California Days – Big Trees

September 14th, 2017 3 comments

“You go away for a long time and return a different person – you never come all the way back.”  (Paul Theroux)

big tree 3It was always about seeing the trees – the big ones – I mean the really big ones in California. There were other places and things we wanted to see and do but, if we were not going to see those trees, then we probably weren’t going to go at all. We had wanted to see the Giant Sequoia Redwoods for as long as I can remember.  We had been close some years ago when we went to San Francisco on a business trip but just hadn’t made it to Sequoia National Park. We had promised that we, like McArthur, would someday return. (For those readers who are too young to remember General Douglas McArthur….or hearing about him in History class, here’s a link to give you more information about him and why he would want to return….to the Philippines, not to the California coast to see Redwood trees.)

And so, we did return to California to see the Big Trees. Our original plans had been to circle the Sierra Nevada mountains beginning with Yosemite, then moving down to King’s Canyon and then to Sequoia. So far, we were on track. We flew into Sacramento, spent a couple days making our way to Yosemite where we spent four marvelous, albeit crowded, days roaming around that park, then took a recovery (laundry, plan, and rest) day in Fresno, and then headed east to Kings Canyon National Park where we had our first encounter with the giant trees.

The Giant Sequoias are also known as Giant Redwoods, Sierra Redwoods, Wellingtonian Redwoods, or, as we think of them, simply as the “Big Trees”. Their range is a narrow band along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. These trees are not the more familiar Coastal Redwoods that many think of when one thinks of Redwoods. That’s a different tree although in the same botanical family (just another tree in the old family tree, I suppose?). Coastal Redwoods are known for being the tallest trees in the world; Sequoia Redwoods for being the biggest, by volume….although they can be pretty tall too.

We had seen Coastal Redwoods in Oregon….well, near the coast. But Sequoia Redwoods only grow at high altitudes – 5000-8000 feet above sea level….you know, up where I have trouble walking and breathing at the same time. There are currently between 65 and 75 groves of the big trees. The groves range from groups with hundreds of trees to the smallest grove with only six living specimens remaining.

big tree 1There are Sequoias in Yosemite too. In case you’re wondering why we didn’t see them there, there’s a simple explanation.  There are three groves in Yosemite – Tuolumne, Merced, and Mariposa Groves.  Mariposa Grove is, perhaps, the most well-known grove to visitors to the area since they are relatively easily accessible and a big part of the Yosemite attractions. But they were not accessible at all this year.  About a year ago, Mariposa Grove was closed to visitors to refurbish the area near the grove for the protection of the trees and to re-do the parking lot such that most visitors will be required to park personal vehicles off-site in the future and be shuttled into the site.

We had looked forward to seeing Mariposa Grove because that was the one that used to have the “tunnel tree” that a car could be driven through…before the tree fell. After all, carving out the middle of a tree cannot be good for it and it is bound to fall at some point. I have read that the tree was still there…on the ground….so you could still see it and marvel at its huge-ness…even in death.

dead giant

Dead Giant.

inside tree

Standing inside the trunk of a dead tree. There was plenty of head room even for folks much taller than me.

So, the grove was scheduled to be opened again in spring 2017…..and that became summer 2017…and finally, autumn 2017.  I’m not sure when the grove is scheduled to be opened again at this point. All I know is that we missed the opportunity to see it on this trip.

We considered going to Tuolumne Grove but when the ranger advised that the hike down (approximately a mile) wasn’t too bad but the hike back up to the parking area was not for the faint-hearted. He didn’t say much but he looked at my poor ole out-of-shape body with a knowing eye. I took the hint….after all, I wasn’t born yesterday.  He was right as I was later to discover – hiking a trail that runs pretty much straight up at high altitudes is not for me….and I discovered that almost all of the trails in the Sierra Nevada’s run on an incline…going down is okay, going up is misery.  Lastly, I never quite figured out where Merced Grove was, so we decided to focus our exploration of the big trees on those in Sequoia National Park.

drive thru

There is no longer a tree you can drive through…but you can certainly drive between them on General’s Highway.

