02.05.2008 - 04.05.2008 10 °C
After much deliberation and “google earthing” we decided on a different route to Yosemite to what we had initially planned. At first we thought it would be picturesque to drive the coastal highway 1 and finish with Big Sur but that was going to be about 12 hours over the 2 days without any stopping time. We thought our sanity was more important than seeing some awesome coast line and planned a different highway route that went inland with a night at Fresno.
Thankful for the shorter distance, we were in Fresno in about 4 hours and also had time to drive through downtown Malibu. The drive into Fresno was very rural with lots of farming areas and the beginning of some of the wineries. Given extra time it would have been great to head out to the Napa Valley but our priorities were to get out to Yosemite for the weekend where I had booked accommodation in the park months ago.
From Fresno it was only about an hour to the south entrance of Yosemite, a steady climb all the way with lots of winding roads but no dramas apart from the one in the back that suffers with travel sickness. A move to the front seat relieved that problem, thankfully but I must admit it was like a ride from Disneyland being tossed around some of those bends.
Luckily we arrived on a Friday at about 12pm so no lines to get in the park. I had heard you can sit in a traffic jam for over an hour on busy weekends just to get in. The distances to get to the centre of the park where the majority of the accommodations are takes nearly an hour so it’s best to see what you can on the way in rather than have to back track out later. Like Grand Canyon, Yosemite offers a shuttle to get around the major sights.
Once in the park the scenery was incredible and like nothing I had expected. Driving along ravines flanked by enormous rock faces on either sides of the valley with incredibly high waterfalls gave you the feeling of being quite insignificant.
We visited the Sequoia’s on our drive in and walked through the forest of these amazing trees. Some upto 3000 years old and with diameters of about 3 metres they are the largest living things on earth by volume. From the cedar family they are very specific to this area and actually very rare elsewhere in the park due to their very fussy growing needs. Amazing history surrounded these trees and the main reason they are still growing in the park is due to their poor quality for logging.
I had booked our Yosemite accommodation after searching far and wide on the I’net and looking at all the pros and cons of staying in the park versus driving in for a day. I can thank all the forums for helping me make the correct decision after discovering how much Yosemite had to offer, it couldn’t be experienced in a few hours. Accommodations are scarce, expensive and varied. We could have stayed at Curry House in a “tent” or at the Yosemite Falls Lodge. I managed to secure a room at the Lodge and how excited was I when we arrived and found our room was the closest room in the area to the Yosemite Falls!! Kids were also rapped to find they had an enormous back yard again and enjoyed some freedom running about the trees while we happily watched from our patio enjoying a beverage!
After a very restful sleep listening to the plummeting water from the falls we spent the following day wandering some trails, enjoying the magnificent sunshine and the kids completing another junior ranger program. We searched long and hard for bears but they are still proving to be more elusive than we thought. After attending a ranger talk about bears in the park we found there were about 12 that reside around the valley and some had already been sighted this season. However the rangers do a good job of trying to keep them away from entering the valley and becoming dependent on the human food they always manage to find regardless of how many strategies are put in place. We heard some interesting stories from the ranger on bears that prove to be smarter than thought and have watched and learnt how to open doors, locks and latches on the different food lockers and trash cans.
I had promised Jaimie a trail ride somewhere on this holiday and it just so happened that we came across a horse and mule trail ride in the park. They had vacancies for the following morning so with the promise that there would be no whining in the morning on the wake up call we booked an 8 am. Since the kids were too young to take a mule down the Grand Canyon they were keen to get the chance here. I especially liked the look of these mules and later I found they were “draft “mules so much bigger and rounder than your average variety mule!! (photos to come!)
Amazingly, there was no whining in the morning and we took off down to the stables on a beautiful, brisk and sunny morning for our 2 hour trail ride towards Mirror Lake. Wayne had suffered with a sore back for a few days ( our suitcases are getting heavier by the day) so declined from sitting in the saddle for a couple of hours but instead got the thankless job of returning to the room and packing up all our gear so we could get back on the road straight after our ride.
We were all allocated our gorgeous mules, mine was Sandy , Jaimie had Minnie with Denver on Mickey and Mackenzie on Edith. With Mackenzie up ahead and ready to tackle whatever lay ahead we head off on the trail to enjoy the scenery from a different view point. Some of the trail points were extremely steep and totally rocky and it was very reassuring to watch how the mules pick their path so sure footed without a stumble or a trip. I was thankful we were all in big western saddles so there was plenty for the kids to hang onto going down the hills. We were on the lookout again for wildlife and I managed to get a glimpse of what was probably a bob cat before it ran off into the rocks but the only other animals that wanted to join us were the grey squirrels. Much cuter than the general variety found all over the place, they are bigger and fluffier. It wasn’t until we were out on the trail that our guide told us they had found a mountain lion in the stables that morning when they had come down to feed the animals. Obviously a little out numbered it was in one corner eating some hay with all the horses in the other corner standing perfectly still. We were then on the lookout for a mountain lion as well!!