Saturday, May 07, 2011

Day 11: The Proper Awful to Awesome Ratio

I realized sometime after midnight last night that long family road trips are all about maintaining the proper Awful to Awesome Ration. There is going to be a whole lot of really awesome stuff, but there’s also going to be a little a few awful things. As long as the awesome way outnumbers the awful, it’s a great vacation.

We left Sacramento yesterday morning at 9:09 and headed south. Our plan was to hit Yosemite today, so we minimized all our other stops to have as much time as possible in Yosemite. We hit a big truck stop for lunch, the kind that has a big convenience store with almost a miniature food court inside. I got Subway and the rest of the family got pizza and we all got blizzards from DQ and headed back to the van.

During the drive time, we broke out some of the many car activity books we had gotten for the trip. We had fun doodling some creatures for a genetic mutation zoo; we played 'add to 99' on Rt 99; and we played a guessing game and a memory game. Our guessing game was like 20 questions, except we limited our choices to something we had seen, done, or visited on our trip. Toa's two choices, that we had to ask yes/no questions for to guess, were "the beach" and the Salt Flats Cafe. Sweetling's were the Rocky Mountains, and Kansas City, which she picked so she could answer "yes...and no" to the questions was it in Kansas and was it in Missouri. The Jedi's two choices were Oklahoma Joe's and sweet potato fries. Mine were the buffalo and taking pictures. Our memory game was "I went on a trip and in my suitcase I packed" and our list of items was, "...a camera, a banana, a non-reguritatable gut bomb, a cooler for leftovers, a swimsuit, the biggest sleeping bag in the world, a ninja star, a scrapbook, my hamsters, my propeller hat, lots of socks, my green Puffle, a one-eyed one-horned flying purple people eater, and a liquid pencil."

We drove to the south entrance of the park, to see the sequoias of Mariposa Grove first. We climbed up to 5000 feet in altitude. I still can’t get used to mountains being everywhere out west. Seriously, driving across Utah, and Nevada, and now down the eastern side of California, there is always a mountain range visible.

From the park entrance to Mariposa Grove, I scanned the visitors’ guide. It included a prominent section on what to do if you encountered a mountain lion. If you are wondering, here’s some things to remember. Do not crouch down. Do not run. Do not let children wander ahead of you or fall behind you. If you see a mountain lion, pick children up so that they appear bigger. If you see a mountain lion, yell and make a lot of noise. It concluded with “mountain lion attacks are rare, but if you are attacked, fight back.” Seriously, that was the last sentence in the paragraph.

As soon as we pulled into the parking area of Mariposa Grove, mountain lions notwithstanding, there was a sequoia taking up our entire windshield.

The sequoias were separated from the parking area by a split rail fence and a sign explaining that the sequoia’s were shallow rooted trees, and walking in the area near their trunk could damage their roots and shorten their life span.

It’s really hard to believe that something that big could be in any way effected by the footsteps of something as small as a human. Though, given the number of humans that want to swarm around them every summer, the risk of damage becomes more understandable.

We tried to obey the signs, but we did find ourselves accidentally off the path when the trail was cut off by huge snow banks.

I took a couple pictures near the trees, since we were already there.

We headed up the trail into a cool forest of tall pines, green moss, and many little gurgling streams.

And of course, the giant sequoias.

This particular tree is named “The Fallen Monarch” and is famous for a photograph of an entire US Cavalry unit along its trunk. Can you even find Toa in this picture? He's there. (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)

 As impressive as the sequoias were, Toa was more interested in tossing twigs into the many streams and watching the water carry them away.
He did like the hollow stump we happened upon. He could have used it for a clubhouse.

This tree, one of the largest in the park and therefore one of the largest living things on earth, is called “The Grizzly Giant.”
 Those spindly looking trees near it? No, those are each huge, towering pines in their own right. Like the kind that would make excellent ship masts on some huge three mast sailing ship of yore.

In 1946 it was struck by lightning 4 times in one day. As a result, it has a ‘cropped top’ look to it.

One of its side branches has a diameter of 7 feet. That is larger than most other trees (excepting other sequoias of course).

Finally we absolutely had to walk through the California Tunnel Tree. Since I was a little girl, I’ve wanted to walk through the tunnel tree.

After achieving that goal, we turned around and headed back down the trail. There were still other noteworthy trees to see, including Telescope Tree, but we wanted to head over to Yosemite Valley today as well.

It’s hard to remember just how big the park is. It took us about 40 minutes to drive from the southern end of the park to the center of the park, but check out the view we were treated to there. This is what we could see before we drove through the tunnel into the valley proper.

And this is what we could see at the overlook right outside the tunnel.

