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Joshua Tree National Park

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What, you may ask is a Joshua Tree?

West of Johannesburg, CA

Stay with me, as I write about the conclusion of my 2013 California vacation and I will tell you (and show you) about these "trees".

Monday morning, August 26, I left Ridgecrest, CA on my way down to Joshua Tree National Park. I was now in the Mojave Desert and it started to feel more like "home", meaning I was back in a desert and it was much warmer than up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Still, the heat here was not as warm as it is in our Sonoran Desert in Arizona, at least not while I was there. 

I could have taken a direct route sticking to US Hwy. 395, but outside Johannesburg, CA, I was intrigued by what seemed to be a mirage of a lake or possibly a salt flat. So, being the inquisitive type that I am, I veered off US Hwy. 395, checked my map and re-routed my trip to go exploring along this other stretch of road. Distances are often deceiving out in the desert, and the far off "lake" was much further away than it initially appeared. As it did finally become more clear, I could see it was not a lake, although I believe, at times it is covered in water. What I most likely was seeing were nitrite deposits, much like what we think of as salt flats. But no cars or other vehicles were racing over these flats trying out for land speed records. It was simply a desolate, long stretch of a dry lake bed. Still being a distance off the road, I did not go down closer to investigate, rather from a distance as I walked part way from my car. 

Clouds were beautiful against the brilliant blue skies, but I could also see that a very large, more massive accumulation of darker clouds were forming to the Southeast. Enjoying my new route with scarce traffic, I eventually headed south again and then east toward Barstow, CA. After lunch and refueling my Santa Fe, I continued south toward Yucca Valley and Twenty Nine Palms, the entrance points to Joshua Tree National Park. After leaving Barstow, the weather from the Southeast steadily darkened the skies and rain descended, heavily at times, even until I neared Twenty Nine Palms, CA. 

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With very low hanging clouds and now a light drizzle, I stopped at the Visitor's Center to Joshua Tree N.P. There I watched a video presentation about the park and got a map of the area. With the rain now having stopped, the cloud cover still hovered just above the earth and as I drove up to and into the park, a heavy fog drifted slow and  low over the landscape, sometimes thick and nearly impenetrable. It was an eerie sight with Joshua Trees, their spiky branches and leaves standing silently, as ghostly images through the thick, hazy mist. There was a stillness that accompanied the fog enshrouded scenes, making it seem even more otherworldly. 

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Stopping several times to take pictures, the fog was steadily floating along, sometimes thickening and at other times thinning out as the trees and rock formations came into and out of focus. As I drove further into the park and the clouds began dissipating, bright blue skies and brilliant white clouds replaced the fog blanketed scenes. This type of entrance into Joshua Tree N.P. was dramatic, as though I were entering from a dimly lit room into a progressively brighter setting that revealed a desert landscape that in it's own right is fantastical. The peculiar, spindly trees offset by the hills and rocks that appear as though fractured or stacked up as blocks of stone upon each other. I was fascinated and was drawn further and further into the park. 

With ever brighting skies, the further I drove the further I wanted to explore this park. Several scenic areas drew me off the road and allowed me to hike back into areas to see even more of what the park offered. But, mostly the rock formations and the Joshua Trees were what was so intriguing about this park. The Joshua Tree is actually a yucca plant that, essentially, is all grown up. They grow in a specific environment and locale much as do our Sonoran Desert Saguaro Cacti, or, as do the Giant Sequoias in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The rock formations with their appearances as blocks of stone, are masses of granite that actually fractured millions of years ago as they were still under the earth. Over time, they were exposed and the forces of Nature, freezing, thawing, etc, split the fractures to how they now appear. 

Having entered this park I had no idea of what I'd find, but soon decided that I'd need to return for more exploration the next day. I continued on a loop road and exited east of where I had entered in Yucca Valley and out near Twenty Nine Palms. That is where I stayed overnight and was up the next morning and back to discover more in the park. 

