Two Views on Yosemite

This blog comes to you from two perspectives. Oliver has kindly just sat at the foot of the bed and recounted his thoughts on our visit to Yosemite National Park. Interspersed with Oliver’s account I have added some gap filling commentary.

Oliver:
So first I read my book from 6.00 (am) to 7.00 (am) then we did school work for two hours then we drove away and drove and drove and drove and did we stop anywhere?

Greg:
The night before entering Yosemite we camped on a hill overlooking the expansive and picturesque Mono Lake. It was one of the nicest places we have pulled up, nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada range which we would climb into Yosemite on the morning Oliver describes. The park entrance is at the summit of the Tioga pass (9945 feet). We did stop occasionally to take in the view and to take photos of the autumn colours.

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On the way to Yosemite

Oliver:
We walked along and took photos of squirrels on the ground and in the trees and in all the nooks and crannies and they were hard to take photos of. Then we walked along some more and saw the Soda Springs and the John Muir club hut thingy and we saw a coyote bolting down the river. Then we walked back doing the same thing and some rock hopping was involved.

Greg:
Our first stop inside the park was for a short walk just near the edge of the Tuolumne Meadows, an alpine grassland surrounded by evergreen forest and massive granite boulders and mountains. Oliver’s recollections blend two walks together.

The first one involved a good deal of rock hopping along a river, something that both he and Amy love. Amy, Granny and I did go to great lengths trying to take photos of squirrels (or were they chickarees or chipmunks??) but they’re skittery little fellows and not overly given to posing.

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Beautiful rock pools

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Literal rock hopping

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A skittery critter

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Tuolumne Meadows

The second walk took us to the Soda Springs on the meadows themselves. This is one of the nicest spots in Yosemite. The Soda Springs still baffle scientists. The water is full of minerals but they don’t know where it comes from. There were huts built by the Sierra Club in dedication to John Muir along the way and we did see a coyote. After our walks lunch was served from the motorhome and consumed on camp chairs with views of the Lembert Dome.

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The Soda Springs

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Our lunch spot

Oliver:
We drove down a big windy hill through Yosemite with canyons and rocks and stuff. We stopped to take photos at, what was that place called?

Greg:
Olmstead Point.

Oliver:
Yeah, and climbed up this big rock slab and the lake with trees around it. We drove down some more windy road with me reading my book and Amy listening to her story then we stopped to take photos down a deep valley canyon thing.

Greg:
The road across Yosemite is very windy and very scenic. It’s around 40 miles long. Mid way along, Olmstead Point offered our first view of the iconic Half Dome and the Yosemite Valley. On the other side of the road to the carpark was a huge gently sloping granite slab which called to me. So Amy and I climbed it. I think Oliver went back to his book. The lake Oliver mentions was further down the road. I’m not sure what he was getting at with the Canyon but suspect he was thinking about the next morning when we drove into Yosemite Valley for the first time.

The Sierra Nevada mountains are nothing like other mountain ranges we have explored. The forest seems to grow straight out of the granite with trees and rock present in almost equal measure. As we descended from the heights of the pass the trees got bigger and stunning autumn, I mean fall, colours started to emerge. It was not hard to see how Yosemite helped inspire the National Parks movement.

On the western side of the park you can’t help but notice the number of dead trees. We would later learn that an estimated 6 million trees in the park have succumbed to fire and the bark beetle – a natural and ever present critter that is having a devastating impact because the winters are becoming too warm to halt them in their tracks and because the trees have already been weakened by drought.

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Olmstead Point

Oliver:
Then we eventually showed up at this expensive campground with easy mini-golf. Me and daddy were tied for ages until he gave up because it was cold.

Greg:
The campground was the closest to Yosemite that we could find. So many people visit Yosemite every year that the campsites book out within a minute of opening – 6 months in advance! I guess I must have moaned about the price if that’s what Oliver recalls. It did have a rustic mini-golf course and we did play when he and Amy should have been in bed and the game did go on seemingly forever and I did eventually send everyone to bed. It was cold and sometimes enough is enough.

Oliver:
The next morning we got up and me and Amy did two hours of school. We drove into Yosemite but I didn’t see any of it cause I was reading my book. Then we most annoyingly stopped for lunch and tried to spot climbers climbing up El Capitan. Then we walked over to the two guys who had two telescopes and we saw the climbers up close on the cliff and we tried to figure out where they were on the cliff without the telescope. There was this red dude who had a red rope and red gear and he was just sitting relaxing in a red chair enjoying the view… and taking photos probably. 