We entered Sequoia from the north by way of Kings Canyon. Highway 180 out of Fresno runs due east and right into the mountains and Kings Canyon National Park (KCNP) which is where, as noted above, we first saw the Big Trees. Inside Kings Canyon you can continue on 180 to visit that NP or you can take a turn south on General’s Highway (198) to drive straight down through Sequoia NP.   We took this route several times – each time entering in the north and driving south all the way down through the park.

 

I have to say that everywhere we drove in the Sierra Nevada Mountains was a white-knuckle experience. Jerry focused on the forty feet on the road directly in front of him and I tried to see as much as I could while trying not to look straight down off the edge of the road on my side of the van…where there were few, if any, guardrails. We found it amusing that the highway department (I suppose) had dumped small mounds of gravel at some points on the edges of the roads right along the curves like that was supposed to stop a car from driving right off the road! I mean, seriously, I could have kicked those mounds of gravel off the road with one foot tied behind my back. But we survived and, by the end of the trip, I had gained a whole new appreciation for and an understanding of those people who are afraid of heights.

Grant Grove

Grant’s Grove in Kings Canyon National Park

But back to the trees and our first stop at Grant’s Grove in Kings Canyon. Oh my! The trees were everything we had expected them to be…and so much bigger than we had imagined them to be.

 

Sequoidendron giganteum – the scientific name is very appropriate. Let’s see – giganteum sounds about right – giants. They are indeed giants. Dendron comes from the Greek word for tree – δένδρον – which I immediately recognize as being a part of rhododendrons’ name also. Now, Sequoia has been said to relate to the Cherokee Indian Chief – Sequoyah – who is noted for being the individual who recorded and documented the Cherokee alphabet, one of the very few languages of Native Americans that was documented and recorded. However, it seems that the first part of the name – Sequoi – just might have been taken from the Latin word “Sequi” which means “to follow” and has to do with the number of seeds in the cones following a mathematical sequence with other species being discovered and identified at the time (mid-1800’s)….or something like that according to Wikipedia.  But doesn’t that sound so terribly scientific and boring? Hey, I’m sticking with the Indian Chief story – he was a really big guy to his people – standing tall as a tree perhaps, maybe even a giant.

dead crown

The top of one of the trees which may have been damaged by lightning. This damage did not kill the tree as it is still living. It is apparently not unusal for the tops to be damaged/destroyed and the tree continues to live.  You can see by the growth of lichen and moss that the top has been damaged for many years.

We noticed right off that many of the trees are fenced in to protect them…from us. I guess their biggest enemy might be people who try to “enjoy” them to death. At first we were a bit disappointed because we had been saving up for a long time to grab ahold of one of those trees and give it a big ole hug. Yes, we are both tree-huggers and have done lots of hugging in the past and plan to do lots more in the future. Fortunately, not all the trees were corralled off and protected…just mainly the bigger and older named ones so we did find great opportunities to show a little love to those trees.

first hug

Getting the Very First Hug. You can really sense how massive the trees are when you get up close and personal.  We hugged quite a few of the trees on our way through the park….and would have hugged them all if we could have.

General Grant is the second largest tree in the world…after General Sherman.  You will note that most of these named trees seem to be named after Civil War generals. That’s because many of the trees were discovered in the years after the Civil War when the west was being explored and settled….and being many of the explorers were military and part of the Union Army, most of the trees have names commemorating Union Generals.

 

rooting around

Just rooting around a bit.

But back to size and records…..as noted, the General Sherman is the biggest of the big in terms of volume coming in at 274.9 feet tall, 79 feet in girth at breast high and 1026 feet around at ground level. The first branch of the General Sherman is at 130 feet.

 

sherman

The Mighty General Sherman Tree. It is massive but difficult to get into one photo. Note that the photo only shows the bottom section of the tree. Those first branches are about 130 ft from the ground.

