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Monday, May 03, 2010

Our weekend trip to Yosemite National Park

'The world is a lot more than it appears from an open window.'

- A friend
On Wed, April 21, SG got his California State driving license, and last weekend he suggested: 'Let's go to Yosemite.' We checked Google maps, it showed 3 hrs 33 mins drive from our starting point. By Thursday, we confirmed the hotel bookings. It was at short notice. 'The Ahwahnee', 'Yosemite View Lodge' had no rooms available in Expedia. We finally narrowed it to 'Wawona Hotel'. It promised us the relaxing experience of a bygone era, with no Internet and telephone (or cellphone signal as we later discovered).

Early morning, on Sat, May 1, we set out with our 'Navigon: And the world is yours.' She can be a little silly at times, but helpful for a journey like this. I wondered aloud -' How did people travel before GPS was invented?' referring to the ease it provides. SG reminded, 'They had maps' and opined that GPS kills the joy of driving if you just blindly follow the directions.

We drove north towards the verdant mountains we can see from home. In an hour, we caught sight of some gigantic windmills along I-680 N. I thought of Don Quixote de la Mancha.

The exit onto I-580 E towards Stockton brought us to the valley of San Joaquin, greeting us with green orchards and farms. We made a mental note of getting some farm fresh strawberries on our way back. We clicked some pictures in an almond orchard and the friendly farmers waved and smiled at us every time we moved. Moving along CA-120 E/Yosemite Ave, we came across a vintage car rally.

Before long, we discovered the pleasant indulgence of several vista points offering amnesia-rendering scenic views. You know when nothing before or after the moment seems important, and your whole existence is sucked into the beauty of the surrounding elements, and you cease to be yourself, a separate entity and blend in with what you are sensing.. or something like that.
We entered the Yosemite National Park from the west gate. They charge $20 for private family autos for a 7 day permit. You can obtain a Yosemite pass for 12 months for $40. Soon, we saw snow on the ground, with bursts of sunshine between giant Sequoia trees. We stopped at a gas station to fill and stretch our legs when a mama bear with her two cubs decided to come out for a stroll.
I had never seen uncaged wild bears so close, so all I could do was scream : 'Sangy.. dekho bhalook' repeatedly to my companion. Some nearby tourists noticed my animation and pointed towards the woods where my gaze and camera lens were fixed. A lady told me that it was very unusual for them to walk down so low. I wondered if they had difficulty finding food above. There are very strict rules about feeding the wildlife.. and for a reason.

Each year bears are killed in Yosemite as a direct result of human carelessness and improper food storage. Driven by their powerful sense of smell, bears are drawn by odors of human food. Once they eat this food, they continue to seek it out from backpacks, picnic tables, ice chests and cars. Bears recognize grocery bags and scented articles such as soap, sunscreen, hair spray, perfume, even toothpaste.

You are required by federal regulations to store all your "food" properly throughout Yosemite National Park. You must have your food stored unless it's within arm's reach (so, don't go for a swim or take a nap while leaving food out).( canisters and food lockers are available for use.

The vignette changed into a large area of forest fire remnants with some sad beauty. A very scary, winding Old Priest Grade tests the skills of a driver with sign boards cautioning against falling rocks. A couple of tunnels, a dancing brook with ice cold water and waterfalls punctuated our journey.

The first view of the majestic El Capitan and the Yosemite falls charmed us. The road led us to the valley where campers were cycling and rock climbers were practicing. The vertical granite monolith is a mecca for rock climbers all over the world. With over 800 trails, the mountains offer numerous opportunities for hikers. We pledged to backpack the next time we visit.

The Housekeeping camp with showers and laundromat facilities appeared on our left and we decided to visit The Village Store. Parking was more than impossible, I got down and browsed through the aisles for some dry food and a souvenir fridge magnet. Starving, I took a bite of a bear claw I had bought and made a delectable discovery. We had our lunch at Curry Village where squirrels and birds abound.

We hit the road again towards Wawona to reach our hotel -a picturesque assembly of white cottages. We checked in and the receptionist reminded us to take our food out of the car. I had hardly slept the night before, and the cozy bed of Moore's cottage seemed very inviting. The last thought on my mind was- I should be wearing a Victorian bustle dress to match the decor.

I woke up around 8 pm, took a shower and headed for dinner. The chef's special soup of the day was a savory melange of broccoli and cheese. I ordered a medium-rare flat iron steak with mashed potatoes and vegetables. SG ordered Turkey ravioli. The fresh baked bread and homemade butter made me close my eyes in palatable delight. I shut all other senses and focused on my taste buds, while the gustatory cells titillated my brain with gratifying impulses.

Satisfied, we walked out on to the lawn. I couldn't remember the last time I had seen so many stars all at once. I saw a shooting star, and the cool air of the night flirted with my hair while I lounged on a garden chair.


SOM said...

Awesome Pics, looks like postcards..

Aparna Kar said...

Thanks, I wish I had a better camera though. I am fascinated by the way you have captured the beauty of Tripura on your recent trip.