Vacation Day 11: Sequoia National Park

Rich woke up again today! Hurray!

I also woke up, but not voluntarily.  I first opened my eyes to the sound of a very loud conversation outside of my window, in French.  Then a couple of little girls were chanting, “We are up, we are up!”  No kidding.

Slowly the noises got more frequent and in all languages.  It was only 7:00, people!  The guys didn’t have to get up until 8:00 so neither did I!

This was the day to leave Evergreen Lodge and head out to Sequoia National Park.  The park was one of our last big destinations.  We were headed for the big trees now.  I really hated to leave Evergreen because we had done so little within the lodge.  It seemed like a great place to come and spend a week and never leave the confines.  It reminded me a lot of the Poconos Mountain resorts out east.

I’ve tried to describe Evergreen Lodge to you, but I don’t think I’ve succeed in giving the best description.  When I found it online, it sounded like little vintage cottages with little or no things to do.  When we arrived, there was the office and store with its sweeping veranda style porch.  Everything was cedar wood and very rustic looking.  It turned out that the cottages were nicely planned and decorated with bathrooms and decks.  They didn’t have TVs, phones or WiFi connections, but they were much better than I had hoped for. 

The lodge had all the amenities that you might want on the property.  There was a restaurant, tavern with big screen TV for sports viewing only.  The Recreation office had WiFi and computers.  There was a game room, outdoor fireplaces, pool and hot tub with a bar serving good beers, and many other things.  I felt a little pampered.

Breakfast was simply in the restaurant.  Our waiter this time was an English fellow.  Unfortunately, I didn’t catch his name.  His accent sounded like London. One of my hobbies is collecting accents and linguistics.  I try to place people to their origins by their accents and word choices.  The interesting part is working in family logistics to that.  If I could have made money at it, I would have gotten a job dealing with linguistics.

Oh yeah, breakfast.  Rick had his French toast and I had my pancakes.  Rich went for the omelets again.  The menu is limited here based on the supplies that they have for that period of time.  The food is all still very good though.

We packed up the cabin and double checked for anything left behind.  The car was loaded with bags and accessories.  Time to check out of Evergreen Lodge.  We drove to the office and I went in with the keys.  I told them how much we enjoyed our stay and grabbed a couple of pamphlets for other people back home.  Next stop, Sequoia National Park.

Well, not really.  The change oil light had come one so we had to find someplace to change the oil.  We stopped in Fresno at a Pep Boy’s.  They were able to fit us right in.  We had WiFi while sitting in the waiting room.  It was Saturday, but I hadn’t seen my email in a couple days.  Nothing too spectacular.  Jim had titled one of his emails as: Spoiler Alert:  Joy don’t look at this until you get back!  I looked anyway, but it was simple and they had worked it out.

I know, I know, I’m on vacation.  But then I don’t feel too disconnected when I get back. This year, everyone seems to have a better idea of what’s going on and how to handle people.  My minions are growing up and will soon leave the nest.  That means that I’m needed less and less, which is what I wanted.  Somebody else needs to be able to do my job, besides me.

So we were off again through the fruit and vegetable gardens of the U.S.  This is another section of California where they grow the things we buy from the grocery stores.  The land is flat and sandy.  Problem is, there is little water here.  The King’s River runs through part of it and the other parts have irrigation channels through it. 

Then we hit the hills that lead to the mountains that lead up.  Seems strange that we are going up again.  We just left all of that.  But up we go.  It’s pretty steep with the elevations going up.  We get to around 6,000 feet when we arrive at the gates for Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks.  These two parks are side by side so they share many of the same resources, like the park rangers.

I asked directions to the John Muir Lodge, which is where we’ll be staying for a couple of nights.  Turns out, the lodge is in the King’s Canyon side of the park.  We are in the General Grant Village, which is just down the road from the General Grant tree grove.  We check in and deposit our bags in the room.  No TV or WiFi.  There is a phone, but everything is long distance from here. 

Our first stop is to the Visitor’s Center before they close.  We get some basic directions and helpful advice from the rangers.  We turn right and head out to see the General Grant tree grove first.  This is a short drive up a winding road.  The parking lot has cars and some RVs, but not full.  I park in the shade, even though it is only 72 here today.  You look around and there are rather large trees on both sides of the parking lot.  These are only babies though. 

Twin Sisters is to the left.  The sun is shining brightly behind it.  We hit the trail for the big guy first.  General Grant is the first really big tree for us to see.  It is actually the third largest tree by volume.  The first largest is also here in the park.  We walked the trail up and around.  The first think you see is a tree lying on its side that you can actually walk through.  It was really cool do to that. Literally, the temp was much cooler inside than out.

