This Trip Report Is Under Refurbishment For Your Future Enjoyment (UPDATED 9/13 with final bonus chapter)

Captain_Oblivious

DIS Dad #257
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Yeah, but we earned our right to be lazy with good ol' hard work!

(That's my story. I'm sticking to it... unless it becomes a chore.)
Good plan. Nothing is worth that much effort.

It probably has all our photos listed there.
And don't get me started on the whole stepping on Legos thing.

I was gonna say this drive is pretty interesting, wait until you get to the valley floor!
And you were right! There's just not a whole lot out there.

I didn't realize it was now a Park, all my life its been Pinnacles National Monument.
Yep, it's one of the newest parks!

And there it is!
:sad2: So...flat...

You know, I would think the two of you are a good match, you could have a snarkiest contest, both of you have rather warped senses of humor! :laughing:
We had a lot of fun! He's very quick-witted, for sure.
 

Captain_Oblivious

DIS Dad #257
Joined
Nov 10, 2008
Bonus Chapter 7: I Think That I Shall Never Read A Trip Report As Lovely As A Tree

Alternate version: I hope that I shall never see another poem about a tree.

We drove east from the Tulare/Visalia area and after about 30 minutes or so, we were climbing the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Shortly after driving through the tiny town of Three Rivers, CA (we only saw one river, the Kaweah), we entered Sequoia National Park (whoever was playing Wheel of Fortune that night clearly bought too many vowels. That’s not an easy word to type).



There was a visitor center right by the entrance, so we stopped there to get our bearings, pick up a park map, and fake enthusiasm about holding a giant pine cone.



Sequoia National Park was established in 1890 and is contiguous with Kings Canyon National Park. The two are generally operated as one park. It encompasses a large portion of the southern range of the Sierra Nevadas, including the highest point in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney. But the main attraction, of course, is the giant sequoia trees. These are the largest trees (by mass) in the world. They are related to the California redwood, and the redwood can grow taller, but it is dwarfed by the sheer volume of the sequoia trees. These trees generally grow at elevations somewhere around 5,000 – 7,000 ft (1,500 – 2,100 meters). That seems to be the “butter zone” of climate where they survive best. And they’re only found in California.

Since we were coming from the central California valley, we had a good distance to climb to get to the Giant Forest. We started our drive on the Generals Highway, pushing the hamsters in our Dodge Caravan engine to the limit as they spun their wheels as fast as they could.

There were some nice views along the way. You could still see snow on the higher mountains, and the rivers and streams were all at peak flow thanks to the melting snow.



When we finally passed the 5,000-ft. elevation mark, you could see the change in the forest. We were now in an old-growth wonderland, with trees that were impossibly huge, like something out of a Lord of the Rings novel. Thankfully, these trees don’t talk, since those scenes were consistently the worst parts of the Lord of the Rings movies.

We stopped at the parking lot of the Giant Forest Museum and couldn’t help but look up at the “Sentinel” tree.



I’m trying to only include photos of these trees with people or other common items in the frame so you can get a sense of the scale of these monsters. I’d never seen anything like them. You can see that the Sentinel survived a forest fire—hence the “scar” extending from the base of the tree. Sequoias are generally tough to kill—their trunks do an amazing job of withstanding the heat and flames of forest fires. They can live for thousands of years.

The Giant Forest Museum had some cute exhibits inside, including this one that compared the sequoia to the space shuttle, the Statue of Liberty, and 20 elephants stacked on top of each other. In case you encounter that situation in your travels and need to know whether it’s taller than a sequoia or not.



We took a short drive up the road and parked in the main parking lot for the General Sherman tree. You actually have to drive a half-mile up the hill beyond the tree and then hike back down to it for some reason—I guess that was the only place they could clear out a parking lot. There is a small parking area off the main road right next to the Sherman tree, but it is generally reserved for disabled and elderly visitors.

The hike from our parking lot was somewhat steep downhill, and I wasn’t looking forward to climbing back. It may have been due to the higher elevations. Or it may be due to me being fat and out of shape. One of those.

The trail took us through the Giant Forest, with huge trees surrounding us. It’s a neat place.



Anyway, we did the hike down the hill and then patiently waited our turn to take a photo with the General Sherman tree. This tree is the largest tree by volume in the world.



Well, look at that. It’s so big we can’t even fit it in the frame.



Here’s one without our family, just trying to get the tree in the photo. We almost got it.



There was still snow present on the mountain ridges at these elevations, so it presented some unique challenges along the way. Good thing my kids are problem-solvers.



No one has ever accused my family of being radical environmentalists, but I like clean air and water as much as the next guy. In a park like this, you can’t help but be grateful that specimen trees like these are protected.





We got back in the van and drove the rest of the Generals Highway. At one stop, we were able to get a glimpse of the Kings Canyon area, which runs through this mountain range.



