Yosemite and More   May 31 – June 8, 2008 - Part 1

Part 1:  Yosemite National Park; Kings Canyon National Park;

Part 2:  Sequoia National Park; Cambria, CA and Monterey CA



We love cruising, but since we are going on a trip to Egypt in September and only had one more week of vacation available this year, we had a tough time trying to decide what to do for our short vacation.  In 2002 we had really enjoyed our trip out to Utah and Arizona to visit several national parks, so we were looking at doing something along that line again.  For me, the decision was obvious.  I have always wanted to take Carol out to Yosemite National Park in California.  I went to Yosemite 50 years ago with my parents on a vacation and always remembered it to be the most beautiful place I had ever been.  Now, I was finally going to be able to return and share this beautiful part of the country with my wife.  I mapped out a route that would take up to some of the most beautiful natural beauty that can be found anywhere in the world.  This was going to be a really nice vacation.

We flew non-stop from Miami to San Francisco on a 7:45 AM flight.  We arrived early at 10:30 AM California time and began the long trek to get our luggage and get to the rental car area.  We had some issues with the luggage carousel getting jammed up which delayed the start of our adventure.  The way the San Francisco Airport is laid out, it requires a very long walk to get to the BART tram terminal.  Once there, we had to wait for the tram to take the very long ride out to the rental car station.  As a result we didn’t get on the road until after noon. 


Day 1 – Yosemite (Link to Yosemite website)

I had gotten a portable GPS for Christmas and was looking forward to using it to help navigate through the unfamiliar California roads.  Thank goodness I brought it.  The San Francisco highway system is pretty complex and having the GPS allowed us to not have to be constantly checking maps.  The traffic was surprisingly heavy for a mid-day trip on a Saturday.  There was also a lot of construction that didn’t help.  Once we got away from the big cities, we finally felt like we were really on vacation.  The hills and bare terrain are quite different from what we are used to in South Florida.  Quite nice for a change. 

We stopped for lunch and then looked forward to our final leg of the drive to Yosemite.  For some reason the GPS directed us to take some back country roads.  We were concerned because we were the only people in sight; but it was a pretty drive.  It finally did take us back to the road we had originally thought we should be on, so our confidence in the GPS was confirmed.  There was quite a long delay in an area where there was a major rockslide six years ago.  Reconstruction was going on, but since it was a one-lane road it took a long time to get past the detour. 

We usually like to stay inside the parks if possible; but to do that you usually have to make the reservation at least a year in advance.  Since we had just decided on this trip in early January, there were no rooms available in the National Park hotels other than at Wawona, which was too far out of the way from the main Yosemite sights.  In doing numerous searches of hotel and review sites, we found that the Yosemite View Lodge was the highest rated and only about a mile outside of the park entrance.  In addition the rooms had air conditioning and a TV, something not available in the park lodges. 


At 4:30 PM we finally arrived at our hotel for the next four nights, the Yosemite View Lodge. http://www.yosemite-motels.com/yosemiteviewlodge/index.htm   The hotel is on the Merced River and has an older and newer section.  We had chosen a deluxe room since it was in the newer section and had a river view.  Walking into our room, we could tell that we had made the right choice.  It was a really nice large room with a huge spa tub and an electric fireplace for ambience. 


We walked over to the sliding door and couldn’t believe that our patio was only about 20 feet from the beautiful rapids on the Merced River.  What a view!  What a lovely sound of rapids right outside our door!  We had chosen to come in early June because the waterfalls would be flowing better and the temperatures would be milder, but I hadn’t realized that we would be seeing white water rapids just outside of our room.  We had definitely made the right choice for hotels at Yosemite. 




While Carol was unpacking she realized that the one thing she had inadvertently left at home was her camera.  We were both disappointed, since Carol’s pictures complement mine.  After she had unpacked and I had walked around the hotel taking pictures of our new home, we headed down to the restaurant.  One of the few complaints we had read about the hotel was the restaurant food.  Being in the town of El Portal, CA, there aren’t many dining options, so we didn’t have a choice.  The facility is free standing and nicely decorated for a lodge restaurant.  The menu was limited but we were pleased that they had a soup and salad bar with all meals.  We had a light dinner and were pleasantly surprised that it was quite enjoyable.  We struck up a conversation with a couple at the next table, Ed and Mary, who had also just checked in.  We told them what we had eaten and that it was good.  They took our advice and ordered the same thing. 



