Friday, August 1, 2014

CLASSIC TRIP: Yosemite and the Gold Country, California - Part 1

Tim's playing Baywatch...sort of. He's away at camp, roughing it in that backward community of Malibu. Actually, he goes used to go to camp there every summer giving Letty and I a break. We love the guy, but this is our time.

Our trip this year is up to Yosemite. Specifically, to the nearby town of Mariposa. Actually, we're only planning on spending one day in Yosemite and the rest of the time enjoying California's historical Gold Country.

Of course, as usual, we don't have nearly enough time to see everything we'd like to on a trip like this (4 nights) so we don't try to cover all the bases. Just what we can really enjoy during that time.

Day One, the drive.

Letty could only get one extra day off for the 4th of July weekend but since she gets off of work at 2:30, we could at least get an afternoon's head start.

It was hot at around 100 degrees in the San Gabriel Valley. Brush and forest fires burned out of control in the Angeles National Forest to the north. It seemed like a good time to get away. We ended up leaving at 3:00 on a hot, smoky Wednesday afternoon.

Traffic was light and we made good time out of the L.A. basin by going up the 210 freeway through La Canada and Sylmar. After the Grapvine, we took the fork up Highway 99 through Bakersfield enjoying the endless miles of farming country.
Three hours later found us just south of Fresno in the Swedish themed town of Kingsburg. It seemed like a good time to take a break from the road and to grab some dinner. Dinner this night would be at Kady's Cafe at the second Kingsburg offramp.

The food at Kady's, although wholesome and filling, is really unspectacular and rather bland. It did take much salt, pepper and tabasco to coax some flavor from it. Oh well, at least we're not hungry anymore...back on the road!

Just a few minutes later we hit the south end of Fresno and spot a brand new In-n-Out. Boy, we could have had a delicious double-double if we'd just waited five more minutes. Now I'm sorry...

When we hit Merced, we gas up where we can still get it relatively cheaply (gas in the mountains runs 20 to 30 cents a gallon more than down in the valley) and head east on Highway 41 to Mariposa. It's a beautiful drive through rolling hills of oaks and grass.

Exactly 5 1/2 hours after we leave home, we arrive at our destination, the Restful Nest Bed and Breakfast located just south of Mariposa.

Upon arrival, we are greeted by the resident pet, a 6 month old Labrador named Casey. Casey is an exuberantly friendly pup who keeps everybody company here. After Casey comes the owner, Lois Moroni, who greets us with an offer of a cold drink and shows us to our room.

The 3 rooms of the inn are just off of the great swimming pool and hot tub . All are large rooms with private bathrooms and private entrances. Each room is equipped with a tv, vcr, bar, refrigerator, and coffee machine.  There is level access via a paved walkway to the rooms.  Jon has a ramp to afford access to the upper level where breakfast is served.  The pool area requires the negotiation of a few stairs and there are no accessible features in the bathrooms but we managed showering by putting one of the plastic patio chairs in the shower stall.

The property of the inn encompasses 10 acres of rolling countryside complete with a stocked fishing pond (bring your gear). There are also horseshoe pits, a volleyball court, and tetherball. Near the pet pheasant's cage there's also a hammock if all of the above sounds just too tiring for you.  A wheelchair can get around to most of the property but be careful on the pond dock, there is no railing around the edge.

Wildlife abounds in the area. On top of the ever-present squirrels, rabbits and quail, we counted 5 deer sightings over the weekend. Letty, ever the bird watcher, cataloged 18 different species of birds just on the BandB property over our 3 days there.

Well, all the above is great, but after 5 hours on the road we were more concerned with getting some shuteye so off to bed we went. After a good night's sleep, we were ready when the breakfast bell rang at 9:00 the next morning (you can schedule breakfast at any time that's convenient for you).


Breakfast this morning was a huge affair that started off with platters of fresh cantaloupe, honey dew melons, water melons, grapefruit, and oranges. We polished that off with help from our fresh coffee and juice when Lois brought out more...much more. Next came banana muffins, omelets, pancakes, homemade sausages, and ham. The crowning touch was Lois' homemade brioche.

