Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Driving down the West Coast: Yosemite & Sequoia

Monday, October 18, 2010

Driving down the West Coast: Yosemite & Sequoia

After Napa Valley and San Francisco, we took a side trip to the famed national parks that sit side by side in east central California: Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. Though a bit chilly we still felt we struck gold because both were blazing with beautiful fall colors! We freely roamed the hills and valleys with either Star or Vino.  The switchbacks through Sequoia had a 22-ft limit for RVs but since traffic was not that high, 24-ft. Star was allowed through. 

The approach to the heart of Sequoia where General Sherman, the largest living thing in the world, thrives is surprisingly pretty.  We found a tunnel rock which Bill easily climbed.  The view of The Great Western Divide  from the observation ramp on top of the Moro Rock after climbing 400 steps (a World Heritage Site) is truly spectacular! We did not have the time to visit the Crescent Meadows and the Tunnel Log (a giant sequoia that had fallen on a road and cars can pass through a hole carved out of its trunk).

In Giant Forest, where 5 of the 10 largest trees in the world stand, our visit quickly became a comedy because the giant tree we were admiring we later found out was not General Sherman after all! He stood a few meters away, aptly fenced and marked. Standing 275 feet, it proudly stands as a tree that was alive when Jesus walked the earth.  The largest living tree by volume at over 50,000 cu. ft., the diameter at its base is 36.5 feet. In January 2006 a branch fell off from the tree and measured 6 feet in diameter and 100 feet in length, what an ordinary big tree measures! 

Then we moved on to Yosemite.  This park which many consider to be the most beautiful of all national parks was a true delight!  There are three main sections. The fields and clear streams in Yosemite Valley were ablaze with the red, orange, yellow, gold, bronze, brown, and green hues of fall.  Up at Tuolumne Meadows,we still found lots of snow as we stood overlooking the tops of the mountains such as the Cathedral Range (see second photo). At Glacier Point, higher than the mountains, is quite a different but spectacular vista of gargantuan grey granite rocks. Bill bravely stood, upon my beckoning, on one of the cliffs, striking an unforgettably eerie pose! 

The most popular attractions in the Valley are El Capitan, a massive granite rock popular for rock climbing, Half Dome which stands 4,800 feet from the valley floor, and Yosemite Falls, the highest waterfall in North America at 2,425 feet, and Mirror Lake, a serene body of water that reflects the granite cliffs around it. All of these wonders of nature came about when 10 million years ago the Sierra Nevadas were uplifted, tilted and created the deep canyons. Then during the Ice Age, ice as thick as 4,000 feet sculpted the U-shaped valley.

The national park has several campgrounds and many of the amenities and facilities of a small city … department/grocery store, boutiques and specialty retail outlets, movie theaters and auditoriums, lodges, and fine dining restaurants and fast food outlets.  It was fun traveling from one point to another in the valley riding Vino! The wonders of nature are many and even as we exited, a beautiful panorama...a peek of the granite rocks was presented before us at the Tunnel View (actually the first view when you approach the park at its other entrance) .  

We promised ourselves that we will return…next time in spring to see all the colorful wildflowers adorning the hills.

But then Monterrey Bay, the beautiful town of Carmel, and the unique coastal highway, Big Sur beckon!