Sunday, February 7, 2010
Today was to be our last day in Upper Pines Campground, so I got up early to take a solitary walk around both Upper and Lower Pines Campgrounds. I enjoy campgrounds. The morning smells, sounds and activity take me back to my youth. Some people were leaving while others were preparing for another day. On the way back into our campground I did something I had wanted to do for days. I walked past the gateless guard house and photographed the map of the three campgrounds (we had site 105 in Upper Pines) and the bear information sign. No other campground we visited felt the need to give this depth of information on the bears. Even Yellowstone.
My family was awake and bustling when I returned. Katrina was adding to the campground's breakfast smells and I joined her by doing my part in contributing to the packing noises. The children threw in their lot by working hard to create a general racket. Surprisingly packing didn't take long. Usually, the longer the stay, the longer it takes to pack. Not this time. I blame the bears and the constant cleaning they forced upon us. We were packed and rolling before checkout.
Although we were leaving, we were not leaving Yosemite. We were only moving to another campground within the park. When making the reservations we reserved a single night in Wawona campground near the southern exit. With the extra night there we were able to use day 5 for exploring the southern side of Yosemite before leaving the park the next day. Our drive to Wawona was hilly, smoky and peppered with waterfalls. The park was doing some controlled burns (prescribed burns if into the renaming of the named as most progressive institutions seem to be) that lent something mystical to the air. Although we wished we could experience the views with western crispness, the smoke felt appropriate for Yosemite. Magical pictures ensued.
We made Wawona Campground before noon. Our arrival was earlier than the norm, as more than half the sites were still unoccupied. We had reserved site 53 across from a very squeaky trash dumpster that most users felt required dropping the lid on. It was quiet as we, in all likelihood, broke federal law in feeding a bird an errant potato chip during lunch. At one point the bird was attempting to break the chip into smaller more easily eaten pieces. It appeared the bird was normally adept at this. Our chips, though, were thicker than normal and the bird struggled. At one point the bird was holding the chip down by standing on it while trying to break off a piece in it's beak. No dice. Instead the bird lost balance and rolled over onto its back. : )
After lunch we all swam in the river behind our campsite. We had picked the site 6 months prior due to its proximity to the river. The river was cool, clear and quick. A little farther downstream others were swimming as well. I chose to enter the river upstream from the family. The river there formed an inviting area of rapids as it curled over large smooth, round boulders and on the whole it looked like a fun ride. I thought I would try it before letting the older kids try. It sucked! Fearing the loss of my flops I held them in my hands, so my hands were useless. I struggled in keeping my feet forward to avoid being pounded by the rocks and worried my unshod feet would get impaled on a stick caught on a rock. With my hands otherwise occupied I lost my floppy hat after being forced underwater. I never found it. After the river slowed I joined my children who were already swimming. It seemed best that the children play in the slower currents.
After drying off we drove past Pioneer Yosemite History Center on on the way to Mariposa Grove. Unfortunately the road into Mariposa Grove was closed due to the parking lot within the area being full. We doubled back to the Pioneer Center where a park bus was available for the purpose of ferrying folks to and from Mariposa. There was little information, though, regarding the bus schedule. As a result we weren't sure when the last bus would run. We didn't know how much time we would have in the grove and didn't want to be forced to hoof it back to our car if we were to miss the last bus. Due to the lack of info. we choose to explore Pioneer Center.
I liked it. Old construction holds my attention and there was plenty to entertain the children as well. We were greeted first with a long carriage house holding old horse drawn carriages that were used by the park in the early part of the twentieth century. After crossing a covered bridge built by hand an unknown (by me) number of years ago, we entered the village. There was a group of log cabins and structures of slightly more modern construction. The buildings had been gathered in one place from many places over Yosemite for preservation. As I said the construction was interesting as was the blacksmith. Unfortunately the buildings were all locked which was unsurprising, but while we were wondering around a volunteer historian showed up with keys and a small crowd. He gave us all a walking tour of the structures inside and out. One of the buildings was the Wells-Fargo building. It is still in use, though not as originally intended. Inside we bought a ticket to ride a horse drawn carriage than runs during the summer. More than ever I am glad we don't depend on horses or buggies (as my mother-in-law calls them) anymore. Here is Birrel Maier driving our carriage.
With the ride over we went back down to the trading post and browsed the goods. Our supplies had gotten skimpy over the last few days, so we bought enough sandwich makings to eat a snack. We ate outside on a picnic table warmed by the sun. As Kat and I cleared the table and gathered the left overs to load in the van, Trey noticed bear scratches on a the dumpster as he tossed the trash. With all of us loaded and the time that had passed we decided to check out Mariposa Grove
The parking was easy on our second try, but it was getting late and we had to move quickly. Sequoias. There was one in particular that I wanted to find with the family. The Fallen Monarch. It was long dead, but I felt it tied me to the past due to all the pictures I have seen of it. Actually, it was one picture in black and white of cavalry posing along its length that I recalled seeing repeatedly. We found it quickly, as it is close to the parking lot. We got some pics. and pushed forward with the hike. The grove required a long hike up hill. There was once a road to where we were going that the park shut down. I'm sure they had good 'environmental' reasons but the fact is that it is still in use if your willing to pay the park for access. In any event we were able to make it to The Grizzly Giant and another sequoia through which its trunk a sidewalk had been tunneled. On the way back the sun's light was filtering through the trees in the magical way that it does just before it sets, but unfortunately I couldn't coax my camera to catch it. I need lessons.
The day didn't end with demented Mariposa deer in the twilight. It, instead, ended with the Frenchies as Kat and I took to calling them. After dinner, and after the children were in bed, Kat and I were sitting by the dying campfire when a car slowly drove by a couple of times. It stopped, a fellow got out, and wondered through our campsite and both our neighbors' sites. It was dark and hunting for site numbers can be difficult, so we didn't pay him any mind. That is, until he parked in front of our van, started unpacking, and then poking around our site with a flashlight. OK, time to talk. There were three of them, two guys and a gorgeous girl. Katrina agreed that the girl was 'attractive'. : ) They were all visiting from France. The guys both seemed bummy while the girl appeared to be the source of funding. One guy claimed they had reservations but may have shown up a day or week early or late. Later the girl gave a different excuse and most likely the truth. But we didn't know that until morning, so being that things happen and the site was huge we told them to set up camp in our site and make use of the campfire if they wished. We let them know that if they wanted to avoid Ranger the next morning they would have to leave by eight.
With that Kat and I turned in for the night.
Posted by polifrog at 2/07/2010 05:11:00 PM