YOSEMITE and SEQUOIA
Thursday, February 4
Up before 8:10, leaving the motel at 8:52, temp 52, odometer 120662, a blue sky with cirrus. Onto I-80 and I-580 together, which were pretty slow moving but at least they were moving. Then it was 580 alone, pretty stacked up in the other direction, relatively light traffic going my way, emphasis on relatively. But I have the sun in my eyes, making it difficult reading signs. The road in Oakland is lined with trees, a gap revealing a terraced hillside with houses everywhere. San Leandro at 9:16, slowing down here, just before Dublin), surrounded by hills in greenery, no houses in sight, the other side very slow, a train line between the two lanes of traffic. We come to an almost complete stop. Over the muntains into a valley of some kind. Rolling grass-covered hills, very rounded hills, big power windmills, very bright green grass, I-205 at 9:58. Wow. You can see the clouds moving. It's pretty windy up there but it's pretty calm down here on the ground.
Richard Shakespeare was buried in 1613.
Berkeley to Buck Meadow
The Black Bear Diner in Tracy at 10:03 for a waffle, leaving at 10:35. I-5 at 10:48 and then immediately onto CA-120. "Chicken Ranch East, Where the Locals Win." The freeway ends at 11:15 at a small town. Yosemite Avenue. Escalon City Limits at 11:28.
Onto 108/120 at 11:42 in Oakdale, Cowboy Capitol of the World. Gasoline here is $249.9 at one station while just across the side street from it it's $1.999 at a 7-11. "108 Sonora Pass Closed." Out into country again, those strange rounded hills, bright green grass, black Angus on them, to my left a long vista with some gray distant mountains, up ahead a rock uprising with a flag on it, over a little pass and there's a valley down there, more country, some muddy water down there, not a lot in the way of houses, a fair amount of trees going up a ways but not really tall with greenery on them but it, the sky pretty well overcast but bright, some blue up in front of me but not a lot. Generally speaking this is nice country, Stanislaus River Parks, Knights Ferry, quite a long vista off to my life with rolling hills going for quite a few miles I would guess. Here's an area with a lot of large rocks, not huge, the size of a man's head, some bigger, not Stonehenge size rocks. Some of these trees seem to have a great big round tangle in them. I wonder if that's some kind of nest. At this point 108/120 is a divided highway with a good-sized median between them. The scenery is different, a bull grazing out there on normal-colored grass, a rounded hill dotted with sagebrush, black Angus out there, a lot of these strange twisted trees with leaves and others that are some kind of evergreen, more black Angus at the Keystone Ranch, a railroad off to my right, a ridge cut in half by the road, a bit of a cliff on the right-hand side.
Leaving 108 but staying on 120 at 12:11, a 2-lane highway. Chinese Camp Store, Don Pedro Lake Vista Point. Into rolling country, the hills much bigger, mountains much closer, hillsides now pretty much completely forested with some kind of evergreen, not pines. A bright hazy day, a good newly paved road, some kind of valley to my left, some homes on the other side, a speedboat on the river, Moccasin Point.
On to Old Priest Grade Road, a winding curving 2-lane road, steep mossy banks off to my right, a road that would be great to ride with my old Sprite or Porsche 914. Back onto 120 at 1:28. I'm not sure that shortcut saved me much, since I could see 120 the entire time I was no it. 3000 feet. Groveland. Stanislaus National Forest at 12:43, a fair amount of snow on trhe mountains up ahead, not covered but a fair amount. "Caution Watch for Range Cattle."
To Yosemite Ridge Resort in Buck Meadow at 1:22, temp 52, odometer 120823, a very tiny cabin. To the right as you walk in is a sofa that folds out to bed with a small dining area (sink, refrig, microwave, coffee maker, dish towels, overhead cupboard with cups and glasses) behind it. To the left is a table with 2 benches, a 3-shelf thing with pillows and sheets and blankets with a tiny TV on top of it, and an air conditioner/heating unit set into the wall. Behind the TV is a tiny bathroom with a toilet and shower stall. Overhead lighting is provided by a 3-way on the ceiling with a fan, which is all the lighting I need in this small place.
I head for Yosemite. Ths is spectacular country and I'm not even in the park yet, lot of red clay rock. Snow country now, in patches. Looks like there was a fire through here. The snow cover is getting heavier, more of it, still not covering the ground, especially on the sun slope, to my right there's a good bit of snow. The Yosemite Lakes General Store is closed for inventory. Elevation 4000, through pines, snow cover pretty much complete, a clear blue sky with a fair amount of cirrus. When I get to the gate, I find that the road is closed to anyone without chains and the nearest entrance is a 2-hour drive to the south, and I've signed up for 3 nights at Yosemite Ridge.
