Friday, October 30, 2015

October 1, 2015 Celebrating Yosemite's 125th Anniversary

We stayed at the Wawona Hotel last night and enjoyed a real surprise for a national park...dinner was delicious and so was breakfast this morning. The original building here, the Clark Cottage, was built in 1876. I think the lady relaxing in the chair was born a few years later.

We stayed in the Moore Cottage which was built in 1894. We had a great little room on the second floor and the bathroom and shower were outside on the back porch. I love old hotels like this one. It is like sleeping in history.

The ground level of the Washburn Cottage was built in 1900. The second floor was the last addition to the hotel in 1915.

The main building was built in 1879. It has a beautiful wrap around front porch and a fantastic sitting area in the lobby where Tom Bopp was playing the piano last night. After our morning walk on the Wawona grounds, we drove up to Glacier Point.

Our first stop was at Washburn Point. The iconic Half Dome was right across the valley from us.

Due to the extremely overcast sky, there really isn't much color in this picture... with all due respect to Ansel Adams, my attempt at a black & white photo of Half Dome.

Looking down at Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall.

Vernal Fall

Nevada Fall

There were several grouse hanging out at Washburn Point.

Trying to put a little color into the picture.

Our next stop was Glacier Point. It started raining right after we arrived.

Looking down into Yosemite Valley...

...and into Tenaya Canyon below Half Dome.

There were busloads of people at Glacier Point so I finally got some color on a dreary day.

Driving down 4000 feet to the valley from Glacier Point in the rain was a lot of fun for me. But here we are at the entrance to the incredibly beautiful Yosemite Valley.

Our next stop was Bridalveil Fall...

where there wasn't much water flowing over the cliff.

Chrissy loves these signs.

As we walked back to the car, the wind picked up and blew the thin stream of water back up the cliff.

We just followed the dry stream down to this old bridge.

We saw several of these vans in Yosemite...

...I think they are rentals from the San Francisco area.

We realized when we booked this trip that we would be here on Yosemite's 125th Anniversary. Again, I must thank everyone including John Muir who fought to protect this amazing place and helped make Yosemite a National Park. 

The other iconic rock in Yosemite...El Capitan.

We stopped to stretch our legs at the Swinging Bridge over the Merced River.

This couple were having their wedding pictures taken out in the meadow in the rain.

The Swinging Bridge which doesn't appear to swing at all.

It was raining pretty hard when I checked in at Camp Curry. So we parked the car and grabbed a pizza in Curry Village. After lunch, these were the pictures Chrissy took from the parking lot.

The Park Rangers warned me about absolutely no food in our tent. We had to use the bear box out front.

It's time to celebrate in Yosemite. 

This is the back of our parking permit for Curry Village.

These signs could be found throughout the park.

We settled into our tent cabin then headed out for a short hike. The rain had stopped but the temperature began to drop.

We spotted a couple of the locals also out for a hike or more likely dinner.

Since it seemed like the rain had stopped for good, we jumped on the Valley Shuttle Bus to Happy Isles and hiked along the Mist Trail to the Vernal Fall View Point. 

This lady kept following me all over Yosemite. I'd better find a ranger to protect me.

Oh yeah, blue skies and great scenery on this trail.

We took a few shots of Vernal fall from the bridge over the Merced River. But due to the setting sun and the two of us hiking very slowly uphill, we headed back down to the trail head.