There were trees taller than the General Sherman – the biggest are not always the tallest. The tallest tree on earth – one of the Coastal Redwoods – is about 50% taller than the General Sherman.  Oh, when they calculate the volume of the tree they do not count the branches…so Sherman is the biggest without its branches. It is estimated to weigh in at about 2.5 million pounds or 2500 tons give or take a few hundred pounds.

 

The tree is about 2000 years old but there are some trees in the area that are estimated to be about 4000 years old. We found a slice of tree (smaller) that had been placed on end so you could see the rings but I was having trouble getting a good photo because a couple of little girls were busy counting the rings. So we waited…and waited….and waited but then decided to just take the picture and move on down the trail. We came back about 30 minutes later and the girls were still at it counting away.

counting rings 1

I’m not sure how long they had been at it before we got there, but these two children were there at least 30 minutes after we arrived counting away.

counting rings 2

Jerry finally gets a shot at counting the rings….but I think he was just standing amazed and not doing much counting.

Something else I found out when doing a little research on the trees….and there is a very good website for the Big Trees (see below for the link)… is that in the late 1800’s Giant Sequoia seeds (saplings?) were taken to Europe and planted there and they are thriving there. The tallest is now about 177 feet tall; the thickest is about 35 feet in girth. The largest grove of about 50 trees was planted in 1863 and is in a botanical garden in Benmore Argyll (like the socks) in Scotland. Now that gives me another place to add to my bucket list of places to visit.

big foot

This tree’s base reminded me of some ancient animal’s foot or those giant feet on the elephant like robot machines in the Star Wars movies.

We noticed right away that the trees have reddish brown bark….once you have seen one tree, you begin to be able to pick them out in the forest because of that red bark. The bark is soft and when you knock on it, a hollow sound is produced. It actually sounds and feels like the bark is not totally attached to the tree’s core. The trees seemingly live forever. What kills them? Drought and shading and sometimes fire although you can see the burn marks on quite a few trees that are still standing and surviving. The tree’s resin makes them pest proof and somewhat fireproof.  I think maybe we (humans) have killed them more than any other single thing in the past.

 

big tree 2The wood quality is rather low so the trees were not logged as much as you would think. Most of the Sequoias are in National or State Parks (Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Sequoia, Calaveras, etc.) now and are protected. Some were logged in the past but since logging the Sequoias is now prohibited by law in the US, even those outside the parks are mostly protected. God protect us and the trees though from loonies who want to destroy something just because they can.

The last big grove of trees we visited was at Crescent Meadows. We walked into the area in late afternoon when most of the people were gone for the day. We found a bench where we could just sit and admire the trees circling the meadow. There was a nice trail around the meadow that would have been lovely and given us more close up views of the trees but, at this time, we were just content to sit and marvel at the trees knowing we were at the lower end of the park and seeing the last big grove that we would see before making our way out of the area for good. We knew that we probably wouldn’t be back to this park to see these trees again in our lifetimes….maybe…but most likely not.

Meadows

Crescent Meadows in Sequoia National Park. The meadow is surrounded by Giant Sequoia Trees of all sizes and ages. It was beautiful and peaceful beyond imagination.

So we sat in the stillness of the evening in quiet solitude and admired the trees…some young and some very old. The impact of seeing and touching the trees had been so amazing…words just cannot express the emotions I felt at being in the presence of living entities that had been alive since the time that Jesus had walked on earth and may still be here standing on his return. I found that, sitting there, I could understand why ancient peoples would have marveled at the majestic trees and worshipped them as divine entities that could seemingly live forever.

 

But how then can we worship the creation without remembering the creator?

I saw Paul Theroux’s quote and said, “Exactly!”  Every trip we have taken has been an adventure and the memories we have made are simply amazing. But nothing prepared us for the experience we had in those few days we spent in Sequoia National Park with the Giant Sequoia Trees. And it is true that, indeed, we did not come all the way back……for we left a small part of us there with those big trees but we did bring back something with us that was even more beautiful in return.

baby tree

Another generation is born. Will he stand for 2000 years?

