By car to Yosemite
Trip Start Aug 26, 1994
11Trip End Sep 18, 1994
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Yosemite was very impressive once we had left the foothills behind. The hills and ravines were green with tall pines and red with redwoods. From the bottom of Yosemite the mountains, more like huge boulders, towered half a mile above us. Yosemite Falls, fed by a glacier, was dry and unspectacular.
Having left our car in the packed car park, we were taken on a short walk by an actor playing the part of John Muir, the famous explorer/adventurer. The walk was indeed short, perhaps a hundred yards, but took ninety minutes because the other tour members kept asking him inane questions about his personal life. They seemed to believe that he really was the late Muir, and so did he. A rotund and bespectacled tourist, possibly Billy Bunter's grand daughter, engaged me in a conversation based on my t-shirt from Borobadur. The unfortunate woman was rendered repulsive, not by any defect of personality but by the yellow goo on her chin which was either some sort of oral discharge or else a carelessly applied cold sore ointment. We were very excited to see a family of deer grazing just off the track. The late John Muir warned us that these Bambi-esque creatures were, in fact, potential killers who should not be approached. Several of our fellow tourists were horribly gored when they ignored his advice (I got some really good pictures).
Our day and ourselves exhausted, we drove eighty miles to Merced and dined in a high class (by Jono's standards) restaurant going by the name of "Denny's". Though Denny's was a fast food outlet like MacDonalds, Jono was anxious to persuade me that the two were not comparable. We both gorged on Star Spangled Burgers (a vast improvement on my Naked Truth in LA!) eased down our throats by copious quantities of Coke. The manager was goggle-eyed at the fact that we international travellers had deigned to dine in downtown Merced. I left a substantial tip, much to the disgust of my parsimonious brother, and we resumed our journey.
Locating the hostel was not easy. We parked in a gas station so that Jono could ring for directions. Eventually we found the private home which was to serve as our base and were welcomed by the managers, Larry and Janice. The hostel was small (eight bunks in two rooms) but very cosy. Larry sat us down at the dining room table and produced a number of maps. Apparently 9pm is always briefing time, whether you like it or not. While Larry expounded on the delights of Yosemite National Park, Janice served us ice cream with hot fudge and glasses of iced tea. Fortunately 11pm was compulsory lights-out time and we were able to escape to the oblivion of deep sleep.
DAY 7 THU Compulsory getting-up time was 6.45am, a new experience for Jono. After gobbling some toast and coffee we leapt eagerly into our Mazda and began the long journey back to Yosemite. Jono consulted his list of park tours and selected a ninety minute nature walk. What we actually got was a sixty minute tree talk during which we learned all about the three main types of tree in the park. The first was the something cedar, the second the sequoia or redwood and the third the something blackwood. Our guide, a casual ranger girl, quizzed us after each lecture. Could we tell the difference between a something cedar and a something blackwood? Which pinecone came from what tree? I was always the first to respond to that last question and always with the wrong answer.
With some sense of relief we left nature behind and headed for the gift shop. I purchased a fridge magnet, a postcard and a stone bear. Jono was anxious to get going and after a last look at the book section we girded our loins, hoisted our petards and strode off towards Mirror Lake. This tourist wonder was nearly two miles away and would have been well worth the hike had not the lake been dry and totally non-reflective.
We lunched at a tourist restaurant, spurning hamburgers and hot dogs in favour of huge plastic containers of tossed salad. Bland but filling and, more importantly, cheap! We were still throbbing with unexpended energy and set off to visit Taft Point. Ahead of us on the trail to the point was an American family. The male of the group, loud-voiced and bossy, leapt out from behind a tree and almost scared his daughter to death. In an attempt to console the weeping child he turned to us and said "those guys weren't scared were you?" Wimpy Jono replied "I was, a bit". Thrusting out my pigeon chest, I overruled him. "We're Australians, we're not afraid of anything!" Witty, eh?
The view from the lookout was breathtaking. We gazed vertiginously over the cliff at Yosemite Village far below and at Half Dome a few miles away. Glacier Point was not all that far distant and afforded yet more views of Yosemite Village far below and Half Dome a few miles away. I suggested to Jono that we should attempt to climb to the summit of Half Dome; to stand upon the huge Opera House sail of solid rock and thereby gain an even more awesome view of Yosemite Village far below, however he felt that the ascent would be beyond his capabilities.
Our penultimate stop was at the Pioneer Village, a sort of Old Sydney Town without the kiosks. Jono took a picture of me standing in front of The Only Covered Bridge in California. We strolled across the unique bridge, overcome with a sense of history and oblivious to reality until a small child yelled at us "you're walking in horse poo!". We should have walked on the pedestrian part of the bridge rather than down the centre.
We could not leave Yosemite without having a look at the giant sequoia trees. These were truly magnificent arboreal creatures. The "General Sherman", is, in fact, the largest living thing on earth. We didn't see that one, though we did see "Old Grizzly" which had branches large enough to be considered huge trees in their own right. Before leaving we walked through a hole cut in a large sequoia. The cutting of holes in these trees is now frowned upon as is, I warned Jono, the carving of one's initials on their lower trunks.
Darkness was stealing upon us like a thief in the night (imagery). We drove at high speed along the dimly lit country road in a futile attempt to reduce the distance to Merced. Despite a traumatic episode when Jono ran over a squirrel and uttered the "F" word, we reached the hostel in one piece. Janice's strawberry ice cream and iced tea quickly masked the taste of the luke warm burrito and rubbery chicken legs I had bought at a supermarket along the way.
DAY 8 FRI We arose at the usual compulsory time of 6.45am and had breakfast. Pausing only so that Jono could take an unsuccessful snap of Larry and myself in front of the hostel, we began the three hour trip back to Healdsburg. We took a different route on the return journey and this time failed to get lost, thereby saving two hours. The most notable town we passed along the road was St Helena, though we did drive through Lodi again. Before finally arriving home we stopped at the Luther Burbank Memorial Gardens and examined the many hybrid flowers created by this nineteenth century gardening genius.
The long trip home was made bearable by the extreme right wing oratory of Rush Limbaugh. Rush is a very powerful broadcaster with an enormous following throughout the country. He was able to make the most outrageous claims sound convincing and drew a lot of entries in his competition to see who could guess the number of "rafters" (Cuban refugees) who would be picked up by the Coast Guard each day.
We left the rental car at the yard in Santa Rosa and, after a very long wait, were picked up by Maryann