The hotel also had a pizza restaurant, which was supposed to be very good according to all the reviews I had read.  We knew we would try it at some point before we left.  After dinner, we walked over to the lobby to check out the store.  They had a nice souvenir shop as well as food and drinks.  With the three-hour time difference we were exhausted.  We went back to room and forced ourselves to stay awake until 9:00 PM. 


Day 2 - Yosemite

We arose after a wonderful night’s sleep to the sound of the rushing Merced River.  I had opened the patio door in the middle of the night because the air conditioner had cycled off, based on the thermostat program that had been set by the previous occupants.  This worked out fine since it was in the 60’s and made for a very refreshing sleeping environment.  Carol had brought breakfast bars, so we did not have to waste any time in getting on the road to Yosemite. 

The entrance to the park is around a mile from the hotel.  The drive in was just lovely.  It travels along the Merced and with the river being so full; it was difficult not to stop at every turn out to take pictures.  When I was here 50 years ago, it was later in the summer and the river was low, so it had been flowing at a much slower pace and without the rapids we were now seeing.  What a difference!  I am so glad I took the advice to come during this time of year. 


Rather than driving immediately to the parking lots, I wanted to go to the Tunnel View area to see the valley from the most photographed perspective.  What a view!  It is oh so gorgeous, but the morning is not the time to go for pictures because of the early morning haze.  I knew we would be coming back on this road several more times while we were there, so I hoped that we would be having good weather to capture it.


Since we were in the park before 9:00, we were able to get a very good parking spot.  It was close to everything including some of the tram stops.  The free trams, which are hybrid busses, are the best way to get around the park.  They are very convenient and take the hassle out of getting to the different areas. 

We stopped at one of the park tour ticket booths to see what guided tours were available.  We decided on a 2-hour valley tour.  It would give us a nice overview and would be a good way to find out what was available.  We took a tram over to Yosemite Lodge where the tour started.  The tram for touring was open and was towed by a tractor truck type of vehicle.  It would be a much better way to see the sights and take pictures than from the closed park busses. 

We had a guide named Linda, who had only been in Yosemite for a couple months.  She was a geologist and had been working at Grand Teton National Park for several years.  She did a nice job of telling us lots of interesting facts about the park.  Since she was a geologist, she went into a lot of detail about how the area was actually formed.  She provided everyone with a pleasant tour and an educational experience.



We found out that we were quite lucky in that the North Road, that is the one that passes closest to El Capitan, the largest granite monolith in the world, had just recently been reopened after being closed for repair.  Like most large objects, it is difficult to be able to appreciate its size from pictures.  It is amazing how large it is and how steep it is.  Looking up at it and seeing climbers that look like ants on the side of the huge rock really gives one an appreciation for its size.  I will never understand what compels a person to want to risk their life doing something that looks oh so difficult.  But it does make for great entertainment for those down below watching.



The tour made two stops, one at Valley View and the other at Tunnel View.  Valley View was nice in that it was on a small lake, which made for lovely vistas with reflections of the mountains and trees in it.  It was one of many great places to stop for pictures in the park.  It is such a lovely park that there are beautiful photo ops everywhere. 


Our next stop was back to Tunnel View.  It was much clearer than when we had been there earlier; but also much more crowded.  It is a popular spot since it is the best place to photograph the valley.  There are also lots of cars going through the tunnel to and from the South side of the park; as well at up to the Glacier Point area.  Tour busses were stopping as well as numerous cars.  It is definitely a popular place.     


The scenery from the tram was just so beautiful.  Both sides of the valley with steep granite walls; and waterfalls pouring down onto the valley floor were just so lovely.  We passed a little church on the path.




The Royal Arches                                                                                       The Chapel




After the tour, we took Linda’s advice and went to the Visitor Center area.  There are several buildings there.  The museum was mainly about Indian heritage in the area and not particularly interesting to us.  The Ansel Adams Gallery is also in that section.  It has lots of photos for sale and other souvenirs.  I was disappointed that most of the photos were black and white.  I appreciate black and white photos, but not for capturing this beautiful national park. 

