Friday, September 12, 2008

Sharing Yosemite With You

I looked at the photos I took while on vacation in Yosemite and trying to describe reality with digital images is simply impossible to do. Looking back over our week away from San Diego the memories are burned into our hearts and minds with each day packed full of adventure and fun more so than we have had in a very long time.

Our last mini-vacation to Joshua Tree was brilliant, but truthfully this trip to Yosemite was simply awesome. Jack and Mary joined us on this trip, we left together early on Sunday morning and began our long drive northward stopping in Bakersfield for breakfast. Something about an IHop breakfast that simply makes the start of the day great! Driving through Fresno I remembered Frank and Linda telling us about life in this city. It looks small on the map, deceiving, because it has a population of 483000 people...! Exiting Fresno the roads narrow down and become a two lane highway - something we are used to coming from Africa. Highway 41 eventually brought us to the small town of Oakhurst (population 14000) which is situated at the south entrance to Yosemite.

Our first day was more of an orientation. Finding our little cabins, establishing where the stores are located and what the general area had to offer. You know the internet is a fantastic resource, and sometimes a website and reality can be distorted. Saturday night before our trip began I looked at the facility where we were going to stay, and imagined it to be rustic, maybe home from home. Reality didn't let us down. The cabins were nicely laid out, appliances were in good condition, and the back yard scenery was pleasant. We even had a family of deer that would come walking through every morning and evening which added to the calm of being in the wild.

Monday we drove to Bass Lake. It was seriously packed full of people, cars lined the banks of both sides of the lake, which I might add is the largest lake I have ever seen. Actual waves were crashing on the shore! Looking back now I know those waves were being edged on by the boating activities.

Glen and Toni had us over for dinner the previous Friday and Glen put me through a crash course in fishing. The last time I fished was a good 17 years ago, so the lesson intrigued me and I couldn't wait to get out there and see if I would have any success. Vicky opted to sleep in so Tammy and I woke early, loaded the car with all the gear, drove into town and got some Starbucks before heading out to Bass Lake. Greg who works in the deli of a local supermarket on the banks of the lake is the fisherman 'guru'. So we stopped by and asked for his advice on where to go, what bait to use etc. He pointed out a few spots on the lake itself, which we tried, but after a couple of hours and not even a single bite we decided to try a different lake altogether which Greg admitted was less frequented and had an excellent stock of rainbow trout.

I don't usually get lost, but trying to find this lake turned into a bit of a mission. Winding twisty mountain roads, little one street towns, and beautiful landscape finally brought us to Manzanita Lake a quaint little lake fed by Bass lake tucked away almost out of sight. We scoped it out, and decided to give it a try. While I was unpacking the car a gentleman arrived and we chatted a little. He suggested a few spots we should try on the lake and so - knowing the locals have a good idea of what's going on we set up our fishing poles - I had to look at the diagram Glen drew for me...I might scan it for you all to have a grin! That piece of paper became my bible for the day! I found a spot, Tammy found her spot and within minutes she pulled out a 12 inch trout.

A few moments later Jack, Mary, Nancy and Vicky arrived to watch us fish for a while. I moved to Tammy's spot and cast my line into the lake, and BAM...I had a trout on he end of my line! I need to add that the biggest fish I have ever caught was no larger than 4 inches in length. So as this trout was being reeled in, my heart was pounding, I lifted it out of the water, and you guessed it...he wasn't having any of it, and spat the hook out and vanished! Vicky made her way over to us, and I baited the hook, and gave her the fishing pole - she too had never caught a fish, so this was going to be a first for her. A moment later, she said "I have's pulling the line" reeling it in, she landed a 13 inch rainbow trout - part of her wanted to throw it back, but the thrill of the catch spurred her on to fish more.

If you go on vacation and need an excellent navigator Mary is your best pick! She figured a short way back from Manzanita Lake to Bass Lake...and when I look at the map, the time and distance saved was huge! We took a break for lunch, driving to "The Forks". The burgers at the water front diner were absolutely delicious. They brought back familiar memories of the hamburger nights we used to have with Mom and Dad back in Zimbabwe. The fishing bug had bitten the girls (and me) and so we gulped the burgers down, and excused ourselves from the table heading back to our spot on the lake. I think what impressed us was the fact that we were the only people there, and were able to find spots freely and enjoy the afternoon fishing. A few hours passed and nine rainbow trout later...we decided to head home for the night. Yes - we took the fish with us. Glen had given us a fishing bag that conveniently had a measuring rule printed on it, so we were doing everything by the book, measuring to ensure we were within the 12 inch limit. The girls attempted to gut one fish each but couldn't stomach it, so I prepped them all and froze them. We are going to have a follow up photo shoot of that once we put them on the BBQ!

Wednesday was Nancy's birthday so with Jack and Mary having driven to Bakersfield to visit their son Josh who is an airline pilot, we decided to take a scenic drive for the day. We loaded the car up with water and snacks and set out on a wilderness adventure that amazed us. We found a spot on the map pointing the the geographical center of California and decided while we were in that general direction we should visit. Little did we know that it appears to be a less frequented ara, the road was poor, the altitude was frightening having climbed to well over 5500 feet. At the crest of the geographical center we stopped and looked down into the valley - and there what appeared to be thousands of feet below was the Redinger Lake. We were so high up that it almost looked as if we were flying over it. back in the car we continued to climb higher, and came upon another vantage view point that over looked Mammoth lake. We pulled in to Mile High Vista and looked down into the valley floor to see the most amazing lake reflecting blue for the sky, surrounded by mountains, rivers and trees...very inspiring view.