Driving on side roads I found many places that were so fantastic with all the huge boulders, split rocks and Joshua Trees that I felt like a kid clambering up and over the massive granite formations, down into narrow gaps and up onto the tops to look out over the desert scenes. In all, it is a wondrous place, that drew me in and held me in awe. By what I observed, other visitors, too, were excited to venture amongst the rocks and boulders, around them, over them, upon them. The Joshua Trees, of course, were also fascinating, providing an added element of mystery and beauty to the whole area.

Now well into the afternoon, heading home to Phoenix was where I wanted to go. Along the drive, I was, again, a solitary driver on well paved roads. On a couple of occasions, road graders were scraping dirt off the roadway, from what was deposited after the recent rains. All the way, the drive was splendid. After crossing over the Colorado River into Parker, AZ, I began to notice the lushness of the desert on that far side of the state. It was obvious that they had had ample rain to produce such greenness and healthy growth out in the desert. The evidence of heavy rains with roadside debris and standing water continued from the border and into Wickenburg, AZ, which is 50 miles north of Phoenix.

 Approaching closer to Phoenix, it was now early evening, the night having fallen, my 2013 August adventure ended with memories and stories waiting to be shared.



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Yes, SKULL ROCK, above.


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Walking Amongst Giants

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Sequoia National Park

My trip into the Sierra Nevada Mountains was nearing it's end as I drove south on Generals Highway from Kings Canyon to Sequoia National Park. In Kings Canyon I had already seen many of the Giant Sequoias, but would be seeing even larger trees in this park.

I camped in the Lodgepole Village area, this time pitching my own tent next to a stream. While there was not a very large flow of water due to the drought in California and the dry summer, it did provide the music of a very pleasant and calming flow throughout the night. Lodgepole Village has many campsites and was a very popular place. Many of the visitors with families enjoyed just being by the river and played in the stream during their stays. Being me, of course, I preferred to seek more solitude and avoid the crowds. That said, and my sore toe now well on the mend, I chose to hike back to a waterfall on the Tokopah Valley Trail. I had been told that the waterfall at this time of year was not much more than a trickle but, above all else, I wanted to get out and hike and explore. This trail, at just 1.7 miles one way would not be difficult and ended up being one of the most pleasant walks I'd had in over a week.

The Tokopah Trail followed alongside the stream, or near it, for most of the distance. On several occasions I walked off trial to the river and just enjoyed the water flowing over the rocks and boulders. Many smaller waterfalls and pools were inviting which tempted me to immerse myself in them, but I was in no hurry and just meandered along the trail, stopping frequently to just take in the views, the quietness and the beauty of the day. Many times on my walks and hikes I feel as though I am incapable of seeing all the magnificence that spreads out before me, as though my eyes are not large enough to absorb it and my brain, so overloaded, can not process and store the scenes. So, as I often try to do, I just take my time and will sit and admire, in wonder, what Nature presents me.  The calming effects of being out in and seeing natural beauty are priceless to me.

The trail was not heavily traveled this day, but others were out enjoying their hikes also. At the end of the trail, I scrambled over boulders and over to the waterfall which was at a volume of about a bathtub faucet wide open - not much for a waterfall, but a steady flow just the same. For the next several hours I hung around, away from others, who came back on the trail. Some came down over the boulders and to a lower pool of water, where they got in and relaxed. I preferred my higher perch and looked back down the valley, up at the surrounding cliffs, the sound of the falling water behind me providing a soothing sound. While there I sat and just watched as hikers filtered in, some ventured out toward me, others down to the water pool and others who ventured no further beyond the lookout point at trails end. Spreading out on the flat granite surface, I laid in the sun and dozed off. 

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Eventually, though, it was time to move on and start my return to camp. I took even more time returning than on the hike into the canyon. The changing light of the day intrigued me, shadows falling across the path, a patch of sunflowers highlighted in a spotlight of the sun, the glint of light on the water, a spider web backlit in sunlight. It all helps to slow my pace and want to just stop and see it, savoring the scenes. And so I did, I went to the stream, off to see the flowers, out onto the rocks. 

No hurry, no worry. 