The main attraction here is the Visitor Center, which has a very nice store and a theater that shows a nice 20 minute movie.  It was very good quality, but I would have preferred for it to be a bit longer and show more scenes of the park.  It is worth taking the time to see.  The Visitor Center also has an exhibit area with a diorama of animal life, geology and some other interesting displays.



We decided that it would be easier to go back to the parking lot to get the car to go over to the historic Ahwahnee Hotel.  It would have required taking a couple of different park busses and going through many stops to get there.  On the way to the parking lot we stopped at the Village Store.  It is a huge store with all types of souvenirs, camping supplies, clothes, groceries and pretty much anything you could want while visiting Yosemite.  We love looking at souvenirs, so we checked out the offerings to see what they had.  That way, we knew what we could get later on, if we didn’t find something we liked better elsewhere. 

The Ahwahnee is the luxury resort in Yosemite.  It is very expensive and its restaurant has an excellent reputation.  We walked around and checked out the lovely National Historic Landmark.  It is a really nice place.  After seeing how nice it was, I went over to the restaurant to see if we could possibly get reservations for dinner.  Nothing was available for the whole week, except for very early or very late seatings.  Next time we visit there, we will plan ahead and make reservations well in advance.



All day we had been seeing Yosemite Falls from a distance and were ready to get up close and personal with it.   On the way out of the park, we stopped at the Lower Yosemite Falls viewing area trail.  The fall is the tallest waterfall in North America and 6th tallest in the world at 2,425 ft.  There are three separate drops to the fall with two main ones, and a smaller middle fall. The upper falls trail is considered a difficult trail, so we knew it wasn’t on our to-do list.  The lower trail is very easy and there are beautiful views as you walk up it.  There is some climbing as you get close to the falls, but overall, it is an easy trail and well worth doing.  We were fortunate that the wind was not blowing in the wrong direction or we would have gotten soaked.  Looking up at the magnificent falls, it was hard to believe that it dries up to a trickle during part of the year.  There is a bridge that crosses over the small river coming from the falls.  This is the perfect viewing spot. Even with the wind being pretty cooperative, I had to clean off the lens regularly.




Our first day in the park had been a wonderful experience.  We were tired and ready to get back to the hotel, relax and get ready for tomorrow’s exploring.  Once again we went to the Yosemite View Lodge Restaurant for dinner.  This time we requested to have a table outside by the Merced River.  We think it’s the best area of the restaurant for a most enjoyable dinner.  After we sat down, our new friends, Ed and Mary, sat down at the table next to us.  Carol and I had a nice dinner, and we finished it off by sharing a yummy apple dumpling with ice cream for dessert.


Day 3 - Yosemite

We woke up early so we could get on the road to head to the southern part of the park.  It looked like we were going to have another beautiful day, thank goodness; since we were going to some special places.  Yosemite is a huge park, as large as the state of Delaware.  Once again we passed by the Tunnel View area; but this time we were there to go through the tunnel to get to the other side of the mountain.  The road to Wawona was very curvy with lots of drop offs.  This kept Carol stressed, so she worked on her counted cross-stitch so she wouldn’t be noticing the potential impending doom.  I found that the GPS was extremely helpful to alert me to the curves in the road ahead, so I knew in advance how fast I could go around them. 

It took almost an hour to get to the Wawona Information Center, which is on the Wawona Hotel grounds. We inquired about where to find the shuttle bus to the Mariposa Grove.  The helpful and quite friendly ranger told us to go around the corner and park in the store parking lot next to the gas station.  There we could catch the bus to the Grove.  There is also a parking lot further up the road toward the Grove where some people drove to catch the bus.  I had no desire nor could I see why I would want to drive any further than I had to.  I had had enough driving for a while.  We were fortunate that the bus was there waiting to load passengers.  There was only one other couple waiting for the ride.  This part of the park is much less traveled.


Upon arriving at the Mariposa Grove, which is a grove of giant sequoia trees, we were directed to the ticket booth for the guided tram tour.  Since the grove is really spread out and it goes up a steep mountain, it isn’t easily seen in a short amount of time by foot.  We were quite impressed with a display of the massive pine cones from the trees. 


