California Dreaming (Part 2) – Sometimes a picture and a thousand words together still can’t do something justice

Woke up and decided to get an early start since I had many miles to go before I sleep.  Loaded my bag into to the car and followed the GPS lady’s instructions onto CA Hwy 140 – Yosemite Parkway.  Boy am I glad I had her or I might not have figured it out.  As I headed into the rising sun over distant mountains, I kept my eyes peeled for a likely breakfast spot.  Luckily, before more than an hour had passed, I found it: the Happy Burger in Mariposa.  How could I pass up a restaurant boasting the largest menu in the Sierra Nevada’s with enough cars in the parking lot at 8:30 am on a Saturday morning to look promising?  I gave my order to the lady at the counter who agreed that a spinach omelet sounded like a good thing (and shouldn’t she know!) and gave me the fixin’s for my hot tea.  I settled at a booth to wait for my order.  I should have known speedy service wasn’t on offer when I saw the reading material on each table, but the food was well worth the wait. Unfortunately (or fortunately for my waistline), I could only finish about a third of it.

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Climbing back in the car satisfied, I continued my way to Yosemite National Park.  Of course, I could help but stop to take a few pictures along the way.  It even felt a bit like our yearly trips to Cape Breton since I had to wait at a traffic construction signal for fifteen minutes because of a single lane detour.  The scenery to this point was actually more reminiscent of Scotland though.

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Eventually, after stopping to pay the entrance fee to the NPS ranger ($20 per car), I arrived in the Yosemite Valley.  I tried desperately not to wreck my car as the views in every direction literally took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.  Pictures, let alone my words, can’t begin to do justice to the awesomeness of this place.  You just can’t get a proper appreciation for the scale of the peaks and waterfalls.  My first stop out of the car was for a brief hike over to Bridal Veil Falls.  There were also breathtaking views from this spot over to other snow covered peaks.  On the way back to the car, I passed the first of many deer I would see today.

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Back in the car once more, I journeyed deeper into Yosemite, stopping several times to get out (or not) and take more pictures.  I got my first views of El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.

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Finally, I reached the day use parking area near the Village Store (me, shop, never!).  Ditching the car, I headed into the store.  I know, I know. Shock and amazement from everybody.  I found some things that will remain secret for people at home. (Yes, Bonnie, I have Will a “’prise”.)  I also bought myself a hat to help shade my eyes, since I refused to cloud the view with sunglasses.  After a quick trip to the restroom and to take my souvenir goodies back to the car, I headed up the trail to the Yosemite Visitors Center. There I found a helpful park employee who gave me a hiking map and suggested the Lower Falls trail since my time was limited.  I also gave into the urge to purchase a National Park Passport and got my cancellation stamp for YNP.  I’m a sucker for anything that lets me check things off as I accomplish them.  I also found something else Will couldn’t live without (Bad Auntie Mandy is working on her inability to stop spoiling Will, really I am.)  Stuffing these additional items into my backpack, I head down the half mile from the Visitor’s Center to the Lower Falls trailhead, shunning the convenient Yosemite Hybrid Shuttle bus.  I desperately need to work off some calories.

Finally, after about a mile, I came to the viewing point for Lower Yosemite Falls.  Again, words simply fail me but at least this time I took a short video in addition to pictures.  It’s amazing how loud the falls are and you can hear them all over the valley. Just tilt your head to the site as you watch it.

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After viewing the falls (with many others.  I’m amazed at how many people are here at the quiet time at the park), I continued on the loop trail, stopping to watch kids playing in the snow (Yes, there is still snow on the ground in many places although the air temp was pretty warm today).  I even saw more deer.  I’m pretty sure I could have reached out and touched one of them.  He was way more interested in his lunch than in me.

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Speaking of lunch, I stopped back in the little store next to the Visitors Center to grab a Diet Dr Pepper and some nuts for the trip from Yosemite to Salinas.  Reluctantly bidding goodbye (although I really, really want to come back and do some backpacking here. Any volunteers?), I turned the car back westward and made my way out of the valley.

Heading west through agriculture country, I continued to be amazed by the wide variety of crops that were in the ground.  My frustration was in not being able to identify what all of them were.  I propose that farmers should have to post signs for those of us with insatiable curiosity.  I’m pretty sure I saw cherry orchards, onions and what may have been alfalfa (for the dairy farms I assume).  Speaking of dairy farms, I passed some huge ones again.  They all seem to have huge stockpiles of hay (I guess) that is covered with tarps and weighted down with tires.

After successfully navigating through Pacheco Pass (no problem with the high wind gust warnings), I gave into the urge to stop at Casa de Fruta, which I had seen yesterday.  According to the signs, they were celebrating their 100th anniversary of providing services to tourists. Pulling off the highway, I marveled at the mini amusement park including carousel and many other outbuildings such as Casa de Wine, Casa de Train, Casa de Sweets, etc. Any guesses as to where I headed first?  Yep, headed over to the bakery to grab some homemade fudge and some hot tea.  I’m on a mission to find homemade fudge as good as what Mom and I found in Edinburgh on the Royal Yacht Britannia.  Unfortunately, this didn’t come close.  However, I did finally break free from the Casa de Tourist Trap and hit the road again. (Insert your favorite Willie Nelson clip here).

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Finally, I arrived in Salinas the salad bowl to the world. (No really, that’s what the sign says as you enter town).  The GPS lady earned her rest by successfully guiding me to my hotel.  Yep, another Courtyard Marriott.  Thank goodness for points.  After a quick consultation of the hotel guide, Yelp and Trip Advisor (no entries for Salinas on, boo hiss), I chose the Monterey Coast Brewing Company for dinner where I had a delicious salad (I would hope so!) and a bone-in cowboy ribeye (my absolute favorite kind of steak).

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Tucked in for the night, I’ve made a check-in call to Mom and am calling it a night.  Heading to Carmel-by-the-sea and the Pacific Coast Highway tomorrow and then back to Santa Clara.  Everyone cross your fingers for good ocean viewing weather.