As we left Las Vegas, we drove straight into the desert. The signs for attorneys and injury lawyers that I mentioned in my last post lined the road out of Vegas as well 😦 We drove past miles of sand, cacti and low growing brush, interspersed with rocky areas with yucca type planting and taller cacti,
and as we crossed the Californian border, more of the same stretched out infront of us.
I think we must have spent several hours driving through the vast Mojave Desert in the 106F heat – thank goodness for airconditioned vehicles!
We marvelled at the long freight trains making their slow transit across the country to destinations unknown,
and the hundreds of transporter trucks waiting to cross the Californian border into Nevada.
I was in my element as I am just a little bit obsessed by the look and size of these trucks! They are so impressive – the lorries in the UK pale in comparison! 😉 And being someone who loves to travel, I like to imagine where these goods are travelling to and from and what kind of journey they will be taking 🙂 We so often take foods in supermarkets for granted; we don’t think of all the miles they have travelled and the people involved in growing, harvesting, packing and transporting them before we find them in the supermarket…
Our journey also took us through the Sierra Nevada mountains, which ressembled huge sand dunes, covered in dry sand-coloured grass.
I couldn’t resist another truck photo!! 🙂
The journey from Las Vegas to Oakhurst, California – our destination for the next three nights – is seven and a half hours long. Since we decided never to drive longer than five hours for the sake of the children, we broke the journey up with a night in a motel on the outskirts of Bakersfield, California.
We stayed at the Days Inn and I would certainly not recommend it! We booked from England, thinking that motels would all be of a similar quality and were attracted by the hotel pool, knowing it would be hot. But it was clearly not a great place to stay and the breakfast was just plain awful – we only drank water as there was nothing that even ressembled food there! 😦 I have since spoken with friends who travel a lot in the States and they recommend Super 8 motels and Holiday Inns as consistent, reliable motel options.
The pool was ok (except for the used diapers/nappies by the side and the tiny shards of glass that my eldest got in her feet! ….) and we all really appreciated the chance to cool off with a swim on our arrival and in the morning before we set off.
The Sizzler restaurant opposite was a real find as they have a generous salad bar and there was something for everyone (which certainly wasn’t our experience in most places…)
After Bakersfield, the landscape changed to farmland on a GIANT scale: there were huge herds of cattle; in their hundreds and over fifty miles of orchards, grape vines, orange groves, fields of sweetcorn and sugar cane and acres of nut trees. The endless miles of trees and vines was staggering to us folks from a small country! (but then a much bigger population needs feeding!)
And once again we saw the long freight trains and streams of transporter trucks ferrying goods across the country.
We spotted industrial units for orange processing and Californian raisin plants.
It was certainly a hive of activity compared to our previous days drive through the desert!
We arrived at our destination in the early afternoon. We were staying in an area called Sugar Pine in a log cabin nestled amongst pine trees with a small stream running nearby.
We were delighted to discover wild flowers and wildlife on our doorstep.
dear Sweet Peas – always a favourite 🙂
A highlight for us was watching the hummingbirds visiting the feeders outside the kitchen window – it turned washing up into a real pleasure!
We were also visited by several Stellar’s jays who swooped down to feed on the monkey nuts we left out on the railing. Unfortunately they were always too quick to capture properly on camera – a flash of blue and they were gone!
but we could certainly hear their noisy squawking in the trees!
On a walk to the mill pond with my eldest daughter, we spotted some beautiful dragonflies,
and a baby bird on the ground, peeping for his mummy who was nowhere to be seen. We had a little chat before leaving him in peace.
The Sugar Pine area was created by the Madera Sugar Pine company to house lumberjacks and loggers from 1899-1931
There were lots of old photographs in the cabin of that era.
Our host told us the story of how one of the old log hauling trains “Arthur Hill” had come off the tracks whilst hauling hundreds of logs and how his grandfather and the other loggers had had to put the train and its load back on the tracks – what a feat that must have been!
The cabin we stayed in was cosy and rustic. It had an open plan layout, including the sleeping area (reminiscent of Little House in the Big Woods, but with modern amenities and a popcorn maker!) Despite being comfortable, we all struggled to get a good night’s sleep there. There seemed to be a funny energy about the place.
