Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Yosemite Trip

We just got back from Yosemite.

Early Sunday morning we left San Jose on I-680, and made it over the Diablo Mountains at the Altamont Pass (near where the Rolling Stones had their difficulties.) which was a lot of fun due to Basil's amazement at the wind-powered electricity generators.

We crossed the San Joaquin Valley pretty quickly and drove up into the Sierras as we headed for Columbia. On the way, we passed through Sonora, where my parents had a vacation home in the 1970s, where I learned how to pan for gold and how to bowl as a boy.

Columbia was fun. The boys dressed up like 49ers and learned how to pan for gold. Yes, they did find a few flakes each. They enjoyed the blacksmith shop and all three of the candy stores. They each got a string of hard rock candy. They played on the same giant granite rocks I as a boy played on; labyrinths of granite all that remain of the earth after the hydraulic mining operation washed away 30 feet of soil. Yes, the town is actually thirty feet lower in elevation than when it was first built.

From Columbia we wound our way through the mountains, passing the the Tuolumne River and the Hetch Hetchy Water System's Moccasin Powerhouse to the east of the Don Pedro Reservoir, which was very exciting to Anselm Samuel. (Readers might remember that I took Anselm and Basil to the Pulgas Water Temple a while back and that we have a cartoon map of the System.) eventually reaching the little tiny settlement of Midpines just inside the eastern edge of Sierra Natinoal Forest. In Midpines we slept three nights at the Yosemite Bug, a gift from my sister-in-law.

Review of the Yosemite Bug: Very good food. I appreciated the high quality fresh vegetables. Beds were way too bouncy and soft. Staff was helpful and efficient.

Our first hike was to a swimming hole in Bear Creek near Yosemite Bug. The trek was arduous. Athanasia barely made it. Once, the edge of the path collapsed and I only saved Basil by pinning him the the edge of the cliff with my walking stick. Much of the the hike involved me lifting and lowering Basil and Anselm up and down rocks. Part the path went down a steep and slippery clay hillside. The swimming hole itself was beautiful: At the bottom of a waterfall a pool of clear water that appeared to be about 10 feet deep. The only problem with the water hole is that there is no safe way to get into it. The rocks are worn smooth as glass by water and time. They are slippery when dry; impossible when wet. Once I got in the by water I quickly realized that getting out might be a problem. I won't describe to you the contortions Athanasia back up the rock. The water was also cold as ice. One very nice thing about it was the fish. It was pleasant to sit beside the water and watch the fish swimming down below. We did hold the hands of Anselm and Basil and let them put their feet in.

The next day we went up Highway 140 along the Merced River, into the Yosemite Valley in Yosemite National Park. We hiked to the baseBridalveil Fall and to the base of lower Yosemite Fall. The boys played in Yosemite Creek. We just sat for a while in a meadow near the Merced River. The boys found a "baby" frog and followed it for while.

The next day we went went up to Clacier Point which overlooks most of the Yosemite Valley. After that we went for a hike through some woods and found snow flowers and bear droppings. Believe it or not, Athanasia made me take a picture of the bear droppings. I guess she wanted proof that they really do do it in the woods.

The next day, and honestly I am having difficulty remembering everything we did and on which days, we went to Wawona and had a picnic beside the south fork of the Merced river. We were all in the river when Athanasia yelled "SNAKE!!!" I yelled "WHERE?!" and then I saw it swimming right towads her. We all scambled up the bank and away from where we thought the snake might be. No one was hurt bt the rest of the day Basil talked about how a snake bit him. (No idea what kind of snake it was. Black body, triangular head, two yellow stripes running the length of the back.)

The third day the boys and Atanasia went and played in the Merced River (I guess this is the north fork but I've never seenit called that on maps.) in the middle of Yosemite Valley while I went the the Ahwhanee where I sat in a big cushy chair and read the Wall Street Journal. But I began feeling like a bad husband and dad so I went and got Athanasia and the boys and we went to Curry Village to get pizza. They got our order wrong so we wound up with two large pizzas. (That worked out okay because Athanasia gave the leftover pie to the maids at Yosemite Bug.)

The next day, we got up late, had a leisurely breakfast, and didn't make it out of Yosemite Bug until 10 a.m. We went back into the park and over to Wawona again. At a gift shop there I bought Athanasia a "Junior Park Ranger" badge and I bought a back of plastic snakes for the boys. Filled up the tank with gas. We left the park via the Mariposa gate and headed towardmadera in the San Joaquin valley, where my Father-in-Law lives.

As soon as we came out of the pine trees and into the oaks we felt the heat. It was 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the Valley. Along the way we saw a coyote hunting gophers. It looked pretty skinny.

When we got to Madera it was lush and green, though still hot. My father-in-law's house is 1/3 of a mile from the banks of the San Joaquin River and is surrounded by vineyards. They had a slip 'n' slide set up for the boys on the grass in front of the house. They played for a couple of hours while we drank wine. Beautifully, after the sun set behind the Diablo mountains the air began to cool. By dawn it was chilly enough that I began to wish for a blanket and not a mere sheet. We went for a walk thought the vineyards down to the river. I was surprised to see quail running through the vines. At the edge of the river watched some red tail hawks nesting in a tall tree. We ran into the owner of that particular bit of earth, the 19 acres between the house and the river, and talked about farming and and water rights for a long time. Turns out that because of a little fish called the delta smelt another 450,000 acres is being taken out of production. The farmer gave us a ride back to the road in the back of his pick-up, the only time the boys have ever experienced that. Walking back the last 100 yards to the house Basil noticed grapes on the vines and got very happy about it, which made me wonder what he had been looking at to that point. What goes though his head is almost a complete mystery to me. We ate a tri-tip lunch in Firebaugh (If you've ever wondered why there is a town there at all wonder no longer. It was the site of a ferry in the 19th century, one of the few places a person could get his wagon over the river.) then headed home. On the way we saw many dry empty fields. At each of them was a sign reading "Congress-made Dust Bowl". It makes me wonder why it is legal to have lawns and golf courses when the farmers have to do without water. I'll be calling some senators in the morning.

We made one final stop at Casa de Fruta on the way home. Then we were home and prayed the Prayer of Thanksgiving After a Journey.


Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

What an amazing trip !!

Mimi said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip - I grew up in San Andreas, you were in my neck of the woods.

Matt said...

We are thinking about moving to the Valley; probably Fresno or Merced. It all depends on if we can find work over there.