Glancing over the map and judging the angle of the sun, we knew it was time to start heading back to Oakhurst and so we set out from Mile High Vista looking for Grizzly Road. This was a short cut across mountain farm land that would connect us with the main road that would filter down into Bass Lake - eventually! Little did we know this grizzly road would turn into a narrow one vehicle pathway for what seemed like endless miles. The girls were uncomfortable, fearing a bear sighting or attack...Nancy and I however were less intimidated and continued along the winding curves taking in the beauty that surrounded us. I remember at one stage we were rounding a corner and heard something below in the ravine - did we stop to investigate? No! We all were of the same mind that it could have been a bear. A little further down this narrow road we saw cows crossing the road - this is at an altitude of 6000 feet. No wonder they say happy cows come from California...looking at the plush vegetation and awe inspiring views, it is no wonder they are happy! I must mention that this day trip took us 5.5 hours to complete a distance of only 91 miles...

Thursday was one of the most memorable days in Yosemite. Jack and Mary hired a pontoon for the day on Bass Lake, and so we packed the cooler boxes and loaded up. Remembering how busy Monday was we arrived at the dock and to our surprise and blessing discovered the lake was practically empty! If there were more than 10 boats on this vast expanse of water then that was a lot. So...we loaded the pontoon, and Jack piloted us out of the harbor to begin our day of water adventures. I took the wheel for a moment and then Tam piloted us. They only allow counter clock wise movement on the lake so we basically traveled the entire lake in search of a quiet spot to BBQ. Yes - the pontoon came equipped with a BBQ! We found a decent spot kind of in the middle but more to the east end of the lake were we dropped anchor, BBQ'ed and swam. The initial shock of getting into the frigid water was soon forgotten and we were able to cool of and splash around for a while. Something about being on the lake, with good food, good friends and family just made for a really special day in Bass Lake!

Having been in Yosemite for five days we still had not actually gone into Yosemite proper. Friday was penned as the day to drive into Yosemite. If you get motion sickness then I suggest you take something prior this trip because whilst the views are totally amazing, the winding twisty roads will mess with you before you get to the Yosemite valley village. You know, having traveled a fair amount, I am yet to experience what we experienced this trip. Already at an elevation of over 5000 feet, we were shadowed by El Capitain, half Dome and every other notable mountain in the park. We went on a guided tram ride - a distance of only 12 miles lasting 2 hours. El Capitain towers above on the right of the main road. At the foot, is a camp ground which is home to a team of rescuers who are world famous and renowned for their rescue abilities. They live there in white tents all year round and are flown around the wold to rescue and search for missing persons. The Park guide told us some very interesting facts about what we were looking at. Back in the day, there was an explorer who decided he would climb El Capitain. His first attempt took him forty two days! Reason being that he loved his drink, and so would climb...get thirsty and come own to drink. Once he sobered and put the drink aside he managed the climb in two weeks. On average El Capitain now takes two and half days to climb, and climbers will peg sleeping hammocks on the face of the rock and sleep for the night before resuming their endeavor. The youngest person to ever climb this mountain was a 7 year old french boy, a lady who was told she would not live long, had a heart transplant and climbed El Capitain, one section of the face is actually now known as "triple bypass". The rescue crew who live there all year round however, can scale the top of El Capitain in 2.5hrs....!

Saturday was another amazing day. We had heard of these giant trees that exist and so took a drive into the park for a second time and drove to the place where the most amazing trees grow untouched in the park. The giant sequoias. The photos hardly do justice to the enormous size of these trees. Their story is quite remarkable. They live for thousands of years - some date back as far as 3500 years. They do not die. Insects cannot harm them. Fire doesn't destroy them. Their seed pods can stay on the tree for 20 years before falling to the ground. It is estimated that a single sequoias holds enough seed to germinate 2 million new sequoias. This particular grove that we were in has a sequoias population of the math! Scientists have been unable to establish what gives these trees the ability to withstand the elements, to live infinitely. There is fossil evidence that these trees lived across the USA, but with changing climates only a few groves remain intact today. Researchers are studying the sequoias in the hope of unlocking their secret to longevity so that the same formula can be applied to mankind - like we really need to longer than we do already! You will see a picture of a sequoias that has been burned in the shape of an upside down Y...the opening that you see on this tree is large enough for two small vehicles to drive side by side through it. I looked up at the towering trees some over 350 feet tall, and could almost picture the Lord walking through this area in the cool of the day. Just seems like a place He would want to grace with His presence.

Sunday came all to quickly. Before we knew it a week had passed, and we were on our way back home. The roads were good, only the traffic in and around Los Angeles was crazy as it always is. We all agreed that we need a vacation from our vacation, seems you always arrive home feeling more tired than before going on a trip. Nevertheless, we had a truly wonderful time, enjoying peace and quiet and taking in the beauty of the Lord's creation at Yosemite.

As a sidebar I am developing a new website and will include a gallery of the Yosemite pictures, I took in excess of 450 and need to sort through them before posting them online. Some of them are spectacular and if you would like to use any in their original format please let me know and I will send them off to you.


Belle said...

Congratulations for a successful & enjoying vacation trip.

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