Vista Rim of the World. I drive back through Buck Meadow into Groveland at 2:45, where I buy a couple of sandwiches, yogurt, and flavored water a5 Mar-Val's Main Street Market and get $300 cash at the Yosemite Bank. Back to Yosemite Ridge at 3:22 temp 51.
Friday, February 5
1965: "I think Miss Nancy Wilson, the makeup girl, could be interested but I don't know how to make the move."
Not up until 9:12. 9:26, 39 degrees, 120872, a clear blue sky. To Ellie's Cafe and Pizzeria in Grovedale at 9:42 for eggs over easy, 3 big pieces of bacon, and 2 very large pancakes, which I couldn't finish. In fact I couldn't finish one.
Back on the road at 10:08, returning along 120 to Smith Station Road to Coulterville, a nice windy very narrow two-lane road, and once again I wished I was driving my old Sprite or Porsche 914. A flock of birds just flew in front of me, a squirrel on the road trying to decide what to do. Lined with pines mostly, occasional houses, farms, ranches, whatever, Mariposa County Line. Three awesome snow-covered mountains up there now. Looking way down on my left into a valley with homes way way down there, a canyon on the right side of the road.
Coulterville and Route 49 at 10:41. Now I'm in an area with rounded hills with cliffs, no trees to speak of, a couple of them in a great big deep canyon to my left. More mountains and valleys. Coming down into a valley on a very curvy road I wouldn't want to take at night. I'm not even sure I want to take it during daytime.
11:00. I screwed up. At Coulterville I should have turned left instead of right. So now I'm on route 120 again, going the opposite direction I came yesterday. I decide to keep going. Junction with 108 again at 11:07. Gentlemen's Club out in the middle of nowhere "Girls Girls Girls".
Into Oakdale at 11:51. $17.10 of $1.999 gas at a Quik Stop and some groceries. The temp up to 58.
So now it's the long drive back. Another wasted day. Took 120 back to 49 at 11:57. Back to Coulterville at 1:14. Decided to continue on to Mariposa and the southern entrance to Yosemite but gave up after awhile. This road from Coulter to Mariposa is one scary road, the scariest one I've been on so far--a long drop to my right the whole way. I turned around before getting to Mariposa. Back to the cabin at 2:13.
Saturday, February 6
1965: "I think a new torch is being lit. Her name is Nancy Wilson. I think she finds me somewhat attractive."
Loafed the morning away. Didn't get up until 11:20. Clear blue sky. A lot of traffic on 120. Down to Coulterville at 12:24, temp 58, getting there at 12:42 for a terrible tuna sandwich at the cafe there. The post office was closed. Some great old buildings (the Hotel Jefferey) with plaques on them (Chinese Laundry 1860). The Magnolia Saloon claims to be "California's Oldest Operating Saloon." (But the plaque says that the building was used for other businesses as well and all that remains of the original building is the front wall.) Then it was past Chinatown Main Street and Dogtown Road back to the cabin.
In the evening I drove out to look at the stars, incredibly bright here in the mountains, a brightness that is still hard to believe even a few minutes later. Sirius was like a beacon and Orion was extremely bright, the Pleiades distinct, Vega setting, the Big Dipper rising, Cepheus directly overhead. I had no trouble making out the stars and constellations, at least those that I could remember.
When I came back to the cabin, I couldn't find my cell phone in the cabin or the car so I went back to where I had looked at the stars and still couldn't find it. When I got out of the car when I got back to the cabin, it was there on the ground. Apparently it had fallen out of my jacket pocket when I had first gotten out of the car and it was a miracle I hadn't run over it.
Sunday, February 7
In 1965, I talked with Nancy Wilson between performances of the American Light Opera's New Moon.
Buck Meadow to Mariposa and Yosemite
Up at 8. Leaving at 9:36 on a blue sky day, temp 46, odometer 121080. Need to clean windshield and check oil. Down that wonderful winding road into Coulterville at 10:10, temp 56, for biscuits & gravy (which I couldn't finish) at the Coulterville Cafe and General Store. Plaque on the Magnolia Saloon: "This one story building built circa 1860, the building's brick and stone walls survived the 1899 fire that destroyed Coulterville, rebuilt after the 1899 fire the building in use today. The structure was used for many purposes, including a laundry, barber shop, and cigar store." A plaque for a cigar store, 1860, a wooden tepee.
