Tuesday, 23 October 2012
Another cold night and I woke up to very stiff limbs after the exertions of the last two days. Still, was determined to make the most of my last day in Yosemite so I forced myself out of the bed and out to face the world! At least it had stopped raining - the major hazard now was being hit by snow or ice dripping off the trees.
I decided to get out of Yosemite Valley and see some of the rest of the National Park. I understand that most visitors don't ever leave the Valley so I decided to buck the trend and see what else was out there. I'd also read about the giant Sequoias and thought that a visit here wouldn't be complete without seeing them.
This entailed a drive of around an hour to just beyond Wawona and I was a little trepidatious to do this drive given the change of weather over the last couple of days. However, all the "Snow Chains Required" signs were firmly spun away from the road and unilluminated so I pressed on. The drive was quite pleasant actually with very few other cars on the road and the roads were by-and-large dry and clear. It was noticeable however that the snow at the side of the road suddenly appeared once I passed 5000ft of elevation. There were a number of look-out points along the way but I pressed on to get to the parking area at Mariposa Grove as quickly as possible. In the end, the biggest stress was finding a parking space and enduring the queue for the toilets at Mariposa Grove - phew!
In the summer there is a tram (sic: actually a sort of open air minibus) available to take you around the Grove but I eschewed that and pressed on on foot. There was a really good explanatory guide available for just 50c that included a map and explanatory text. The trees really are incredible - at least 2000 years old and so resilient. I learnt that they actually thrive on the regular fires that occur in the forest and their roots can spread for 70metres or more underground.
I pressed on beyond the usual tourist route and up to Wawona Point which offered some great views out over the valley. And on the return I went down the road rather than the path which I pleased I did as I meant I got to see the little beauties you can see below.
Some photos offers a better description than any of my text...
This is one of the first Sequoias that you see and the one that many people turn around after seeing. He is a beauty but there are some treasures later on too.
Like this, a replacement for the famous "drive-through" tree that eventually succumbed to the damage that that carving did to it. You can walk through this dude and it is really amazing to get a sense of the scale and size when you're inside it.
This is the original tunnel tree, left in its felled state as a reminder of the damage that past generations have done to the trees and the neighbourhood in general.
These two shots are from the Wawona Point lookout. Note the snow on the mountaintops alongside the lush green valley below. And the two smoke streams in the second photo - I wasn't sure if they were from residential locations or were forest fires.
Tomorrow I leave Yosemite at the crack of dawn to: (deep breath) drive to San Jose, get a flight to Los Angeles, then a bus to LA Station and a train to Houston. I then get to relax on the second of my Amtrak journeys (36 hours of food, scenery and occasional stops). Plus I'm really looking forward to seeing my friend Brad who I met at university in my first term and haven't seen since - it's a testament to the strength of the friendship developed in those ten weeks that he offered without hesitation to host me for a weekend on my trip. Can't wait!