Pacific Coast

Full table at breakfast this morning. We thought it strange at first, everyone sitting down at the same time – a bit regimented for a holiday, but it was actually very nice. Everyone shared stories about where they’d been, who’d seen bears and other wildlife. Mary Kay had been making a different cooked breakfast each day but accepted our request for more of her tasty pancakes! 

It was a 200 mile drive to the coast today, and after a couple of hours we were looking out for a driver change and coffee stop. Towns/villages were few and far between. We pulled into one. The centre of the road had a newly built library and fire station but the supermarket and houses either side were old and run down, not the sort of place we wanted to stop. The next place was just the same – new library, run down area. Fortunately we came across a freeway intersection and there was the usual selection of MacDonalds, Denny’s and Starbucks. It was a bit of a Wild West lookalike place! 

   As we got nearer to the coast we entered serious vineyard country. Miles upon miles of vines, with affluent ranches on hilltops. We passed numerous signs offering tours and tastings. 

We arrived at the coast – what a contrast in temperature! Had to put a jumper on, the wind was straight off the sea. Had a short walk along the coastal path and saw some seals on the rocks.  

    Nice hotel, lovely room, sea view, and a gas fire! 

    Found a fantastic restaurant for our meal – pan fried duck, delicious. Chocolate mousse torte for pud, and I forgot to photograph it!!

Glacier Point

Our last day in Yosemite. Drove to Glacier Point – at over 7200 feet it afforded amazing views over Yosemite. It was fantastic to see Vernal and Nevada waterfalls that we had hiked to on Sunday. The 3000 feet sheer drop into Yosemite Valley was amazing.  

  

  

  

We walked to Sentinal Dome and climbed the granite sides to the top.  

 360 deg views! We had lunch and spent ages chatting to a couple from Bristol.  

      We then walked through forest trails to Taft Point. A couple of deer were grazing right next to the track and weren’t bothered by us approaching at all. 

Being Spring, there were lots of wild flowers. I had seen some strange red flowers on the roadside, only a few, they were Snow Plants and apparently only grow in a few areas in Yosemite. I spotted one on our walk:

We had another stop along the trail to chat to another couple from Barnsley. They were considering renting an RV for a trip to New Zealand so were happily picking our brains. 

Taft Point was another fantastic viewpoint. We stood on the edge of the sheer drop and just soaked up the scenery.  

  

  

Yep, we’re right on the edge – it’s a long way down!

 Not a long walk by any means, but over 1600 feet of ascent in the thin air was pretty tiring. 

The car needed fuel, urgently, so we drove the 35 miles down to the nearest town and filled the car, then ourselves. Found a lovely steakhouse! 

Back to the B and B, polish off the wine, then pack. Heading west to the coast tomorrow. 

Tioga Pass area

Today we decided to drive along the Tioga Road to the Tuolumne Meadows, climbing to over 9000 feet, still lots of snow lying.  

First stop was a short walk to May Lake. There was a small pond near the car park and we were lucky enough to spot a water snake swimming across it. The walk to the lake was across huge slabs of granite. The scenery was amazing – masses of granite with pine trees growing amongst it. We saw one other couple coming down as we were on the way up – we really were alone. Our senses were heightened, as this is bear country and I suppose we did feel a little vulnerable. The lake was beautiful, snow capped mountains all around us. 

  

  I was enjoying the silence when I heard what I thought was a workman tapping away, possibly erecting a tent as this was a seasonal campsite. We walked near the tent, and realised it wasn’t a workman – something was inside, trying to get out. It sounded like sharp claws scratching at wood, and we could see a snout shape pushing against the tent walls. We backed off a bit, just in case. I turned and saw something brown run through the rocks. It was a marmot! There were quite a few. I looked back at the tent and one was on the roof! His friend was obviously inside! Not a bear! Phew! We watched him for a while. They were gnawing at the wooden roof which they had exposed by ripping the tent canvas. He decided to climb back up to the top of the roof, but slid down the slope and fell off! It was so funny! He looked very embarrassed and shot into a hole that they had made in the tent wall.  

 We climbed up onto some rocks and enjoyed the amazing views before walking back to the car. We continued along the road and the scenery changed to stark granite mountains. It was beautiful, like we had gone to a completely different area.  

  

  

The previous photo is of Clouds Rest, the largest face of Granite in the world. It is a mecca for climbers and we spotted several on this granite outcrop: 

 We reached the area known as Tuolumne Meadows. It was like being in the Alps, lush meadows, rivers, snowcapped mountains. We saw lots of mule deer, then watched a coyote casually stroll across the meadow into the woods.