On the road to Mariposa and Yosemite at 10:42. Rocks along Route 49 reflect the light so that they seem to be wet or even icy but, when you pass them, they look like normal dry rock. Quite a road, twisty and winding, up from Coulterville then down then up again and then down, sometimes with a dropoff to my right, sometimes a rock wall, with the other lane having the dropoff. Eventually I get over the mountains and the road doesn't have sheer drops any longer although there are still those rounded hills. Bear Valley at 11:26. Fort Bullion at 11:33. Mariposa at 11:38 and into the Miners Inn at 12:04, temp 64, odometer 121124.
After getting $20 worth of $2.299 gas at the Grizzly Gas Minimart, it was on to Yosemite Valley at 1:01, temp 68, reaching Midpines Summit 2972 feet, a snow-covered mountain up ahead, tall pines on either side, a lot of naked trees too, some with twisted limbs. The Sierra National Forest, rock cliffs hovering over the road, a pretty good sized creek to my left, with its own short rock cliffs, driving through a valley with huge rounded mountains above me, mostly grass with trees of some kind scattered on them, the river down below, big rock monoliths on the hillside above me way up there. Now on a one-lane road detour, a brief stretch of 140 closed where there had been a landslide, one way over a temporary bridge then along the other side of the Merced River for a short distance to a second temporary bridge. I’m stopping every 5 minutes to take a picture and I haven't even gotten to Yosemite.
I finally get to the Arch Rock Entrance and a woman ranger looks at my Golden Eagle Pass and waves me into the other lane and into the park, under a kissing rock, which I guess is the arch. Now there are rock giants hovering over me everywhere, high steep cliffs, rounded tops, sharp tops, flat tops, but awesome, awesome, awesome. Yosemite is the definition of Awesome and I haven't even seen anything famous. And I'm stopping to take pictures whenever I can, going past places where I'd love to take another one but there's no place to stop. I come to a very large snow-covered meadow where a lot of cars have stopped. Kids are out enjoying the snow and sledding and in the distance Yosemite Falls, a mere "trickle" of its spring self, plunges down a hundred feet and more down a straight cliff.
Oh my God, look at that up there! Great incredible things off to my left, no place to take a picture, assuming I could even begin to capture this, this is AWESOME all in capital letters, incredible rock formations everywhere, not to mention the trees, the smaller ones with trunks only about three feet in diameter.Monday, February 8
I finally get to the Visitors Center parking lot at 3:02, temp 48, but I can find no signs and it takes me 20 minutes to finally find the Visitors Center after I parked. After getting information, including how to find my car, I get back to the car at 3:47, temp 48. It's not easy finding stuff around here and you have to walk a lot. On the way back, I pass near Yosemite Falls. These sheer walls are just incredible.
Then it's back to Mariposa and the Happy Burger for a huge tostada (which I can't finish) and beef stew at the Happy Burger then back along Route 49 to look at the stars. They're not quite as bright as at Buck Meadows, there's a little bit of light pollution. But God, they were so much brighter than they are probably anywhere on the east coast.
In 1962, I went to Goddard Space Flight Center for the first time and saw my first computer.
Up at 8 for grapenut flakes, half an English muffin, donut, coffee, and apple juice at the motel. Another clear blue sky day. Already kind of warm at 8:45.
Back on the road to Yosemite at 9:16, temp 54. I envy the kids who are experiencing this as teenagers. What a great place to go hiking and exploring.
Into Yosemite again at 10:05, temp 47, going to Bridal Veil Falls. I thought I could just drive up to the Visitors Center today without taking any more pictures but I just can't do it. I don't take as many as yesterday but I do take quite a few more. A Steller's jay at the Visitors Center with its distinctive sharp crest, bigger than that of a blue jay. Mailed some postcards.
I take the free shuttle around Yosemite, getting off at Stop 11, where I notice that Yosemite Falls is an upper and shorter lower falls. I take a picture of Half Dome from the bridge then wait a long time for the next shuttle, which takes me past a large group of what seems like just open walls, no roof, obviously not used during the winter, through a loop to the trailhead for the John Muir Trail to Half Dome but I don't get off. Instead I get off at the parking lot and drive the same route, stopping first at the recreation center for another photo of Half Dome.
