Thursday, 2 July 2009

From Yosemite to San Francisco

There are a lot of routes from Yosemite to San Fran, and we were recommended at a tourist info centre to go through the historic goldrush region which included such towns as Jamestown, Copperopolis (say it aloud, it sounds cool), Coulterville and Sonoma. The mountain drive was pretty fun for James, and we got plenty of photos of the Jamestown sign.

We also passed by a place called 'Chinese Camp' (I presume this is where the Chinese gold rushers stayed) which mysteriously had a New Zealand flag flying outside the shop. However, I must say that the funniest thing by far we saw on the way was a building with this written on it 'Glory Hole Recreation Centre'. I now regret not stopping to take photos, but I'm sure there are already plenty of these somewhere on the internet...

The whole area was bone dry and boiling hot, so imagine our surprise when we arrived in San Francisco and found it to be put-your-jersey-on cold! But I'll save that for the next entry...


As anyone who's gone into Yosemite can tell you, going into the park for the first time is pretty awe-inspiring, what with all the sheer, giant granite domes rising out of the valley, the waterfalls coming over some of the tops of them, and of course the pine forest everywhere. You'll be able to see from the pictures, but to appreciate the sheer scale of things you really have to be there yourself.

Once we arrived at Curry Village we were briefed on their bear policy, which was that no food, liquids, or scented items of any sort (including toiletries) could be kept in vehicles or inside the tents - instead, everyone was allocated bear-proof lockers for this purpose.

The tent cabins we stayed in were indeed pretty spartan compared to the hotels we'd been at previously, but it was comfortable enough - considering there weren't really any other accommodation options at the time given it was the peak family holiday season. Probably the most annoying thing were the shared shower facilities, sometimes there were queues of about 15-20 mins before you actually had your turn.

Food-wise, I wouldn't recommend the options at Curry Village itself, we were forced to dine there twice due to how late we got back to the valley for dinner, and on the second night when we had a hot dog each (as the pizza option would've meant a one hour wait, and it was already 10pm) was probably the worst dinner we've had on the entire trip... However, other places around the valley were not too bad, I enjoyed the (mc)muffin thing at Degnan's deli so much I went twice, James had a very nice pizza at Degnan's loft, and we both had a delicious lunch at the Yosemite Lodge 'foodcourt'.

Most excitingly, let me list the animals we saw while in the park! Of course there were copious squirrels as usual, especially one particularly bold fellow near Glacier Point who appeared when we broke out the Doritos, kept moving his nose like crazy, and even climbed onto James' camera bag looking for a tidbit. I have a video that I'll try to upload later. I also saw a marmot, which I at first thought was a very fat squirrel, but realised otherwise soon enough. At Curry Village where we had those infamous hot dogs under cover of darkness turns out there were raccoons scurrying around under all the tables looking for scraps. At both the Bridal Veil Falls and Glacier Point we saw deer wandering the carpark. And of course there were various birds, especially these blue things with a crown on its head... if I can be bothered I'll look up what it's called in my Yosemite brochures later.

Of course you must be wondering - did we see any bears? Well, I was about to give up hope when on our drive out of the valley on one of the days we saw a small bear cub climbing up a tree right by the side of the road! Of course we were driving by too fast so I didn't have a chance to take a photo, but at least I can say that I've seen a real live bear... even if it was only from the relative safety of a moving vehicle, and it was only small. =P

Can't really top that for excitement so I might as well end the post here, but just a quick mention that we covered most of the sights in the valley, including the giant sequoias near Wawona. Unfortunately we didn't end up doing Half Dome or in fact any of the strenuous hikes, but James is determined to return and conquer that in the future!

Mammoth Lakes

Apologies for the lack of updates lately, was entirely due to laziness - and now it's the last day before I head back to NZ tomorrow! Still, better catch this blog up in somewhat chronological order while I have the motivation to...

Before driving into Yosemite we spent most of the day around the attractions at Mammoth (just 'Mammoth', no 'Lakes', as the locals like to call it), such as taking a gondola ride to the top of the Mammoth Mountain, which gave us some beautiful views of the whole area and the Sierra Nevada mountain range. We were quite surprised to see people still skiing, given it was late June! There was still some snow but very icy - I definitely wouldn't attempt it myself.

After that we went and saw 'The Devil's Postpile', a bunch of very interesting basalt rock formations which basically looked like honeycomb pillars pushed upwards from the earth. Look forward to some Flickr photos later when we've had time to properly sort and upload them...

Soon we were on our way to Yosemite via the very picturesque June Lake area, which was quite reminiscent of Queenstown - a nice aqua blue lake with snowy mountains in the background. Unfortunately I managed to have a freak encounter with a bee during our drive. Basically we were happily going along when BAM, I suddenly felt a burning, stinging sensation on my neck. James slowed down and pulled over, and just before the car came to a halt I saw a yellow and black thing 'stagger' (if flying insects could stagger) out the window... Obviously it'd got sucked into my window and when the first thing it hit was my bare neck, it panicked and dispensed its stinger.

Now, being the first time I can ever recall being stung by a bee, I was a bit paranoid for a while that it would turn out I was allergic, but apart from a persistent, painful stinging sensation which lasted for about half an hour, I didn't develop any breathing difficulties, so I guess it wasn't that bad after all. Overall, was relieved not to have had it worse, but also a bit annoyed that I got stung without having provoked the thing in any way... just bad luck I suppose!

One last thing we saw before heading into Yosemite were more different interesting rock formations, these things called 'tufa' by Lake Mono, which basically look like stalacmites but all around the edge of a lake.