Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Spectacular Yosemite Valley

WOW! Somehow a whole week has passed since we last posted here.

During this last week, we have played three days of golf on a couple of beautiful courses. If you are anywhere in the neighborhood of Yosemite be sure to check out the Sierra Meadows Country Club in Ahwahnee. And, if around Sonoma - check out Eagle Vines -

A great day of golf at Eagle Vines.

We also spent a couple of wonderful days in Yosemite.

Entering the Park.

We had another great 'parking' spot for Magic -

Enjoying the Lakers in the great outdoors.

Yosemite National Park was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890 and is a park about the size of Rhode Island situated in the Sierra Nevada’s. It is famous for its incredible valley, but the park includes five distinct areas that attract nearly 3.5 million visitors each year. Unfortunately, three of the areas - Glacier Point, the Tioga Road and the Tuolumne Meadows, and Hetch Hetchy were closed due to snow in their higher elevations. So - we spent time in the Valley and Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.

The valley is seven miles long and one mile across and was formed by glacial erosion over hundreds of thousands of years. The walls of the valley are draped with waterfalls that were running full due to all the snow and precipitation this winter and early spring and, therefore, were simply beautiful! The Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls - the signature fall in the Valley - combine to drop almost 2,500 feet making this the tallest waterfall in North America.

Upper Yosemite Falls.

Upper and Lower Falls.

Just outside of the Valley is one of the most photographed vistas in the world. Here one gets a classic view of Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan (on the left), Clouds Rest (in the middle where the clouds are ‘resting’), Half dome (coming around clockwise), Sentinel Rock, Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Fall. We spent quit a bit of time here just taking in the sights! (Gary does get a little bit of slack for the phone thing -- as he got an offer on his Mother’s house and was trying to move the deal along while there. This is a good thing.)

Channelling Ansel Adams?? ... Not.

You've gotta see this view!!

Can we park Magic here?

The elevations in the park range from 2,000 feet to 13,000 feet. So while the Valley was quite nice, Wawona and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias was back in the snow! This eliminated our anticipated hike;-(

Shoulder deep snow in the Mariposa Grove.

Our stay in Yosemite had to come to an end and we moved on to the Napa/Sonoma area for a few days. Surprisingly, there was no wine tasting - just visits and dinners with friends;-) Oh yes - and one SLEEPLESS night watching THE WEDDING!!

Tomorrow we head toward the coast.

More later - E & G

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hiking to Paradise

What a Splendid Day!

After a day of rest, we had a perfectly wonderful day today!

Our target hike was the Paradise Creek Trail (all that it’s name implies) beginning at Hospital Rock.

On our way.

Indians lived in the area of Hospital Rock from prehistoric times until the 1870’s, when the white man’s diseases killed off many of them. The name, ‘Hospital Rock’, has nothing to do with these early Indian inhabitants - it was the site of medical treatment to one of the early white explorers of the area and was therefore ‘dubbed’ Hospital Rock, which stuck through the years. These early inhabitants did leave their marks, though, in the form of bedrock mortar holes used for grinding acorns and the pictographs we viewed today.

Pictographs at Hospital Rock - Graffiti of Old!

Continuing from Hospital Rock toward Paradise Canyon, we crossed the Middle Fork Bridge (the Middle Fork of the Kaweah River) and entered Paradise Canyon, which contrasts sharply with the surrounding terrain. The trail parallels Paradise Creek, passing waterfalls, spectacular swimming holes and beautiful scenery.

A bridge across the Kaweah River - A bridge to Paradise.

Who are these folks?

Elizabeth captured a spout along the way.

Moro Rock from a different point of view.

Today, we found that picnic spot by the creek we were looking for the other day when all we found was snow! We both enjoyed our PB&J and the lazy respite by/on/in the creek.

Breaking for lunch.

Not a lot of history or story to tell here - just beauty -

Colors along the way.

Lots of water in the Kaweah River.

After our return to the car, we decided to see how far up the Mineral King road we could get - about 1/3 of the way. The Mineral King area was added to the NP in 1978 - named in the 1870‘s by gold prospectors who gained little more than unfulfilled dreams from it. The road is little more than one lane and in disrepair (an understatement!). But, the road, apparently, is the secret to the paradise’s solitude we did not get to. We did, however, have opportunities for a few more pictures -

A 1923 bridge on the Mineral King Road.

A brief stop along the way.

Nature's hot stone therapy.

Another wonderful day that exhausted both of us. Now sitting in our campsite waiting for the Laker game;-)

Another tough day on the road.

See ya later - E & G

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sequoia NP- The Land of the Giants

Another wonderful day - although not what we expected. And - another day of learning.

I think I stood in front of this with my brother Ken...about 55 years ago!

The number one thing learned - do NOT visit Sequoia NP or King’s Canyon NP in the Spring - wait until Fall. Because - the word for the day was - CLOSED;-(

We eagerly approached the Foothills Visitor Center at the south entrance to Sequoia NP armed with our National Geographic “Guide to the National Parks of the United States” (a great book, by the way), which very specifically ‘mapped’ out our adventures for the next five days. A very informative, patient Ranger listened as the itinerary was presented to him -

Day 1 - Drive and hike Mineral King - CLOSED;-(

Day 2 - Drive and tour Crystal Cave - CLOSED;-(

Day 3 - Drive and hike Moro Rock - CLOSED;-(

Day 4 - Drive and hike Cedar Grove - CLOSED;-(

Day 5 - Giant Forest & Grant Grove - GO FOR IT;-)) !!!!

