I don't know where the last couple of weeks ...

Trip Start Jul 23, 2002
Trip End Jul 23, 2003

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Flag of United States  ,
Saturday, August 3, 2002

I don't know where the last couple of weeks have gone, but I've already been in the states for more than a week now. Before I even left Australia though I managed to pick up a couple of travel companions who stowed away in my backpack - Paddles the white duck and Nomed the Evil Bear. I have this feeling Paddles is going to be getting into trouble while away - whether that's due to the influence of Nomed or not I'm not quite sure.

After packing my life up in Adelaide, I headed home to see my family for a few days before heading onto Melbourne to catch up with some friends. Then it was catch the plane to LA Tuesday morning which saw a rather long and uneventful flight that brought me to a lovely Californian summer's day. At the airport I met up with Steve who I'm going to be spending some time travelling with in the states. For the rest of the day we had a bit of a look around LA going to the Getty museum, looking at some views across the city, driving around a bit and then heading to Venice beach to enjoy the sun for a few hours. Then it was get out of the damn city and head south towards San Diego. The traffic here and driving on the other side of the road is going to take some time for me to get used to.

The next day was spent at the San Diego Wild Animal Park and the next day San Diego zoo. I can understand why those two places are world famous but despite spending most of the day there didn't see everything they had on display. Saw a lot of animals I've never seen before and they had some South American live music playing at a restaurant that night as well as some very bouncy African acrobats performing.

The next day was spent in San Diego itself with some time on Corondo beach enjoying the summer weather, then up to Old Town for a look at some of the historical buildings and the markets. After a few days in the city it was finally time to get out of there and head towards some of the national parks. First stop was Joshua Tree which gave me my first glimpse of the desert out here. On the way there we stopped in Julian and had some of the American Apple Pie at Mom's, before continuing towards the park. The temperature rose and the landscape changed rapidly with fewer trees and a lot more cacti appearing. The scenery of this place is so different from what I am used to and it changes rapidly with one area just consisting of a particular type of cacti and another having these amazing rock formations just appearing out of nowhere. And then there are the Joshua trees themselves which are certainly not your average tree. After watching a beautiful desert sunset with all the colour changes in the sky over the hills around us, a bit of stargazing was called for - not that I could recognise any of the stars in the Northern Hemisphere except for the big dipper.

The next day was an early start to climb Ryan mountain before it started heating up too much. From the top there were good views of the areas all around us and the Joshua trees looked just like normal shrubs dotting the landscape. Paddles the mountain conquer had to have his photo taken sitting right on top of the rock pile that marked the highest point of the mountain. After a less taxing climb down it was back to the camp to pack up, then head on down the road to check out some of the other features of the area - Barkers dam (absolutely dry now in summer, but supposed to be a good place for animals to find water at other times), Skull rock and some of the other rock formations in the area.

After Joshua tree we headed up to Sequioa National Park which was a little cooler than the desert. Just a day and a bit in the desert and I had become a lot browner (some of the tan though washed off in the shower!). Trying to reach the Sequioa National Park took longer than expected with long windy roads and then road closures because of a fire. After a few detours we arrived at the park - I wasn't sure what the park was going to be like, and definitely had my eyes opened when we arrived. I can understand why there is a section called thegiant forest as there are trees that tower so high above you. We checked out the General Sherman tree - the largest living thing in the world. You can take photos of that tree but they definitely don't capture the scale of it - the first branches start almost 40m up the tree and some of the branches would be the size of a tree themselves. The Sequioas are definitely some damn impressive trees, but the pines here are also impressive in themselves.

The night was spent camping in the park and we ended up with a campsite facing a meadow in which there was a group of deer feeding when we arrived. The ranger came around warning us about the black bears that are active in the area, something we don't have to worry about at all back in Oz. It makes you stop and think when you have to have everything packed up safe from bears. We didn't see any bears that night but the next day I saw four - two of which were running through the camp ground looking for food (and you could hear them moving through the different camp sites as the yells, horns and banging occurred in each of the different areas). The other two bears were in more natural settings but both soon disappeared into the bush.

A wander through Sequioa Forest is definitely an change from time in the city and desert. Trees that you can drive on or through, trees that are older than 3000 years and sudden appearances of meadows filled with wildflowers make for a great way to spend a day or two. I really enjoyed this park and would love to do some hikes in the high Sierra - just don't have the time and equipment this time.

Kings Canyon was the next stop with a quick trip down into the canyon for a few hours. Some marvelous views along the river were of the type you see in postcards and in the movies. Knapps hut has a view of the river that makes you realise why someone would want to make their place in that particular spot. One of my favourite views so far. That afternoon I went on a 7.5 mile walk through a redwood grove which was very peaceful as I only came across one other person on the trail.

The day did not finish on a high note though as I managed to sprain my ankle getting off a rock to climb into the car! After a night of not being able to put weight on my foot, I was very happy to be walking reasonably well again by the next afternoon. It just meant a quite day of not doing awfully much. The next day though saw us in Yosemite National Park and my ankle held up to about 6 miles of not very flat hiking which I was very happy about. I have some beautiful colours on my ankle, but the bruises will fade eventually.

I'm not sure where the time has disappeared to, but it's been good. Been a bit of an eye opener, but that's what I'm expecting the next year to be. Some things here are the same as home, but then there's something that's just that bit different that makes you look twice and reminds you that you aren't actually in Australia anymore. I love the countryside over here - not so keen on the cities, but then I've never been a huge city fan. There's plenty to see and do in this place, and it's going to be just a case of scratching the surface of a few places with this visit. Definitely recommend the $50 National Park pass if you are planning on seeing more than a couple of the national parks in the US.

At the moment we're in a campsite just outside of Yosemite Park. Going back to Yosemite tomorrow and then the plans are rather vague again, but will see us heading towards Vegas and the Grand Canyon and then who knows where.

(and Paddles and Nomed too)
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