  

We continued along the road to the Tioga Pass Resort, 110 years old, lovely and rustic. We had a meal there before making the long trip back. The evening sun was enhancing the beauty of the lakes and mountains.  

 We drove slowly back along the stretch of road where we had seen the bears yesterday but they had obviously gone to bed! 

What a day! If only we’d known how fantastic the Tioga area was we would have spent a night up there- so many walking trails to explore. Next time…

Yosemite waterfalls walk

The ranger in the visitor centre said this was a nice walk, it didn’t look too long, so we thought we’d do it in the morning and explore elsewhere afterwards. It was called the Mist Trail, up to Vernal Falls. It was a tough walk up rocky paths and it certainly lived up to it’s name. By the time we reached the top we were pretty wet, but wow! That’s what I call a waterfall!  

  

  

 We decided to continue on up the trail to Nevada Falls. A long steep climb, but again, absolutely fantastic views at the top. The power of the water had to be seen to be believed.  

  

  

  

 We had climbed over 2000 feet, my watch said 5 miles, but the Trail signs said a lot less. Our legs said my watch was right! What goes up has to come down, and it was a long way. We took the John Muir trail, which was less rocky, but steep none the less. 

We had a quick look round the somewhat uninspiring Yosemite Village, had a bite to eat, then set off back. Stopped at a viewpoint to take a photo of Half Dome – Abbi climbed it a few years ago. 

  

On our way back we came across this little beauty:  

 Did I mention we also saw this? 

    We’ve had a fantastic day, and achieved our dream of seeing truly wild bears and rattle snakes. The photos on the camera are brilliant, much better but at least I did get some on the iPhone too. 

Yosemite

Relatively short drive today, mainly on the freeway. Stopped after a few miles to buy some of the locally grown apricots and freshly squeezed orange juice – absolutely delicious! 

Went straight into the national park to Mariposa Grove, a walking trail amongst the Sequoia trees. It was quite interesting as there were lots of boards telling you about the trees and their life. There were lots of fire damaged fallen ones – the roots were huge! 

   We spotted a woodpecker going into it’s nest – you can just see it’s white head in the photo. Saw a couple of deer too – right in the centre of the photo. 

 
  Next stop was the Visitor Centre at Wawona. Spoke to a very helpful guy who suggested lots of walks and places to see. 

Found our B&B – home for the next 4 nights. Very nice it is too! Went for a quick dip in the pool – we are the first to use it this year. It was a little chilly but very pleasant.  Glass of vino ($5.99 for 1.5 litres!) on our private deck, watching the moon rise.

 

Kings Canyon 

Breakfast on the deck today, admiring the mountains and watching woodpeckers and humming birds. It was hard to set off for the short but lengthy drive to Kings Canyon, I could have stayed here all day!  

   We decided to avoid the hairpin bends in Sequoia and took a different road. It wasn’t long before we were lost in the maze of fruit trees. Road signs had been non-existent, even in the town where we wanted to turn right. The satnav didn’t really help, fortunately we had 4G so could use the iPhone maps. That put us on the right road. So much for avoiding the bends – this road was almost as bad, down to 15mph for nearly 20 miles! But we made it, and the views were just as stunning. Although I wasn’t impressed when I saw the road disappearing round yet more hairpins into the depths of the canyon!  

 We stopped for lunch at Grizzly Falls – good job we’d packed butties and a flask as food was non-existent!  

 On to Roads End, literally. We walked for half an hour along Copper Canyon trail, climbing steeply all the time. There wasn’t a soul about except us. The views were fantastic.  

    Made our way back, stopping to admire General Grant, another huge Seqoia tree at over 268 feet high, 40 feet wide and 1700 years old! Saw chipmunks and Mule Deer. These trees are amazing – so massive, I love them. 

     In an attempt to avoid the bends we took another route back – still lots of bends but not so sharp. It was a long way round though. Supper at a Pizza Factory, before enjoying the last of the sun and wine on the deck – excellent! 

Sequoia

Had a lovely time at the AirBnb, great value, really comfortable. As we left Bakersfield we saw acres and acres of fruit trees and vines – oranges, apricots, walnuts and grapes. But within a few miles, the fruit trees were interspersed with ‘nodding donkeys’ , apparently the area is a productive oil field.  

 
  It was a relatively short drive today, and we were soon approaching Sequoia. At tunnel rock we were glad we didn’t have the RV any longer!  

    Took this photo of a granite outcrop, not realising we would later be climbing it!  

 Our first encounter with the giant Redwoods that Sequoia is famous for – they are truly spectacular!  

 
  View from the top of Mora Rock. And looking down at the hairpin bends that were a real white knuckle ride! 