Similar to the tram in the valley, this was an open tram that was towed by a tractor.  They provided headphones and a transmitter that played a pre-recorded program.  It was a great way for everyone to be able to hear about what we were seeing.  We made a couple of stops.  The first was at a cabin in a grove of Sequoias.  The other was at the largest tree in the park, the Grizzly Giant.  Sequoia trees are not the tallest trees, but the largest.  The diameter of these trees is massive.  They are quite impressive.  The tour took an hour and fifteen minutes and was well worth the minimal cost.  At the end of our tour, we were able to hike through a tree to get down to the parking lot.  That was a new experience.






After the tour, we went over to the Wawona Hotel for lunch.  It is also a National Historic Landmark, but is quite different from the elegant Ahwahnee.  Wawona is quite lovely, but more rustic.  We had read that they have a very nice restaurant and thought that it would be nice to try it out.  There was no way we would drive down there at night for dinner.  Both Carol and I had the tenderloin sandwich and shared an apple - blueberry crisp with ice cream.  We normally don’t eat desserts, but we have to try them when we go to a special place like this.  It was yummy, and worth every added calorie.  The hotel itself could use some maintenance; but it was nice to visit.  I am glad that we didn't stay there because it is entirely too far to drive every day to go from there into the Valley.


On the way back to the Valley, we took the road to Glacier Point, which is another curvy road and climbs several thousand feet to the top of the mountains.  It was much cooler at the higher elevation and there was lots of snow still on the ground.  When we finally got to the end of the road at Glacier Point, it was very apparent why we had taken this long drive.  The view of the snow capped Sierra Nevada Range in the background, the top of Half Dome right in front of you, Yosemite Falls, the Royal Arches and a 3,214 foot drop off to the Valley floor just takes your breath away.  It is almost sensory overload with all that beauty in one place.  I could have spent hours just sitting there taking in the beauty.




From there we could look down and see all the beautiful waterfalls and mountains we had previously looked up at.  What a gorgeous perspective!  What an incredible sight!  And we were blessed with absolutely perfect weather to be able to experience what has to be one of the most beautiful panoramas on Earth.




Another benefit of being on the top of the mountain was that I was finally able to download email on my cell phone.  It doesn’t take much to make me happy. The phones hadn’t picked up a signal on the valley floor or at the hotel. 

While we were walking around we ran into our dinner buddies Ed and Mary again.  They had just come from Bridal Veil Falls, which was our last destination for the day.  They raved about it and asked us about the Mariposa Grove, because they were on their way to visit it right after they left Glacier Point.  We told them about the winding roads and long drive.  Since it was already 3:30, we advised them to not waste their time driving there that late in the day, since they would probably miss the last tour.  They took our suggestion and adjusted their plans to go the next day.


We drove back down to the Valley and took the road to Bridal Veil Falls.  It is the falls on the right side of the Tunnel View picture.  It is not as tall as Yosemite Falls, but is quite pretty.  The wind blows the water to make it swirl around and gently fall to the ground.  It is pretty, but you also can get quite wet.  Once again, we were lucky in that the wind was being kind to us.




It had been another wonderful day in nature’s paradise.  We went back to the hotel and went to the restaurant.  We weren’t able to get a table by the river, so we were disappointed.  With this being our third day in a row in the restaurant, the same menu was getting a little boring; but we still had a nice meal. 


Day 4 - Yosemite

Since we had seen the major sights the first two days of touring, we weren’t sure what to do today.  Yesterday, I had asked the ranger at the entrance booth what area of the park in the Northern section would be the prettiest.  He told me that the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir area would be the nicest.  Having not researched this area, I didn’t know what to expect.  The road to Hetch Hetchy started out okay, and there was a nice view of the Yosemite Valley; but it quickly deteriorated to a narrow country road in the middle of nowhere, that could use some repair.  Had I not had the GPS, I would have been concerned that we had made a wrong turn; but we didn’t.  It was slow driving and quite curvy.  Fortunately the weather was great, so we were able to enjoy the scenery.  Once we got into the higher areas, the narrow roads made for an exciting drive; and Carol got a lot of work done on her cross stitch!  I did hope that the final destination would be worth it. 