On the return, off the trail but along the river, I found a small waterfall and then a couple of rounded out bathtub size pools, through which the water continued to flow. This looked perfect for slipping into and letting the water flow over and rinse  me off. But alas, it was also discovered by a few others and offered no real solitude for me. Still, I was tempted and decided to try coming back to this spot the next day. 

The following day I took the shuttle bus down to Giant Forest to see more of the Giant Sequoias. One of the largest, the General Sherman is there and it is one HUGE tree! I sat nearby and enjoyed my lunch as I watched the crowds who were surrounding the area, looking at the tree taking photos. I knew I needed to be away from all those crowds. Looking at my trail map I decided to hike a trail that led through the forest and then to the Giant Forest Museum a little more than a 2 mile walk. There I could catch the shuttle bus and return to Lodgepole Village.

This was an impressive hike. Not for any difficulty, but rather for the opportunity to walk amongst these giant trees. I was awe struck, looking up, the giants standing tall, their sprawling girth and sheer size overshadowing me. I had a very satisfying walk in the midst of the giants.

The further I went along the Congress Trail, the fewer people I saw. Again, taking a leisurely stroll on such a pleasant day suited me just fine, deep in my own thoughts, marveling at creation. With very few people on this end of the trail, the stillness and solitariness fit me quite nicely.

After a brief visit to the Giant Forest Museum, I jumped on the next shuttle bus back to my camp. The bus stopped near the Tokopah Trial, so this offered me the chance to hike back to that ideal looking bathing spot I had seen the day before. Again enjoying just hiking along the path, I found  even more people than the previous day were now enjoying the waters. So, not being deterred, I simply hiked a distance further, went off trail to the river and found another spot, more secluded and with no other people nearby. 

What I found was a narrow cut back into the granite from which flowed a narrow waterfall. This was a perfect setting, off the trail, and back into a narrow vestibule. 

Wasting no time I changed into my bathing suit, and cautiously walked into and the chamber and sat under the falling water. While chilly, it was not extremely cold. It was delightful! Rinsing and cleansing me, the cool waters also felt very good on my feet. Coming back out to the granite rocks, I laid down in the sunlight, absorbing the heat from the rock as well as from the sun itself. This was precisely the kind of place I sought and was able to now fully savor. 

The sunlight, too soon, gave way to shadows which spread over the boulders where I lie, giving me little option but to abandon my little piece of heaven and head back to camp. As I had the day before, I strolled along and admired all I could see, thinking I would love to return to this place some time in the future. Already, I found myself contemplating returning to the Sierra Nevada Mountains for further adventures and exploration. Time will tell when that may become a reality.

Early the next morning, I packed up my camp and drove south, to the last major stop in Sequoia. From there I took another shuttle to Moro Rock and then Crescent Meadow. Moro Rock, is a granite dome with a ¼ mile trail up nearly 400 steps to it's top. Narrow stairways, at times, meant standing aside as others were coming down, but the hike up was well worth the effort. The views are great, although there is considerable pollution that makes for a hazy vista. Part of the hazy pollution is due to the farming in the distant San Joaquin Valley. Still, I enjoyed looking out over the land in all directions. Of particular note to me, from this height and vantage point, was the road down below. It revealed the route I was soon to follow which had many hairpin turns as it wound down out of the mountains. Once I was upon that road, it was even more winding and wild than what I could see from Moro Rock.

Reboarding a shuttle, I got off at Crescent Meadow and set off on a long trail, through Giant Sequoias and pines, the slopes of which were blanketed in ferns, sunlight casting dappled shadows and light over the land. 

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Not far into the hike, a family further ahead of me suddenly were heard shouting in excitement. 

I could imagine why…

Yes, as I suspected, as I came into their view, a bear was just ahead off them off the trail, and simply grazing in a small brook. It was merely 12 feet away and was unperturbed by our presence. Still it pays to be cautious and I was glad to see this family not trying to feed the bear or otherwise disturb his own tranquility. The bear wandered off in his own good time. I watched from a distance and kept it in sight as he wandered off and then back across the trail further along the way. 

My first bear sighting during the whole trip! 

So they DO exist. I had begun to wonder if I'd ever see any.