I start walking down the walkway but it ends quickly. So I drive on to the Half Dome parking area but decide not to do any hiking in my sneakers on the slippery snow. Hiking here, even in the summer, requires expertise I don't have. So I try to find another walkway but fail and finally leave. It's 56 degrees but feels a lot colder. On the way back, I go up route 120 with more scary drop-offs and the Cascade Falls (rapids). The only way to describe this country is awesome with a capital AWE. As I go back down 120, a little bit scary, up ahead are those mountains with snow on their slopes, but not everywhere because some of those slopes are pretty damn steep.
Back in Mariposa, I walk down 49 past the Stage Stop Minimart and Gas Station, Dabble's Cafe and Media Games, The Mother Lode Lodge, the River Rock Inn Deli Garden, the Zorba Greek Cafe, Yosemite Treats, the Sugar Diner (closed on Monday). A plaque at the Gold Coin Restaurant says in part, "Tremont Adobe. Oldest building in Mariposa, the only three-story adobe building still in use in California. Cornelius E. Pejer painted the large murals in the interior around 1900 for the Gordon Hotel." Which this building once was. Company Store Gift Shoppe, Bling & Things A Boutique, Yosemite Gift Shop, Mariposa Hotel & Inn, Yosemite Ale Werks [sic], the Hideout Saloon.
I have pepper beef at China Station, kind of vinegary but I was able to eat all of it, unlike some of the other stuff I've eaten recently
Monday, February 9
Floss or Obama will take away your gums.
Mariposa to Bakersfield
Up at 8:30 on another blue sky day. A little bit chilly but comfortable walking to the office without a sweater, for grapenut flakes, an English muffin, coffee, and apple juice. On the road at 9:47, 58 degrees, odometer 121326. A quart of $6 oil and I'm back on the road to Yosemite.
Into the park then the turn to Bridal Veil Falls, the Tunnel Overlook, and the tunnel itself, quite long, on the way to Route 41. A deer bounded across the road. Chinquapin, elevation 4000, the road to Badger Pass to my left, going through a lot of pines, downhill, sun in my eyes. snow piled alongside the road. 11:48, temp 60, going through redwoods, a lumber truck goes past me the other way, loaded with 6 or more big logs, pretty much through with spectacular country. Wawona. elevation 4000, at 11:57. Elevation 5000 at 12:15. Tenaya Lodge. (One of my girlfriends at Caltech was Tenaya Stewart, named after Lake Tenaya.) Mariposa County Line at 12:15. Back to elevation 4000 at 12:21.
Back into civilization at 12:25. Passing the road to Nass Lake and North Fork. A nice little valley down there. We're still pretty high. Golden Chain Theatre (probably a stage theater). Oakhurst at 12:28. $25.01 worth of $2.039 gas at a Valero. An eclair at a donut next to a massage parlor, which looked legit--you could see 4 couches through the open door, probably for foot massage. But the full body massage may have been done in rooms in the back. Leaving Oakhurst at 12:46. Quite a view back there, a big panorama vista with mountains covered with snow. Beautiful, just beautiful, but of course impossible to capture with a camera, assuming I could find a place to pull over and do it because there's no place on this road and there's traffic behind me. The town of Coarsecombs, population 9284.
Now in flat territory, grazing country, lots of cattle out there, to my right it’s totally flat, to my left rolling hills fairly close to the road, blocking the horizon behind them, the road is straight, the sky blue with a fair amount of cirrus, the valley that stretches from north to south between mountains in California. Now it's flat and off to my left is that long range of snow-covered mountains to the east of me. Wow! Begin freeway at 1:20.
Leaving California 41 to California 99 at Fresno at 1:33, temp 75, some old western-style businesses off to my life, the wonderful snow-covered mountains way behind them, beckoning to me. Kern County Line at 2:37, temp 77.
The Vagabond Inn in Bakersfield at 3:05, odometer 121557. For some reason, I get a handicapped room, small, with little working space, and with four handicapped parking spaces in front of it. I walk to Milt's Coffee Shop for coffee and fruit cobbler with ice cream. Later I had a pretty good chef's salad there.
Wednesday, February 10
In 1965, I went to the ALOC strike, driving Nancy to the warehouse but leaving alone.
Bakersfield to Kingsburg
Didn't get up till after 8:30. Breakfast was coffee, orange juice, cereal, and a waffle. There was gravy but no biscuits. On the road again at 9:22, 67 degrees on a blue sky day and immediately went the wrong direction on 99. But I kept going and got off at exit 44 at Formosa and headed north to Highway 46 to Highway 65, past a bit of a railroad yard with a line of gondolas, a couple of box cars, and a Southern Pacific engine, crossing 4 railroad tracks, barely able to see mountain through the haze. Flat country on either side, farming country, mostly trees, some kind of fruit trees, bare right, some green land or pasture land. Then mile after mile of those bare fruit trees but mostly orange trees of all sizes, an orchard of full-grown trees, a stretch of plantings, a stretch of half-grown trees but still with fruit on them, definitely in that famous farming valley of California whose name I can't remember.
