Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Getting to Yosemite

Going to Yosemite is on the must do list for many people, “too many people” some would say and perhaps over 4 million a year is a lot.

The challenge for the “plan ahead RVer” who does not want to risk turning up for one of the small number of “first come first served” pitches which might be available is to reserve a site in one of the 13 official camp sites around the park (don’t even think of trying to park up and camp anywhere but an official park). Booking has to be done through the official website Recreation.Gov or by phone and can only be done when the booking window opens for the date you wish to stay – we wanted a late June date and the window opened at 7 am PST on Friday February 15th. When you research the booking process, you rapidly learn that all pitches are likely to be booked within minutes of the 7 am opening and that your chances of making a phone booking are slim. There is even a warning on the official website that every pitch is likely to be booked within a few minutes. There are only 1445 pitches of all categories in the whole park and this is not enough to satisfy demand.

So we:

  • opened our official account and practiced before hand by trial booking pitches on one of the few dates in the coming months when there were vacancies;
  • researched various camp sites to work out which were our preferred pitches (although if it came to it, we would take whatever was available anywhere)

and an hour before the magic 7 am PST (3 pm in the UK):

  • logged three computers into the website;
  • selected our preferred pitches in three different camp sites
  • opened a PST countdown clock on one screen

and waited for exactly 7 am PST when on the second, we clicked all three mice and after a very long five seconds, we saw that we had been lucky enough to get not only our

Booking Yosemite

preferred camp site (North Pines) but also our preferred pitch. At that point, we could breath a sigh of relief because we had 15 minutes to complete the purchase. Subsequently it turned out that all of the central sites were booked by 7.08 PST and every site in Yosemite was booked by 7.15 PST.

Mariposa Grove

We are approaching Yosemite from the south and hence our first destination in Mariposa Grove. Having paid our entry fee (we chose the America Pass for $80 because taking into account the number of parks we are visiting, it will work out cheaper in the long run) we were allowed to drive to the Grove – allowed because vehicles over 25 ft are not allowed to go there and if you do not get there within a hour or so of its opening time, you will not be able to park.

Mariposa Grove Map 

The Grove contains is one of a small number of places where California Redwoods and Giant Sequoias still grow

MG Fallen Monarch 

Tree lovers have a habit of naming trees and so the above is named “Fallen Monarch” – I show this picture because it illustrates the foot structure of the trees here – they have

MP Fallen Monarch

fairly shallow roots (about 2 metres) but the roots spread out around 50 metres from the tree in order to gain enough water.

MG Tall Redwood MG Tall Redwood-1 MG Batchelor and Three GracesRedwoods can grow to over 100 metres tall and whilst there are no really large specimens here, those that are growing are pretty impressive.

Again following the naming theme beloved of tree enthusiasts, this clump are called “The Bachelor and Three Graces”.

Nearby is another large specimen – not as tall as others because it has lost its top, it is still impressive in its girth.

MG Grizzly

when one says not as tall as others, the Park Authorities

MG Grizzly size

have helpfully provided a comparison chart.

 MG Tunnel Tree Picture MG Pat in Tunnel Tree

When trees get as big as this, everything gets scaled up

MG large cone

as this cone shows – it is about 25cms long.

There are not many trees left standing which can (or were ) driven through because cutting a large enough hole in the base (a pretty stupid thing to want to do in the first place) usually irreparably damages the tree. However there is one left here which is now restricted to walking traffic.

MG Pat under burnt tree

Fires spreading across the forest floor are an essential part of the management of a healthy forest. Sometimes it kills a growing tree (as in the above picture),

MG a faithful couple

sometimes it damages the tree slightly but has no long term effect. The above pair of trees are known as The Faithful Couple” because two trees have grown from one base. The couple sitting at the base of the trees are remembering that today is the 43rd anniversary of them meeting at around 1345 at Victoria Coach Station in London on June 25th 1970 – obviously they are still travelling!

MG Clothespin tree

This tree is known as “The Clothes Pin” (which is American for a Clothes Peg). The hole through the tree is also due to the effects of a forest fire.

One of the unfortunate effects of so many visitors is that many of the native animals have lost their shyness and beg for food from visitors.

MG Wildlife

MG Wildlife-1

Here we have an American Squirrel successfully begging for a biscuit from a tourist (not us) – biscuits are not part of their normal diet and do not provide the appropriate nutrients.

North Pines in Yosemite Valley

Having seen the Grove, we set off for our camp site some 30 miles away down a long and winding road. As one approaches The Valley (as it is called), the scenery gets more and more stupendous. We have been to many beautiful places in the world and are used to fantastic scenery and therefore our scoring chart has a very high entry level.

Yosemite second view

Eventually you go through a a long tunnel and when you come out, in front of you is the above and below scenes -

Yosemite third view

Jaw dropping to say the least. Listening to those around us

Yosemite sharing the view

(and many of the four million were there), everyone was astonished at what was in front of them.

North Pines pitch

Eventually we get to Pitch 524 at North Pines. At the camp ground entry kiosk were are asked to show our identity papers to prove we were the same names as on the reservation (this stops people reselling their reservations at higher prices) and then told that 524 was one of the really good ones. Actually we knew this because we had done our research before hand but it was nice to have it confirmed.

North Pines Pitch-1 North Pines Pitch-2

It is a tight pitch (as are all of them) and manoeuvring a 25ft vehicle that we had been driving for only four days into it was a challenge

North Pines Pitch view

but it was worth it – the view from our camp chair with an obligatory very cold beer and crisps (for any American readers - potato chips) was wonderful. The quietly flowing River Merced (River of Mercy) was immediately in front of our van windows, we had introduced ourselves to a very nice family on the neighbouring pitch and we were ready to enjoy the park – all for $20 a night.

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