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At the beginning of this whole trip, the one thing that made me hesitant, even afraid, was all that I read and was warned about concerning bears. All the precautions we were to take, storing food and scented items in bear boxes everywhere I went, keeping cars free of tempting, tasty items from the bears, not getting between a mother and her cubs - gee, yeah, I was a little more than just scared. All the cautions made it seem like the bears were swarming the forests, lurking behind the boulders and trees lying in wait to attack and devour any hapless hikers. Ha, as it turned out, bears were scarce wherever I wandered. But to actually get the chance to see even one, was a thrill. These are black bears, though they may be brownish in color. I was surprised by the bear's size - much smaller than I had imagined, not the ten foot monsters, standing on their hind legs, rearing up and ready to pounce. 

With the bear ambling off into the forest and out of sight, I continued my own ambling along the trail, again, simply enjoying my day and another pleasant hike. Following along the meadow's edge, eventually I came upon Tharp Log, a small cabin made into a fallen Sequoia and occupied in the summers by Hale Tharp, an early pioneer. 

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As I returned to the shuttle stop, a family stopped me to ask if I had seen a bear and cub, which I had not. I had heard some commotion across the meadow from other people prior, and imagine that was had caused their excitement. While not having seen that pair of bruins, I was content to be able to say I had seen one bear on this trip.

That changed not long after I had gotten back to my car and began my drive down out of the mountains. 

Still in the forest, enjoying by final leg on General's Highway, rounding a bend, there, in the road was a mother bear and a cub. Immediately I came to a stop, as did a car approaching from the opposite direction. She and her cub were in no hurry, but continued across the road and then up an embankment into the woods. As soon as I had stopped I grabbed my camera and took a couple of pictures. I did NOT get out of my car. 

Wow! Two bears sightings in one day. How cool is that?

Now,  back on my way, I was soon to reach the twists and turns that I had seen from atop Moro Rock. This was a thrilling ride. The road began descending quickly, steeply. Using my lower gears, I saved my brakes as much as possible. Down and down and down I drove, slowly. Sharp curves, hairpin turns, steep drop-offs, amazing views, all demanding my attention as I slowly dropped down from and out of the the forest above. Occasionally I did stop at viewpoints so that I could get better glimpses of the scenes. It was amazing.

That slow drive down from Sequoia Forest finally brought me down to the small town of Three Rivers, CA. where I spent the night at a motel. This is the eastern side of the San Joaquin Valley still on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The next morning I continued south now through part of the farm land of San Joaquin Valley, with what I believe were large groves of nut trees. Then heading East on Hwy. 178, I found myself back in the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The hills there were brown and dry, trees sparsely rooted up the slopes. 

But what surprised me most was that I continued to ascend, higher and higher, along more steep climbs, winding back up into the mountains. This climb seemed even more intense, possibly because I thought I had seen the last of steep mountain roads, only to be confronted with more. Highest point was near 6000 feet before descending on the eastern side through Walker Pass. On the other side, I connected with Hwy 395 and stopped overnight in Ridgecrest, CA. This area is on the southern end of the China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center, so, more or less, a military based community. Ridgecrest was a good sized town, much to my surprise, and had many motel choices available. Not so much so with restaurant choices however, at least other than typical fast food and chain eateries. I typically avoid chain restaurants, but had little choice but to have dinner at a Denny's. It was sufficient. 

Counting down to the final days of my vacation, the next morning I began heading further south and continued on to Joshua Tree National Park, one of the newest National Parks. 

That is where I will pick up the rest of my story.



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Kings Canyon

Mariposa Grove, an impressive stand of Giant Sequoia trees, is just south of Yosemite Valley. Naturally, I stopped there to see them for myself. Instead of driving my own car through this forest to see the grove, I parked and boarded a shuttle bus that was just then boarding as I approached it. Again, I was very happy to just take the shuttle and enjoy the ride up and back. 