The drive through Kings Canyon is supposed to be incredibly beautiful. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it, as the road was closed due to California’s record snowfall that year. We missed the road opening by about a week.

At least we got into the park.



The only area that was open was the main visitor center and Grant Grove area. At the visitor center, we watched a short film about the park, and I can definitely tell you that the theater was air-conditioned. Other than that, my recollection is a bit hazy. Drew got his second Junior Ranger badge in as many days.



Then we moved over to explore Grant Grove. This is another giant sequoia grove, and features the General Grant tree, which depending on your source is either the 2nd- or 3rd-largest tree in the world. It was designated as the “Nation’s Christmas Tree” in 1926, and that fact plus $40 will get you a t-shirt in most Disney World gift shops.

Again, there’s a short trail that takes you to the actual tree. We could see a nice stand of sequoias right by the parking lot.



Along the way, there was a hollowed-out tree trunk you could climb through.







And then there was the General Grant Tree itself. It’s big.

In other news, Mondays suck.





Later on the trail, we saw a settler’s cabin that had been restored. The only real noteworthy event Is that Scotty happened.

For some reason, he decided it would be a good idea to drop his sister’s sunglasses out the window. You weren’t supposed to walk out beyond the fence off the trail, so that led to some fun gymnastics as he tried to retrieve them. We did what all good parents do when their kids face a difficult problem—we stood back and took photos.





And with the glasses finally safely back on Sarah’s head, our visit here was complete. Someday, I’d like to come back to drive into Kings Canyon. I feel like we missed out on some gorgeous scenery there. But we had known going into this trip that some roads were still going to be impassable due to snow. It was a trade-off we were willing to make, for two reasons. One, we were avoiding the peak summer crowds that plague the area. And two…

Well, I’ll show you in the next chapter.

Coming Up Next: We finally reach the main event—the biggest reason we took this trip.
 
  • pkondz

    . . Dis Dad #797 . . Hoping to get lucky
    Joined
    Mar 9, 2007
    Alternate version: I hope that I shall never see another poem about a tree.
    Not even of this one?
    Image result for tree of life disney
    Shortly after driving through the tiny town of Three Rivers, CA (we only saw one river, the Kaweah)
    You obviously need to go back. You can't acknowledge one river and ignore the other two. This will lead to jealousy, infighting and flooding.
    (whoever was playing Wheel of Fortune that night clearly bought too many vowels. That’s not an easy word to type).
    Meh. I'm betting you did what I do with big, hard to spell words.... copy/paste.
    Like... entrepreneur or bivouacking or dog.
    and fake enthusiasm about holding a giant pine cone.

    Good job, Drew! Almost believable!
    These are the largest trees (by mass) in the world.
    Huh. I thought...
    the redwood can grow taller, but it is dwarfed by the sheer volume of the sequoia trees.
    … yeah. That's what I thought.
    That seems to be the “butter zone” of climate where they survive best.
    mmm.... butter...
    We started our drive on the Generals Highway, pushing the hamsters in our Dodge Caravan engine to the limit as they spun their wheels as fast as they could.
    Switch to gerbils. You need more, but they work harder.
    We were now in an old-growth wonderland, with trees that were impossibly huge, like something out of a Lord of the Rings novel. Thankfully, these trees don’t talk, since those scenes were consistently the worst parts of the Lord of the Rings movies.
    Never have seen those movies. I started... and got bored. Never went back.
    Whoa.
    I’m trying to only include photos of these trees with people or other common items in the frame so you can get a sense of the scale of these monsters.
    Totally get it. That last photo? I only saw the top 2/3 or so before I scrolled down. Had no idea.
    They can live for thousands of years.
    Like fungus... or B.O.
    The Giant Forest Museum had some cute exhibits inside, including this one that compared the sequoia to the space shuttle, the Statue of Liberty, and 20 elephants stacked on top of each other. In case you encounter that situation in your travels and need to know whether it’s taller than a sequoia or not.
    That's pretty silly. In all my travels I've never seen more than 16 elephants stacked up.
    The hike from our parking lot was somewhat steep downhill, and I wasn’t looking forward to climbing back.
    Yeah, that's what I was thinking. How was it?
    It may have been due to the higher elevations. Or it may be due to me being fat and out of shape. One of those.
    It's the elevation.
    The elevation of your gut over your belt.
    Just... stunningly huge!
    Here’s one without our family, just trying to get the tree in the photo. We almost got it.
    Tall order.




    um...
    There was still snow present on the mountain ridges at these elevations, so it presented some unique challenges along the way. Good thing my kids are problem-solvers.

    :laughing: I was thinking "snowball fight" or even "snow angels"...
    Next they'll want you to recycle all your garbage.
    Heh. Cute shot.
    Wow! That's pretty much jaw drop gorgeous!
    The drive through Kings Canyon is supposed to be incredibly beautiful. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it, as the road was closed due to California’s record snowfall that year. We missed the road opening by about a week.
    Dang. Too bad. Go back. Try again.
    Drew got his second Junior Ranger badge in as many days.