Sources for Factual Information:

  1. Monumental Trees https://www.monumentaltrees.com/en/trees/giantsequoia/california/

  2. General Sherman https://www.monumentaltrees.com/en/trees/giantsequoia/biggest_tree_in_the_world/

  3. Paul Theroux Quote https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/151596-you-go-away-for-a-long-time-and-return-a

      4.  Giant Sequoia  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sequoiadendron_giganteum

Categories: Birding Tags:

California Days – Yosemite

August 29th, 2017 2 comments

half dome pano

When I was a child, I slept in what my family called the “middle room” with two of my sisters. The middle room was a bit oversized for our humble home with three large windows centered on one side that overlooked one of mama’s many flower beds. The room had three twin beds evenly spaced across the room with the middle bed centered on the center window. Mom had bought three bedspreads from one of the traveling salesmen that came through the area occasionally – two blue and one red, otherwise the spreads were identical with some sort of satiny material that I thought was just too special and, of course, made my bed seem like it was fit for a princess and not the “tom boy” that I usually was. (For the record, my older sister and I had the blue spreads and my younger sister got the red.)

But this memory is not about the bedspreads. It is about a print that hung high on the wall in our bedroom. This was before Better Homes and Gardens or some such magazine clued us in that pictures should be hung at eye level to better enjoy them. Or, maybe it was just that I was small and the picture seemed like it was hung high up on the wall to me.  But it did seem like it was positioned almost up to the ceiling of the room and the print was faded to a soft green so that I could not quite tell what it was a picture of…but I could see there was a huge rocky cliff and maybe a pond or lake. The viewpoint was as if you were standing right at the edge of that water with it almost lapping right up onto your toes. The solid rock cliff was huge and took up most of one side of the whole scene. And, no matter how I squinted and tried to make out the rest of the picture, I just could not tell what was on the other side of that water…..more mountains, I think. The print was just too faded for me to see much more than an echo of the original scene.

first look half dome

Our First Look at Half Dome and El Capitan from Highway 140

Over the years, I forgot about that print but I think maybe that might have been an old picture of Yosemite National Park that was maybe cut from a magazine or book and framed and somehow ended up in our house and, ultimately, in my bedroom. I cannot be sure but it seems possible.  So, years later, I decided I wanted to go to Yosemite someday and see if maybe there was something in the park that matched my memories of that print.  Now, y’all all know children’s memories are not great no matter how good they are and it is entirely possible that the faded print was one of those pictures of the little girl standing on the shore of a pond being watched over by an angel that is so popular and that hangs in just about every poor family’s house in the Bible Belt in the south. But I got it into my head that it was Yosemite and I wanted to see that place so that’s the memory I’m sticking with….at least for this blog.

Well, someday finally got here and I finally got to go to Yosemite. And, as we roamed around checking out each attraction in the national park, I tried to imagine if it fit into the scene of that picture on the wall that was in my head. But after a bit,  I got over all that. Yosemite is so full of beautiful things to see that I quickly stopped trying to placate an old memory and just concentrated on enjoying myself….and ignoring the masses of people who had all decided to visit the park exactly when we were visiting the park.  Now, I’m not saying they all came there just because I was there but sometimes I have to say that it feels like people are following me around where ever I go.

spire over the falls

View of a Pinnacle Overlooking Yosemite Falls

Nope, chalk it up to planning and happenstance. Every year something like four (4) million people visit Yosemite and almost all of them visit in the summer. It makes sense because the park is in the mountains and pretty much snowed in most of the winter.  Even if it isn’t snowed in (yes, it is open for business in the winter too), it is pretty cold and most people do not want to spend their time looking at frozen waterfalls and hiking in snow in freezing temperatures.  Yes, there are some who do and we will leave them to it, as far as I am concerned.  So, if you limit the available time for visiting the park in good weather to maybe four (4) months – June, July, August, & September, it doesn’t matter how you spread out 4 million, it always works out that you’re gonna be crowded and aggravated by someone getting in your way…..and into almost all of your photographs of waterfalls and granite domes and other famous attractions.