California Route 65 at 9:53. Now it looks like I'm on pasture land, although no animals are visible grazing on it. It's a bit hazy, but now I can barely see those snow-covered mountains. More orange trees on my left. Onto Spruce Road, which I hope will take me to California 198, at 10:45. I'm still in orange grove territory. 198 to Sequoia Park at 10:57. Antiques and Broccoli. Oranges Apples and Avocados. Still going through farmland, plowed land, orange groves, hills with rocks on them, back into rocky country. Into mountainous territory, small mountains off to my left, we're going between a couple, Lake Kaweha Park Headquarters, rounded hills with that strange green grass or whatever. Rock Slide Area. Kaweha Recreation Area. Back into incredible country. Down there below me is a good-sized river, an interesting flood plain. Beyond it, between two mountains are those snow-covered mountains. Horse Creek Campgrounds, Three Rivers, Black Rock Recreation Area.
Sequoia National Forest at 11:30, temp 68. Up and up on a long high twisting road, very few places to pull over. Entering Giant Forest at 12:33. Crystal Cave closed for the season. Those are definitely redwoods, driving between trees, redwoods and other pines. Elevation 6000.
The Giant Forest Museum at 12:39, temp 57. This is a bit of a bust. There are no longer any trees you can drive through. The famous one was in Yosemite but it fell over quite some time ago. The sequoias or redwoods go up some distance before any branches and their red bark stands out from the other trees. Some of them are quite impressive. The General Sherman Tree doesn't seem so big. "General Sherman Tree. This sequoia's trunk takes up more space than any other tree in the world. Pioneer James Wolverton named it in 1879." Leaving at 1:10. The temp is 49 and I'm perfectly comfortable in a flannel shirt, no sweater or jacket.
How many pictures can you take of trees? Quite a few, as it turns out.
Left Sequoia around 2:40. 3:10, 73 degrees, back pretty much into the flat, orange trees to my right, hills with that strange green to my left, the road going straight ahead, 3 of those long tall narrow trees to my left, a row of palms to my right. At Woodlake, California 198 turns into a freeway with a median that is just tar, speed limit 65. A clear blue sky but kind of pale with a few wispy ghostlike clouds to my left. Leaving 198 for California 99 at 3:32, temp up to 73. $24.09 of $2.199 gas at a 76; it was $23.00 of $2.099 gas but for some reason got "converted." A long gondola train going the other way. Boy, is it long!
The Kings Inn Motel at Kingsburg, just off the highway, at 4:26, temp 75, odometer 121752. Dinner was a cheeseburger at the Roadhouse 99 next to the motel. There's a railroad just across the road and trains rumble by every so often and there's also the rumble from the semis on Route 99. It's a basic room but better than that damned handicapped room in Bakersfield.
Thursday, February 11
2009: "Patapsco Relay. The crumbling shell of a foundation and
I thought of the people who had lived there, raised children, and now this was all that was left of their lives."
Kingsburg to Berkeley
Up at 9 and on the road (California Route 99) at 9:45, temp 57, same odometer as yesterday. $5 for a quart of oil at Valero. Selma, California, at 9:50, kind of hazy, can't see any mountains, flat on either side, a blue sky but there seems to be a light cloud cover. Into Denny's near Atwater at 110:08-10:48, for scrambled eggs, bacon, English muffin, coffee. Flat, more orchards, some plowed fields, no mountains visible, sky blue with a lot of cirrus.
Stanislaus County Route J16 in Turlock at 12:12, temp 69. Totally flat farming country with green fields and plowed fields, very small green shoots, lots of groves of fruit trees, some with blossoms (apple? peach?), some small ones being held up by sticks, on orange trees, some cows in a shed, 8-10 people working on ladders in those fruit tree groves.
I-5 at 12:45. Fruit trees in bloom to my right, rolling green hills to my left with power lines parallel to the road.
I-580 at 12:50. 40-50 giant windmills, only two of them moving. 1:31, the sky pretty well clouded over.
Into America’s Best Value Inn in Berkeley at 2:06, $103.50, temp 67, odometer 121955. Strange clouds, rolling like surf on one half, the other half overcast. A minipizza at the place next door.