We continued up the hill to find the General waiting for us.  He is tall and so big around.  We took lots of pictures and you can’t help but look upward at the top of the tree.  Behind the General, there is a hill with a tree trunk that you want walk into like a cave.  A large tree was standing back there that you could walk up to and touch.  Rich and I had our picture taken there to prove how large they are.

We came back to the parking lot area to get pictures of the Twin Sisters. Walking behind them, you could see them better with the sun at your back.  Rich took pictures and I had Rick take my pictures standing in front of them. 

We continued to walk down the parking lot to the trail at the back of the lot that the ranger told us about.  The North Grove trail was a service road with markers for a trail  It also announced that this was a cross country skiing trail.  No snow today though.   We followed the trail for a ways, but it kept going down.  Without a map on us showing the way, I decided to turn back.  We later found out that the trail was about 2 miles and looped back to the service road again. 

We returned to the lodge to grab some dinner.  As usual, the menu was limited to what they had on hand to cook.  Rich and Rick got burgers while I got a salad.  We ordered water to help with the dehydration after hiking.  They actually charged us a $1.50 a piece for the water.  I think that’s because they have to get the water up here.  Rich figured it was because people ordered only water to drink. 

After dinner, we stopped in the gift shop to check out the available hiking maps.  We’ve found over the years that good hiking maps are a necessity.  Unfortunately, I left the ones I had purchased on my desk at home.  We found better maps for our purposes on this stay.  They had great info and told about the trails in detail. 

So now it is about 6:00 and still 2 hours before sunset.  We didn’t want to go back to the hotel just yet.  Looking at the map, we found Panorama Point listed just opposite from the road going to the General Grant tree.  Rich thought it went by the lodge we were staying in, but I didn’t see how it would.  We went up the road and sure enough, it went right by the lodge.  One for Rich then.

The road was single lane, narrow, and very windy.  We hit one really good hairpin turn about mid way.  We were probably at 6,000 feet at the lodge and this road took us almost straight up the mountain behind the lodge to 7,500 feet.  At this point, you got out and walked another 200 feet up some switchbacks to the top of the mountain for the point.  It was beautiful though.  We were looking out over the King’s Canyon Park.  There was smog so it appeared very hazy.  It was beautiful.  Now I had to come back down that very windy and steep road, but we made it safely.

We stopped by the market in front of the lodge to get something for my sweet tooth.  Hiking had drained all the sugar out of me.  We got some goodies and headed to the lodge.  We got back in time to see a couple of raccoons trying to beg for food from a family on the bottom porch.  No luck though.  They finally scampered off into the woods when people started taking pictures of them.

So we called it a night and had showers.  I worked on my blog and pulled pictures from my camera.  Another big day tomorrow in Sequoia.

This is me standing in front of the Twin Sisters at the General Grant Tree site. This just makes you feel so small in the world.
Our first good view of General Grant was this photo op from the path leading up. I caught Rick in the act.The General Grant is the 3rd largest tree by volume in the world. It's pretty big.
A fallen giant was in the General Grant trail area. We walked through to the other end and back again. Rick could touch the top with his fingers and he's 6' 3".Rick was trying to push over this rock at the top of Panorama Point. Don't worry, it was about the size of a garage. No one got hurt in the making of this photo.
Rick was trying to push over this rock at the top of Panorama Point. Don't worry, it was about the size of a garage. No one got hurt in the making of this photo.
We drove up the hill behind the Lodge and then walked up another 200 feet or so to get this photo. It was beautiful looking over the King's Canyon side of the park here.

Vacation Day 10: Toulumne Meadows

We started fairly early with breakfast up at the lodge.  I got the biscuits and gravy along with Rich.  Rick went for the French toast, which looked good, too.  We had Michael again.  Not too bad on the service this time.

We headed up the very winding and hilly road to the park.  This time, we took the Toulumne Meadows road out to the other side of the park.  We headed for the Toulumne Grove with its large sequoia trees.  The hike was on the old exit road out of the park.  It was in service until 1996 when they put in the nice 2 lane road we had been using.  It was pretty much a downhill hike with some switchbacks.  It was 1 mile down and then it would be another mile back up.  I dreaded coming back up.

We got to the tree grove.  You could walk through the single tree that was hollowed out to let traffic drive through it.  On the nature trail, there were several sequoias.  They weren’t as big as the trees I knew we see in Sequoia National Park though. 

We climbed around and took pictures.  We came across those grade schoolers again.  Their teacher said they were from Sacramento.  I still didn’t envy those adults.

So the hike back up took some time.  Rick didn’t need to rest so he went straight to the top without stopping.  Me, I had to stop and gasp for air now and then.  My lungs burned.  I decided that I prefer going down with my legs hurting than going up with my lungs on fire.  We finally made it up.  We walked back up with a couple from Florida having the same trouble Rich and I were.  He said that it was because they only have flat land in Florida and not these long, tall hills.

