Sequoia and Yosemite, June 2010
Arriving at Yosemite National Park, Frightening Kids, Deer, The Ahwahnee Splurge
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Leaving Sequoia National Forest, we drove down Route 198 to the hot flatlands along Hwy. 41 before winding our way back up through the gorgeous forest of Yosemite National Park.

We drove through what must be the longest tunnel I have ever driven through, emerging to see this   view from Tunnel View, immediately making us gasp. Although it was late in the day and we were tired from walking around Sequoia and driving all day, we had to stop and soak in this view.  This, of course, was the classic Yosemite view that Ansel Adams had made famous, with El Capitan to the left, Half Dome in the distance, and Bridalveil Fall to the right.

El Capitan, Yosemite, as seen from the valley floor below.  Although I've been to the Himalayas several times, I still found the drama of Yosemite Valley .  We drove through, dodging tourists with cameras, gaping up at the magnificent-towering-majestic-breathtaking-awe-inspiring-noble surroundings.

Although we needed to get to our tent cabin in El Portal, we couldn't help but stop several times in Yosemite Valley, buzzing about the views we were seeing.  There was a palpable excitement, as tourists suddenly swerved to park their cars and people stood transfixed by it all.  The only times I had ever felt the drama of cliffs and mountains like this has always been in the Himalayas, where seemingly every turn provokes this sort of awe.

Check out the extra page for an additional photo of the massive granite cliff taken from Tunnel View.

We arrived at our campsite near Indian Flat in El Portal, hauling our cooler and various items up the stairs to the tent cabin in back of the main house and working up a good sweat in the still-hot evening.  Eventually, we relaxed and drank water and Blue Moon Ale to quench our thirst, George choosing to head straight to the tent cabin to rest.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010:

On our way to Vernal Falls, we stopped at the Swinging Bridge and saw this deer walking nonchalantly nearby.

Face to face with a Yosemite deer.  By now, we had seen deer close up, and seen lotsa bears at close range yesterday in Sequoia. 

What else would we encounter?

Our answer came quickly with this rather inquisitive squirrel on our walk up to Vernal Falls, a three mile round trip walk from Happy Isles in Yosemite.

The very wet Vernal Falls, its spray dousing everyone in its path.  I tucked my camera in a plastic bag from Target, turning around quickly to shoot before wiping the lens off again.

Check out the extra page for another photo of Vernal Falls, taken from the bridge.

We later walked up to Mirror Lake.  Often a damp meadow by this time in the summer, it was still a lake due to the heavier rains of the winter.

Half Dome, Yosemite.  Lisa and I had considered climbing this, but we will leave that for another trip.  Some people we met had mentioned how they felt that hiking to Upper Yosemite Falls was actually tougher due to the loose rock.

The always Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls.  According to Wikipedia, Yosemite Falls is the fourth tallest waterfall in North America at 2,425 ft (739 m), and if Wikipedia says it is so, it is so.

Later that evening at our campsite, Ernie, a girls' soccer coach from Downey, came up to me and asked me if I wanted to scare some 14 year olds.  "They've heard my ghost stories before, and they think that they'll never get scared, but I know this will really scare them!  And you can sort of pass as my relative." Sure, why not?

Ernie gathered his young soccer players around a campfire, telling a tale of his family coming over by ship from the Philippines, all with the requisite flashlight illuminating his face from underneath.  I hid behind a large propane tank, only hearing some of the story.  He told of an uncle who had his middle finger chopped off before being drowned at sea.  This dead uncle apparently still walked the earth, eager to retrieve his finger to put it in water and make him whole again, and would kill anyone who still kept the finger in his possession.

"I have the finger right here.  Who wants to see it?"  The kids raised their hands.  "Ewwwww...." some said, while others said, "That's not a finger, that's just a weenie." 

"Well, just to make sure, we should make sure we're safe. We could throw this finger into the Merced River right now.  Who wants to join me?" 

That was my cue.  I screwed up my face, held my right hand up, tucking my middle finger down to look as if it had been lobbed off, and limped hurriedly toward Ernie, moaning loudly, "ERNIE, I AM GOING TO KILLLLL YOU!!!!"

I heard loud screams.  Ernie reeled back, exclaiming, "It's my dead uncle!!!  No....NOOOOOOOO!!!" He pretended to get away and fell on the ground.  I began to chop him, but realized that this would look fake unless I really pummeled him, so I pretended to strangle him instead.  I then shot up, right hand with my middle finger still tucked down, and limped quickly toward a group of kids sitting on a picnic table.  They recoiled. One girl screamed and threw something at me.  Everyone continued screaming.  One asked, "Who IS that guy?"  I made a quick exit, disappearing behind the propane tank.

Ernie thanked me several times.  Lisa said that she heard me yelling and heard the screams all the way over on the other side of the campsite.  Nice.  Who needs to follow campsite quiet time rules anyway? 

The next morning, Ernie gave me a little beer money.  He said that we had really scared them, and that many had differing versions of what happened.  "Even the parents were scared.  They said that they weren't sure whether they should jump in and help."  He wrote a note that said, "Thank you so much for making this one bonfire the girls will never forget!!  You will forever be a part of our memories" and mentioned that I should enjoy my greatest performance ever (of course, Ernie says that because he never saw me playing "Must Be Something" while creating waves of mind-melting feedback with my Gibson SG and staggering around on stage scraping it against everything and destroying my keyboard...).  Lisa joked that I could go into business scaring people at campfires all across this great nation of ours.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010:

Lisa and I were a bit tired the next day. Two days of lots of walking around and traveling had taken its toll. Or perhaps scaring kids was more tiring than we thought. 

We decided to not hike very much and return to our campsite earlier in the day.  We began with "hiking" to Lower Yosemite Falls.  It's hard to think of a shorter walk to a waterfall with this much payoff.  It's freakin' gorgeous.

I thought I would treat Lisa to lunch at the Ahwahnee Hotel.  We might be camping, but we could also splurge.

This hotel, a Historical National Landmark, broke ground in 1926, and was designed by Gilbert Underwood, an architect with an insanely cool name.

The hotel was constructed from 5,000 tons of rough-cut granite, 1,000 tons of steel, and 30,000 feet. The construction lasted 11 months and had a cost of US$1,225,000 upon completion in July 1927.  All the timber, stone, concrete, everything was hauled up on dirt roads on trucks because the timber and granite were protected since by this time Yosemite was already a national park.

I tried to imagine posh vacationers coming here on trains and stagecoaches on dirt roads.

We ate lunch at their five-star restaurant, which served up some pretty good pasta and was a cool experience.


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Sequoia and Yosemite, June 2010
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