We kept to a fairly lazy day on Sunday, which was Mothers Day, and stayed at the campground for most of the day. We hung out, ate some good food, and took an exploring hike over the creek and through the “back forty”. After a while we split up with the little kids walking with me. As the three of us walked back we spotted a Wanderlodge, so we had to check it out. It was a very nice blue 40′ PT model parked in the storage lot, and it was really neat to see one close up. Wanderlodges are motorhomes built on a bus chassis by Blue Bird, are very unique, and I hear are very nice. Unfortunately the company doesn’t make them any more. Personally, I think they’re pretty sharp, though the interior of the older models is a bit dated at this point.
We continued our walk and stopped for a woman with her dog, which Cake was immediately taken to. Dooder and Cake chatted the woman up for a bit, and then I noticed that the dog had a “service dog” tag on. I had a feeling that the dog might be a diabetic alert dog, and sure enough he was! We were soon introduced to the woman’s husband, who has had type one diabetes for the better part of his life. He was amazed by the Dexcom CGM (continuous glucose monitor) that Dooder has, as well as the Insulet Omnipod insulin pump. He couldn’t get over how small the pump was and that there weren’t any tubes. I think back in amazement at some of the wonderful people we crossed paths with along the way…
We decided to head out for some ice cream, since the freezer at the campground was broken. I had remembered Robert’s Frosty from a previous drive up through town, so we went right there and had some refreshing ice cream. After the snack we took a walk across the highway and looked at all of the little craft shops.
On Monday we headed up to Yosemite again, hoping to miss some of the weekend crowds. Along the way Yay-yay wasn’t feeling too good after some of the winding roads in the Sierra National Forest and needed to get out of the car, so we quickly pulled into the next business which happened to be the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Well, isn’t this awesome! We got to see the engineer get the steam engine fired up and moving, and noticed that the pistons of the train were similar to one that was on display in Williams, AZ. That was because it too was a Shay geared steam locomotive designed to climb the steeper mountain tracks.
Meg and I decided that while the train ride would have been really cool, it would have taken up too much of our day and we needed to leave time to get into Yosemite Valley and all of the stops we had in mind. We watched the school groups get loaded up in the train, and then we went down to see about gold panning. Yay-yay had talked about gold mining and wanting to see how it was done. Of course, both of the boys are VERY interested in all kinds of mining because of Minecraft.
The very nice gentleman, whose name escapes me, told stories about the gold rush, where to find gold across the country, how to tell real gold from fool’s gold, and how to pan. Then the kids got to try out panning in a big trough of water and stones. Bit by bit they got the stones out of the pan and were left with flakes of gold! Adding to the excitement was that they were allowed to take their gold home with them!! The golden rule of gold panning: Finders keepers!
We had now delayed our arrival at Yosemite to after lunchtime and everyone was hungry. The next place to eat was at the Wawona Hotel. This lovely building reminded Megan of the old Adirondack lodges and her summer visits to Lake George. Wawona hotel was a good stop because it was still quite a bit further to get to the valley, and the restaurant gave us all a nice place to sit down, relax, and eat. After lunch we relaxed on the veranda out front before venturing over to the Ranger’s information center. We looked at the books and decided, since the Rangers were very busy that day, that rather than waiting there to get the kids sworn in as Junior Rangers, we’d do that in the valley instead!
Once in Yosemite Valley, we quickly parked and walked first to the post office – yes, this National Park has it’s very own post office! Megan had remembered our post cards with the intent of mailing them from right in the park. The postal clerk was very nice and answered all of the curious questions we had about the post office there, how busy it was, and why it had so many post office boxes. It turns out that many of the employees in the park choose to have their mail delivered there and then they have something to read on the bus ride home.
Next stop was the Ansel Adams Gallery, which sells original Ansel Adams prints, a number of reproductions, related books, and some photography supplies. The original artwork was amazing, and I have always enjoyed his black and white photography. Those original photographs, for sale in the store, ranged from $10,000 to $50,000! Dooder and I talked to one of the store employees who was very excited that she sold one of the prints the day before for $40,000. Wow!
It was finally time for the Junior Ranger badges. The Ranger was as excited as the kids were, and quizzed the kids on what they knew about the park, what they did in the park, and making sure they knew how to stay safe and take care of the National Parks.
It was now time for a snack, a hike, and viewing some mountains from the valley. A couple we met pointed out four different rock climbing groups on the face of El Capitan. Two climbers had already set up camp for the night with their tent, suspended on the vertical face of the mountain – amazing to see! Climbing El Capitan is said to be difficult and was once considered impossible to climb. Today, the average time to climb the nose route is four to five days though some competitive climbers have done it in a single day.
On our way out of the park that day, Yay-yay decided that we should stop at the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. I had done some reading and found out that there used to be a tram to take visitors around the sequoias in the past but that it was taken down the previous year. The park service had made the decision to restore more of the natural beauty to the area, thus removing the tram and some of the roadways. The grove itself was scheduled to close for a couple of years for rehabilitation, so we were thankful for the opportunity to see the grove as it currently stands.
On the walk through the grove it was very interesting to see fallen sequoias and for the kids to count their rings – or, at least start counting the rings. These trees are very resistant to decay, so fallen trees stick around for a long time (hundreds of years).
Cake enjoyed having her pictures taken with the “Bachelor and Three Graces”, a grouping of four giant sequoias growing close enough together that their root system is intertwined. It is thought that if one of the four were to fall, the tight root system between them would cause some or all of the other three to fall as well.
Grizzly Giant is the 25th largest giant sequoia in the world, and is 210 feet tall. Managing a photo of the kids with the entire tree in the frame proved difficult to do and still tell who the tiny people in the photo are.
Despite the long drive into the park and accompanying car sickness, we LOVED our time in Yosemite! Back at the campground, the kids resumed their favorite activity, racing around the cul de sac, before settling in for a good night’s sleep.