Thursday, May 21, 2015

Change of Plans - Move on to Patterson CA

We had originally planned to drive the Tioga Pass (or at least part of it) this morning.  While the weather was o.k. for today, it was not looking too good for Friday, the day we were coming back down the mountain.

I talked with Chuck and then we talked with Ken and Bonnie and we all came to the conclusion to go ahead and leave Yosemite Lakes RV Park today.  We had seen most (if not all) of what we wanted to see at Yosemite and really did not want to drive down the mountain in rain tomorrow or Friday.

Bonnie and I went to the office to see if they would refund our camping fees for the two remaining nights which they did.  It must be time to move on!

We have had a great time at Yosemite and it is beautiful beyond description but with the long days of driving to go anywhere and not having cell service or internet except the campground's limited WiFi, we were all ready for a change.

We got all packed up and left the campground around 11 am.  We drove what seemed like forever (but was only about 20 miles) before we reached the extremely curvy, windy road down the mountain which we were dreading just a little bit.

Fortunately, the descent (elevation) was not as bad as we had remembered.  It is just a very curvy road to be going down in a motorhome towing a car.  Ken and Chuck drove the mountain without any problems whatsoever.  Woohoo!

I purposely didn't get my camera out because I wanted to help Chuck watch around the curves for oncoming traffic.  I did take a couple of shots with my iPhone as we were getting closer to the bottom.  Ken and Bonnie are in the red circles.

Once we had internet, I began looking for campground possibilities between where we were and San Benito RV Resort in Paicines, CA.  I realized that Kit Fox RV Park where we had stayed overnight 2 years ago was about halfway plus they accept Passport America so the sites were 50% off !   I called them and they had 2 remaining pull-through sites available.

We stopped at a couple of fruit stands near Escalon and bought some delicious strawberries and other fruit. By 2 pm, we had arrived at Kit Fox RV Park.

We had considered maybe doing a day trip from San Benito RV Park to San Francisco but we are actually closer here in Patterson.  We checked with the office and found out we could stay two nights.  Tomorrow, we are going to do a day trip to do a little exploring around San Francisco.

We all sat outside and enjoyed the nice weather for a few minutes before eating dinner.  We are still amazed by those brown-grass hills.

The sunset over those brown-grass hills was quite pretty tonight.

After dinner, we got back together for a game of Pinochle (guys won), SkipBo (girls won), and LCR (guys won best 2 out of 3).

We were very thankful for our safe journey down the mountain and are very grateful for cell service again!  :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Bike Ride and Mirror Lake

Ken had done an excellent job of coming up with a list of things to see and do while we are here at Yosemite.  Since the weather in the valley was supposed to be nicer today, we decided to do a bike ride in Yosemite Valley and walk out to Mirror Lake -- something that had been recommended by a camper in the campground.

We finally remember to stop and take our pictures in front of the Yosemite National Park entrance sign today.

Then, we drove all the way to Inspiration Point which is past the valley and out Hwy 41 a little ways.   We were hoping to get better pictures of the valley and of Half Dome since we had a clearer sky today.  It is always beautiful and amazing regardless of the weather!

Our first stop today was at Bridalveil Falls.  We walked a very short by steep paved trail to the base of the falls. 

The sun was just beginning to pop over the edge of the falls.

And we could see the spray from the falls dancing like white smoke in the sunlight at the top of the falls.

How beautiful!

The surrounding granite cliffs were beautiful too.

We walked back to the car and to the Yosemite Valley parking lots where we could unload our bikes and go for a bike ride.  As we rode back to Mirror Lake, we had a perfect view of Half Dome... well as all the other massive granite cliffs on both sides of Yosemite Valley.

We crossed a bridge over Merced River...

...and of course Chuck had to stop and see if he could see any fish.

After riding through the forest for a short distance,

we crossed over a second bridge...

...and Chuck checked this one out for fish too.

We started riding through the forest again...

...and came upon a deer off to the side.

We reached a place where we could park our bikes and began walking toward Mirror Lake.

We reached Mirror Lake fairly quickly.

The lake is very clear but it was not what we were expecting.  Up until recent years, the National Park Service would dredge the lake which would give the lake a deeper pool and reflect the surrounding mountains.  Now, the park service allows nature to "do its thing" which means the sand and silt accumulates and reducing the "reflectiveness" of the lake.

We walked further up the trail and came up a small city of cairns.  It looked like a lot of little trolls sitting up there.

This part of the lake was a little more reflective.

We passed by several huge boulders.  The trees growing up out of the base of this boulder is what made this was so unusual.

We walked down to Mirror Lake...

... and sat there for a few minutes looking at Half Dome. 

Our pictures do not come anywhere close to showing how immense Yosemite Valley is.  See if you can spot these trees near Half Dome below by double clicking on the above picture and enlarging it.