    We’re going on a bear hunt, we’re not scared! Sadly we didn’t see one.  

Next stop was The General Sherman tree – officially the biggest tree in the world. Not the tallest, but biggest mass of trunk. It was huge! 

   Lots of the trees had lightening damage. 

  

The journey back along those hairpin bends was ‘interesting ‘ to say the least! Even the Satnav struggled!

 

Tonight we are at another AirBnB, this time a small apartment. Sat on the patio near the pool with a glass of wine watching humming birds and soaking up the view. This is the life!

Death Valley to Bakersfield 

Stepping out of our room yesterday was like stepping into a hot oven – a blast of hot air. It was a lovely sunset too. 

 It was only 80 degs when we set off this morning after a comfortable night. We were relieved that we didn’t discover the numerous Blackman beetles until we drew the curtains- apparently it is the season for them. 

Today we were leaving Death Valley, heading to an overnight stop at Bakersfield. We drove from near sea level up to 5000 feet, back down then back up again. Warning signs on the roadside told us to turn the aircon off – fortunately it wasn’t too hot yet. We stopped at Father Crowley Viewpoint, where the lava flows changed to rainbow coloured rock. It is an area used by U.S. jets for low level flying training and we witnessed two jets fly low and fast down the narrow canyon beneath us. Sadly we didn’t have the camera ready. 

We then approached Owens Lake, with snow capped mountains beyond. It’s strange to think that our accommodation in Sequoia is just over that mountain range, about 30 miles away, but we would be driving nearly 200 miles.  America’s highest point is in that range, just 80 miles from it’s lowest point at Badwater Basin.

   Found a lovely rustic western cafe for a much needed cuppa, apple pie and lemon meringue pie!  

 

Back on the road again to Bakersfield. We decided to take the scenic route through Sequoia Forest Park, and it was worth it. The desert scenery changed to rocky mountainous views, with a lengthy, slightly hairy, twisting descent. Lovely views of a lake enroute, and an ice cream stop at the quaintest shop you’ve ever seen, a sign saying no photos was the warning! It was like stepping back in time.  

     

Now we are at an Airbnb in Bakersfield. Lovely place, everything we could ask for, including wifi! Time to find some food!

Death Valley

Interesting start to the day. Up early, as is becoming the norm. Packed and spruced up The Beast, then set off in Las Vegas rush hour traffic to collect the hire car, before dropping off the RV. Oops, Hertz have moved! Fortunately just a few miles away. Found the place, but they hadn’t got the car we booked, claimed they had no big cars and offered us a small car. No way would our cases fit in that. We were politely assertive, and got a free upgrade to what she called a mini van – we called it a people carrier. I set off on my own to drive to the RV depot with Pete following behind in the Beast. I had tried to memorise the route, but missed the turning! I saw the RV in my mirror, happily heading back to the depot, while I was driving satnav-less into the depths of Las Vegas! All on my own! Help! Fortunately I found a spot to turn round and was soon back on the right road. 

Eventually we were on our way, relieved to leave Las Vegas behind, heading into the unknown that is Death Valley. Names like Funeral Mountain and Devil’s Garden did nothing to encourage us. The temperature climbed, over 90 degs. We detoured to Dante View. A long climb up a narrow road, but WOW! We were rewarded by fantastic views of the Badwater Basin – massive salt flats, 80m below sea level.   

  Next stop was Zabrinski. Amazing coloured rocks. We were just in awe, never seen anything like it.  

 

  
The temperature was climbing and peaked at 106 F! We descended to 78 m below sea level.  

 
  A quick stop at Furnace Creek resort, a much needed cold drink and ice cream before the last 30 miles to our hotel – Stovepipe Wells. We had a lovely dip in the pool, which surprisingly is heated. 

Today has been amazing. The desert is beautiful beyond words. Hot, windy, but what an experience. 

Zion

Today was the third park in the Grand Circle – Zion. We didn’t know what to expect here. Up early again and managed to get one of the few RV parking spaces at the Visitor Centre, then caught the free shuttle bus to the far end of the canyon. Zion is a place of towering peaks, and a narrow canyon and river.  

  We walked to the start of The Narrows, where the path continues through the river. It’s supposed to be spectacular but we didn’t have the right gear to tackle it. Next time… 

The warning sign of a high flash flood risk today wasn’t putting people off either. 

 We found a trail that went along the side of the rocks to the emerald pool. It was beautiful there and as peaceful as it could be on a public holiday.  

        We didn’t have time to do the more strenuous hikes so we headed back to the RV, taking in every bit of the fabulous scenery.  