After dinner in the cafeteria, we stopped at the mountain shop so I could buy a ski cap. We have an unheated tent cabin and the temperature had dropped to the low 40's. But sleeping fully dressed in a double bed created enough heat to keep us warm...and the hat helped too.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

September 30, 2015 Kings Canyon National Park and The Rough Fire

GOOD MORNING KINGS CANYON!!! Yes this is the sorry sight many people had to see this morning as I walked across the campground to the showers/bathroom. We saw a bunch of firefighters in the parking lot at the visitor's center this morning. We talked to a couple of them and thanked them for all their hard work. Ever since I heard there was a fire (the Rough Fire) near Kings Canyon, I began reading the fire incident reports on the NPS website. I learned quite a bit about wildfires and the people who battle them. The approach seems to be containment because wildfires are actually good for the long term health of a forest. So the firefighters try to protect buildings and property by burning areas around the fire so it burns itself out. Obviously weather plays a huge role in this strategy and a shift in wind can ruin the best of plans. The firefighters come from all over the country. Some are specially trained teams that stay on the frontlines for weeks at a time then get relieved to go back home when a new team is dispatched to fight the fire. It only seemed right to say a few words of gratitude whenever we got the chance.

Since most of the park is closed, we asked a ranger at the visitor's center which hike would he recommend. So here we are at Panoramic Point looking out over the smoke filled Kings Canyon.

The ranger said to hike the Park Ridge trail out to the fire lookout tower for some great views...

...but the smoke was pretty heavy. We hiked along the trail for about a mile and a half, then turned back to Panoramic Point.

At times we were in a forest where CSI Chrissy...

...found poop with fur in it. She also found bear footprints and possibly a bear's resting place for the night. 
Sometime you feel very small hiking out here...

...because everything is much larger in these forests.

A resting spot with a nice view.

Giant sugar pine cones are everywhere.

I did change out of my board shorts to go hiking.

On the way back, the wind must have shifted because we could smell the fire much stronger than earlier in the day. There are bear warnings everywhere in these parks. You can not leave food in your car. So after retrieving our food from the bear box, we drove down to the General Grant Grove area to see more giant trees.

These four beauties were right in the parking lot.

This is the Lincoln Tree... almost looks like a giant foot at the base of the trunk.

The Fallen Monarch. You can walk through the trunk of this tree.

Here's a view from inside looking out through a "window". 

It was hard to get a good picture of the stump so I took one of the sign.

The Gamlin brothers lived inside the Fallen Monarch while building this cabin.

Portions of this trail were blocked off with pink signs. We could hear chainsaws cutting for most of the day.

Chrissy got all mad because this guy jumped the fence to have his picture taken...I didn't care because now you have some perspective on the size of this tree.

The General Grant Tree. The world's third largest tree with the biggest diameter at the base of any Sequoia...40.3 feet.

I stood here for about 10 minutes...trying to understand how these trees can grow so big. This is considered a young Sequoia at 2,000 years old. But wait...just around the corner is...

...another big ass tree, as Chrissy & I kept saying as we hiked along the trail. I believe this is the Pennsylvania Tree.

Chrissy walked right into the trunk of this one.

You were allowed to walk up to this one so we did. It didn't seem real looking up the trunk of this massive tree. 

It made me feel wonderfully small hiking through these forests the past two days. I am also grateful to John Muir and everyone else that fought to save these trees so I could walk among them and enjoy their majestic beauty.

I am also grateful to these guys for protecting places like this from total destruction.

On our way out of the Grant Grove Village we saw these bundled wood piles around the buildings and along the road.

I am pretty sure they were setup to create a controlled burn to create a fire line to protect the village if the Rough Fire headed this way.

There were Thank You signs for the firefighters throughout the area.

As we left Kings Canyon National Park on our way to Yosemite...

...we passed through the Sequoia National Forest.

Another sign of gratitude on a lodge outside the park.

The last park we drove through before heading north. I only mention it because there are so many different types of parks besides the National Parks. I live near the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. It may not be a National Park but it is a National Park Service property. There are so many great public properties on every level of government. So get out there and enjoy a city park, camp in a state park or plan a trip to a national park, forest or monument. All these special places belong to all of us because someone in the past cared enough to protect these lands. So please do all you can to protect them for future generations. The NPS will celebrate it's 100th Anniversary in 2016. Please help them celebrate by buying a National Park Pass...even if you don't use it, you are helping preserve these wonderful places.