California trip #4 – Yosemite National Park pt2

View from Glacier point
A whole day discovering more of Yosemite, after leaving Wawona in a bit of a huff – woken at 5.30am by hoovers downstairs, let alone the couple nextdoor pee-ing all night in their bathroom which was next to my room, through a door in my room that was locked. Don’t get me wrong – the Wawona is ok, for £40 a night. For £100 a night, it is a rip-off, and this rather spoilt my stay. Never mind – away promptly at 8am, I drove first up to Glacier Point. One often comes across hyperbole on tourist info boards – especially perhaps in the insular-minded USA. But I have to agree, at Glacier Point one is indeed treated to one of “the most spectacular views on earth”.


My picnic lunch spot
From there I went down to the Yosemite valley floor, got some grub from the Village Store, and drove back to Cathedral Beach, to enjoy a picnic by the river. This was as idyllic as you could ask for!

Finally, then, I headed out, and stopped off to take a look at the Sequoias in Tuolumne Grove. They were smaller than the ones in Mariposa Grove, but there were less people, and it was a better experience. And
then, in just a few moments, the entire trip to Yosemite changed. Flowers just before the corner where the cactus-tree stood On the way back up. At a corner, already a little out of breath, I was again alone.

I saw, in passing, in the corner as the path wound up the hill, was a dead tree, barely taller than me, but in the classic shape of a cactus, tall straight trunk up to the middle, then a U-bend of two curving branches reaching up to left and right, the one on the left about two-thirds the height of the one on the right. In the middle, just below the split, was a very small protruding branch, broken off, gnarled. Suddenly I realised that the little broken off branch looked like a face – the face of a wise old man of the forest, standing proud, arms upstretched. I stopped, surrounded by the silence, transfixed by the old man of the forest. My hands felt tingly, heavy and electric, and the forest around me almost crackled with life in the silence of the wood, as my feet felt suddenly rooted deep, deep into the forest floor. I lifted my right hand to my solar plexus and breathed a deep sigh of contentment, a huge smile spread across my face. It felt as if for a moment I had touched the Mind that had made this amazing land, long before the arrival of Man. Butterfly at Yosemite
I spoke aloud, thanking this Great Spirit for this moment when it seemed he had revealed himself to me. A cricket chirruped loudly in response, and a large butterfly appeared, circled around me, and disappeared off into the wood. There was a rustle and all of a sudden one of those little striped squirrels came running out of the forest straight toward me, skirting around me just in time to dash across the trail and disappear into the forest above. It was sheer magic. You couldn’t ask for better. I breathed another huge sigh of contentment,
and began to tread the trail again, up the hill, as the voices of excited Dutch children ahead began to bring the 21st century back into focus.

California trip #3 – Yosemite National Park pt1

Squirrel at Yosemite National park
For just a short, brief moment – maybe two or three minutes – today, I tasted solitude in the ancient wilderness. I was alone, for a few minutes, on the trail, and stopped. All I could hear was the rustle of the pine needles, and the scuffling of a tiny squirrel nearby. Its mate stood upright, watching me intently. A black-headed green bird pecked at the ground. And the giant sequoias around me rose up, up, up into the sky, majestic, silent, brittle, in the dry, dry heat. It was a sweet moment, and I will cherish it.

The rest of the day was filled with people, cars, the busy to-ing and fro-ing of Californian life and of the immense tourist machine that is Yosemite National Park. The drive was reasonably easy – initial nerves some nine months since I last drove on the right-hand side of the road, in Portugal last November, were quickly overcome, and the automatic hire car was very easy to drive, and I was, of course in no hurry, happy to keep within the low speed limits of North America. Wamona Hotel, in South Yosemite, is a lovely old place, and a welcome respite from the heat, though I have to say my bathroom-less, window-less room is grossly
overpriced at $150 per night, though I’m not sure I wish I’d spent the $220 on a room with a bathroom and window. After four nights at $225 per night in the luxury of the San Francisco Marriott, it’s perhaps no bad thing to be spending a little less.
Wawona Hotel

Mariposa Grove, and the Grizzly Giant, the Bachelor and the Three Graces – the largest of the trees here in the South of the Park, were all sights worth seeing, despite the crowds around them, made all the more worthwhile by my moment’s solitude with smaller trees and the wildlife, on the way up the hill. Sitting on the veranda of the old wooden hotel building, in the cool of the evening, full with good homely fare from the hotel restaurant, I am content with a day well spent, experiencing the natural wonders of California, a landscape filled with beauty, if not with much in the way of human history – certainly none that the tourist machine tells of, beyond the early 19th century.
The Three Graces