My blistered toe was still causing me some discomfort, but at Mariposa Grove, I did the shorter hike on a paved trail to the Giant Sequoias. The hike was tolerable, and the route I hiked was "enough" under the circumstances. Along the way to Mariposa Grove, I had stopped at a couple of spots along the road for my first glimpses at the massive trees and learned more about them.

 Giant Sequoias are not the tallest trees in the world, nor even in the places I visited in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The coastal California Redwoods (a different conifer) are taller and slimmer than these Giant Sequoias.But Giant Sequoias are the largest living trees in total volume. And they really are impressive. 

At one time in this nation's history, there was a common belief that much that the Earth provides was inexhaustible, that there would always be more, whether that be minerals, clean water, precious metals, animals or trees. Thankfully, other, more practical and sensible people knew that almost anything can be depleted and wiped off the face of the earth, especially when, in this case, no new growth was allowed to take the place of what had been stripped from the Earth. Still, for the sake of making a dollar and exploiting these natural resources, some people managed wholesale destruction of huge tracts of these forests. And, as I learned, once most of the Giant Sequoias were felled, their structure and sheer volume actually caused them to splinter, making the wood nearly unusable for lumber. Most of the logging of the Sequoias, even into the 1920's, resulted in the wood being relegated to use as shingles, fence posts and even matchsticks.There is a natural ability of most of the Giant Sequoias to resist pestilence, fire and other forces of nature. Fires are a natural occurrence, often by lightning strikes, which then, in the natural course of things burns off the underbrush, allowing sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor.The fires actually release the seeds, that then can grow in the ash enriched soil left after the fires. Then with moisture, seedlings sprout and begin to grow. The Giant Sequoias  had no protection from mankind however, until public outcry, finally, resulted in these magnificent trees being protected and preserved.

The largest of the Giant Sequoias is over 300 feet, tall and the largest in diameter was recorded at 56 feet in diameter. 

That's a BIG tree! 

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These trees originated in the time of the dinosaurs, but now only exist on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. Some of these remaining giants have endured for 3500 years. Imagine what they could say, if they could talk. 

But, as a matter of fact, they do speak to us, as in a connection to all of nature in one way, spiritually to those of us who connect to Earth in such a meaningful way, and by the tree rings that are a journal of their lives. On display at one location, many of that tree's rings were marked, outer rings marking the year of it's having been felled, and then like being drawn into a time machine spiraling back in time, 100 years, 200 years, 300, 500, 1000, 2000 - one is transported to the past, two millennium  and beyond. In those rings of time are recorded years of rapid growth, years of drought, and years of fires. Through it all, the giants still stand guard, silently, steadfastly, anchored to the past and yet prospering and recording our own days upon the Earth. 

As the day was slipping away when I returned to my car, and though Mariposa Grove was a mere 34 miles south of Yosemite Valley, my leisurely drive and sightseeing had consumed most of the day. Not really wanting to find a campground and pitch my tent, I had the urge to press on and find a comfortable motel bed, a good meal and internet service. Following along Rt. 41 winding down out of the Sierra Nevada foothills, I ended the day in Oakhurst, CA. Next day I planned to head to Kings Canyon National Park upon a longer, scenic route along the western edge of the mountains. 

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Initially, that drive was on track taking me through some smaller towns, lakes and on country roads with little traffic. But along the way, a missed turn led me to Fresno, CA instead. This had taken me out of the mountains and into the San Joaquin Valley. Not being deterred, I stopped for lunch there, consulted my map and adjusted my route, headed East and climbed up the lower western Sierra Nevada Mountain slopes arriving at Grant Grove Village in Kings Canyon N.P. by mid afternoon. With no reservations and all of their tent cabins rented, I went to the nearest campground and pitched my tent for the night. One of the largest Giant Sequoias, the General Grant, was nearby, so that is where I hiked. Roundtrip from my camp to General Grant and back was a couple of miles, which, thankfully, had become easier as my sore toe continued to heal.

As I sat at my picnic table reading after dark, rain drops forced me into my tent. Still not being tired I lie there reading until sleep slipped up on me, the sound of gentle raindrops tapping softly upon my tent. Curled up and snuggled tightly in my sleeping bag, I pulled the covers up around my head to ward off the night chill and drifted off to sleep. 

