Yosemite Day 1 - The valley, June 20th
A bit about the wildfires. The West is in a major drought right now, and June is producing conditions they normally don't have until August. They just didn't get the spring rain they normally do, so fires are popping up everywhere. I am sure you have all seen, heard about the huge one in Colorado Springs, it started a few days after we drove through on our way to National Sand Dunes. Now Yosemite, which was caused by a campfire embers. Due to this you are only allowed campfires in metal fire pits in the campgrounds, none in the backcountry, but some people don't listen.
We put our destination into Google Maps and decided to choose route 3. We were on the road prior heading up to Sequoia and thought we would take it. For all your Yosemite experts, were we staying off Rt 120, not 41 and would enter up North vs. in the South. We had a bit of a detour in Fresno trying to find something who could do an oil change on an RV - not easy task at all and we failed (so today we are finally getting one). We have put over 4,000 miles on it already and need to get it done. So we head up North, first through Visalia (which was funny to me as that was one of IRI's BehaviorScan markets when I used to work there and run all the tests, and now I am there) and the central valley farms. They are huge, tons of mega-farms with oranges, plums, peaches, nectarines, grapes and more.
But then for our last road we turn onto Rt. 49 (I believe, don't have the map in front of me). Instead of going to the South entrance we have to go North. First we missed the turn and have a road we have to go on that was like the Mars rover, bumps everywhere. But we make it to the highway and as my dad said "that was worse than driving the Amalfi coast"....hairpin turns, dropping thousands of feet or climbing in minutes, and just up and down, round and round for about an hour. NOT FUN!!! At All. Arnie was driving (thank god) and it was nerve racking, but we made it to Grovedale the location of our RV park. We were so exhausted by the trip (as remember my parents are behind us in the rental car, so they had to drive it too and be fearful of us falling off at each turn, as there were NO guardrails), we ran into a grocery store and went to a cafe for dinner, as the thought of cooking was too much.
We did have views of the smoke from the fire, and passed tons of fires trucks leaving (I am guessing to get more supplies, rest), it was very sad. But thankfully it is contained now. After a nice dinner we drive another 18 miles closer to the park where Yosemite Lakes RV park was. It was now dark but we found it and settled in to our full-hookup site, but with horrible cell coverage, again we were in the dark connection wise.
We continued on the Valley road into the visitor center area. This was the first park where parking and traveling is really an issue. The Grand Canyon because many people stay at lodges in the park or campgrounds, and their bus system is amazing (and easy to follow) you just don't see cars. But in Yosemite they were everywhere, and they beg you to park and take the buses to help with pollution, etc which is what we did. After much looking we found a parking spot and took the bus. A quick trip to the visitor center for our postcards, passport stamps and my dad's t-shirt (he got one everywhere) and we were off to go hike to the river/meadow to have some lunch.
We stopped on the river to have a picnic lunch and it was great. All of the tubers and rafters come down, it is a leisurely ride and looked like fun. There were these beautiful birds, some type of Jays in the park too and the kids would joke they followed us, as we had one with us it seemed the entire day.
We are now all exhausted, as it has been a long, great day. And we have a bus ride to the car, and then a 45 minute drive home, so we call it a day. The bus was easy, only downside was some very smelly hikers next to us, but we survived, definitely not Old Spice or any other deodorant user. We were back home by 6:30 and ready for a great dinner - hamburgers, brats, corn on the cob and some pasta on the side...yummy by chef Papa.
Tomorrow we will head to Tioga Pass, which is the "other" road through Yosemite. A gross fraction of the cars go on this road, it leads to most back-country hikes and actually goes entirely through the park, so we will exit on the East side and take scenic byway Rt 395 through the Sierra Nevadas up to Tahoe. Looking forward to it.