        We’ve got neck ache today from looking up all the time. Even the shuttle buses have windows in the roof so you can see the peaks!  

 So now we are heading back to Las Vegas. We say goodbye to FB Beast tomorrow and pick up a car for the next leg. 

Heading to Zion

Well it’s been an interesting day! We took the upper route across to Zion, as we had been warned about the switchbacks and tunnel on the alternative road. I spotted a bit of snow in amongst the trees, which got more widespread. The snowplough should have been the warning!  

 

   

 We stopped at a viewpoint and got chatting to a nice couple. They recommended avoiding the main Zion Park, with it being Memorial Weekend and visit the quieter Kolob Canyon, still part of Zion, and do the Taylor Creek trail to the Natural Arch. ‘You’ll cross the creek a coupl’a times, but there’s lots of stepping stones, it’s not a problem ‘ So that’s what we did. I’m not kidding, we crossed that creek over 50 times in the 6km hike to the Arch, which was actually a cave, and very pretty.  

The creek crossings were pretty easy, and Pete dropped a few rocks in to make it easier in the deeper sections.We had a welcome sit and cuppa at the cave then set off back. We were pleased to see that the creek level had dropped considerably in a short time, as Pete’s rocks were now more exposed.  Our joy was short lived as we turned a corner to find other hikers contemplating a deep pool. Some lads were climbing a steep slippery section of rock and we thought ‘how silly’, then we realised why. What had been a shallow crossing at a boulder fall had become a dam in the space of 30 minutes. We either took the dangerous scramble or waded through! We watched a couple of people wade, and decided that was the best option. Fortunately it was sandy, and the cold water soon numbed our feet so we couldn’t feel anything anyway!    

 

The rest of the hike was uneventful and we set off on the final part of today’s journey to Zion River RV resort, and very nice it is too. Good wifi and a few beers, wet socks drying in the sun. 

First view of Zion: 

 

Bryce Canyon

Into the park bright and early. Very foggy at the top, but as we trekked down towards the Peek-a-Boo trail, we were teased by glimpses of the hoodoos in the murk. The fog lifted and we were in the middle of the most amazing rock pillars. We were virtually alone, it was beautiful. 

   

  

  

  

  

 The climb up out of the canyon was steady and easy. By now it was starting to rain, and we were lucky to find one of the few places in the park to get a coffee. Then I spotted the horserides desk! A ride was about to set off, so I went too. My mount was Paris, a mule, and she had a habit of walking right next to the edge! We rode into a part of the park where we hadn’t walked and it was just as spectacular. 

   

 Another great day – moving to Zion tomorrow. 

A day on the road

Today we head north to Bryce Canyon, 111 miles as the crow flies, 283 by road! The satnav reckons it’s nearly 7 hours! So, up early and on the road by 7.15 – yes, 7.15, if you’re reading this Andy and Sue! 

First stop was Desert View, and last glimpse of the Canyon. It was lovely, really peaceful and quiet – too early for other tourists!   
    Next stop was Horseshoe Point – a spectacular curve in the Colorado river. It was a mile’s hike across the desert to get there, but well worth it.
   
 Back into the RV for a short drive into Page, restocked with food and fuel, then back on the road. Oh, and cold remedies because someone has man flu. Although he’s just suggested it’s altitude sickness…

The scenery today has been varied – wide open plains, rocky mountains, Native American settlements and the beauty of Lake Powell. 

Time to get back on the road, still got a few hours to go! 

Grand Canyon 

Arrived late at night to the RV park, temperature dropped to freezing overnight. Looked out of the window at 6am to see this:

 Ok, so the photo won’t load, it was an Elk!  
 
They would be regular visitors over the next few days. 

We were at the local airstrip nice and early ready for our first sight of the canyon. As we flew over the rim and got our first view there were gasps from everyone! We had 30 minutes flying over the canyon – it was just fantastic! Even better, we had seats in the front!

Photos to follow when we get better wifi!

Tuesday morning found us up and out before 8am, as we headed off to trek down the Kaibab Trail into the depths of the canyon. The early morning light was perfect and the views were spectacular. The warning signs of heat exhaustion and the return ascent had put off all but the hardiest souls and we had lunch 3 miles down at Skeleton Point, probably the best lunch stop in the world. We could see the rafts on the canyon far below. Tens of thousands of people at the top, just half a dozen where we were. It was just fantastic, awesome, amazing. The return hike was steep but manageable, and we were rewarded by a flying display by the Californian Condor. He was huge and came so close we could see his wing tag! Number 23! Yes, I got a photo but can’t upload it until we get home!

There’s very poor wifi here, will post more photos when we get a better signal.