So planning is dicey. I planned many months ahead but still could only get lodging reservations in the park for about four (4) nights in July. We would have preferred May or later in September but the cooler (but not frost-bitten) times get booked up quickly.  There is the alternative of staying outside the park (more lodging, not necessarily less expensive) but then you have to deal with the hour plus drive (or shuttle) each morning into the park…not to mention going home exhausted in the evening.  And then there is parking inside the park….of which there is quite a bit but none available by maybe 9:00 AM.  So we opted to try to get lodging in the park but, as noted, had to take what we could get…..and that was July.

arches

The Arches as Viewed From Glacier Point

While I’m on parking, the park provides a shuttle service to all the sites in the park on what they refer to as the “valley floor”. When most people think of Yosemite, they think of Yosemite Valley (about 5.9 square miles) although the park totals 1169 square miles (747,956 acres) and has miles and miles of hiking trails stretching all over the Sierra Nevada mountains.  But most of the attractions people go to see are either in the valley or in the mountains surrounding the valley.  As I mentioned, parking is crazy. Even if you are staying in one of the lodges or camping areas, there is no guaranteed parking. So pretty much, everyone just drives around and around the parking lots until someone else leaves and opens up a space.  If you’re lodging in the park, you get that space and don’t give it up until you are ready to leave the park for good. The shuttles come in handy to allow you to get around. Yes, they are crowded beyond description and, yes, the main hiking paths are filled with people almost all day, and yes, the restaurants are overwhelmingly crowded…..but, yes, it is all worth it…absolutely…..although at the time, I did question my own sanity for being there in the most crowded season possible.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls – Upper, Middle, & Lower

The absolute best time of the day was early evening when the tour busses and day-trippers start to leave the park and the walking paths clear and things cool down and the restaurants clear out a bit. We found ourselves strolling along the path up to Yosemite Falls one evening and had the place pretty much to ourselves. We were free to take photos of the views and only us – no accidental photobombs. The path was clear so I could stop and rest in that one spot where you can actually see and get photos of all three falls  – Upper, Middle, & Lower – that make up the total falls.

Yosemite Lower Falls

Yosemite Falls at the Base of the Lower Falls

And we were so blessed that there was still plenty of water in the falls which are fed by snowmelt each year. When the snow has all melted, the falls have been known to become just a trickle skimming down over the rocks. But, the winter of 2017 was amazing (so I hear) when it comes to snowfall. We were to learn later over in Mammoth Lakes that they got more than 116 inches of snow this year. It made for some beautiful waterfalls in Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Just a bit more on the waterfall…Yosemite is the 5th tallest cascade in the world at 2,425 feet and the tallest in North America.  Sentinel Fall in the park is the 7th tallest in the world at 2,000 feet. In case you’re wondering, the tallest waterfall in the world is Angel Falls in Venezuela topping in at 3,212 feet. The one waterfall in the valley we could only admire from a distance was Bridalveil Fall which has a 620 foot drop.  The Ahwahneechee natives called it Pohono which means “Spirit of the Puffing Wind”.

tunnel view pano

Tunnel View Showing Bridalveil Fall (right), Half Dome (middle to the back) and El Capitan (left)

We did get to see the falls from the Tunnel Pass Overlook and got to see the mist fanning out by the wind and creating a rainbow. We tried on several occasions to get to the falls to hike up to the base for a closer view but could never even get into the parking areas. Bridalveil is one of the first attractions that visitors come to on the road as they drive into the park; hence, it is always way over-crowded.  Unfortunately, it is also the one attraction in Yosemite that you cannot reach by shuttle bus (and a little hiking) although I cannot fathom why it is not a stop on the El Capitan shuttle route.

Because there is so much to see in the park and things were so crowded, we decided early on that there would just be some things we would not get to see or fully experience and we would just have to leave it at that.  It is what it is or, in this case, was what it was.

Half dome from glacier point

Half Dome as Seen From Glacier Point (Actually this is the full dome because there is not and never was another half.)