We headed first down to Bridal Veil Falls.

It was our intention to take the very, very short path up to see the falls, then get back in the car and head farther down into the valley. What we did not anticipate was that the falls had run out of their river bank and had flooded the path with two to three inches of fast moving, very cold, flowing water.

We got a tiny bit wet at the entrance to the path, but then the path got dry again, so we didn’t think anything of a little water.

We did have a very close encounter with a few deer who seemed utterly unperturbed by our presence.

And we snapped a couple of pictures of the water rushing over the rocks near the path.

And then we got to the last part of the path, which was literally underwater. Rational people would have turned back, but I think Toa of Boy and I were in the lead, so we led onward into the snow melt off. Finally, we got to the where the falls were coming down. We knew we were getting close, because we could see the trees being blown about by the force of the spray coming off the falls.

We put the hoods of our rain coats up, and went splashing further up the trail. The Jedi kept the camera under his rain coat to protect it, and only got it back out for one quick video at the base of the falls.

There was more of the trail, but there was also a “Danger Strong Current” sign, complete with a drawing of someone getting knocked off their feet by the slick fast water. Since the rest of the trail was under 6 to 12 inches of water, we headed the sign and turned around.

We saw our friends the deer mid way down the trail again. I wondered how they were going to get across the small rapids. I didn’t have to wonder long, as they simply hopped up on the path and strolled across the man made bridge as casually as you please.

Back at the car, we had to get everyone out of thoroughly drenched and cold socks and shoes and into warm and dry socks and shoes. Once this was accomplished, we didn’t have as much daylight left as we had hoped, so we skipped most of the ride down into the valley. (This was ok, because even the Jedi dubbed the falls as “totally worth it”.)

We drove down as far as El Capitan, before heading back out.

Even so, we were heading out a lot later than planned, and we hadn’t had any dinner yet. I passed around our healthy snack bag to hold us all over.

The glimpses of the sunset over the hills were soft and ethereal. I snapped photos from the window as we drove by, so the image is a bit fuzzy.

We wound up driving out of the park in the pitch black night. I kept my eyes peeled on the side of the road, terrified that we were going to hit a deer. (There was a sign in the park that said “Speeding Kills Bears”. The park newsletter said 15 bears a year were killed by being struck by a car. I knew if 15 bear were dying, many more were being hit but walking away from it. And even more deer were being struck. And I didn’t want our van totaled by a wildlife accident in Yosemite.) I saw several deer right at the edge of the road, but none came out on the road, so it was good.

Yosemite Valley was nearly an hour and a half or two hours away from our hotel in the nearest little small town of Oakhurst. Halfway down the mountain, Toa said he didn’t feel very well. We gave him a gallon sized Ziploc bag, just in case, and turned on some silly songs for him.

Toa made it to the outskirts of Oakhurst. He threw up on, not in, the bag. Consequently, the bag acted as a giant plastic deflection and defusion shield. I’ll spare you the rest of the details, but we pulled over into a dark parking lot immediately. Sweetling got out before the smell affected her, and the Jedi tended to the van while I tended to Toa.

The next morning, Toa asked if he could get the “Bravery Badge” for our trip. In the dark parking lot, I stripped him down to his skin, wiped him off with wet wipes, and redressed him. (Yes, all that was needed. Even the socks and shoes got hit.)

Fortunately, we were only a few minutes from the motel, which we drove with the windows down. We got the kids in, and Toa went to the bathroom, and what hadn’t come out the top half came out the bottom half in a big way….and the toilet wouldn’t flush.

By the time everything was fixed, (by the Jedi who rated the front desk as “either incompetent or incredibly lazy” and wound up marching down there and marching back up with a plunger in his hand in record time), it was nearly 11pm.

We still hadn’t eaten dinner and we were in a tiny little town that had shut down for the night at 7. The Jedi left to go find food and I read aloud from Tales of the Kingdom to the kids. The Jedi came back with blueberry muffins and gingerale for the boy, and microwavable spaghetti for Sweetling and microwavable lasagna for me. The Jedi is awesome.

It was after midnight before we got everyone settled in. We made a pallet on the floor for Sweetling and put Toa in a bed by himself, in case he had a GI virus and not just motion sickness.

No one slept well or long, and we were all tired the next morning. But, we were all holding down food the next morning, so I count that as a win. We did give everyone in the van new gallon sized ziplock bags, just in case. We also had a fun little homeschool lesson on how to throw up in a plastic bag.

And I was tempted to say, what an awful night. Because it was. But it was also an awesome day before that. And an awesome three days before that, so, all in all, we still have a pretty terrific awful to awesome ratio.

Read from Day 1
Back to Day 10
On to Day 12

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