We drove up and over the mountains to Olmstead Point.  From there, we walked .2 miles out onto the rock to look into the valley.  This time, we were on the backside of Half Dome.  It was like completing the other half of the picture from yesterday.  A rockslide in 2009 had cut off the path from the base of Half Dome to this side of the valley.  We couldn’t see it, but we hadn’t tried the path yesterday.

I sat down on a step of rocks to enjoy the view while Rick and Rich ambled over the rock face.  I figured I’d be safer than falling off the rock face.  They found several places where the granite rock was smooth like you would find on your counter top. 

Climbing back up the stairs, we continued on to Toulumne Meadows for lunch at the grill there.  We had hot dogs with and without chili and one sausage with marina.  Not bad for a temporary place in the summer season. 

The meadow was pretty much a marshy land around the bottom of some domes.  The guys decided to hike Pothole Dome.  They took off around the rock and disappeared on the back side.  Pretty soon, I didn’t see them from the car.  I waited and watched other tourists arrive and leave.  There were some guys rappelling down the side of the dome and coming back to the top to do it again.  No sign of my guys though.

Pretty soon, I saw them come around the side and disappear again.  Then I saw them walking top for a while.  Before I knew it, they were coming around the side of the dome and headed back to the car.  Turns out, they got lost and followed an animal track for awhile.  They didn’t see the way up to the dome until they were coming back!  Still a nice walk though.

We arrived back at the Evergreen Lodge around 4:00.  I figured this would give me time to do some laundry and I wouldn’t have to do anymore on this trip.  I set the washers and went outside to write my notes for the day.  A squirrel was out there wrestling with a McDonald’s bag and not having much luck.  I decided to take it away from him and put it in a bear proof trashcan.  I figured the campers who were close by didn’t want a bear coming to check it out.  About the time I reached down for the bag, the squirrel got the remaining hamburger out of the bag and took off!  He was quick.

While the laundry was drying, Rick and I explored the compound some more.  There was a really cool kids playground in the middle.  They had taken some tree stumps and built a deck around them.  Inside, they built another deck with stairs.  The entire thing was decorated with branches and netting.  It was pretty cool.  They had also built a spider web out of thick boat lines.  Rick could climb in and lie down in the center without touching any of the sides.

Laundry finally finished, we had dinner.  Rich and I got the angus burger, which was really good.  Rich had his with truffle fries.  Rick went for the duck breast on barley with figs.  It was awesome!  Of course, we had to help since we were paying for it.  Dessert was the crème Brule with fruit.  Then I was stuffed.

Rich and I took a quick walk out to the sunset deck to check it out.  The sun was already just below the trees, but the mosquitoes were horrible.  We headed back to the cabin.  Rick and I took a quick dip in the hot tub to loosen some muscles.  But the mosquitoes were bad there too.  We didn’t stay too long.  We took showers and settled in for the rest of the night.

There was a Trivial Pursuit book in the game basket in the cabin.  Rick didn’t know anything about this game.  Could he be my son?  I love Trivial Pursuit!  I had Rick read through some of the questions and we tried to answer them.  We actually did pretty well between me and Rich.  Then it was time for bed again.

This is the restaurant and tavern at Evergreen Lodge. This is like a resort in the middle of no where. It was so much more than I expected.This is cabin C5. The C stands for Cedar. Each grove is given a different name. We were right outside of the pool area and not far from anything.

This is cabin C5. The C stands for Cedar. Each grove is given a different name. We were right outside of the pool area and not far from anything.
The pool was built and just opened the week before. It was so nice with a great big hot tub. There was an even a bar serving draft beers.
Pacific dogwood were in bloom. There were scattered throughout the forests.
Toulumne Grove of big trees was a hike. You had to go down the original road for about a 400 feet drop in elevation. Walking back too a lot of time for me.
This is the drive-through tree that some of the original tourists to the Yosemite Park would have come through when they entered the park.
This is the back side of Half Dome. We were under it yesterday when we went to Mirror Lake. We got to see both sides of it.

Vacation Day 9 A walk through the valley of Yosemite

 Rich woke up again today!

The guys tried to sleep in again today, but we had things to go and do.  We might be on vacation, but we have limited time that we are here to see the sites.  Up, up with you two.

We went to the restaurant here as usual for breakfast.  Lately, we’ve been having Michael serve us.  He doesn’t seem all that interested in serving, but he seemed to like the tips.  I had the blueberry pancakes, while Rich got an omelet.  Rick got the biscuits and gravy.  The gravy was really good.

We headed out of the lodge and up the winding road that took us to another winding road into Yosemite National Park.  Yesterday, we had scouted what we wanted to do and how to get around.  We headed directly to the visitor’s parking at the valley floor.  From there, we rode the park bus to the different stops that we wanted to make.