But we did get to see quite a bit. We took the Glacier Point Tour leaving the driving up the mountain to someone else who knew just about everything there was to know about the park and its history.  The tour took us to the top of Glacier Point which gives beautiful and awe inspiring views of the entire valley floor. The view of Half Dome was amazing. It is right there in front of you at Glacier Point. No, there are no glaciers there; the point just gives a very good overview of the valley and allows you to see how glaciers formed the valley in the last mini ice age.

tunnel view

View from the Tunnel at Tunnel View

On the way back from Glacier Point, we stopped at Tunnel View (formerly Wawona Tunnel) to get another look of the valley from the western end with El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall taking center stage and making for beautiful panoramic photos (and allowing everyone to use all the features on their cell-phones instead of just the “selfie” mode).  And, yes, there is a tunnel at Tunnel View.

mirror lake reflect

Just a Small Reflection at Mirror Lake

Oh my, I could go on for page after page about the days we spent at Yosemite. Mirror Lake did have water. That is slowly changing. The lake was formed by a rock slide years ago that dammed up one end of the creek. The park kept the lake dredged and cleared for many year since this was (and remains) a popular tourist attraction. But some years back, it was decided to let nature take its course so now the lake is silting up and the original rock dam is no longer holding as effectively as it did in the past. So the lake is becoming smaller and smaller and reflecting less and less. But the walk, while strenuous to us (not to all those younger and fitter people who kept passing us at a good clip), was enjoyable. And the view once we got to the top was beautiful. It was somewhat crowded at first and any chance of getting a good reflection of Half Dome in the lake’s “mirror” surface was slim because kids were having a wonderful time wading and swimming in the shallow lake….and who can possibly complain about kids having a good time cooling down after the hike?  We sat for a long time just enjoying the scenery and doing a little birding.

bear

Bear Cub Number 23

By the time we headed back down the trail, we were pretty much the only ones there.  It was so very peaceful and so very beautiful….and walking downhill is always better.  AND, we saw a bear! It was just a bear cub – he was adorable – but we did get concerned that mama was somewhere about so we did not linger or try to get too close to him. Later, we asked a ranger about this bear that was ear-tagged with number 23, and he told us that this was a second year cub that was on its own now…so no worries about a big mama bear ruining our pictures…..or, any of our body parts. They had just tagged him a week or so ago and they were keeping an eye on him to make sure he (or the humans trying to gawk at him) did not become a nuisance. As long as the little guy grazes on berries and natural foods found in the park, he was all good; tempting junk food supplied by humans or improperly disposed of….not good. You should have seen the bear-proof garbage cans – just learning to throw trash away was a feat unto itself.

bent tree

I think of this photo as “Life Will Find A Way”.

Wow, what else? Great things – the waterfalls, Half Dome, El Capitan (largest piece of exposed granite in the world which stands about 3000 feet from base to summit), watching climbers on the rocks while we walked at Happy Isles, Merced River running right through the park, a lovely morning walk through the meadow and views from the Swinging Bridge, the rushing clear-water creeks coming down from the falls, exploring the Majestic (Ahwahnee) Lodge & having dinner there, the delightful little collared ground squirrels that were simply everywhere, our time chatting with the nice young lady at the Majestic who has worked there for a few years now and lives year-round in a tent at Half Dome Village, seeing the field of lavender wildflowers as we entered the park from Highway 140, the absolutely marvelous star-gazing tour we took with a very star-crazy ranger, and the ever present and noisy Steller’s Jays (a lifebird for us!) one of which attended every meal possible with us no matter where we dined. The list is really quite lengthy and I could go on for hours about the things we saw….not to mention showing you each and every one of those five hundred or so photos that I took just inside the valley. Yep, if there was a rock or a flower to see, I took a picture of it.

el capitan

El Capitan

On the bad side? The crowds were terrible. Weekends were the worst. Do not go to Yosemite in July.  It was way too hot in the Valley – California was in a drought and having a very hot summer. It was in the high 90’s and low 100’s every day we were there.

The lodging was expensive and marginal.  The rooms are not air-conditioned and, with the heat outside, they were stifling during the day and into the night. A few years ago when we went to Costa Rica and stayed in eco-lodges (no A/C although they didn’t have problems with the ecological downside of large swimming pools which were lighted into the night), I learned to wrap a damp towel around my neck at night to help me sleep. This method of staying cool also worked in California.