Did you find them? 

We walked by this rock slide that occurred who knows when.

We were told by another person on the trail that the tree in the center of the picture below beneath the boulders is a baby sequoia.

When we realized that the trail around the entire Mirror Lake was going to be another couple of miles, we decided to turn around and walk back to our bikes.  But first, we walked down to the river to observe its clarity.

Chuck spotted this fish in the clear water.

We walked back down the trail to our bikes and then rode our bikes back to Ken and Bonnie's car in the parking lot.  The clouds had started to build by this time and the temps had turned a little cooler.  We decided to have our picnic lunch there in the parking lot.  (Notice Upper Yosemite Falls in the background.)

We loaded our bikes back on their car and then drove to the Village Store for a few groceries and to call our moms and daughters.  This big pine tree is in front of the Village Store.

We rode back to the campground and then got back together later to play cards with the guys winning both games.  Congratulations guys!  Rrrrrr. 

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Hike at Hetch Hetchy

Last night, we went over a list of activities and things to do that Ken had put together over the next 4 days.  Yosemite is so big and there is so much to see.  We decided that we would go to Hetch Hetchy Valley today which is closer to the campground and would only be about a 50 minute drive. 

As we drove along the road to Hetch Hetchy, we saw these beautiful purplish-blue wildflowers...

...and these pretty wildflowers growing along the bank. 

Like most of this country, Hetch Hetchy was home to American Indian cultures for thousands of years before the first European Americans arrived in the 1850s looking for gold and a place to raise livestock.  In fact, the modern name of the valley came from the Miwok word, hatchhatchie, which means edible grasses. 

As early as 1882, Hetch Hetchy Valley had been considered as a potential site for a new reservoir.  Preservationists led by John Muir wanted the valley to remain untouched.  However, after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Congress authorized the construction of a dam in the Hetch Hetchy Valley to supply water to San Francisco.  Today, the 117-billion-gallon reservoir supplies pristine drinking water to 2.4 million Bay Area residents and industrial users. 

The road to the dam is narrow with a steep drop off.

Before reaching the dam, we could look back to the valley below the dam which gives you an idea of what the valley looked like before the reservoir.  You can understand why John Muir wanted to preserve it.

After parking the car, we waited a few minutes to see if the rain would stop which it did.  We have heard that it never rains in California but I think we have encountered rain every day since we crossed the California state line.  :)

Our five mile hike to Wapama Falls began with a walk across the top of the O'Shaughnessy Dam.  You can see the Wapama Falls off to the far right of the dam.

The first phase of the dam was completed in 1923 in a mere 3 1/2 years.  The final phase raising the height of the dam was completed in 1938.

From the middle of the dam, we could see Tueeulala Falls (which was just a trickle), Hetch Hetchy Dome, Kolana Rock and Wapama Falls.

The walk across the dam ended at a tunnel.

The tunnel was not very well lit and was very wet in places. 

But then we began walking a very easy wide path...

...with great views of the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.

The water must be pristine because it is so clear.  Swimming and boating are prohibited in the reservoir.

Several times along the trail, we passed by these shrubs or low-growing trees with deep red trunks.

The path began to get a little narrower and we also started to climb a little bit.

It also began to be rocky in places but not too bad.  It was a fun, challenging trail to hike. 

The flowers along the trail were beautiful.

We also came across these huge pine cones.

We didn't see any bears, but we did see some deer...

...and this well-fed squirrel.

The trail was a nice mixture of walking through forests...

...walking over rocks...

...and walking over an occasional bridge.

As we got closer to the Wapama Falls, we began descending a series of stone steps.

We could hear the falls as we got closer, but now we could finally see them.

I put my rain jacket on not because of rain but because of the mist from the bottom of the falls.

The force of Wapama Falls could be felt by the midst,

heard by the rushing waters,

...and seen as thousands of gallons of water came pouring down.

As we walked past the falls, we could see the tiny trickle...

...of a waterfall wannabe.

We walked past the Wapama Falls a few steps and found a nice place to eat our snacks...

...and rest our feet.

After sitting there for not long enough, we began our hike back.  Once again, I put my camera away to allow all of my senses to enjoy the wonders of Hetch Hetchy Valley.

When we returned to the car (and after a much needed bathroom break), we ate our lunch at a nearby picnic table at what has become our typical lunch hour:  3 pm.  We then headed back to the campground. 

Later that evening, we got together for our nightly card games.  As predicted in Bonnie's blog, the women won tonight -- most of the games anyways.  The men won 2 games of Sequence Dice and the women won 1 game of Sequence Dice, 5 Crowns and Pinochle.  Bonnie accurately predicted the outcome of the games and Ken accurately predicted that the rain would stop and we would have a great hike. 

Another great day at Yosemite!!