The terrain was much drier and rougher than what we had seen in the rest of Yosemite.  Not as pretty, but different.  There were lots of blooming yucca plants all over the mountains.  When we finally got to the reservoir after the hour and a half drive, it looked better than I was expecting; but it didn’t compare to the magnificent sights we had already seen.  There was a nice waterfall in the distance and some good sized mountains.  The most notable thing was the huge dam.  We walked out onto the dam to get a better view of it and the reservoir.  It was a nice view, but the most interesting thing was the exhaust water.  It was shooting out of the dam into the canyon wall under tremendous pressure.  An interesting sight.



The area really was quite pretty and if we were into hiking trails, I am sure that it would be a great place to do that.  It is a very secluded area that doesn’t get many visitors; so one can almost have this section of the park to yourself.  I am glad we went, but would not recommend visiting here unless you had already seen the main areas of the park and have extra time, or really wanted to do some serious hiking.

The drive back to the Valley seemed to go much faster.  It was nice to get back to the area we were more familiar with.  By the time we parked, we were hungry so we went to the Village Grille.  They had outstanding hamburgers.  It really hit the spot.

We had seen all of the main Yosemite sights we could access other than the trail to Mirror Lake, which I had saved for that afternoon.  It is a lake that exists in the spring and dries up in the summer.  It is an easy one-mile walk. The only way to get to the trail is by taking the tram.  Private cars are not allowed in that area of the park. 


The lake is actually in two parts.  The first one I came to was pretty small and due to the current making waves, the lake did not have a mirror effect that would make for a lovely photo.  Although it was not what I had been hoping to see, it was quite a lovely view.  We could see Half Dome in the background from a different angle than we had been used to seeing..  There were many different paths to take, so it wasn’t really obvious which way to go.  After a wrong turn, I finally found the bigger lake.  It also had a current going through it.  After walking around it a bit more, I found a lovely section that was smooth as glass creating the mirror effect.  It was a lovely sight and well worth the walk.



We had pretty much finished seeing Yosemite, although I don’t think it is possible to see enough of Yosemite.  It is the type of place that I could set up a lawn chair and just sit for hours taking in all the beauty.  Especially since the weather had been just perfect for us.  We went by the Village Store to pick up our last souvenirs and then started the drive out of the park.  I had to stop at the Lower Yosemite Falls trail to get one last look at that lovely sight.  Across from the lower falls trail, is another great view of Half Dome.  There are just so many different views of these well known rock formations.


I also had to stop again further down the road to get a last look at El Capitan.   Quite a few people were sitting out in the meadow watching mountain climbers.  It is so hard to even find them on the giant piece of granite.  With the help of my telephoto lens, I was finally able to capture them; but they were so small that they were really difficult to see.  At last we had to leave to go back to the hotel to pack for our next destination.


Since we had been to the restaurant for three nights in a row, we decided to go to the pizza parlor.  Carol recommended getting a pizza to go and eating on our patio beside the river.  What a great idea!  Eating pizza and drinking a Fat Tire Beer beside the rushing Merced River made for a perfect dinner. It doesn’t get much better than that!


Day 5 – Kings Canyon and Sequoia (Link to park website)

One of the routes to Kings Canyon is by using the Wawona Road.  We had no desire to repeat that stressful drive.  The GPS suggested a route that went a different way that appeared to be over straighter roads.  It turned out to be a much better road and a much easier drive for me.  On the way we stopped at a roadside fruit stand.  It was a really nice one with very friendly owners.  They had samples so we could try the different varieties of fruit they had.  We ended up getting some super sweet Prima Donna Plums and some delicious peaches.  The stand had a cute wishing well where we could wash the fruit with a misting sprayer.  The fresh fruit was delicious.



