Hello everyone! Sorry it has taken so long to get a new post up but phone and Internet service were almost non-existent in Yosemite, and since we left we have been traveling through forests, mountains and remote coastal areas along northern California and Oregon with no reliable service. So tonight is the first night I could actually get on and stay on long enough to catch up on my posts. Hope ya’ didn’t miss us too much!
A fond farewell to Lake Tahoe….We left Lake Tahoe on June 10 and wandered through Gold Country a bit more before finally arriving at our RV park near Yosemite on June 12. Before arriving at Yosemite, we did find a neat RV park on an Indian reservation in Jackson, CA that I fell in love with–specifically the pool. I spent a couple days just floating in the pool (it was a great pool!), going into my meditative (lazy) zone while gearing up for our Yosemite adventuring. While we were there we added to the RVing family–Spirit Horse. You can see this big fellow below.
I thought that was a good name for him since we adopted him while on an Indian reservation. Bob enjoyed the ease and luxury of the park (they even clean your black tank for you!) and spent a lot of time relaxing as well when we weren’t at the casino eating our (almost) free meals. He wanted to take this park on to Yosemite with us and in retrospect that would not have been a bad idea!!
On to Yosemite……Good thing we had a little rest because when we arrived at our RV park near Yosemite we were “challenged” during our first few hours there. Since our RV is 42 feet long we have to make sure that any RV site meets 2 criteria (at least–we will talk about trees at some other point!): the site must be long AND level enough. When we reached Yosemite Pines the first site was too short, the second one was not level, and then rather than move the RV each time we wanted to check another site out I just drove the Jeep around to different sites trying to find one that would work. I think we finally found one on our 6th attempt–even though it was not perfect! Felt a little like a sausage at times….
We are usually not so picky about getting the right campsite, but as soon as school was out Lisa, Mike, Mikaela, Sammy and Junior (Mike’s Bloodhound) were heading down our way and meeting us in Yosemite. We were very excited to see them so that we could explore Yosemite together. But after long days at the Park, we wanted a site where everyone would be comfortable and it would not be too tight to accommodate both cars as well. We barely accomplished that—it was a squeeze!—but since we spent most of our time in Yosemite doing Park stuff it worked out fine.
When you are trying to get a good campsite near a major attraction like a national park it is always tricky–but we finally were set up and waiting for Lisa and family by the time they arrived the next morning. They had driven all night and were exhausted so that day was a rest day which was a good thing since the next few days were very active. Sammy and Mikaela have been following my blog since I started it–they read it in the car on the way back and forth to school–so I told them that they needed to help me with the blog this week since we were exploring together. They agreed to help so today’s post is compliments of Sammy and Mikaela–they told me what to talk about, best/worst events of the week, and since they are my readership I value their opinions very much! So a special thanks to Sammy and Mikaela for all your assistance and excellent memories! So here in the order of importance is a summary of our adventures (and misadventures!) during our Yosemite week. Sammy and Mikaela, please let me know if I forgot anything and I will make sure to go back and get it in!
1. BEARS (and assorted wildlife)……OK, this is the most important wildlife part of our trip since we were fully expecting to be shaking in our boots at every bend in the woods. Before leaving Virginia I bought special Yosemite accessories for me and Pappaw (Bob)—special backpacks for hiking with bear bells that hung off the back (see below) to alert bears to our presence as we made each turn in the path. No surprises for them—-no surprises for us!
Everyone agreed they must have been HIGHLY effective since up until the last day we saw not ONE bear. Fortunately, we were not wearing our backpacks the last day when lo and behold we found a mommy and baby bear hanging around in the woods (literally!). More on that later!
However, on one of our hikes to a beautiful lake earlier that week I firmly believe some bears were observing us from a safe distance as we traipsed through the woods—Mike, Lisa, Mikaela, Sammy, Pappaw, me and Junior. We must have been very intimidating! We had quite the procession with Mike and Junior leading the way and Pappaw and I bringing up the rear (sometimes way in the rear…. especially on those long uphill climbs)! That day I kept hearing some snuffling and twigs breaking in the near distance that I could have sworn were caused by bears sneaking around, but no one believed me. I think we were probably more focused on mountain lions at that point since the visitor maps reminded us to keep small children close and not let them run ahead or lag behind since—well—we won’t finish that sentence! And of course there were the squirrels—everyone knows how squirrels terrify me with their sharp little teeth that chew through wires and plumbing—really gruesome stuff! And don’t forget the rattlers. I didn’t see them listed in the Yosemite lineup but you never know!
As soon as we checked into the campground we were reminded not to leave food outside since the bears and mountain lions and wolves were also in residence. In fact, the first night we were there we were treated to a wolf serenade that sent chills up and down your spine–talk about howling at the moon! Or is that vampires???? Hmmmm….. Just to make sure we had no unwelcome visitors we did not cook out once! Not even burgers! But at the break of day each morning we were circled by roosters (yes, roosters!) crowing at the top of their lungs—boasting about avoiding those wolves the night before, I bet. We were camped close to the campground’s mini zoo, which had goats, chickens and alpacas with severe dental issues. Next door was the snack area with cotton candy and such. Not once did we have a snack–I suppose after seeing those alpacas’ dental problems we were not inclined toward any sugar urges that close to the animal pen.