We were told by our host that the cabin used to house the old dance hall, which initially sounded fun and romantic even. But when we thought about it, it is unlikely that women would have been in the area out of choice. We imagine the company may have brought in prostitutes to keep the loggers and lumber jacks happy and relaxed after a hard days work, with dancing and other amusements? It certainly had an air of unhappiness despite its cosy appearance….
But as always, we made the most of our stay and enjoyed our evenings sitting on the outside porch, watching bats flying overhead and listening to the thrumming of the hummingbirds’ wings as they flew back and forth between the feeders and nearby bushes. We also noticed mystery footprints on the outdoor BBQ cover and wondered if there were racoons in the area…unfortunately we never did see any….
We enjoyed our evening strolls by moonlight, eating blackberries, picking flowers, singing songs and playing “follow my leader” 🙂
Sugar Pine is now a residential area with some holiday rentals. It is certainly a friendly place and a peaceful spot to spend a few days.
The nearest town Oakhurst, California has a plentiful supply of supermarkets and pharmacies (we had pinworm so we know 😦 ) and is a good base for exploring Yosemite.
So onto our day out at Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was made a National Park in 1864 to protect and celebrate the Giant Sequoia groves, the huge granite monoliths and the beautiful valleys that were carved out by glacial activity.
We entered the Park on the South side. The entrance fee is $30 during the summer months (valid for seven days). We were told to arrive early if we wanted to get a parking spot at the Visitor Centre. We arrived around 8.00am, but this was clearly not early enough! There was a lot of traffic backed up to the entrance and by the time we reached the Yosemite Valley Visitor Centre car park, after a forty kilometre drive, it was full up 😦 If you are lucky enough to park there, it is a good place to orientate and inform yourself before setting off. You can also access the regular shuttle buses that can take you round the Park in a relaxing manner.
We did find a short stay parking spot near the Visitor Centre, where there is a big store which stocks everything you could need if you are staying or camping in the area, so we stocked up on a few things to eat and drink and drove on.
There are several stunning waterfalls in the Park. Our first stop was Bridal Veil Falls, which was a short easy walk from the main highway.
It was so beautiful. Unfortunately as it was August, there were a lot of tourists everywhere (like the Grand Canyon) and it didn’t feel quite as special as we had hoped for that reason. I think we had been spoilt in Colorado with such beautiful quiet spots to walk in.
Yosemite is a great place to hike and bike. Unfortunately the main trails in the Valley were too busy for our liking so we decided to drive up to Glacier Point instead, as our host said it was the most beautiful spot in the Park.
When we were half way up, we were redirected to a car park and told that the Glacier Point car park was full so we would have to take a shuttle bus 😦 We looked at the queue of almost a hundred people and decided against waiting! Luckily when we explained to a ranger on our way out that we were only there for the day and we didn’t want to queue with the children, he took pity on us and waved us through. Hurrah!
On the drive up we saw deer, squirrels and a coyote!
Unfortunately we couldn’t take a photo of the coyote as we were in the car on the other side of the road, but it was an exciting moment for us! We stopped off for a walk in a quiet area and enjoyed the wild flowers.
and the lovely meadows and we even discovered a “gnome home” in a tree 🙂
We had hoped to walk a longer trail, but there were posters saying a mountain lion had been seen a few days earlier and to be extra vigilant. Not surprisingly, the children didn’t fancy it!
As we drove up, we noted pine beetle is attacking the pine trees here too 😦
On arrival at Glacier Point, we found a parking spot and were glad to take a break from driving. The views over the deep valleys that had been carved out in the Ice Age were just stunning and well worth the long journey.
We viewed the huge granite monoliths of Half Dome (5000ft above the valley floor) and El Capitan (3000ft) and wondered how anyone would want to, let alone be able to, climb the sheer face of them!
We really enjoyed seeing the long sweeping waterfalls, the wide open meadows and the stunning scenery, but it was marred for us by all the driving and crowds. Another disappointment was that the Mariposa Grove with the giant sequoias was closed for restoration work.
I personally wouldn’t recommend visiting in the summer months if possible, as it is so crowded and busy. I would like to visit again one day outside the main season and stay in the Park for several days so as not to feel hurried. It is a huge place after all and we only saw a small sample of it. There are lots of accommodation options in the Park, including several campsites that are on the shuttle bus routes.
This has turned into a long post….It was quite a journey! I shall take a break now….
Next stop South Lake Tahoe, California