The shuttles are a good idea and were great except when things got crowded; then the shuttle drivers would make decisions not to stop at a given stop on the loop or even to go to a particular shuttle stop so it was possible to find yourself waiting a very long time to get picked up….or, waiting a very long time only to find you couldn’t get onto the shuttle when it finally arrived. They were supposed to run about every 20 minutes but that was on the low side of reality while we were there. Like many people, sometimes we just walked if the distance wasn’t too far.

Majestic Glacier Point

The Majestic (aka Ahwahee) as Seen From Glacier Point

The food and food service was blah…except at the Majestic Lodge where they actually seemed to have chefs. We were told that most of the food venues did not actually serve food that was prepared at the site; most all of it is trucked in every morning.  And most of it wasn’t good at all….like bad vending machine food. The pizza was okay but everything else seemed to be warmed up….even when they had someone (supposedly) working the grill.  We quickly got into the habit of going to the coolers and getting pre-made sandwiches…even for breakfast. It worked out very nicely though because we could take the sandwiches (and chips or fruit or muffins) to a nice spot along one of the trails and have a picnic. This worked out so well that we continued it for lunch at other parks that weren’t so crowded throughout our time in California. It seems to me that it is pretty difficult to mess up two pieces of fresh bread, a slice of lunchmeat and maybe a slice of cheese. Do note that I said “fresh” bread….which, fortunately, it always was.  The Majestic, on the other hand, had good food…as you would expect in a high-end hotel with a nice restaurant. It was pricey though…..as you would also expect in a nice restaurant.

Mirror Lake

Almost Catching the Reflection at Mirror Lake Just at Dusk

Finally, most of the hiking trails were just too steep so I feel like I missed quite a bit. I am not very fit and the altitude was a big problem for me. Some of the trails were purported to be “relatively flat” and they were…….as long as you defined that to be flat from side to side; otherwise, they pretty much went up at a steady vertical incline. Well, it is the mountains and waterfalls happen off the sides of mountains and don’t just gush up out of the flat ground. (That’s another park altogether.)  So, pretty much I started tracking things I saw and then those things I didn’t see because I didn’t quite make it to the top of the trail for a few attractions. I did give it all I could but sometimes I needed to breathe so had to stop short of my goal. I try to remember my age and stay philosophical about it but, I have to tell you, I really felt bad when kids (anyone younger than 60) would pass me jogging (yes, I said jogging) up the trails and I would be sitting on a rock huffing and puffing like the little engine that couldn’t.

kachina

Something that caught my eye in the souvenir shop at the Ahwahnee/Majestic. I’m learning to take photos of souvenirs I like rather than buying them.  I keep the memory but not the clutter.

I did find out that, for those of you who are out-of-shape like me, you can stop in at the visitor center and tell them that you have trouble getting to some of the sites or maybe just breathing in the thin air and they will give you a handicapped pass for your car so that you can drive up to some sites using the service roads for those attractions that have service roads. You do not have to show any official handicapped stickers or permits……just have to ask. I wish I had known this before we hiked to Mirror Lake; it would have helped tremendously….but, then again, I might not have seen the little bear.

Would I do it again? If that park were anywhere but in California and it wasn’t mid-summer………maybe…..just kidding. Of course, I would certainly do it again. It was, as expected, the experience of a lifetime and, pretty much, too beautiful for words.

falls from swinging bridge

View of Yosemite Falls from Swinging Bridge. Could this be the picture in my memory?

Did I find the vista from the print in my childhood bedroom? Well, I just don’t know. There were certainly quite a few beautiful scenes with huge rock cliffs (like El Capitan or Half Dome) and lakes (like Mirror Lake) that could work to be that scene in that picture. So, all in all, I’m still left wondering. (You know it still could be that angel picture too.) But now, I have lots of new photos to look at and wonder which might match the old faded green picture from my childhood.  But, really….it doesn’t matter…….maybe they all do.

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