The terrain in that area was quite different from what we had experienced in Yosemite.  As we continued the drive and got closer to Kings Canyon National Park, it was very cloudy.  I thought that our good luck with the weather had run out.  I was even more worried when we ran into heavy fog.  Going through a canyon in fog would be really disappointing.  We finally got to the park entrance after a slow drive through the fog.  I asked the park ranger if there would be fog in the canyon also.  She told me that the weather at the entrance could be totally different from the canyon since it was an hour and a half drive.  I hadn’t realized how far it was to the actual canyon.  We stopped at the very nice Grant Grove Visitor Center and checked out the souvenirs.  We also changed from our shorts into our jeans, since it was much cooler there than we had expected.  We then headed out to Grant Grove, which was only a mile from the visitor center.  We were pleasantly surprised that the skies were clearing up.  Maybe we were getting lucky again. 



There were many more sequoia trees there in that small grove than we had seen in all of Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove.  It was a short walk to see a bunch of the giant trees.  The highlight of the sequoia grove is the General Grant tree, which is called the Nation’s Christmas Tree.  It is a massive 2,000 year-old tree.  In the grove it isn’t considered extremely old, since there are 3,000 year-old trees there, also.  It’s a great place to stop to see lots of sequoias in a short amount of time.  They also have a tunnel tree that can be walked through.



After spending about a half hour there we got back in the car to head for the canyon.  The drive was just unbelievably beautiful.  It was also quite curvy, as we were continually going up and down the mountains.  The weather had also greatly improved, and we had just marvelous weather for the rest of the day.  We would climb to 7,000 feet and drop back to 2,000 feet only to go right back up to 6,000 feet.  There were many scenic overlooks and turnouts, and it was very difficult not to stop at every one of them to appreciate the vistas.  The views down to the King River snaking through the mountains were just gorgeous.  It is such a shame that they can’t truly be captured in a photograph.  I so wish they could, so I could better relive this drive through them. 




As we drove down from the mountains, we got closer to the river and could see it rushing through the canyons as we looked down the steep rocky cliffs.  Just beautiful!  As we got further down we came to a ranger station with a little store in it.  It was beside the King River where the water rushed under a bridge and over the rapids.  It seemed like a great place to rest from the strenuous drive, so we stopped for some ice cream.  It really hit the spot!


The ranger told us to be sure to stop at the two falls that are fairly close to the road.  The first one, Grizzly Falls was right next to the road and was a very pretty spot.  The fall was not tall and spectacular like we had seen in Yosemite, but it was wide and quite a lovely sight.  As we drove along the river we would see some gorgeous rapids with large drop offs.  It really was such a pretty drive. 



We then came to Roaring River Falls.  From the parking lot the views of the canyon were very impressive.  We were surrounded by huge granite cliffs.  There was a short walk along some very loudly roaring rapids until we came to the falls itself.  I could certainly understand why it is called the Roaring River.  Although it is not a tall falls, it is quite spectacular in that the lower fall that can be seen from the viewing area is an awesome display of the power of the water rushing off the mountains.  It pours into a pool and then storms down another series of deep drop offs below the viewing point.




We drove a little further and came to end of the King’s Canyon road.  We stopped and walked around to take in the beauty of this oh so beautiful canyon.  A short walk took us to a relatively peaceful lake in this land of roaring rapids.  It was such a peaceful beautiful spot. 




I am still amazed that we were pretty much by ourselves as we visited the tranquil setting.  During our drive we just saw a handful of other tourists.  Kings Canyon is not as spectacular as Yosemite; but in many ways it is more beautiful.  In looking at the map during the planning phase, I was worried that the extra driving through the mountains might take too much time away from other parts of our trip.  I am so glad that we decided to take the time to explore this very special and incredibly beautiful National Park.

We then had to drive back on the same road we had come in on so we could get to our hotel for the night in Sequoia National Park, which is adjacent to Kings Canyon.  The drive out of the canyon was much faster, and it gave us a different perspective of this lovely area.  The skies were also beginning to cloud up which made for some beautiful pictures. 



We came back through the Grant’s Grove area and then headed south to Sequoia National Park.  The road was very nice and not as curvy as we had experienced earlier in the day.  We stopped at a few turnouts and overlooks to take in the seemingly endless views of the beautiful forests.  Since the clouds approaching were getting darker and hazier, I knew the weather would keep me from getting as good a photo as I would like to attempt when capturing the beautiful panorama.


