First we stopped at a little country store for fuel as we were getting low and I incorrectly thought we had many miles to get to Mariposa. It was just around a couple of corners. John and Kaz pulled up all excited and wide-eyed as travelling a fair bit behind, they had a deer jump out from the left side, leap in front of an oncoming car and just miss the bike. There was barely time to react and John only managed to let off the throttle, but that was enough to miss the fast-moving deer. Lucky.
In to Mariposa and the main road changed without warning so we had to do a U-turn. Again. Won't be the last either. Then it was a long downhill roll-coast into Oakhurst, which is a bigger town than we imagined and would be a good base for visiting Yosemite. A bit longer drive than where we are though. Just north of Oakhurst is the Mariposa Grove of Sequoia trees. We showed our park passes and were in Yosemite National Park.
Just inside the gate, we met Bob, a visitor guide and old time motorcyclist. He advised us on the best way to see the grove and its trees. That was to take the tram (a very loose description) to the top of the grove and most of the way back down, then walk the last mile or so - all down hill. Sounded like a good plan to us, so we paid our $16 each, were given our headsets (select 1 for English) and were off. Well almost. The driver spied MMbear and was intrigued. So it ended up with MMbear driving the "tram" whilst the driver, Kathy, read a book. Check the pictures if you don't believe me.
The tram was actually an old International truck pulling an articulated trailer with back-to-back hard plastic benches. Probably take about 50 at a squeeze. We had about 20 so it was nice. It was all open-top, which was necessary to crane our necks to see the tops of the magnificent trees. There are 39 of the big soft giant Sequoias in the grove, but there are nowadays many many younger ones coming up since they realised that, like a lot of Australian species, they need fire to germinate seeds. As this was discovered only about 20 years ago and regular controlled burn-offs were commenced, there are lots of twenty years and younger trees. The adult trees are from 800 and up to 3000 years old, so there's some catching up to do. Most of the in-between trees were killed with kindness by humans. Good to see we are learning.
Having spent a good few hours in Mariposa Grove, we continued on into the park and headed for Glacier Point, which runs across the top of Yosemite Valley and is an excellent look-out point for the big granite domes that make the park so spectacular. On the way up it was our turn to be startled by a deer running out in front of us. It was beside the road and as we approached and saw it, it turned and ran across in front. I had time to grab the front brake and locked the wheel momentarily. (No ABS on these base-model bikes). My natural instinct when that happens is to let go, ready to grab again if necessary, but by then we had washed off enough speed for the deer to complete it's crossing unharmed. All the time the video was running so we have captured the moment. Charleen also managed to snap off a quick shot. It is a bit blurred, but you can make out the deer.
By the time we got to Glacier Point, at 7700 feet, we worked out we were again above the height of Mt Kosciusko. The top of Half Dome is another 1100 feet up on that. This was our second WOW-factor stop of the day. What a view. I hope we captured some of it in the photos.
Next was back along the road and continue down into Yosemite Valley. What a spectacular drive up the valley floor that was. But the day was getting on so we had no time for exploration down here. Sorry Rell, won't be doing any dome-climbing in my riding boots. We had a coffee in the coffee-shop attached to the beautiful old (and very exclusive) Ahwahnee Hotel - $5 each, then went to a nearby pizza restaurant for tea. Not bad nosh. By now it was totally dark, 8pm or so, so we rode the 30+ miles back to our motel carefully. We did come across a strange happening. There were roadwork traffic stop/go people holding up traffic and using an escort vehicle to take traffic through a section of road, where there was absolutely no roadwork being done. Weird!
It was a very long day, but definitely the best WOW day of the trip so far.
Here's the pictures - they only tell half the story:
|Kaz calming down after their fright|
|World's laziest postie?|
|Our first sighted sequoia - in the car park|
|These little guys love to be photographed.|
|The deer are a little more timid|
|Our "tram" awaits|
|An old International does the towing|
|While we sit listening to headsets broadcast from the cab|
|It rounds some tight corners|
|Hard work for MMbear - note the driver is just reading a book.|
|The oldest and largest tree in the Grove Its branches are thicker
than most trees.
Apparently around 3000 years old.
|People give a size perspective|
|It has faced many first but still stands. A few others like this have fallen and this one might soon,|
|Some don't make it. This dead Sequoia still stands amongst the larger ones and some other pine species "youngsters"|
|Old log cabin in the woods is now a small museum|
|A couple of deer rest at the base of a Sequoia|
|Pine cones. The smaller ones are egg-size and from Sequoia. The large ones are from the Sugar Pine|
|Some young Sequoias - about 20 years old|
|Our driver, Kathy|
|With MMbear - she was tickled pink and proud to have him as temporary driver.|
|A walk-through tree - Kaz and John|
|This is just........|
|........ to give an idea of the size of the tree.|
|They are just so cute and will pose|
|This one was too busy feeding to be bothered by the tourists.|
|Feed me! - we didn't|
|Charleen's shot of our deer - far right|
|Bikes at Glacier point|
|No, I wasn't about to push.|
|How's the serenity?|
|This was a dangerous photo. A few inches back and it was a couple of thousand feet drop into the hotel car park. Would he dent someone's car?|
|Really hi way|
|Spectacular drive through the valley floor|
|Built from local granite - there's big piles of it fallen down nearby - in 1927. This was before the area was declared a National Park so now has excellent exclusivity. Hotel Ahwahnee.|
Meet the chipmunk. - He looks busy.