Early the next morning, after dismantling my campsite, I planned my day's activities in Kings Canyon. First I checked to see if they had any available tent cabins. Lucky me, I was able to rent for two nights. 

Panoramic Point was 2 miles up the mountain from Grant Grove Village on a winding road, and so, driving slowly, I wound my way to the top. Below lay Kings Canyon. The view helped me plan the rest of my day.

Down below, Scenic Highway CA Rt 180 snaked down into the valley. That was to be my day's exploration. The highway, ends far down in the valley, whereupon, the drive is back up and out of the canyon. The day, as they all had been, was perfect. Blue skies, billowy white clouds and fantastic scenery around every bend in the road. Stopping at on overlook, I saw more of what lie ahead of me - a winding road zig-zagging ever downward. From the higher vantage points, the road continued far further, deeper into the valley, much of the time hugging mountain sides and cliffs, while only a short stone wall clung to the opposite edge dropping off to the King River far below. It was a FUN drive!

Once down to the canyon floor, following the river, I stopped several times to see waterfalls and to walk into the river on boulders jumbled about in the swiftly flowing waters. It surprised me to see many people all the way down in the valley enjoying the cool mountain stream, some fly fishing other jumping off into a deep pool, children frolicking and wading as parents kept a watchful eye.


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Now, as far as I could drive and not wanting to attempt any hikes, I stopped at Cedar Grove Lodge in the bottom of Kings Canyon and grabbed some lunch as I headed back up and out of the canyon. Along the way I stopped to tour Boyden Cavern. Before entering the cave, threatening clouds were forming further down in canyon. Rain looked inevitable. The cavern was not particularly large, but they always intrigue me. As I left the cavern, some raindrops started to fall. The drive out was just as thrilling as the drive down, but this time I drove on the deep drop-off side of the canyon, getting glimpses down to the river. 

It was a LONG way down. 

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My tent cabin was ready when I returned to Grant Village and I was thankful that I did not have to pitch a tent with even the scattered drizzle that followed me up out of Kings Canyon. The bed was comfortable, extra blankets available if needed (yes, it was needed) but no electricity which was just fine. We were provided with a solar battery lantern, that provided sufficient light, even by which to read after dark. 

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The following day I had heard that a fire lookout tower was up beyond Panoramic Point, so I drove back up, found the trial and started off through the forest up to the tower. Other that two or three others that passed me, this was a very pleasant hike which I find uplifting and satisfying. At the lookout tower, I first took in the views from all directions, then climbed up to visit with the person on duty in the tower. This being another first for me, it was thrilling to see everything from an even higher vantage point. I found the man there actually volunteers for this duty, as do others. His shift was for 4 or 5 days and he showed me the equipment he uses to help determine the location of a possible fire, how it's distance is measured from several points and how he keeps in contact with a two-way radio. Other than a few hikers who may come up there to visit, his is a very solitary job. 

My foot feeling much better, the 4 mile roundtrip hike to the tower caused me little discomfort, which was heartening as I planned to walk more extensively in Sequoia National Park on my next stop on this trip.

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After breakfast the next morning I set out on the final leg of my journey through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This time I'd be exploring the larger stands in Sequoia National Park.

It would not disappoint me.


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Go to my Shutterfly page by clicking on the link below:

https://azdonstravels.shutterfly.com 

Click on the pictures/videos section and see the albums I have downloaded there. Upon opening albums, if you choose ALL the whole album will open, then choose SLIDESHOW from above, then click on FULL SCREEN on that page, you will get the best viewing of all the pictures. 

Yosemite Valley

"El Capitan"

Having left Tuolumne Meadow Stables, I headed west on Tioga Road, down, out of the High Sierras on my way to the Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Village. Drowsiness started to creep up on me, but did not overtake me. As I neared the Valley, rounding a bend on the winding road, I was suddenly aroused from my lull.