YEAH - we found one day’s activities that were open, which means NOT covered under SIX feet of snow. Don’t ask what the thought process was - but the fact that most of the park is at 7,000+ feet and might still have at least some snow affecting activities - NEVER entered our minds.

There is a bulletin board somewhere behind this pile of snow.

Oh well, just modify - as we have become quite adept at.

We started our day fairly early, as the trip up Generals Highway to the Giant Grove had to be timed with the road opening/closure (apparent much needed road work was being completed and traffic was only allowed thru the work area on the hour). Our timing was pretty good - the wait gave us just enough time to at least get a picture of Moro Rock -from the ‘back’ side. This was a Gary memory - he and his brother climbing on the top of this on camping trips with their parents;-) What we couldn’t do was the drive to the back side and the climb of 400 steps to a top view of the giant sequoias.

Too bad we can't actually climb Moro rock today. Too much ice and snow on the trail.

Waiting our turn.

Finally, we entered the Giant Forest - where the Four Guardsmen greeted all who came.

Elizabeth is actually standing in between the middle two of the Four Guardsmen.

This may sound silly - but, there is a definite ‘aura’ and peaceful feeling when you enter and walk thru the groves of sequoias. Each tree also looks and feels like it has its own personality. It is so appropriate that these wonders are protected (mostly from logging) in a National Park - the second oldest NP.

In all the world, sequoias grow naturally only on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada, most often between 5,000 and 7,000 feet of elevation. The giant sequoia has a massive trunk, huge stout branches, and cinnamon-colored bark. It grows to over 300 feet with a base over 40 feet in diameter (that is 6 Gary’s laid head to feet!!), branches to 8 feet in diameter and live over 3,200 years!! They don’t die. Chemicals in the wood and bark provide resistance to insects and fungi, and thick bark insulates them from most fire. The main cause of sequoia deaths is toppling. And, once they fall they remain forever on the forest floor as the chemicals in the wood also prevent rot.

This has been used for everything from a residence to a bar.

We did get in a short ‘hike’ along the road and up to see the General Sherman Tree - 2,100 years old, 274.9 feet tall and 102.6 feet in circumference. In mass, this is the largest living tree. It grows enough new wood every year to make a 60-foot-tall tree of usual proportions AND a 13-story building could fit beneath its lowest branch!! Can you even see Gary -

General Sherman, worlds largest living thing.

Can you see Gary at the base?

Can you see me now?

Our original plan was to take the 2 mile hike around the General Sherman Tree, stop at a beautiful spot and eat our picnic lunch. But - all we could find was snow;-(

So much for our picnic lunch, here.

After a picnic lunch in the car, General Grant Grove called. Here resides the General Grant Tree, which is 267.4 feet tall and 107.6 feet in circumference. Another little factoid - it would take 21 people holding hands to encircle this sequoia!!

The General Grant and you know who.

What an amazing sense of life in this grove of giants.

Again, the feeling of tranquility that overcomes you as you walk thru these groves is pretty powerful - and awe inspiring.

Big and little.

Our trip back to Magic was filled with many more beautiful sights - too many to post. Our camp is also beautiful and relaxing - a room with a view -

View from our living room.

This was a day of new adventure for Elizabeth (who had never been to this NP) and a day of reminiscing for Gary (who spent many summers in these parks as a Dad with his kids and as a kid himself!). Gary learned that all is not as we remember it - the area he ‘swore’ he spent many summers camping in - was NOT where he remembered it at all;-( Elizabeth re-learned that our National Parks are a wonder and every penny we spend on them is well spent (and not enough!!)!! AND - the Giant Sequoias are Mighty!

Still having fun - E & G from Magic

Monday, April 18, 2011


The past few days have been a lot of fun with Haley - the Spring performance at school (2/3 year olds), a walk to Mommie’s work with a picnic lunch at the park, Chinese food dinner, Easter egg hunt at school and dinner and a sleep over at Magic with Gramma and Gramps -

Spring Pageant - The Butterfly Song

Aren't we cute?

Hopscotchin' on the chessboard.

Where's the fourwheelin trail?

Always tastes better with chopsticks.

Getting ready for the Easter egg hunt.

Holy-Moley, look at all the people!

Here's one!! bucket is almost full!

Whipping up some bouillabaisse with gramps.

Time for another sleepover in the Magic Bus.

Mmmmm, I've never had apples with caramel sauce before.

Good morning Gramma. Do you want to hold any of my animals?

After all this fun, we are now on our way to some National Parks - Sequoia, King’s Canyon and Yosemite - and the natural beauty our country has to offer. We must say that we are VERY happy our Congress got it together and passed a budged ‘fix’ - as we have become quite enamored with our NP’s and think they are a wonderful experience (and value) for all;-) We will share with you in a couple of days -

Love to all - E & G

PS - Don’t EVER bother to stay at the KOA Avi Casino just outside of Laughlin!!