May 15 - 22, 2011 – Yosemite National Park
It was raining when we got up on Sunday morning. We broke camp and got hooked up without getting too wet. It rained off and on all the way to Oakhurst where we are staying at the Bass Lake Recreational Resort. It was spitting snow when we pulled into the campground. This is a really nice mountain campground outside of town and close to Bass Lake. It is also 13 miles from the south entrance to Yosemite National Park and almost 50 miles from Yosemite Valley. The dogs really like the fenced dog park that is on a hill with lots of rocks, trees and tree stumps to sniff around.
It rained Monday and Tuesday and we would not be able to see very much scenery if we went into Yosemite National Park. Consequently, we decided to wait till the weather cleared to visit the park.
We drove to the Hilmar Cheese Company in Hilmar, which is north of Merced. This is the largest cheese producing facility in the world, producing more than a million pounds of cheese each day. The plant is really impressive. We also saw pictures of their dairy which is also large and modern.
They have a very nice visitor center, gift shop and sandwich shop. We had a delicious lunch and bought some great cheese to take home.
We also visited the Castle Air Museum in Atwater. The museum is on the former Castle Air Force Base and has a large display of warbirds – B17 Flying Fortress, B24 Liberator, B-25, B52 Stratofortress, F14 Tomcat, and many more. The most impressive though was the SR71 Blackbird. The Blackbird at the museum flew the most operational missions of any SR71. It also was the first to fly over Vietnam and it flew photo reconnaissance over Libya in 1986.
In this part of the Central Valley we are seeing less citrus trees and more peach, plum, pistachio and almond groves than we saw farther south. There are still lots of strawberry and vegetable fields. The roadside fruit stands are currently only selling strawberries – but they are delicious.Wednesday morning the sun was shining when we got up so we decided to go into Yosemite. The closer we got to Yosemite the cloudier it became. It snowed there Tuesday night so we decided to just drive through the park and not do any hiking. Some of the park roads are closed because of snow. The forecast is for much warmer, nicer weather for the rest of the week.
From Tunnel View we could see El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls but not Half Dome, which was hidden in the clouds.
We went to the Visitors Center and watched a really nice film on the park and then drove the loop through the valley. We will come back tomorrow to do some hiking.
The sun was shining Thursday morning and it was a lot warmer. We packed a lunch and headed to the park. The view from Tunnel View overlook was much clearer today and we can see Half Dome.
Our next stop was Bridalveil Falls where we took a short hike to the base of the falls.
The closer we got to the base of the falls the wetter it got – but it was worth getting a little wet!
We also took a longer hike on the Mist Trail to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. The first mile and a half of the trail was paved, but steep, to this footbridge across the Merced River. The trail climbs 1,000 feet in 1.5 miles. This was our first view of Vernal Falls.
We ran across this cute little Rock Squirrel on the trail. It didn’t look like he had any trouble finding food over the winter,
Farther up the trail there were some big, flat rocks out into the river that we were able to climb onto and get this great view of the falls.
From here the trail really got steep and we had to climb over 600 steep and wet granite steps. Mist from the falls soaked us all the way to the top – good thing we took our rain gear. One advantage of being in the park in the spring is that the waterfalls are flowing at full capacity.
After eating a snack at the top of the falls we continued on the Muir Trail towards Nevada Falls. We climbed above Vernal Falls and got this great view of the top of the falls.
After our hike we had a late lunch at Yosemite Village and headed home – we were tired and sore but very happy that we were finally able to get some hiking in.
On the way into the falls we saw these three deer grazing in a meadow. We saw quite a few deer in the park and also saw a black bear while driving but were not able to stop and get a picture.
We had a great view of both Upper Yosemite and Lower Yosemite Falls. We decided not to climb an additional three miles to the upper falls as we were still sore and tired from yesterday’s hike.
On the way out of the valley we stopped at a viewpoint for El Capitan.
We were able to see a group of climbers on the cliff face. They are hard to see but we marked them with arrows.
The Dogwood trees were in full bloom throughout the valley – they were beautiful.
We drove the Big Oak Flat Road out of the valley toward Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. We stopped at an overlook that gave us a great view of Half Dome.
Hetch Hetchy is the valley that John Muir and others worked so hard to save from being dammed. John Muir called Hetch Hetchy Valley “a wonderfully exact counterpart of the great Yosemite”. The Raker Act in 1913 authorized the construction of a dam – the first and only dam to be constructed in a National Park.
We hiked across the O’Shaughnessy Dam, through a tunnel and part way around the reservoir to Tueeulala Falls.
This is a beautiful valley and we can only imagine what it was like before it was dammed.
Saturday we stopped at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. This former logging railroad was turned into a tourist train in the 1980’s. About 80 years ago this area was clear cut by the loggers and the current forest has naturally regenerated. We took a nice 4 mile ride through the forest behind a Shay oil fired steam engine.
After the train ride we drove to Yosemite National Park and hiked through the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. This tree is called The Grizzly Giant and is one of the largest trees in the Mariposa Grove.
Another giant on the trail.
We found these Snow Plants to be beautiful and very interesting to see popping up on the forest floor. We saw these in a number of places along the trail.
This tree is called the Clothespin Tree. Several fires have excavated a natural tunnel through the trunk that is wider than a car.
Yosemite is a beautiful park and we really enjoyed our visit. We will have to come back again when the snow is melted and more of the park is open. We are going to spend Sunday doing chores around the 5th wheel and relaxing our tired muscles. Monday we will head north.