First up, we headed to Mirror Lake trail.  Rich had done some reading and found that you should really go up the back and come down the front.  The back was an actual trail of dust, rock, and horses to get up to Mirror Lake.  The vistas along the way were worth it.  We got to see Half Dome several times and get some great shots.

A pack from a horse tour came down the mountain.  Some of the horses definitely had mule in them.  Probably so that they are better to handle on the mountain.  Less exciting for a rider than getting thrown from a horse onto the rocky path.

We shared the path with several other hikers.  One guy was hiking his way across the U.S.  He started out from Florida.  At the Pacific Ocean, he would be done.  Not far now.  Another hiker turned out to be a British guy touring Yosemite for a few days before his conference in San Francisco.  Rich figured it was the Oracle conference.

Mirror Lake turned out to be a little disappointing.  It had been a very warm and dry winter out here.  Several of the falls weren’t running.  We had heard that Yosemite Falls would probably stop running in a month so since there was so little water.  The lake was narrow and not very deep.  It definitely wasn’t the lake that the tourists had boated on in the 1870s. 

The carriage terminal was still there where the carriages stopped to let out the tourists.  The boat house and the ice house for winter harvesting were gone.  The lake was very reflective of Half Dome and North Dome.

Going down the front was an easy downhill on a paved road.  It almost felt like cheating.  Of course, we still had to get down the 200 feet incline and then to the bus stop.  It was hot out there.  Turned out to be 94 where we were.  Before we left the park, the temp was reading 97.  Thank goodness for camel paks.  You need a ton of water on a day like this.

We hopped the bus again for the trip around to Yosemite Falls.  We were only going to hike the Lower Falls.  With the heat, it was a good idea.  The trail was pretty full of people coming and going.  We ran into a group of elementary school kids on a trip with their teacher and parental chaperones.  Didn’t look like anyone was keeping them under control.

We got to the lower falls and could see a bunch of people making their way up the rocks along side the falls.  This was not the designated way to get to the top.  With the spray from the falls, it was definitely a lot cooler. We headed back down the other side of the trail.  We could hear music playing from the lodge at the falls.  Later, we saw a middle aged couple dressed up riding the bus.  Figured they must have gotten married and that’s what we heard.

Most of the tourists were actually British, Japanese, or a smattering of others, such as French or German.  Not too many Americans yet.  We heard in conversation around us that the schools weren’t out until mid June around here.  Probably explained why so few Americans here.

We stopped at the deli in the village for lunch.  Some nice sandwiches and cold drinks.  The ground squirrels came by to visit a few times.  They tried very hard to get something to eat.  We heard several different languages and conversations around us. 

From here, we drove back out of Yosemite to Evergreen Lodge.  Just beyond the lodge, we headed to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir.  This is a valley very similar to Yosemite that the city of San Francisco dammed up to make a reservoir for their drinking water.  Back in the day, John Muir fought the politicians to keep this from happening.  However, no one thought of preservation back then and only to exploit the resources.  That wouldn’t happen now!  So they lost what would have been the sister half of Yosemite to progress.

The drive out there was a little harrowing.  The road was narrow and very steep.  You can start seeing the dam from far away.  We arrived and parked.  A ranger appeared to be patrolling the dam for anyone trying to do anything to the water supply.  There is no swimming or anything that touches that water.

At the other end of the dam, there was a tunnel used for the train to bring in supplies and provide access to that side of the dam.  We walked through it to the other side of the dam.  You could see one of the water falls that supplied water.  The other one was dry at the time.  We hiked a ways over to the waterfall, but the elevation was pretty high and we came back. 

We came back to the Evergreen Lodge after that.  It was only a few miles up the road.  Rick and I took a swim in the pool that was right outside of our door.  After sitting in the hot tub, we got dressed and went to dinner.  Rich had the half chicken and I got the salmon with smoky grits.  It was wonderful.  Rick got the muffaletta sandwich. 

After dinner, we wondered up to the Recreation Building to log on to WiFi.  The doors were all open, so the mosquitoes were everywhere.  Right off the back of the building, the kids were enjoying S’mores in the fireplace.  Sounded like a lot of fun.  I finished up and headed back to the cabin.  Time for some rest before another big day tomorrow.


Rick and Rich waiting for the park bus to take us to Mirror Lake.




One of the many great views we had of Half Dome from the Mirror Lake Trail.
This is the path we came down to reach Mirror Lake.This is Mirror Lake with North Dome in the background and reflected.
Rick was standing on the old carriage terminus where the passengers disembarked in the 1870s.
Thank goodness for camel baks! We had plenty of water for our hikes in the 97 degree heat.
We hiked to Lower Yosemite Falls. That was far enough in the heat.