(Events of Thursday, April 23rd, blogged Monday April 27th)
The sun rises over a lonely campervannie deep in the woods…
And life bursts out!! WE’RE ALIVE!! WE’RE ALIVE!!! We were troubled nowt by marauding axe murderers and their trained bears (subtle John Irving shout out). Oh, and I totally made Annie lick up the spilled chowder as punishment/breakfast. She does a much more thorough cleaning job than I do!
Given this fortuitous turn of events, although I was still more than a little uneasy (and increasingly filthy, this was now Day Two without a shower), I decided to take a hike through the aptly named Grove of Giants-where all the best Giant Sequoias can be found (and one of the few trails not located down an untraversable road). It was gorgeous and serene and felt like we were in some ancient lost world.
Of course Annie preferred the insides of the trees to the outsides . . .
As you can see, I am NOT kidding when I say these trees were REALLY REALLY big!! The Giant Sequoias are literally the largest living things on earth-the ones in this grove were approximately 270 feet tall and have a circumference of roughly 70 feet. I don’t know if you can spot Annie in the foreground of that middle photo, but she is dwarfed by the blackened, twisted, lightning scarred trunk. The sequoias are mere babies though compared to that Bristlecone Pine I told you about back in Bryce Canyon. While the oldest of the trees in this grove is probably only 2,000 years old, the Bristlecones are closer to 4,500. Insanity!
We spent a good hour or so frolicking through the forest and never saw hide nor hair of predators of any sort. Perhaps we got lucky and the bear ate the axe murderer. It’s been known to happen.
Not wanting to push our luck any further, we headed a few short miles down the road to the much more well known (and relatively densely populated) Yosemite National Park. Full disclosure: Despite hearing rumors of its grandiosity, I hadn’t been super stoked for Yosemite. I had even considered scratching it from the list to stay a little longer on the coast. BIG MISTAKE!! Yosemite literally takes your breath away.
Every corner you turn provides some incomprehensibly grand new vista-like this dude here- El Capitan! Now THAT is one badass dude.
And then there are the waterfalls (at least at this time of year). This one, which was a bit too crowded to get a really good photo of, is Bridalveil Fall. The native Ahwahneechee tribe that originally populated this area believed Bridaveil was home to a vengeful spirit named Pohono who guarded the entrance to the valley, and that those departing it dare not look directly into the waters lest they risk being cursed. Intriguingly, they also believed that if you closed your eyes and inhaled the mist, you would increase your chances for marriage. Somebody’s been inhaling some SERIOUS mist if they believe that.
Later we wandered past placid streams, and towering pines, and yet more sheer granite rock faces. All while soaking in a glorious sunshiney blue sky day!
As a bonus, despite what I had read, there were a lot more (short) trails I could take Annie on than in many of the previous parks we had visited.
Another of the big name rock formations here in Yosemite is Half Dome. After I took this picture, I realized Ol Halffy has basically the same profile Annie does shen she is doing BARKBARK. Scary!
Yet to be seen: a rock replica of Annie in her default position of bottom in the air and head in a hole sniffing out critters.(While destroying more federally protected land.)
Probably my favorite area was Upper and Lower Falls. This spot right here is where John Muir, who was the first white man to really promote this area and advocate for its conservation, lived in a little sugar pine cabin for three years. I can’t even describe to you how intoxicating it was and how clean and fresh the air smelled, and how it’s probably the only non-coastal spot I would want to have lived. There is a quote from Muir on the plaque below which reads: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees, the winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” Which pretty much sums up my experiences on this journey..
A short walk through some tall pines led us to the base of the Lower Falls. Together with Upper Falls, they comprise North America’s tallest waterfall. These rushing waters were dubbed Cholock by the native Ahwahneechee and the plunge pool at the bottom was rumored to be inhabited by devious witches called the Poloti!
The eagle eyed may notice ominous dark clouds starting to roll in. While we were at the Upper Falls, admiring the view, there came a crashingly loud rumble, and the heavens opened up, and we were soaked before we made it back to the car.
This seemed like a perfect time to take a much needed shower and catch up on some laundry. So let me just say that while I found the natural beauty of Yosemite among my top experiences this trip, the infrastructure of the park was definitely on the low end. It’s the only National Park I’ve visited that charges for WiFi and the spots that have it are very limited and can only be accessed on foot. Also, the shower was FIVE DOLLARS (when the going rate elsewhere is $2) which the teenage boy running the joint tried to justify to me by saying they give you (crappy) towels and shampoo and soap. Well A.) I have all that already, and B.) Grand Canyon gives you that as well. I guess the other “upside” is that there was no time limit on the shower (although I was surprised to find that I never had a problem with the 8-10 minute cut off at other places), but it took so long for the water to be even marginally warm I honestly thought it was broken and was going to get dressed and move to another stall. The rest of the time it alternated between scalding and freezing, and the shower head was fixed in place so you couldn’t move out of the stream. And also… ONE sink in a bathroom with three toilets and eight shower stalls?? Hello!! Every time someone came in to pee I had to stop brushing my teeth so they could wash their hands. Even a mirror and shelf off to the side would have helped. Very disappointing.
Happy to be clean, and glad to be out of the Witches Curse Shower, we headed back to the campsite (photo taken in dryer times) where we huddled inside Marigold snacking on leftover quinoa.