Thursday, August 16

Deep in the heart of Yosemite

We've reached Yosemite National Park after driving four hours across the state of California. We made Wawona Hotel on the park's southern boundary our first overnight stop. This is an incredibly quaint old Victorian hotel nestled among a grove of towering pine trees. The wooden structure and it's numerous annex buildings have been preserved largely in their original wooden form down to the weathered pine shingles that clad the roof.

Wawona was an ideal staging post for visiting the giant Sequoia trees in Mariposa Grove the following morning. These enormous trees are billed at the most massive living things on Earth. This means that they're not the tallest trees or even trees with the widest trunk; however in total mass these towering giants have no equal. it's an awe inspiring sight to see their red trunks soaring skyward.

Access to the largest grove involves a two-hour hike up a track that rises almost 300 metres in elevation. It's not for the weak hearted. However an open air tram takes tourists up the slope every 30 minutes. No prize for guessing which option we chose. I did get off the tram about one kilometre from the car park to spend a sobering moment walking past these wonderful trees.

Our second night's accommodation is somewhat less salubrious. We've based ourselves in a hard wall tent at Camp Curry. Sadly the tent looks rather worn and definitely not the "glamping" (glamorous camping) experience we'd hoped for. Fortunately the disappointing accommodation is more than compensated for by our simply stunning surroundings. Yosemite Valley is breathtaking. It's proven far more spectacular and jaw-droppingly beautiful than expected. It's easy to see why Abe Lincoln was moved to declare this area the world's first National Park back in 1863.

Our first taste of this remarkable valley came earlier today as we turned into the Tunnel outlook perched high above the valley floor.  This location offfers the most extraordinary view down the entire valley, taking in both its towering granite cliffs, jagged peaks and lush river-side meadows. Our next stop was lunch by the river in the shadow of a granite face called El Capitan, before moving on to hike to the foot of the delicate Bridalveil Falls.

UPDATE: August 16
Our final day was spent exploring the museums and art galleries in Yosemite Village before heading out of town to hike to the foot of the Yosemite Falls. These falls run dry towards the end of Summer so we were thrilled to find some water falling, albeit somewhat haphazardly.  Access to the falls is via a trail carefully constructed so that a row of pines frame the distant falls.  It's the perfect union between nature and planned human intervention.

However, its been the animal encounters that have created the most memorable moments.  Yesterday evening as I sat reading a magazine outside our tent an inquisitive squirrel showed up at my feet.  He was clearly keen on the pre-dinner nibbles I was enjoying.  Incredibly, the furry fellow was soon eating out of my hand.  Amazing.  This experience was then topped this morning when we walked out of our tent and found a deer calmly sitting in the shade of trees nearby.


Posted from my iPhone

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