Published: September 16th 2012September 14th 2012
Day 8 - Yosemite Lakes campground to Yosemite Valley and back, Distance Travelled 60 miles.
WOW! The drive and slightly panicy events of yesterday were quickly forgotten as today was an excellent and very memorable day in the Yosemite Valley, a truly amazing place to visit!
We awoke to the sound of the local birds chirping and taking part in their own mini bird Olympics, running, jumping and fighting on the RV roof. Slightly disappointingly, there were no bears, no rattlesnakes and the worst wildlife we had to contend with at breakfast was the beautiful blue jays who wanted our cornflakes!
The good thing about the campsite (there aren't many) was its proximity to the Yosemite park gates and within 5 miles of leaving the campground we were there and paying our $20 entrance fee. Now you know I am getting in to the height of everything, but it's the only real way to explain how much things change. Today we started at about 2500 feet at the campsite, climbed through to more than 6000 feet to the Yosemite valley edge (Box Hill, scene of the famous Olympic cycling 'climb' is 735 feet above sea level!!), then descended
down to the valley floor at 4000 feet above sea level. Thankfully today's climbs and drops were through some spectacular forest scenery, and very little of Shas's descent to the valley floor was spent with her arse hanging out over a massive drop. There were a few little 'moments' but it's now getting much easier to navigate the beast around these winding roads.
The descent into the Yosemite valley is bloody spectacular and there are many places to pull over, jump out and marvel at the view and take some piccys, I have thousands for those that want to be bored with them but have tried to pick a few good ones to accompany this blog.
Whilst the Yosemite park is huge, the main tourist destinations are spread across about three miles of the valley floor. Sadly, it being the end of summer, the spectacular waterfalls, mirror lake and raging Merced river were more of a trickle, puddle and stream, but the surrounding granite scenery is....oh I'm running out of descriptive words and have no wifi for the thesaurus.... Bloody amazing.
At the heart of the valley floor is Yosemite village, a collection of shops, lodgings, Restaurants,
museum and visitor centre all built in low rise cedar buildings spread throughout the forest. Parking the beast was easy and it seemed most of the rest of the Cruise America RV fleet was also in town...of course the beast was the biggest there...quite funny watching 5 or 6 people getting out of the smaller vans whilst we are two people in the big rig, but still with the stupid kids trapped in our window! There are campsites and RV sites actuallly in the park on the valley floor but these apparently get booked up months in advance and as we arranged all of this 'last minute.com' we had to settle for day parking.
On the way in we had seen a 'valley floor tour' which was basically an open top trailer with about 80 people on board and a guide and we decided this was the best bet to get the most of our one day in Yosemite. We started with a mini hike of the trail through the village, taking in the museum, book store and a 30 minute film in the local 'theatre' on the history and wildlife of the valley from how it was formed,
to the early Native Americans and beyond. We then walked on past the spectacular 800 foot Yosemite upper and lower waterfalls....which were bone dry due to the lack of rain and onto the Yosemite Lodge. Yosemite Lodge is essentially a hotel in the middle of the valley but it's also where the tours run from. As its the low season and the kids are back at school we were able to purchase a ticket and jump straight on the next trolley. Lots of the books warn in high season that traffic, parking and queues are bad everywhere but we saw none of that today.
I'm not a great one for joining in guided tours, but this two hour tour was superb, the guide took us through the geology, wildlife and human history of the area and showed us all of the main sites.
The valley (or rather it's granite sides) are a Mecca for climbers all around the world and at one of the most famous rock faces (El Capitan) we stopped to admire the huge rock face. Our guide pointed out it takes most climbers 3-5 days to climb the rock face and overnight they will secure
themselves onto ledges to sleep or carry with them portable 'shelves' that are locked into the mountain face that they then harness onto. She then also pointed out two such climbers who were about two thirds of the way up...they were barely visible to the naked eye....absolutely mad as hatters, and on our tour there were a lot more just like them hanging from the valley sides!
On the tour there were a couple more stops, with the best at a place called Inspiration point, a place where apparently the first American soldiers entered the valley in the 1800's to clear the native American Indian population. It is the most spectacular view I have ever seen, looking down on the valley below and across the Sierra Nevada mountain range...again the photos are unlikely to do it justice but I could have stayed all day. (well for another half hour anyway!)
The tour came to an end having seen various memorable sights including 'El Capitan', 'The Cathedral Rocks', 'the Half Dome' and 'The Three Brothers' and we even got to see one 800 foot waterfall with real water falling over it called the 'Brides Veil', it was a very
thin veil but at least we saw one,
Sadly we didn't get to see any of the 500 black bears that apparently live in the valley but there were plenty of warning signs and 'bear proof' dustbins around to indicate they were there....again not I place I would feel comfortable at night under canvas but there were plenty of people there that were. We did however see a Pileated Woodpecker, which apparently is very rare and was the basis for 'Woody Woodpecker' and we've also seen real 'Roadrunners' which actually do run along the road in that same silly style that the cartoon character does (although didn't hear the beep beep). We also managed to miss the killer Yosemite mice....I think!
After the tour it was time for an ice cream, obligatory souvenir bear purchase for Jessica and then to the ascent back out of the valley the way we came and return to the camp. We tried the camp lodge for a bit of relaxation and wifi but to be honest it would have been quicker to write this blog, print the pictures and send them home in envelopes individually, hence the delay in publishing the past
Still no chance of a barby this evening and with no restaurants nearby it was spaghetti bolognese 'a la Jase' and a few more episodes of mad men whilst we waited for the bears or rattle snakes to knock on the door.
Tomorrow we leave the mountains ( one more scary drive to go) and head west towards San Francisco and the west coast....the Sierra Nevada mountains and particulalrly Yosemite have been very memorable, we will return one day..
There are more photos below