- So, who knew Obama’s visit to Bakersfield would affect us? After breakfast, we took the shuttle bus from our hotel to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. We were the only passengers. About half way up, the bus broke down. Apparently all the good Yosemite buses were sent to Bakersfield for the Obama people and Yosemite was left with the dregs. No problem – go Obama! The driver somehow resolved the hybrid’s computer problem and we were back on our way.
on the bus…
- We arrived at the Mariposa Grove and had a view of a few of the huge sequoias from the bus. We hiked through the grove and saw even more spectacular trees. Glenda’s personal favorite was the California Tunnel Tree and Sue’s was the Grizzly Giant Tree.
California Tunnel Tree
Sue and the Grizzly Giant
Glenda with the roots of the Fallen Monarch
More big trees
- Here are some tree stats:
– some of the trees are close to 2,000 years old
– they can grow as high as 300 feet – taller than the Statue of Liberty
– the biggest (e.g., the Grizzly) can be 96 feet in circumference; the diameter of a branch of the Grizzly is 7 feet – bigger than all of the non-sequoias in the grove
– the California Tunnel was cut in 1895 as a tourist attraction and it’s still a draw here today. There won’t be any more tunnel trees cut because of current conservation philosophy.
- We are now pseudo-experts in pine tree bark and cones. Here is a pine cone still life – enjoy!
Pine cone still life
Do you recognize this body part from the TV show “Person of Interest”?
- The giant sequoia produces the smallest pine cone – who knew?
- For an afternoon hike, we decided to explore the Wawona Meadow. What poor signage Yosemite people! We were launched up a steep road incline for miles – only to turn around and go back to square one and find the Meadow road, soft and flat, was on our left. We managed to go half way on this path for some wildlife sightings: blue birds, mule deer, yellow-bellied marmots – but no bears or bob cats.
Beautiful blue bird
Buck Mule Deer
Yellow-bellied marmot (okay, his belly isn’t very visible but it was very yellow)
So much of this Yosemite reminds us of Jersey (ha ha). From the granite mountains (think “the Rock”), great big lakes (think Hopatcong), to the giant pines (think Pine Barrens). You get it. But especially those giant Sequoias — we have them on the GSP — we call them cell towers.
Jersey cell tower?
- It’s a long way to Tipperary (Death Valley) so we were determined to get up and on the road early. Problem is it takes 2 and 1/2 hours just to exit the Park. Ok. So, we made it out and headed to Death Valley, another national park. Yes – another stamp! Forgot to mention that, of course, we got a stamp at Yosemite, too. Glenda is so happy.
- Beautiful landscapes along the way – more little towns with nothing in between.
from the road…
not sure what all the black lumps are…
Yikes! Gas is pricey here.
- As we descended from the 9,000′ height of Yosemite’s mountains to the sea level (and, in some places, below sea level) of Death Valley, the temperature rose as high as 103 degrees and the landscape changed dramatically again. We arrived in the Mojave Desert and all the fantastic colors and all the sand dunes that go with it. Again, it’s a long drive through Death Valley to get to our hotel (which is also in the Park).
Dunes and mountains
Temperature at 4:30 pm (it went up later to a high of 103!)
- Now we are deep into the Valley of Death and we stopped at the visitor center for the movie and to get advice on where to go next. Our ranger recommended the “artist’s loop” and a view of the landscape at sunset. So, there we went.
Blue mixed into the mountains too
on the ridge at sunset
- The desert is a magical place. No animal sightings here but we did see a monarch butterfly. At the visitor center we met a young woman with a William Smith hat on. She graduated a few years ago and was here with her mother. They traveled here after attendng a wedding in Vega. Go Herons!!
- We are staying at an in-the-park hotel, one of two in the whole 3.4 million acre park. There are 2 restaurants and 1 bar here so we headed to the bar. Here we met Joe and Charlie who are on a boys’ dirt bike/motorcycle adventure from the Grand Canyon west to Yosemite and Southern Cal where Charlie lives. Joe is from Boston, complete with the accent!. We are heading where they have been and they are heading where we have been so we exchanged travel info. Here are Joe and Charlie with their dirt bikes loaded on the truck. Charlie also introduced us to reader glasses with LED lights on the side..perfect for map reading in the dark. A must have!!!!
Joe, bikes, Charlie
Charlie, Glenda, Joe
Sue looking otherworldy (to match the landscape)
We checked into our Furnace Creek Ranch hotel to be greeted by Cam from Kentucky who, upon seeing Glenda’s Jersey license, said “oh Joizee” with a bit of a Kentucky accent. He seemed to know this pronunciation as well as how Jersey people dress from TV. When pressed, he revealed he had never actually been to Joizee but had once stayed in Phillie overlooking the river to Camden probably. What is it with everyone knowing Jersey from TV? We need a new Jersey role model…please!!!!
Theme of the Day: Dirt, dust, sand, pebbles, rocks…oh my!!
Up next: Vegas
- We were looking at only a 3-hour trip today. So we spent the morning at Death Valley – which is surprisingly alive with busloads of tourists, a pool, golf course, a couple of restaurants and the ever colorful and changing scenery.
Swedish biker “chicks”
- Hiked the Golden Canyon trail – beautiful colors – and then back for a dip in the silky smooth, warm pool. Temps today got up to 103 degrees.
- Before leaving the Valley of Death, we had to venture to the lowest point in North America – Badwater – 282 feet below sea level. Since we have been living at 3,000 feet above sea level, Sue was very concerned about the bends. Needless to say, we were very careful coming back from our plunge – bends free!
- Back on the road for the 2 1/2 hour jaunt to viva Las Vegas. Our GPS freaked out in the middle of State Line Road, just beyond Death Valley Junction. She (our GPS) would have us take a sharp right into the middle of the desert – no road in sight. Fortunately, Glenda’s (the navigator’s) brain decided not to direct us into a desert field and we pulled over instead to regroup. A minute later a great big tour bus came by. Ok. We followed the bus through Pahrump, NV. Say what?
- And they make fun of Weehawken???
- Viva Las Vegas! Staying at Ceasar’s Palace. Hard to believe earlier this afternoon we were in the desert and now we are in tacky Sin City, just a couple of hours away. People watching here is as good (maybe better?) than taking in the dramatic desert or mountain sites – just harder to take pics. Here are some people/things we saw:
Sue’s shoulder with fake Bono
Busloads of Chinese tourists
Bellagio fountains doing their thing
- So far, gambling not so successful but we have manana.
After 3 weeks eating meat and tater tots, we chose to eat at the sushi bar. Here we met Rohan from Bridgewater, NJ, originally from Calcutta. Rohan told us his father got one daughter married off, put one daughter and Rohan through college in the States all on his gambling winnings (mostly lottery). So although Rohan is not a gambler himself, he sent us his father, Bala’s, good luck.
Sadly, not effective yet, but we have manana.
Glenda, Sue and Rohan