Fourteenth day of our road trip and we visited our tenth National Park. The entrance to Yosemite is just north of Mammoth Lakes so we were able to arrive pretty early in the morning. We were still at a high elevation at that end of the park and the mountains we passed had snow drifts tucked into their crevices and there were chunks of ice floating on the surface of the water. We wound our way along the road, past rock faces lashed with small waterfalls and fast running creeks glimpsed through the trees. Every time we turned a corner, we were met with a new, beautiful, striking vista. One scene reminded my husband and sons of Rivendell, where some fancy elves live in the ‘Lord of the Rings’ movies. We also saw the famous sights of El Capitan and Half Dome but only from the car. There was no free space to park anywhere close that would have given us the opportunity to get out and have a look.
Yosemite has been protected land since the time of Abraham Lincoln – and thanks in large part to my fellow countryman, John Muir – and it really does have that feeling of wilderness to it. It is also incredibly vast. We had lots of choices for places to hike to and in the end we plumped for the Yosemite Falls. It was an easy walk that led us through woodland. The route was paved the whole way but the younger boys and I chose to wade through some shallow water anyway, just for fun and to cool our feet. It was not long before we could hear the strong rumbling of the waterfalls and a little further on we could feel the spray even before we could catch sight of the falls.
Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in the park and falls, in two drops, a total of 2425 feet. Our walk brought us to the bottom of the lower falls where we could watch the water pounding into the pool and flowing out into the creek, hear its roar, and be cooled by its spray. Despite the noise, despite the crowds, there was something restful about watching the falls, something mesmerising about it. We spent some time taking in the view of the falls.
I wanted to cram in a visit to the Ahwahnee Hotel, as it’s interiors were used as the inspiration for some of the decor in the Overlook Hotel, the setting of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’. As a big fan of the movie, it was a big pull for me. However, Mr Pict was keeping a better eye on our timings than I was and pointed out that we still had a very long drive ahead of us. Sadly, therefore, I had to accept that on this occasion I would have to abandon the film nerd bit of our visit to Yosemite.
The drive north was indeed long. Long and boring. Boring largely because it was relentless. The landscape outside the car was actually fairly interesting, so it was not like the cabin fever boredom that sets in when driving through featureless desert. There were rolling hills, golden grasses dancing in fields, and clouds in the sky. Actual clouds. I think they were the first clouds we had seen on our entire road trip. Our route took us up and down steep mountains, on twisting roads, through areas devastated by wildfires with trees turned to charcoal. What we did not pass was anywhere we could stop to eat. By late afternoon we were ravenous but the only towns we passed through were too tiny to have a grocery store or place to eat. This was not good planning on our parts. We had water and the kids had access to some snacks but we were hungry enough that the cranky moods were kicking into gear. The long stretches of nothingness somehow seemed longer because of our hunger. We passed through Calaveras County, a place I had heard of because of Mark Twain and his jumping frog. Having heard of it, I had some hope we would pass through a place big enough to at least have a convenience store we could grab some sandwich fixings from. Alas, no. We must have been in the depopulated part of the county. We kept on trucking. Finally, we reached civilization in the form of a truck stop. We ate there – nothing special but we were grateful all the same – and then headed to our sleeping quarters for the evening, a hotel just north of Santa Rosa.