were we driving….into the abyss??’ We ended up in this dingy, tiny town called Lee Vining where our van became the main attraction. We were a tiny bit conspicuous driving around trying to find somewhere to park for the night – we saw the locals (mostly Mexicans) just standing on the side of the road staring at us as we drove past. We decided to grab some food and after parking, happened to run into the Pastor of the local Church. He happily allowed us to park our van next to the Church for the night and even offered us a shower in the morning! (We didn’t get a shower in the end because the Pastor must have forgotten and we couldn’t find him in the morning to have him open the building…ah well). The overnight stay wasn’t so flash, especially after eating rich barbeque food and not having any access to a toilet!! I will spare you the details! ;-) But at least we had a place to park!

The next day it took us 2 hours to drive into the heart of Yosemite Valley but an amazing one at that! We entered the park via Tioga Pass and couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw 2 foot of snow in some places and a lake that was completely frozen over! We didn’t expect that at all, especially when we had encountered temperatures into the high 30’s on the drive from Tahoe! The snow and ice just made the mountains, trees etc even more beautiful and it was a sunny day which meant that everything glistened. We were surrounded by rocky mountains and valleys that towered above us as we drove into the centre of Yosemite. We stopped at a few look out points on the way and were just in awe (again) of what we were seeing.

We arrived at the lowest point of the park which is called Yosemite Valley…the temperatures had risen and we were no longer surrounded by snow and ice however it was no less beautiful. The only downside was how over-crowded it was! This was obviously a very popular place! We did actually know that already after having searched online for campsites and finding out that the hundreds of Yosemite campsites are booked out as soon as they are made available about 7 months before!! But honestly, why wouldn’t you want to come here!? Simply stunning! For us, yes it was beautiful, but the amount of people made it a bit difficult to appreciate it in its entirety. Getting out of the centre of the park at 5:30pm was like driving in peak hour traffic!! Bumper to bumper! Ahh! It felt so wrong!

Although most of the hikes in Yosemite were extremely long and strenuous (which counted us out), there were 2 spots we visited which involved a bit of a walk. One was Bridalveil Falls…which due to the snow melting on top of the mountains, was rushing so hard and fast that we couldn’t get very close to it without feeling like someone was tipping a bucket of water on our head. We walked along the path toward the falls and didn’t manage to get to the end of it because with water up to the middle of our shins and water pouring on our heads, we really didn’t fancy getting swept away! Lol. Didn’t get any good photos of this experience for obvious reasons!

The other site we visited which is definitely worth mentioning was Mariposa Grove which is an area where the famous giant Sequoia Trees have grown. Otherwise known as the handsome beasts, some of these trees are hundreds or even thousands of years old. One in particular called the Grizzly Giant is approximately 2,700 years old, 64 metres high and 30 metres in circumference at the base. It is something else to see a tree this big!! Standing next to one made us feel and look (in our photos) as small as ants! It reminded me of the trees in Lord of The Rings and it almost felt like at any moment they were going to come alive! The unplanned hike we did ended up being about a 10km round trip and 1000ft in elevation. I say unplanned because we arrived at 3pm in the afternoon to check out a few trees and what we thought was going to be a short walk, ended up being quite a hike. The big mistake on Tim’s part was wearing his thongs (NOT g-string just to clarify for all of our English & American friends)! I kept telling him to change his shoes as we started the hike and all he said was: ‘Nah I’ll be alright, we’re not walking far!’ LOL. Needless to say he had a very injured and sore foot for about a week after that! I have to give him credit though because he hardly complained and he continued to tough out some more walking in the days ahead.

After spending 2 glorious days surrounded by the beauty of Yosemite, we decided to stay at a campsite in a small town just outside of the park called Oakhurst. Before looking for a place to camp we grabbed some dinner at a Sushi Bar in the main street and this is where one of our most special experiences began…..


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