We then waddled off to the car for the drive to Yosemite. From the inn, Yosemite is a 50 mile drive up the Merced River canyon. We went on July 3 mostly to avoid the Independence Day crowds.

First up on our list was Bridalveil Falls.

We grabbed the last spot in the parking lot and walked up the 1/2 mile trail to the base of the falls. The mist felt refreshing as we came up upon the falls. There was no shortage of water going over the precipice. The view is spectacular but the best spot for a photo was back at the parking lot. The crowd was not too bad but I dread to think what it would be like the next day with that small parking lot.  The train up to the falls is wheelchair accessible but gets a little steep towards the end.

Next was a jaunt across the valley to see Yosemite Falls, the nations tallest. At over 1400 feet for the first drop, Yosemite Falls is the 5th tallest fall in the world and stands at about 9 times the height of Niagara Falls. They can literally be seen for many miles away.

We grabbed the second to the last spot in the lot this time. The crowd was much thicker here and many people lined up for the restrooms here. Again, I could only imagine what the crowds would be like the next day as everybody had the day off to visit.

Another 1/2 mile, wheelchair accessible, trail led up to the base of the falls. There, you are at the bottom of the 3rd drop of the falls and cannot see the first large drop. You can feel the wind that the falls generate however and it's a very refreshing feeling.

The third must-see of our day in the park was Glacier Point. The 30 mile or so road to the point takes you to the rim of the valley. The view from there is what you really want to see when you come to Yosemite and it is all accessible.

You can see all the major waterfalls including Yosemite, Nevada, Vernal, and another fall way up the valley that I don't know the name of. It is heart stopping to see the kids running around the edge with its thousands of feet vertical drop to the valley below.

Going back from Glacier Point, we pull into the lot for Sentinel Dome trail. We had planned to hike there but a ranger was about to lead a hike to nearby Taft Point so we decided to tag along. The 1.1 mile hike to Taft Point wound through forests, streams, and meadows before reaching the most famous feature, the fissures.

The fissures are cracks in the rocks that have expanded into 2 foot wide, canyons that reach down hundreds of feet. They are spectacular to look down but beware if you are afraid of heights.

At the end of the trail is Taft Point, named after our heaviest president. Here is a real edge-of-your-seat experience as you look over the edge straight down to the valley thousands of feet below you (see picture at the top of this report). At the point there is a small pipe fence to give you some security as you look and there is a whole lot more of unprotected cliff-edge to look over.

Again, you really get the willies as you see kids running around very unconcerned here. See just how high it is in the photo above. I commented on one particular kid to the woman standing next to me on the point. "Oh, that's my son. He's been here lots of times. He won't fall over..." Yeah, right. (NOTE: the trail to Taft Point is not accessible.)

Below is a picture of Yosemite Falls as seen from Taft Point.

Throughout all of this, we never got hungry. That breakfast was big enough to carry us through the entire day.

Toward evening we headed back to Mariposa and had appetizers at the Meadows Ranch Cafe . Here we had some delicious jalapeno poppers and chicken quesadilla rolls, all washed down with some Yosemite Brewery (located next door) amber ale. The brewery and restaurant are located at 5008 Highway 140 in downtown Mariposa.

Back at the inn, we took a dip in the pool and soaked in the hot tub to cut the day's trail dust. The inn's other owner, Lois' husband Jon Pierre, had returned from a business trip and prepared some homemade french onion soup.

Jon is an affable French man from the Provencal region of France. Along with his wife, he bought this inn as a retirement income booster. Jon and Lois both really enjoy it here and love chatting with the guests.

This evening the soup was marvelous. Along with the bread, cheese and wine, it made a perfect cap to the day.

Copyright 1997 - Darryl Musick


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  2. Good for you to remember to take time for the two of you. Such an important thing to do.

  3. Oh how fun! I love your photos, especially of the pup. SO cute!!! But then I had to cringe about the mom's attitude with her kid running all around. Doesn't matter how long someone's been there. Accidents happen! YIKES! Great post.

  4. as a landscape photographer wanna-be, i so wanted to go to yosemite ^_^ hopefully i can get there with two years time...