Sent from Mono Lake, Lee Vining

Again sorry it is so long since our last blog, there is no usable internet in Yosemite National Park unfortunately.

Friday 15th July
We found a Loves Petrol (Gas) Station to stop for coffee and send our last blog and across the road was a Flying J both of which cater for large trucks and RV’s and allow overnight parking, but also have facilities for RV’s to dump waste and clean down as well as selling Propane gas so this would be a good place to clean out and fill up the RV before we take it back in a couple of weeks, down the road a little we also found a car wash which could take our height so we would be able to clean it outside as well on the day before we return it.

After sorting out the van ablutions before our return we had a slow drive towards Yosemite passing through vineyards and apricot & peach groves. We then started climbing again into the mountains and entered the Stanislaus Forest. We were sure Yosemite would be busy and campgrounds would likely be full because two BLM ones we passed had “Full” signs, so we found a small forest road which was perfect for us and had a really peaceful night.

Saturday 16th July

We got up early to drive the 15 miles into the park and were told at the gate that all campgrounds were full so we just found a parking place for the day and set about our visit.

Yosemite also has Shuttle Buses so we jumped on the first one and did the whole route. We were lucky to have found our large parking spot because by ten am there was very little parking to be had anywhere. In fact we heard later that they had closed the gates as the whole valley, which is the main attraction of the park was full. We took another longer bus ride then walked to Yosemite falls, a beautiful double water fall which dominates the valley view (see Gallery). Then to the visitor center and an Indian museum and exhibits of craft-work and Tepees etc. Back in the visitor center we saw a poster about a film show and presentation by a famous rock climber; Ron Kauk. Nik will probably know of him but we didn’t, he was the one who helped Tom Cruise do the opening stunt in Mission Impossible “2” film. His film was fantastic with some amazing views of the park and some incredible climbing shots. The Q&A afterwords was really good, he was a really calm and spiritual guy, a Native American we think by his appearance.

It was really dark by the time we got back to the Motorhome so decided to leave by the nearest exit to find somewhere for the night. We had already confirmed with the Rangers that it was ok to stop at any lay-by (pullout) and found a large one just seven miles out. But it was really dark that night and the narrow roads with jagged rocks sticking out from the sides and trees leaning in was a challenge with the wide and high vehicle.

Sunday 17th July

As Yosemite Valley was so crowded on Saturday we decided it would probably be worse on Sunday so left early to drive the thirty odd miles to Wowona where we could catch a shuttle bus to Mariposa Grove which was the area where the giant Sequoia’s (Redwood trees) grow. These were different we were told from the Coastal redwoods we had seen last week. We had formed the impression that it was a comfortable short paved walk in the grove so didn’t wear our hiking boots and take our walking poles and only packed one small bottle of water and a couple of energy bars, unfortunately we ended up walking about eight miles not properly equiped with an elevation gain of 2,000 ft, as a result we suffered for it the next day.

The Giant Sequoia’s were impressive but we both thought that the coastal redwoods were better and gave the impression of being larger and the forest was far more tranquil, almost magical, but there were very many more of them there and they hadn’t suffered the impact of destructive tourism for so long but it was a very good day albeit a bit more tiring than it should have been. Also any tranquility there could have been was destroyed by passenger “Trams” which were trailers carrying about 50 people pulled by Diesel Artic. (Semi) units screaming up the steep tracks in low gear with a massive hiss from their air cylinders every couple of minutes. These ran at about ten minute intervals and charged those who couldn’t or didn’t want to walk up $27 a go. We really couldn’t believe the National parks Service doing such a destructive thing. Compared to the LPG Shuttle Buses which are nearly silent and non polluting. But I suspect they make a great deal of money from the “Trams” and perhaps the buses don’t have the power for the hills.  Such a shame a better solution could not be found.

On the way back from Wowana we took the 16 mile road out to Glacier Point which we had been told was a must as it looked over the whole of the valley. It was indeed an impressive viewpoint and we were also able, with the help of a high powered telescope stationed there to see some climbers scaling the absolutely sheer vertical face of Half Dome rock, 5,000 ft. from base to top. The sheer face itself was probably about 3000 ft. Even with the telescope they looked tiny against it. See the photo in our gallery and spot them if you can. We had read earlier that sometimes the climb can take a couple of days and they have to sleep in their harnesses hanging from the rock at night!!

On the road to Glacier Point we had passed Bridalveil campground which had a sign saying spaces available so after a close-up encounter with a Mule deer who had decided that the bushes in the car park would make a nice evening snack we headed for the campground and took one of the last two spaces available.

Monday 18th July

We woke early very cold as the temperature had dropped to 5 degC in the night and a bit sore from the hike yesterday so decided to stay for another day to sort things in the van out, we were getting very short of cash as we hadn’t been near a bank for ages but just about managed to scrape the $14 together in change which we had to check with the camp host first as it specifically said notes only.

We had a short stroll along the creek to relax our muscles a bit and cleaned and sorted out the van then cooked an early dinner over a camp fire and chatted to the guys in the tent next to us for quite a while before going to a Ranger Camp Fire talk on Bears.

Tuesday 19th July

Today was going to be another housekeeping day as we must get some more cash and must do some laundry so we headed in to the valley quite early and luckily found some parking just outside the Laundromat then caught the shuttle bus to Yosemite Village where we hoped the ATM was working. Luckily it was so we could get some cash albeit at quite a high service charge which with the bank surcharge would probably make it the most expensive dollars yet, lets hope the exchange rate hasn’t gone against us as well.

Cash and Laundry all sorted out so after lunch we jumped on a shuttle bus to go to the trail head for the hike to Vernal falls viewpoint just 1.6 mile round trip the book says, but today we took the hiking gear just in case. At the bottom some Rangers said the trail was closed passed the footbridge but that was where we intended to go so no problem. The hike although it was paved and very busy was extremely steep so we were glad we had our boots and poles because they make it so much easier. On our way up we bumped into two guys from the campground Judy had been talking to before we left and they told us the terrible news that three people had climbed passed the railings at the top of the falls despite the warning signs and had fallen over, which was why the trail was closed as the Rangers were still searching for the bodies. In fact at the bottom of the trail presumably as we looked like hiking types a Ranger stopped us to ask if we had been at the top when it had happened. He said because of the amount of water over the falls at the moment the bodies could be trapped for weeks.

On our way back to the van and feeling a bit shaken by the sad news we decided to go to the patio for a beer to relax and shared a table with five really nice young women who had just done the Half Dome Hike, a 15 mile hike with an elevation change of nearly 5,000 ft, which had taken twelve hours, a bit out of our league.

We drove out of the Park again and found the same spot as a couple of days ago, first filling up with fuel the most expensive yet at $4.99 a gallon. But we needed some as we were going to drive right across Yosemite tomorrow to Mono Lake.

Till next time,

Steve & Judy

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