We left the park in Chino for the roughly five hour drive to Coarsegold, CA. We figured that after we drove through Fresno we wouldn’t see any big grocery stores, so we stopped right in Fresno at Target – Megan’s favorite. She took the kids in tow for groceries and a few other items while I did some tidying up and figured out how we’d get out of the parking lot. It was also a nice break to stretch my legs. While I waited I had a few people come up to me and comment on how awesome the bus was, ask how big it was, and even if it was any different to drive than a “regular” motorhome. No-one asked who was inside, so I didn’t have to say “Kid Rock” or “that new punk/grunge band ‘Three Screaming Kids’ – have you heard of them?”
Groceries now on-board we drove up Hwy-41 to the campground in time to get parked and settled in. Since we arrived after the office closed we were just asked to check in the next morning at some point. We stayed at Park of the Sierras, which is a member-owned non-profit co-op park of the Escapees (SKPs) RV club. We were relatively new members, having only joined in January, and this was our first experience with one of their member parks. At $21 per night, compared to $50/night at the KOA up the road, it was a bargain! It lacked some amenities like a playground and swimming pool, but there was still plenty to do at the park just running around and exploring.
Cake and I went over to the office to check in and pay the next morning, and she made about twenty new friends with her outgoing, friendly personality. Being a bit of a chatterbox helps too, and everyone we met loved having the kids around.
We drove out to Yosemite National Park and planned on going directly to Yosemite Valley. The park entrance was about 45 minutes away and Yosemite Valley was another hour past that. Not only is Yosemite a big park, but the narrow winding roads around the mountains make for slow driving. This was a tough drive for our kids, especially the one prone to car sickness. We did stop to let the kids play in the snow for a few minutes along the side of the road at a turnout, which they really enjoyed!
We finally got to the very busy (and this wasn’t even peak season!) main parking lot in the valley and hiked up towards the visitor center, making note of the shops along the way. We talked to the Park Ranger inside, and then bought the Junior Ranger booklets supplied at the bookstore. Most of the national parks we have been to do not charge for the Junior Ranger workbooks, but a few do, including Yosemite, to offset their costs for the books as well as any patches or badges. Next we went next door to listen to a Ranger’s presentation on how the native americans got pine nuts, made arrowheads, and traded with other tribes. The Native American that gave the presentation was very soft spoken and mesmerized the kids. It did not take long for our very loud kids to discover that they needed to be very quiet if they wanted to hear what he was sharing with us. Amazingly, they did actually quiet down! They all were so interested in all that the native people made with their own hands, and Yay-yay especially was inspired. Outside the museum the kids had a great time running around the teepees while starting their workbooks. Josh traded hats with a Park Ranger for a few minutes while having a good talk about Yosemite.
Next we took a shuttle bus a few stops and got off near the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail for a nice hike up to Yosemite Falls.
One of the tasks for Yay-yay’s Junior Ranger badge was trash collection. The little kids weren’t required to at their age level, but they couldn’t wait to help out. You wouldn’t believe the excitement and fun that they all had in finding trash and putting it in the collection bag. They would get very disappointed when they couldn’t find anything to pick up, and of course we would remind them that not finding trash along the trails is a good thing! It was sad, though, that it didn’t take long to fill up our trash bag just along one relatively short section of the trail – visitors really need to take better care of their park!
We finished up the hike to the lower falls, climbing on some rocks and enjoying the awesome views.
The day quickly became late, so we decided that we would definitely be coming back for another day during the week and finish up their Junior Ranger booklets then. We found the car (yay!) and made a stop for a short hike to Bridalveil Falls.
The setting sun made for some beautiful photos, so we made yet another stop, this time at Tunnel View, for a look back down into the valley before the long winding drive out of the park.
Stay tuned for part two!