Monday, December 08, 2008

Thanksgiving Trip Highlights

So, I'm a bit late posting this. I hope you'll pardon my tardiness.

Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Marc and I headed South. We skipped out on Visalia and took the backroads to Three Rivers. I had booked a motel online which isn't my standard road trip system. In the past, we have just found hotels/motels/inns, however it was Thanksgiving and we were near often visited National Parks and I just didn't want to have that stress. So we drive up to the first place I booked and their "cabins" were single-wides and I was apprehensive.

Marc was not phased - good man! We got our room and crashed in the slightly too firm bed. The next morning, Wednesday I made up sandwiches, Marc tended the cooler and we were off by about 7 AM. We had packed most of our food, as both a cost savings measure (we were interested in how cheap we could do this trip) and so that we didn't have to stop all the time for food.

So we drive into Sequoia National Park and it is just beautiful. Except that we didn't have too much in the way of views due to a low could cover. That, however, didn't hide the big bear we passed as we drove in. I've been visiting the Sierra Nevada mountains my entire life and have never seen a bear. Marc on his first trip - there is one posing for photo ops.

We drive in, take a hike through the "oh my god these trees are so big" forest to Moro Rock. We visited the Ranger/Nature Station, did the Congressional Walk and then headed to Grant's Village in Kings Canyon Park. Again, I had booked a room in advance... not wanting to take a chance. This time, we get the keys and were sent to the "cabins". Oh dear, we drive over in the light rain and the cabins were clearly built in the 30's. Not only that, but 1/2 the village had tarp over the roofs, and were definitely not in habitable condition. The cabin is a duplex and the room fits the two full beds, desk and 1 night stand quite well... there is no phone, no TV and the bathroom was added on in the 50's sometime. How's that for authentic.

Marc had a bit of altitude sickness and so took a nap. We had dinner at the restaurant in Grant's Village - I cannot believe I paid $17 for a bowl of lamb stew. $17! Crazy...

But we did visit the nature center and had our hike planned so that when we woke up on Thursday, we were ready to go. The hike was around the Redwood Grove. As we drove up to the dirt road that would take us to the train head, I realized there was a light dusting of snow on the ground. I couldn't recall the last time I was happily about to trek off into bear filled wilderness in weather that would allow for snow to stick... this would be fun. No bear sitings on the way in, but we weren't sure if the all-wheel drive VW would be able to take a steep, possibly ice covered dirt road. So we decide to walk the 2 miles down to the trail head.

Marc kept saying, "Yes, it's fine" to my questions about "are you sure you want to do this?". I wanted to do this, and was amazed that he did too! But he did. We got to the train head, did the 7 mile loop and trekked back up. His little toe was angry... but he grimaced through it. The hike itself as so nice. We were totally alone. Aside from a truck passing us on the way down to the trail head (Ok, so the VW would have made it....) we were totally alone. It was really neat. The weather was still low clouds/fog. We found trees that, when toppled, would have fit 2 of our cabins within.

Eventually we made it back to the car, ate the sandwiches we were afraid to eat in the woods (the bear might smell and come & find us) and were off Northward to Oakhurst, a town not far outside Yosemite. We got there and some speed junkies at the front door checked us in. We showered and enjoyed our cheese & cracker Thanksgiving feast. There was so much to be thankful for.

Friday we were up a little late. We added up the mileage - we had done nearly 18 miles above 5000 ft elevation. We were a little tired. So we went out to breakfast at the local joint and pondered what it was about rural folk that gives them a special vapid expression that we never see on the urban or suburban dumb. We didn't find an answer.

But we got on the road late, but the sun was out, the clouds were gone and there was a long line of cars trying to get into Yosemite. The drive into the valley was filled with photo Ops and we took many of them. Marc did his fun, daily, morning update video. We had to do it twice, as he was too deadpan the first time. Our hike was short, we figured we'd give our bodies a little rest. We went East, to see Mirror Lake. And found another bear.

When asked how big the bear was, "Much bigger than us!" was our frightened conclusion. It crossed the path, not much more than 20 feet in front of us. We paused, and slowly inched forward up the train. Only to find that it had doubled back and was heading back to the trail. We then backed up the trail a bit until a nice man & his dog came along. He held his dog and we all went forward together. The bear had split by then. But we were on edge. About 1/2 a mile farther up, we passed a couple heading back in and they reported that they saw another bear - adding fear to anxiety. It was a tense walk. Thankfully, we were not alone for long. There were so many people on the trail.

When we reached Lake Mirror, we enjoyed the view, the company of 100 of our best friends - who for some reason were all Indian? And then took the main, busy road back to the Village. Marc's toe was really acting up by the end of it and we called it quits, heading to the Cedar Lodge in El Portal for our lodging.

Checking into the Cedar Lodge was amusing - I asked for a room upgrade and we were happily surprised when we got it. It had a kings size, comfortable, 4 poster bed. But better than that was the bathtub that was so big, we could sit in it side-by-side. And we did! So relaxing after the long hikes. Even though it was a short day, we did about 5 miles... taking the three day total to 23 miles.

Saturday, our last day on the trip. we woke fairly early and headed back to Yosemite. The night before we enjoyed dinner at the bar and our bar man suggested we do the upper Yosemite Falls hike - and I made sure that this was Marc's choice, as I had picked the 10 mile hike and didn't want to be torturing him. There was a little confusion and Marc realized, at about mile 2, that the hike was not to the base of Upper Yosemite Falls, but to the source. We did 2600 ft elevation gain in 3.5 miles. It was a world of switchbacks. I loved it - total exercise high. Marc loved the top - he had never done anything like that before and the way down. 7 miles and unbelievable views. What a way to cap our trip! I'll never see picture of the falls again and not think of my trek to the top.

Another neat thing - there was a 7 month pregnant woman we passed on the trail. Makes me think that I could do fun things while pregnant... not that I want to sit on the couch and eat bon-bons for 9 months (that would be my own personal hell).

The drive home was through rural California, more beautiful views and the longest twilight I have seen in a while. We crashed at home and then I looked up the questions I had noted down. While hiking Marc and I would occasionally come up with questions that neither of us had answers too... so at home I learned about the anatomy of trees, that Smokey National Park is the most visited National Park, followed by the Grand Canyon and then Yosemite. That the Grizzly bear is a subspecies of brown bears and one more interesting fact that I have already forgotten. Damn.

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