Sheer cliffs and tall trees
Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
83Trip End Sep 01, 2011
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We have a very important meeting at 8am in the hotel lobby. Our tour guide, Jake, arrives all bright eyed and bushy tailed. He's got a thatch of curly brown hair with a neatly trimmed beard topped off with a cheeky grin. Its all a bit confusing as there are all these young people with luggage of varying descriptions standing around looking lost. Jake makes a few announcements and then directs us to a conference room which has been booked, but someone is also using it to store cardboard boxes. We squeeze in and look at each other. Everyone else is in their 20's and there is only one other guy (Martin from Farnham - England), the others are variously from Canada, France & Australia. We introduce each other and pack all our luggage into a trailer which is attached to the mini bus. We've all filled out insurance details, next of kin details and disclaimers involving optional activities
As we arrive in the Yosemite Valley, its raining. The clouds seem to hang around the mountains. Undaunted we peer through the mist and retrieve coats and umbrellas from the luggage trailer and make for the visitor centre. This is one of the oldest National Parks in the US and is all one piece of granite which has been lifted and cooled slowly by volcanic activity & it's still rising. The valley itself has been dramatically gouged by glaciers creating sheer and sometimes smooth cliffs. The misty clouds add to the mystery. There's an excellent display at the Visitor's Centre with a beautifully photographed introductory film, all inclusive in the park admission price. Once again it's good to see that the native tribe who lived here for thousands of years has been acknowledged. Outside again, Jake has fed the sunshine meter and the rain has lifted. After a quick look at a gallery dedicated to Ansel Adams, a photographer famous for his black and white prints of Yosemite (visit www.anseladams.org ) we take the free shuttle and then walk into a deserted clearing (there are actually hundreds of people here in the park) to look at the sides of the valley. This is one of the spots where Ansel took photographs but the pine trees have grown a lot since then, I'm thinking fantastic and the Australians are saying 'awesome' - not sure what the quiet Canadians are saying, but one of the french girls finds all the best photographic spots - she has an eye for it
We all gather in the communal kitchen for our cooking task. We find we are sharing this space with all the other hostelers who are cooking and washing up. Its all chaotic and although there are two ovens, only one of them works. The desert base has to be cooked first so everyone else commandeers the tables to prepare. Phillip & I have bought potatoes, parsnips, squash. beetroot, carrots, Jalapeno Peppers and Garlic. Australians Jess and Mel are desperate for 'veges' and it all looks very pretty as it goes into the oven, sharing with the still cooking desert base. We've bought too much though and it all takes a while to cook. The temperature is in Fahrenheit so we have to guess. It's a juggle with the oven as we have four quiches to go in and they take longer than expected, so we decide to be American and start with the salad
Monday: We have to be up, packed and fed before 8am. We also make our own sandwiches, (I make Phillip's) and head back into the park, stopping first at the Bridal Falls where there is a party of Japanese school kids crowding on the rocks. At this time of the year there is not much water coming down. For rushing torrents, come in the Spring and early Summer. We then wind our way up and up the steep road, stopping to get fantastic views of the valley and mountains
Our Journey to Bakersfield took us though acres of vineyards, citrus groves, corn and diverse agricultural activity. Saw one dairy farm with cows on bare earth, eating hay from troughs. Although they weren't exactly crowded, it all looked pretty mucky. Great roofs had been constructed to protect them from the Californian sun. Bakersfield is named after the Bakers, who came prospecting but ended up farming. They acquired quite a few fields in the area so as the town grew Baker's Fields became Bakersfield. The Ramada Inn was comparative luxury with 2 double beds per room.