Sunday, September 16, 2007

Yosemite High Country

Sept 15:
Today we had to leave our idyllic Valley campsite—but we had one last surprise before we left: our bears were back again! Right on the other side of our stream, as we started down the road out of the campground, I saw them both meandering along. Once again I jumped out to photograph them, and once again I managed to make a mosh of it…. But at least you can see there were bears!
Our last stop before leaving the valley was at the Yosemite Lodge to make use of that wifi we found yesterday. When we decided the kiosks were inadequate, Joe had to go back to the car to get the cord for the laptop, which we’d forgotten. Much to his surprise, when he got back to Mo (in the hotel parking lot), he found a coyote standing right outside the motorhome, looking at Roxy, and Roxy was of course sitting in the front seat of the car looking back! So we all had our exciting wildlife encounters this morning!

Today’s drive took us back up Route 120 to the Tioga Road again. This time we planned to stop more than we had on our way into the valley on Wednesday. They say that 94% of Yosemite National Park is outside the valley, and yet 94% of the visitors to the park don’t ever see anything EXCEPT the valley. We decided that we’d take at least one hike as we passed through. After consulting our very good guide book, we settled on a hike that was described as “so easy even a 6 year old could do it.” Well, it occurred to me that a real test of “easy “ would be “so easy even an overweight, out of shape 55 year old can do it!” We hiked all of .8 miles to Lukens Lake (that is 1.6 miles round trip, let’s not forget!) Really, it was a lovely walk, and when we got to the lake, we simply sat in the grass for a while and enjoyed it. In fact, I confess to dozing off for a while before we got up and headed back to Mo and Roxy.

A Nap at Lukens Lake

After that, we had some lunch, then stopped at Olmstead Point. There, in addition to the obligatory scenic shots (which were mostly disappointing), I took a photo of a Tioga on Tioga Road, complete with protective coloration. We cruised past Tenaya Lake and after passing the Tuolumne Meadows, arrived at Tuolumne Meadows Campground, where we had a reservation for the night. By then it was 4 pm, and although my original thought was that we’d take the Meadows shuttle back to walk in the main part of the meadows, the shuttle appeared to be completely unlikely to arrive. Fortunately, the meadows extended much farther than I realized—they were actually just across the street from the campground store. So we wandered through them for about 90 minutes, with me practicing my new photographic techniques with varying degrees of success.

Watch For Rocks

A Tioga on Tioga Road (Note the protective coloration!)

Tenaya Lake

Yosemite is really an amazing place—so beautiful that it takes your breath away. There is almost nowhere to look that isn’t an irresistible photograph. The rocks, the water, the meadows, the giant trees—there is so much here that is simply unique. I admit to being partial most of all to the meadows and the rocks. We saw relatively little water on this trip. Evidently it was an unusually dry winter here in the Sierras, and September is known to be a bad month to see waterfalls in general. Yosemite Falls was totally dry; Bridal Veil Falls was a trickle. Fortunately, we have seen them both, as well as Vernal and Nevada Falls, on previous visits. And this time we didn’t go visit the giant Redwood trees at all—for some reason, they are my least favorite special feature of the park. But I drank in the rocks walls surrounding the valley, and it was heavenly wandering in the meadows, both last night and tonight.

Tuolumne River near campground

Tuolumne Meadows in the Evening

Tuolumne Meadows in the Evening
At about 6:30, we finally returned to the campsite, where we had dinner and began to think about the rest of our vacation. Tomorrow the plan is to head across Nevada toward Great Basin National Park, which is almost on the border with Utah. From there, to Moab and Arches National Park, as well as maybe Canyonlands NP—we will see how the time goes, and how much time we want to spend there. But I suppose that our first stop, once we manage to drive over Tioga Pass and down that terrifying twisty road (Joe is doing a GREAT job driving; I spent a lot of time telling him to “slow down!” and covering my eyes), will be to stop at the same accommodating hotel we found last Wednesday morning, and borrow their wifi to upload my blogs!

ADDENDUM from Lee Vining, Sunday morning: Joe and Mo did a GREAT job coming down the Tioga Road, but OMG, was that scary! 8% grade for SEVEN miles??? Gorgeous views that I was too nauseated to look at, LOL! But we did make it to the bottom, and I hope to upload this in a few minutes.

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