Published: May 16th 2012May 14th 2012
Tried to capture the rainbow in the afternoon light.
The great outdoors is where RV action is at so with a comforting sigh we flipped the WHOW from urban mode and into cruise control then pointed her east from San Francisco.
We had our eyes set on a few national parks and lakes high up in the Californian mountains and a week later we are now on an equal high. If it's possible to find landscapes seductive, then consider us seduced.
Whaddya think of the contrast of beach goers lazing around the sands of Lake Tahoe with a backdrop of snow capped mountains? How about sulphur pools bubbling and smoking amongst the snow at Lassen Volcanic Park up in the state's north? Both were a sight for eager tourist eyes but impressive as they were, the prototype for outdoor attractions in California is but a few hours out from the Golden Gate.
I mentioned in an earlier blog that volcanoes are like the ugly sister of inspiring landscapes. At the other end of the spectrum are the Elle McPhersons. Yosemite, step out to the wicket. Yosemite doesn't need to spit out smoke or belch lava to spice the senses. Like Elle, she just needs to sit
there, shut up and look great.
From that initial overview of the valley driving in from the west to 4 days later exiting the east gate of the park, Yosemite kept on giving. We ambled, drove and cycled with heads spiralling in all directions, oohs , aahs and every conceivable cliched superlative resonating from our gobs. The few days were choc-a-bloc with instants of simply stopping and pondering the moment. I was suitably enough taken by the vistas that i wont even cheapen this blog with a string of Yosemite Sam quips, although man I'm tempted.
At the risk of overcooking the adulation, I'll also bestow a sincere pat on the back to the administrators of America's National Parks System. Everything ticks over like a Swiss watch. The staff are personable and motivated, the services provided belie the paltry entrance fee, plus there are just enough do's and don'ts to set the general ethic straight without there being a sense of a Nanny State. Big Brother isn't watching over your shoulder, there's rather a reliance on the visitors' social conscience to toe the line. It works. Considering the multitudes who enjoy Yosemite each and every day, the human
footprint is minimal. National Parks USA - I dips me hat to yuz.
John Muir was instrumental in not only creating Yosemite as a national park but also a host of others. From all reports he was one switched on chap, sharp enough to cut diamonds with his thoughts alone. His forethinking kept the bad guys at bay. If the "condo boys" had been let loose in the area............. God forbid.
Some of the wildlife ain't half unique either. We even managed to spot a bear on one lonely trail. It led to a Mexican standoff at 30 metres, tourists staring down the eyes of the beast and visa versa. It must have been difficult for Penny to see too clearly cowering behind me. I could almost hear her thoughts ticking over:
"Take the man, he's the one the meat on the bones".
Then of course,"What do we do if it attacks"? She asks.
"The same thing you would do if a shark attacks. Poke it in the eyes. They don't like that".
After a minute or so the furry fellow sauntered off anyway and dissolved into the forest, probably figuring there were easier
Penny on an isolated trail.
Just before the bear incident
pickings in tourists' pic-a-nic baskets. (I should have saved that one for Yellowstone).
My other favourite wildlife moment arrived courtesy of a young American. From a standing start he managed to break the world's high jump record, leaping a healthy bush in a single bound.
"There's a critter back there"!"
What sort of critter". I quizzed.
"I don't know but it's got teeth".
So tiptoeing tentatively around that bush, I was fully expecting to see something along the genetic lines of a mountain lion. On the contrary, there sat Punxsutawney Phil from Groundhog Day. If it wasn't a groundhog then it was some other varment from a similar family. Regardless of the bloodlines, it was as threatening as a white guy in the Olympic 100 metre sprint. What kind of Nancy boy was that young American? Blue chip Nancy boy I tells ya.
California, we're loving it. I've even come up with a new political movement. Stand aside bickering Democrats and Republicans. If the nation could be run half as efficiently as its national parks, it's:
Vote 1 - USA National Parks Party.
One week in, and the WHOW
and us are getting along just fine. To keep the WHOW company we managed to purchase two very used push bikes from a garage sale while we were sauntering around town in Lake Tahoe. Gary's bike is actually quite a good one with gears and brakes that work and a seat that I am rather envious of. Mine, well let's say it's great on the straight. Luckily the WHOW comes with ample storage so our two new purchases are housed in the storage component under the van along with hoses and outdoor tables and chairs etc etc.
So, in brief trailer trashing or RV'ing is going quite nicely. Yosemite was an absolute blast. It is really a great park, the trails cater for everyone from those who want to get up close and personal from their wheelchair (there are quite a few of them in this country) to walking trails, bike trails, car trails. They even offer photography classes, walking trails with the Rangers and if that's not enough there is so much to see and it's all spectacular. We even came across a number of school groups , who were really well behaved and orderly.
on the trail there is so much to cover and so many trails that you don't really see too many other people (besides our bear encounter). You really do need quite a few days here to walk the mountains, the waterfalls, the forests, the lakes.
The drive from Yosemite to Lake Tahoe through the Tioga Pass , the highest mountain road crossing in the States was extraordinary. It probably took us double the time the GPS estimated as we had to stop and take in the lakes, the snow etc every few kilometres.
Well we have now pushed WHOW over 1500 miles and it will get a bit of a rest as we hop on our bikes at each stop and explore.
Next stop Lassen Volcanic Park. What a contrast in terms of scenery to Yosemite. In Yosemite I couldn't help but notice the smell of the pine trees, the smell that I associate with Christmas at home when we used to have a fresh pine tree to decorate for Christmas. Here in Lassen the trees are still completely covered in snow and replacing the beautiful smell of pine was the smell of rotten egg gas
from the sulphur pools. It looks so picturesque but smells like you are in NZ visiting Rotorua.
We are now heading north, and are making our way to the coast up towards the Oregon border and soon to Vancouver for my dentist appointment!!
There are more photos below