Yosemite is east of Fresno, and once you get to Fresno and begin the drive on HWY 41 to the park, the scenery turns from flat farm land, to rolling hills, to eventually mountains and big trees.
My wife had secured for us a suite at a lodge about 6 miles from the north entrance to the park. There were a couple of bummers to deal with once we arrived. First was the crowd of people, which is to be expected I guess. People were swarming all over the place. We were surprised that many of the visitors were Europeans. There were lots of folks from France, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
Then second was the restaurant – the only one for miles – where not only do they gouge you with the price, but it was where the entire lodge choose to dine at the same time. Thankfully we arrived early enough to be seated immediately, but as the press of people kept arriving, the kitchen was slow in getting our food to us. Our meal didn’t arrive until nearly an hour after we had ordered it, and by that time our children had melted down into insanity. My wife had to take they youngest outside to entertain him, and as we continued to wait, we decided to take our meal back to our room. Our waiter was annoyed with our decision to leave after he brought our food, but I figured removing our fidgeting kids would better serve the other patrons. The hostess lady who was sitting people was more than happy to accommodate us.
However, these were minor hurdles we encountered. The next day we journeyed into Yosemite and it was spectacular. Upon driving into the valley floor, you come face-to-face with El Capitan, a sheer mountain of granite shooting straight up for 3000 feet. The picture above hardly does any justice to the enormity of this mountain. It is one of the most sought after mountains for rock climbers around the world. If a person looks closely, you can see groups of climbers slowly scaling the face.
As we continued into the valley, we were all impressed with how well the roads were maintained and how easy it was for a person to drive around. When we arrived at a parking lot, we had access to a nice bus system that operated everywhere in the park for free. We paid for a tram tour that took us all through out the major portions of the park. The only draw back about the tour was the opened cars we had to ride in. When we weren’t traveling through the forest, we were exposed to the sun. The youngest one is the most fair, and of course he fell asleep almost as soon as we sat down to go on the tour. So, most of my ride was attempting to adjust his body and head and hat to keep him as much out of the sun as I could. It is amazing how a sleeping 20 month old can gain 100 pounds.
We were told to be alert to the presence of bears. They are known to tear apart a mini-van to get to a lone Cheerio dropped in a child’s car seat. Toward the end of our tour, our driver pointed out a bear walking through the woods away from a camping area. It was the first wild bear I had ever seen. The picture has that fuzzy Sasquatch look to it, but you certainly can make out a bear.
The next day we drove through Yosemite Valley and down to the south gate to see the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. I have seen a smaller group of Sequoias in the park south of Yosemite, but this is one of the largest groves of giant Sequoias anywhere on the earth. These trees are absolutely amazing. Some of them are thousands of years old. We were told how scientists are baffled by how they are so resilient and impervious to decay, even after they “die.” For example, one dead Sequoia is called The Fallen Monarch. It fell hundreds of years ago, but the body of the tree remains intact to this day. There are black and white pictures of Union soldiers and prospectors standing on it and we drove by the tree as it was then, except for the paved road.
The trees contain a blood red sap. One tree has been cut through and as you stand inside the cut the blood colored sap oozes along the walls. Another interesting fact about these trees is how they have a need to experience fires. Fires are necessary for the health of the trees and are now intentionally set by the Forest Service.
My theory on these grand giants: They are antediluvian survivors of the flood whose seeds found root in this area and they have been growing ever since. Perhaps they are a unique remnant connecting us today to our pre-flood world.
The only draw back with our visit to the Sequoias was the tram ride we took to see the grove. It was one of the most uncomfortable rides I had ever taken. Not only were the plastic seats terrible to sit on, but the road we traveled was so rough we were bounced with horrible violence. My back is still hurting. During one of our stops, the fellow and his daughter sitting next to me chose to hike the mile or so back to the entrance rather than suffer any longer with this back killing tram. I was worn out with soreness when we got back because of having to steady myself and prevent my kids from being flipped out into the woods.
It was late in the afternoon when we finished seeing the Sequoias and I was ready to start heading back home. My desire at the time was to drive the 4 hours back to Santa Clarita that evening. However, after a long day running through the woods and driving through the mountains, we were tired. I was happy my mother offered to get us a room at a hotel in Fresno. I don’t believe I have ever enjoyed so much staying at The Hampton Inn.
Just a word of exhortation. I certainly would encourage readers to consider visiting Yosemite. Especially if you live with in a day’s driving distance. It is extremely family-friendly, and well maintained and organized by the National Park Service. In a way, I am sort of ashamed I have been living in California for as long as I have and have not made a trip there before this one. We certainly plan to go back, particularly in the springtime when the waterfalls are flowing at full capacity.
If you have the opportunity, check it out.