Monday, January 7, 2013

Yosemite and more natural beauty

This week has been filled with so much incredible natural beauty, and it continued today with a gorgeous visit to Yosemite National Park. I went to Yosemite about twenty years ago in the summer, and I couldn't wait to get the hell out of there. It was like driving in rush hour traffic, with hundreds of people and cars, and I felt claustrophobic then. Today, there were hardly any people at all. It was absolutely amazing! Our friend Dave (who lives and teaches close by) drove us in his sturdy four-wheel-drive rig, and all we had to do was sit back and take it all in. We hiked a little, but hiking with a three year old kid in freezing weather is not necessarily considering hiking. It's more like cheerleading and bribing with chocolate (works for me every time, too!).

I am feeling very saturated and full with the natural beauty today, so I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

El Capitan 
Half Dome is peeking out in the distance.

Icicles freezing at the tunnel.

It looks cold in this picture, right?  That's because it was cold today.

Classic view. 

Lukas pretending to climb El Capitan. 

I kept feeling like a tourist, posing and snapping hundreds of pictures, and then I realized that I AM a tourist. 
One of the many waterfalls. 

Who wouldn't want to lick this rock? 

Lukas sneaked up on a handsome buck, which wasn't too hard, to be honest.  I swear, these deer know that they are safe and protected in the park.
Father and daughter's reaction as they are watching the deer.
Another waterfall with frozen snow and ice around it.

The day before, we drove through the scenic California Mendocino and Lake area, and we managed to see some of the countryside before a huge rainstorm hit, which soaked the boys' sleeping quarters. They hadn't closed the window properly in the morning, so they had to sleep on a somewhat soggy mattress. I noticed that all the condensation in the RV overnight sneaked into my clothes drawer, so now my clothes are a little damp and will, no doubt, start smelling moldy. Oh, the joy of being a gypsy!

Home schooling in the RV, as we are driving through Sacramento.

The day before that, we finished up our visit in the Redwood Valley with a grand finale. I had given Steve the morning off, so he could bicycle to a stunning Redwood Grove called “Founders Grove” and run in it for exercise. He came back wide eyed and bushy tailed and high from the exercise and beauty. He kept telling me to bicycle there, and he and the kids would meet me there, but I kept whining about my cold. Steve is not the pushy kind, but he kept urging me to go, despite all my whining and sniveling. I finally conceded, and he all but kicked me out of the RV. He knows me well. He knows that bicycling will always, always put a smile on my face, no matter how bad I think I feel.
As I biked along, dressed in five layers, two hats and winter mittens, the cold wind hurt my teeth because I smiled so much. Biking with no traffic... in the redwoods... alone... in the sunshine... what else can a woman wish for?

The Dyerville Giant (picture below) was at least 362 feet tall, comparable to a 30 story building. It is 17 feet in diameter, 52 feet in circumference, and probably weighs over 1,000,000 pounds. No one saw the Giant fall, but a park neighbor, who lives a mile away, reported hearing a large crash and thought it was a train wreck. A tree over 50 feet away had mud splattered 15 feet up its trunk from the impact of the Giant hitting the ground.

Founders Grove was like stepping back in time, into an ancient world. We turned the self-guided hike into a home schooling experience, reading aloud to the kids what the pamphlet had to teach all of us.
Here are some of the more fascinating things we learned:

- Fossil records show redwoods grew naturally in many places across the Northern Hemisphere. Due to climatic changes and other factors, Coast Redwoods now only grow naturally in a narrow 40 mile wide and 450 mile long coastal strip from southern Oregon to southern Monterey county in California.
- As a tree slowly decays, it becomes a nursery for plants. It may take 400 years or longer to become incorporated into the forest floor.
- There are plants and animals that may spend their entire life in the forest canopy, like a population of rodents.

After spending the night close to Yosemite with our friends here, we will head for the Big Sur Coast tomorrow.  It's a hard life.  Keep your ears peeled for more adventure updates.  

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