Finally around 4:30 PM, we pulled up to the Wuksachi Lodge. http://www.nationalparkreservations.com/sequoia_wuksachi.htm  It is the newest lodging in the park and is only nine years old.  The lobby area is a freestanding building containing the restaurant, bar, store and meeting facilities.  It is a modern well-appointed and very comfortable facility.  The workers are very friendly and helpful.  I had read positive reviews about the Wuksachi, but the place really exceeded my expectations.  National Park facilities are normally not that nice.  At check in, they told me that they could make dinner reservations for me, since they were required.  The restaurant has a great reputation in the area, so that without reservations we would probably not be able to eat there.



The large pine trees and views of the snow-capped mountains from our building were really nice.  What a great setting for a hotel.  I was amused by a couple of chipmunks chasing each other near our building.  This trip was the first time I had seen a chipmunk in their natural environment.  They are quite cute.  As they chased and tackled each other, they were chattering at each other.  Very entertaining!




Chipmunks on log and wrestling

The only negative of this hotel was that the lobby is a good distance from the three buildings housing the rooms.  We had to drive to the building parking lots to drop off our luggage.  There are three separate parking lots, but only one of them has a direct path to the residence buildings.  We were in the Stewart Building, which is the furthest away.  It wouldn’t have normally been a big deal, but it was rather cold; and we didn’t bring heavy jackets. Also, since we were at 7,000 feet in elevation, the air was thinner, and it was more challenging to drag our luggage up the hill to our building. 


The rooms were large, comfortable and clean.  Most importantly, the beds felt great.  Since we were only going to be there one night, Carol had arranged the packing where we would only have to get into one suitcase.  This made it a lot easier. 


It was time for dinner and I was anxious to get back to the lobby because they had told me that there was free Wi-Fi available in the lobby and bar areas.  I would at last be able to check all of my email and bulletin board threads I had missed for the last five days.  Since I was taking the laptop with me, I left my camera in the room although I hadn’t been without it since the trip started.  Bad decision!


In reading reviews about going to dinner at the Wuksachi, I had been warned about how dark the walking trail is from the restaurant back to the rooms.  Most people recommended bringing a flashlight to help get back.  Since we didn’t have a flashlight and we were tired, we drove to the lobby.  As we approached it, we could see a beautiful large doe grazing right in front of the lodge.  People were stopped and taking pictures of it.  That is everyone other than me, since the camera was sitting in our room.  Oh well, not that big of a deal, since we had seen deer in other places, but it would have been a gorgeous picture with the lodge in the background.

Before dinner we ordered a couple of the special house drinks while I was catching up on-line. The drinks were just delicious.  They were made with blackberry vodka and crème de cocoa.  I finished my computer work just in time for our dinner reservations.  We were seated in a great location in the far corner of the restaurant where we could see through windows on two sides.  What a lovely view of this beautiful area.


The restaurant had recently put in a new menu, which looked just great.  There were so many delicious looking items.  When we asked the waitress about the soups and salads, she said that their tomato-basil soup was really good.  I had a difficult decision deciding between it and the salad with prosciutto, pear and feta.  The salad was too tempting and was just wonderful.  I was regretting not trying the soup, because I saw several other people enjoying it.  Since we were only here for one night, I asked our waitress if I could try just a tiny sample of the soup, so I would know what it tastes like.  She said it would be no problem.  To my surprise, she brought me a half bowl to try rather than a small sample.  Way too much, but it sure was good.  The service and food at this restaurant were just great.  If I lived closer, I could see this lodge as a great getaway to relax at for a few days.  Unfortunately we were only there for the one night.

As we were leaving the restaurant, we saw people looking out the windows.  We rushed over and saw two large brown bears wandering around the area next to the lobby.  Some people were walking on the sidewalk and didn’t even realize they were there.  The bears really weren’t interested in the people.  This was one great photo op -- for those who had their cameras!  We waited for the bears to move back into the forest before heading for the car.

This had been a wonderful day, full of many great memories and we were ready to get to bed, since tomorrow would also be quite full and with lots of driving.  For the first time during our trip, we had to use the heater in the room to make sure we wouldn’t be too cold.  It was a much different environment from Yosemite.



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