Greg:
I think Oliver did see some of the drive into the Yosemite Valley, hence the reference to the canyons earlier. It must also be said that he probably did miss most of it because he was reading his book. Oliver has read in excess of 48 books this year and he may well remember many of them more than where we’ve been.

The two hours of school work is true. Emma and I recently instigated a new school work regime in an effort to eliminate any and all debate about the matter. This is no longer vacation style schooling. Breakfast is served from 7.00 each morning and school starts at 8.00. No one goes anywhere until two hours of concentrated work follows. The new regime is working really well – at least from Emma and my perspective. Oliver says he doesn’t like it.

Oliver:
I really don’t like the new school work regime because I don’t get to read my book enough in the morning.

Greg:
Upon entering the Yosemite Valley proper for the first time we took a short walk to the Bridal Veil falls before stopping for lunch along the Merced River at the foot of El Capitan. I can’t begin to imagine why Oliver found stopping for lunch annoying… we were all hungry. Maybe he just wanted to keep reading his book?

Our lunch spot was stunning. There was hardly anyone else around and we sat gazing up at the thousand metre face of El Capitan. We had heard you could see people climbing it but couldn’t see anyone until we came across a lovely husband and wife from Texas who pointed them out. There were in fact many climbers though they could scarcely be seen.

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Lunch

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So big you can’t fit the whole reflection in

A short walk down the river, the National Parks Service organises a ‘talk to a climber’ program. We wandered through the forest until we found the relevant spot which included a couple of telescopes. Through the telescopes we could follow the climbers in great detail as they hung on their ropes, hauled bags of gear up behind them and as they climbed. It takes most people four to five days to climb the 1000 vertical metres. We stayed and watched for at least an hour.

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It was harder than Where’s Wally

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There’s a few

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They have a stack of gear to haul up the rock

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Our first good look at Half Dome

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Up close – Half Dome

Oliver:
Where did we go next? Oh yeah, then we drove to the visitor centre where Daddy dropped me, Granny and Amy off and we got junior ranger things so we could have something interesting to do. Then we waited for you and then we went to the Ansell Adams Gallery where you guys looked at prints of the Ansell Adams photos that costed thousands of dollars and were only prints. There were heaps of prints as you would expect in a gallery’.

Greg:
We made a special effort to get to the visitor centre to pick up the junior ranger booklets for Amy and Oliver. Amy has taken a real liking to these booklets and eagerly sets out in pursuits of all the information required to complete them and earn another badge. The Yosemite Visitor Centre however is tucked away in a corner of the valley that is probably easily accessed in a Smart Car but which presents certain difficulties and challenges to the driver of a 28-foot motorhome.

Emma and I ended up parking several kilometres away and catching the Yosemite shuttle back to the visitor centre. The Ansell Adams gallery next door did have prints of his work on sale, the most expensive of which was priced at US$83,000!

Oliver:
Didn’t we then wait at the place with the deer while you went to get the motorhome and Amy and Granny took about a thousand photos of a deer that was just grazing about 50 feet away?

Greg:
Yep. Neither Amy, Oliver or Granny were up for the walk back to get the motorhome so they waited on the edge of a meadow with gorgeous views across the valley and looking straight at the face of Half Dome. To complete the scene there was a deer, complete with impressive looking antlers, grazing a matter of metres away.

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Deer paparazzi

Oliver:
After that we drove from Yosemite to a campground where there was a guy with an American flag on his tent, then we made a fire from our faithful fire lighters and we made chocolate damper til 9.00 (pm) and then we went to bed and slept until tomorrow.

Greg:
All fairly self-explanatory. The campground was in fact just inside the park and was secured by showing up at 8.30 am that morning and reserving a spot just as another camper was leaving. The guy behind us did string an American flag before he pitched his tent. I’m not sure there was much ‘we’ in the making of the damper. This was Amy’s sole endeavour though we all happily wrapped it in foil to cook and eat the fruit of her labour. It was good. Really good. Especially drowned in honey.

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Maybe that is what you do in the USA?

Oliver:
The next day we drove into Yosemite village and hired bikes which was a little bit tedious because the lady at the counter said that if we weren’t back in thirty minutes after it started raining they would lock up your license or something. Then we rode up to the bottom of Half Dome where there was supposed to be a lake called Mirror Lake but all there was, was a dry lake bed with big boulders sticking out of it.