Our last day inYosemite, however, Bob and I left the park a little early to go home (RV) and start dinner. Bob was cooking his famous meatloaf for the kids which takes a little prep time. Mike and Lisa were taking the kids to see the redwood trees in the Mariposa Grove in the southern part of Yosemite, so we parted paths for a few hours. Halfway back to the park entrance, we noticed cars pulling over and cameras clicking. Sure enough, after a similar experience in Denali a few years ago we knew a bear was close by. They are very photogenic as long as you have telephoto lens. Sure enough a beautiful brown bear was foraging in the woods about 20 feet from our car. And amazingly enough her cub was clinging to a tree trunk a short distance away. I snapped lots of pictures (from the safety of our car–you know how mama bears are about their babies!). The baby bear finally got tired of waiting for Mama and clambered out of the tree and raced toward his mama behind a tree. I figured it was his meal time and remembered we had some meatloaf to cook so off we went. And then I realized we didn’t have our bear bells on! How lucky could we get!
2. HALF DOME…..and Yosemite Valley. If I could nominate a national park for a “Wonder of the World” I would have to definitely consider the amazing scenery in Yosemite Valley. As we drove into the valley after traveling through dense forests and curving mountain roads, the Valley opened up to reveal one massive monument to the majesty of earthly creations after another. It was like watching a futuristic movie portraying a world of immense scenery with oompah…..and it never stops coming! Waterfalls that drop from the sky in huge gushes of water, giant granite behemoths that appear and disappear as you walk, drive, bike…every turn in the road creates a new discovery moment. At one point we were hiking through the Valley crossing beautiful rivers, following meandering trails, and playing peekaboo with Half Dome. One minute you would see it in all its immensity–now this is NOT a rock that can hide easily!—but then it would disappear until you rounded another corner or climbed a bank or just peeked through a break in the trees. In this Park of many wonders, it is the small pleasures among the big treasures that astonish and amaze.
3. WATERFALLS…..mystical moments. When you approach a waterfall in Yosemite it draws you as if you are spellbound. The sound of the water growing louder, trying to focus your camera to capture the entire waterfall from unimaginable heights, the misty explosions descending from high up the cliff. Then you are finally at the bottom with everyone in a frenzy of activity trying to capture that perfect shot.
Then, when you finally realize the inevitable has happened….yes, that evil moment when all you want to do is sit at the foot of this beautiful, astounding treasure with the overwhelming sound of rushing water—and heck! you realize the nearest bathroom is at least a quarter mile away! And off we go on the ultimate foot race! What a rush! I think Mikaela won that race but Lisa was a close second. I came in third but hey — three out of three is not bad!
4. BEST HIKE…top choice! Sammy and Mikaela voted for the best hike which I think we all agreed was the absolute best! It was Lisa’s birthday that day AND Father’s Day—but Lisa trumped with the birthday card so she got to pick what we were going to do that day. She said she wanted to go for a hike in a beautiful place. So off we went and found a trail that was filled with giant redwoods, beautiful, unusual wildflowers surely grown by fairies, meandering trails over streams and around fallen logs—and finally to a hidden lake of crystal clear water that no one could have imagined to be as beautiful as it was that sunny day.
Happy Birthday, Lisa! We sat on fallen trees and ate Goldfish while Junior swam in the lake retrieving sticks for Mike—as well as a Goldfish Mikaela had tossed in. We saw fewer than 5-6 other people all afternoon and were perfectly satisfied with our peaceful interlude in the woods. And Pappaw tried out his new walking stick to great success. He left me in the dust–which was not too difficult since I was in recovery mode from the hike the day before. But we all made it with a few laughs–Sammy thought it was hilarious when Pappaw almost fell through a log as he crossed a stream–and caught himself with his trusty walking cane! I think Mike caught that on his digital phone so watch for that clip on America’s Funniest Home Videos! Just think–Pappaw could be a star!
5. GROSSEST HIKE….This was an easy pick. There was some disagreement here between Sammy and Mikaela since they have slightly different perceptions about what’s cool. I have to say, this started out being a GREAT hike as we were playing peekaboo with Half Dome, and enjoying the varying terrain and beautiful scenery. Sammy and Mike and Junior had surged ahead and Pappaw and the “girls” were following the path upwards when we suddenly realized we were walking in a river of poop. Yes, Poop! The path was narrow, and as it narrowed even more the poop was more and more yucky and ALL OVER! Some fresh and some not. Yes, I know–you didn’t really want to have ALL the details…… but you need the big picture here. Following Mike, Sammy, and Junior who were much further ahead, we discovered that the river was now growing into an avalanche of THAT STUFF with some places that possibly could be considered as a national disaster area–well, this is a national park! We had decided to head back down the mountain, when lo and behold the source of all this unimaginable YUCK showed up in one of the most stinkiest spots. A mule train—Yes, I said a MULE TRAIN! And the lead rider asked us to stand aside quietly until the mule train passed so we did not spook them. So being the polite people that we are–(and not wanting to be kicked in the shins!), we stepped aside and waited for an eternity until at least 30 mules plodded by–meanwhile depositing even more keepsakes for our journey back down the mountain. Have you ever tried to hold your breath for 30 mules???? Gasp. Then the walk back down was even YUCKIER than the walk up for obvious reasons.