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I had thought the sights I had seen up in the High Sierras were amazing, and awesome. What blasted into my vision brought me to full attention. The rock formations of the mountains from this lower level down from the mountain tops was mind boggling. You could say it blew my mind. Eye popping and jaw dropping, simultaneously, I had to stop my car at the first available turn-off so that I could simply try to start taking in the views. These are the scenes most people associate with Yosemite and that draw visitors here from around the world. But seeing this astounding beauty captured me, enveloped me and left me in awe. 

John Muir, naturalist, preservationist, author was instrumental in helping establish Yosemite as a National Park. The Sierra Nevada Mountains held a very special place in his soul and his explorations and writings helped gain it attention and ultimate preservation. In some of his writings he refers to Yosemite with all it's majestic mountains, monoliths, cliffs and waterfalls as a temple: "no temple made with hands can compare with Yosemite". Likening Yosemite as Nature's Temple is an apt description. I can only imagine the reverence he experienced in this inspiring place. Muir's influences extend beyond Yosemite, incorporating all of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and other forests as well. I say, "thank you John Muir" for your influence in helping preserve for future generations this and the other National Parks in the United States. 

As I drove into the park, it was not easy to keep my eyes on the road and upon all the traffic. This was certainly a VERY popular destination for thousands of people. While here I stayed in the "housekeeping camp", which was a sizable area with duplex type structures, with 3 concrete walls, a 4th canvas covered open wall, a covered patio, a double and one bunk bed. They all have electricity, a shelf unit for storage and the obligatory bear box for food storage. As I found out, it was like a small village, many, many families converging there, where they could "housekeep", cooking their own meals on the patios, enjoy all of the park's amenities and sights, with restrooms and showers nearby. Many of the families also spent considerable time in the Merced River as well. 

By now I had started to become quite accustomed to this more "civilized" type of camping. Within an enclosure I did not have to pitch, and sleeping upon a mattress, restrooms nearby, as well as showers and restaurants, why bother with a small tent, sleeping on the ground, cooking freeze dried meals, and all that "roughing it" stuff? 

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With this as my base camp, I had intended to do some rather extensive hiking up some of the steepest trails to high overlooks and thought of even tackling Half Dome, one of the most recognized landmarks within Yosemite. Unfortunately my blistered toe terminated those plans. Each day, with more healing, the discomfort lessened, but long hikes up and down mountain trails were impossible and I was grounded to the valley floor. 

Soon after arriving I had seen open air trams that were taking visitors around the park to see the scenery. I sought that out immediately. Basically seated on a flatbed with unobstructed views, a ranger guide narrating for the passengers, I was able to get an overview of the park, with history and highlights pointed out to me. A very good introduction to Yosemite Valley. Thereafter I took the free shuttle bus as often as needed to other places in the park and also started to increase my walking about. If I were far away from camp and felt uncomfortable, I'd simply go to a bus stop and ride back in comfort. Once my car is parked, I like taking the shuttles within the National Parks. It becomes far too tense and frustrating trying to drive with so many other people on the roads. 

Three reserved nights in Yosemite Valley were adequate for this visit. In the future, I would like to return and then do the hiking I had hoped to do. So, here is another place that deserves more of my attention and exploration. At this time of year, many of the waterfalls here were not even a trickle. To experience those, I'd need to return at another time when water is flowing again. 

Referring to the top photo, EL CAPITAN, would you believe that rock climbers scale it, almost daily? Many of those who climb it take a couple of days to ascend it's 3000 foot sheer wall. On the tram ride, one climber was pointed out as we stopped and squinted up to see his ant size shape, resting at that time on a barely visible, narrow ledge before climbing upward as we drove away. At night they rig up a hammock and sleep, suspended, way up on the cliff face. 

NO THANK YOU! 

Having enjoyed 3 restful, non strenuous days in Yosemite Village, it was time for me to venture forth on to King's Canyon National Park. I decided to take my good old time and spent most of the rest of the day just driving to Oakhurst, CA where I spent the night.


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These photos, below, were taken from Glacier Point, high above Yosemite Village. This was from an overlook road on the way out of Yosemite Valley. Note the two waterfalls in the first photo.


Half Dome, as seen from Glacier Point.