Greg:
Bikes seemed like a great way to get around the Yosemite Valley so we hired some, which did entail leaving Emma’s drivers’ licence behind as a sort of deposit. I was a little rankled however when told that if it rained (as was forecast) we had to be back from wherever we were within 30 minutes or they would close for the day and we would have to come back the next day to retrieve our deposit.

This is the sort of thing that gets under my skin and I guess I’m not that good at hiding it. History has shown that I can get quite petty over such matters despite their being well beyond my influence. In any case, ‘tedious’ may not be quite the right word but Oliver’s recollection is fair. The Mirror Lake thing is also true. There was no water. It was bone dry. There were great views of Half Dome though. From our vantage point right at its base we looked heavenward to the peak of the rock face 1500 metres overhead.

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Bike fun

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Half Dome view from Mirror Lake

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Mirror Lake

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Silliness on after the bike ride

Oliver:
When we turned around and went back (from the half way point on our ride) it started sprinkling and we only just got back before our hour was up. Then we went on a ranger talk that took us around and told us about animals and cool stuff then he got all excited about a helicopter rescue where the helicopter went down into a gorge about five times and came up with people. Then Amy and me got our ranger thinga-me-jiggies signed and got our junior ranger badges.

Greg:
As part of the junior ranger program, we all had to attend one of the talks by the National Parks staff. We decided to join Ranger Eric on the ‘Wildlife Walk’. Ranger Eric was excellent, full of information on Yosemite’s ecology. Our walk was however interrupted by the thrum of a helicopter streaking down the valley and we did all have to chase after Eric when he stopped speaking mid-sentence and ran off excitedly to see where the chopper was going.

Turns out it wasn’t going far and we spent the next hour alternately watching wildlife and the helicopter as it disappeared into a gorge at the Yosemite Falls before finally emerging with some poor soul strapped to a stretcher hanging from the end of a winch and winging rapidly off towards medical assistance.

‘More that 4.5 million people visit Yosemite National Park every year’, Ranger Eric explained. ‘This sort of thing happens all the time. Search and rescue personnel come from all over the world to learn from our crews’.

This all made for an eventful afternoon after which we did return to the visitor centre for Amy and Oliver to submit their booklets. The Parks staff take these very seriously and the Ranger went through each question, stopping with a furrowed brow at the question asking which President was responsible for the protection of Yosemite National Park.

Amy and Oliver had written Theodore Roosevelt at my instruction. Needless to say I was a little, nay a lot, embarrassed to be informed it was Abraham Lincoln. I was just starting to rehearse a rationale as to why Amy and Oliver should not be denied their junior ranger status because their dad got cocky about the history of the National Parks Service when the ranger seemed satisfied that it was indeed my error and not theirs. Amy and Oliver followed the Ranger in a pledge to help protect the park and we were on our way.

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Ranger Eric

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Not wildlife

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Can you see the person hanging?

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There was wildlife – a young mule deer buck

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The meadow in Yosemite Valley was good for wildlife spotting

Oliver:
And now I think it’s time for me to go to bed.

Greg:
It was, and he has, and so it falls to me to finish the story. On our final day in Yosemite we took a walk down into one of three groves of Giant Sequoia’s in the park. Giant Sequoias are the same species as the coastal redwoods. They are larger in girth but not as tall. There were around 20 trees in the grove and they were fantastic but what really took me were the autumn colours of the undergrowth.

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Autumn colours

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More Autumn colours

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Even more Autumn colours

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This one had an acorn

We then retraced our steps back over the Tioga pass the way we had come in. A light dusting of snow from the night before had transformed the high country and made for many more stops for photos, including Olmsted Point again where this time we all climbed the rock. Oliver may have read his book the rest of the time but I’m not sure. We re-joined Highway 395 headed south right where we left off, camping a short way down the road at the gorgeous Silver Lake.

The predicted storm really did hit that night and we later learned that the Tioga Road had been closed due to snow. We made it through with just a matter of hours to spare.

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High above Olmstead Point with Half Dome in background

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New banner shot – at Olmstead Point

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Tuolumne Meadows on the way out of the Park

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A light dusting

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Silver Lake trees

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On the road after Yosemite

This entry was posted in 2016 Trip, USA and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Two Views on Yosemite

  1. Leila McClelland says:

    Loved this blog since I just visited Yosemite this year. My son is the executive chef at Evergreen Lodge, just outside the park. He is leaving soon to come back to Australia, with his partner. The park is wonderful and I enjoyed reading of your adventures. You saw it at such a wonderful time of the year. Thank you for sharing your travels. Leila

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