When Sammy and Mikaela were discussing how to refer to this hike Sammy was insisting it was the GREATEST hike while Mikeala insisted it was the YUCKIEST hike. I asked Sammy why he thought it was the greatest hike and he said because of the POOP. Go figure. Nevertheless, the girls won on this one since we are in the majority and we had to wash the shoes when we got home.
6. PARTYING…..and princesses. It just so happens that Lisa’s birthday fell on Father’s Day this year so we had multiple celebrations that day. First of all, we spent the day in the woods communing with nature and recording for America’s Funniest Home Videos, which pretty much just got us ready for our evening’s adventures at the saloon. Oh yes….we decided to hit the oldest saloon in California to celebrate the big day! After all, you don’t turn ______ everyday! (Did I just hear a big sigh of relief from Lisa’s direction?) The Iron Door Saloon in Groveland, CA (a couple miles from our campground) is a saloon with a history and if iron doors could talk there would definitely be a few books here. Suffice to say, just walk in the saloon and check out the dollar bills stuck to the ceiling, peruse the pictures on the wall, and listen to some stories from the locals and you will start getting an idea of what those doors have seen.
We had scheduled a dinner at the saloon seeing that there weren’t a whole lot of options and it is historic….and, yes, we had enough to eat although it’s kind of a rough and tumble kind of place—based on long time tradition I dare say. But I had plans up my sleeve.
Since not one person could give me a name of someone who bakes cakes in town I had found a bakery a few miles out of town that had just opened up. We picked the cake up on the way home and while the appearance of the cake was not up to Lisa’s standards (she is a WOW baker/decorator) I thought as long as it tastes good…..! I had bought a half sheet cake since I figured cake is always a good thing. I think everyone probably took their first bite at almost the same time—and then complete and total quiet. Not a sound. No mmmmms–just quiet. Leave it to Bob—he finally said, “I think that is probably the worst cake I have ever eaten!” Everyone agreed and Bob offered to take it to the trash. So I bit into it and understood the response. It was what Bob would call a California cake—made in some horribly healthy way–probably vegan, or gluten free, or made with wheat flour or some ungodly cake-making method. So we switched over to ice cream sundaes and cookies and cheered up. We all agreed Lisa looked very cute as a princess for a day–we had a pink princess theme going with decorations (Mike put those up!) and a pink princess sash for Lisa and other glitzy things. Lisa said she had never had a princess party so we fulfilled her princess wish albeit without the cake!
Then we switched holidays and the dads in the bunch opened their gifts and the cute cards and gifts from Sammy and Mikaela were totally CUTE and so SWEET that I think if I were a daddy I would have cried. Bob had been given his gift earlier that day and not a moment too soon–his new walking cane kept him from going for a swim in a very cold stream!
So the partying day ended on a good note and we saved ourselves all those calories from not eating the half sheet cake. INTERESTING NOTE: Rather than tossing the cake, Bob took it down to the campground office the next morning and asked them if they wanted it. They were thrilled and the announcement over the intercom caused a stampede from the campground workers. Bob said within a very short time every crumb was eaten and they swore it was the best cake ever!! Go figure.
7. TREES….big trees! Sammy and Mikaela (with mom and dad) were determined to take a hike through the Mariposa Grove filled with beautiful redwoods that are a key visitor attraction in the southern part of Yosemite. They had been reading about our visits to see the Giant Sequoias in Sequoia National Park and that must have made them even more eager to see these fan-tabulous trees. So on the last day in the park they hiked through the Mariposa Grove and saw these anomalies of nature firsthand. I’m sure it is something they will never forget since that was the main topic of discussion that evening while munching on Pappaw’s meatloaf. Their description of the telescope tree was so fascinating I wanted to go back the next day–but alas!–our schedules dictated otherwise — so we had to say goodbye to the wonders of Yosemite and save some of it for another day.
Mike, I promised you my favorite view–so here it is! What a charmer!
I think I’ve covered the major events of the week. But I have to add that exploring Yosemite with the kids was an eye-opener. We have been hitting a lot of parks over the past few months, sometimes with only just enough time scheduled to hit the “high” points. But as we learned with Mike and Lisa and the grandkids, sometimes the high points are not always the most well-known–that you can discover your own high points just by getting out of the main areas and doing a little exploring. Spending quiet time with the family in a special place in one of the most beautiful places on earth is a memory I will never forget–and a moment in time that I will cherish. Having a few laughs, learning new things, going on adventures, and stretching our limits (yes, I finally broke in those hiking shoes!), is a gift of time we will remember as we continue our adventures on the RV trail.
To all our family and friends, at home or on the road, Happy Trails! We miss you and send our love. (Tracie, be careful on your road to Nebraska and let us know how you are doing!)