    And another really cute photo. :)
    that fact plus $40 will get you a t-shirt in most Disney World gift shops.
    Really! So if you know that, you get 80% off a t-shirt???? Sweet!
    And then there was the General Grant Tree itself. It’s big.
    It is. worthy of another "whoa".
    In other news, Mondays suck.
    Start working shift work. Mondays only suck every 8th and 9th week.
    Later on the trail, we saw a settler’s cabin that had been restored. The only real noteworthy event Is that Scotty happened.

    For some reason, he decided it would be a good idea to drop his sister’s sunglasses out the window. You weren’t supposed to walk out beyond the fence off the trail, so that led to some fun gymnastics as he tried to retrieve them. We did what all good parents do when their kids face a difficult problem—we stood back and took photos.
    :laughing:
    Also like how his sister is really helping him.
    And two…

    Well, I’ll show you in the next chapter.
    I don't really want to see your #2.
    We finally reach the main event—the biggest reason we took this trip.
    There's an even bigger reason???
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Not even of this one?
    Image result for tree of life disney
    I'd rather see the actual tree than a poem about it.

    You obviously need to go back. You can't acknowledge one river and ignore the other two. This will lead to jealousy, infighting and flooding.
    Well, they're just gonna have to work it out for themselves.

    Meh. I'm betting you did what I do with big, hard to spell words.... copy/paste.
    Like... entrepreneur or bivouacking or dog.
    :rotfl2: :rotfl2: I admit it..."dog" made me laugh out loud.

    Good job, Drew! Almost believable!
    Yep, he's a regular Sir Laurence Olivier.

    … yeah. That's what I thought.
    Well, now you know.

    mmm.... butter...


    Switch to gerbils. You need more, but they work harder.
    Sounds like a zero-sum trade-off to me.

    Never have seen those movies. I started... and got bored. Never went back.
    I watched them all, but I have to admit that I didn't get the all-out hype for them. I like a good medieval battle scene as much as anyone.

    But in the end, it just wasn't my thing. I could see it was well-made by talented people who cared about the story. I was reminded of an old Roger Ebert line: "I admired it more than I liked it."

    That's what we said.

    Totally get it. That last photo? I only saw the top 2/3 or so before I scrolled down. Had no idea.
    They were on a completely different scale.

    Like fungus... or B.O.
    Or roaches.

    That's pretty silly. In all my travels I've never seen more than 16 elephants stacked up.
    I know, right? Ridiculous!

    Yeah, that's what I was thinking. How was it?
    Not too bad, actually. We did fine.

    It's the elevation.
    The elevation of your gut over your belt.
    That's what I suspected. Too many donuts, I guess.

    Just... stunningly huge!
    ::yes::

    Tall order.




    um...
    I see what you did there.

    :laughing: I was thinking "snowball fight" or even "snow angels"...
    We may have had a couple of each along the way.

    Next they'll want you to recycle all your garbage.
    Sheesh! Good thing I already sprayed all of those aerosol cans to warm things up last winter.

    Wow! That's pretty much jaw drop gorgeous!
    Dang. Too bad. Go back. Try again.
    Yeah, I wish we'd been able to see it! I'm sure it's a beautiful drive.

    And another really cute photo. :)
    :goodvibes I really like that Junior Ranger program. It helps keep things interesting for the kids.

    Really! So if you know that, you get 80% off a t-shirt???? Sweet!
    :laughing:

    It is. worthy of another "whoa".
    Ginormous, even.

    Start working shift work. Mondays only suck every 8th and 9th week.
    But then every other day sucks a couple of times during the year.

    :laughing:
    Also like how his sister is really helping him.
    Yeah, she really went all out! This is a good microcosm of day-to-day life in our family.

    I don't really want to see your #2.
    Especially not if I've been to Taco Bell.

    There's an even bigger reason???
    ::yes::
     

    pkondz

    . . Dis Dad #797 . . Hoping to get lucky
    Joined
    Mar 9, 2007
    I'd rather see the actual tree than a poem about it.
    Okay, I'll give you that one.
    Well, they're just gonna have to work it out for themselves.
    Flooding it is! Break out the Arks!!
    :rotfl2: :rotfl2: I admit it..."dog" made me laugh out loud.
    ;)
    Yep, he's a regular Sir Laurence Olivier.
    oooohhh… scary boo in Marathon Man (Ever see it?)
    I watched them all, but I have to admit that I didn't get the all-out hype for them. I like a good medieval battle scene as much as anyone.

    But in the end, it just wasn't my thing. I could see it was well-made by talented people who cared about the story. I was reminded of an old Roger Ebert line: "I admired it more than I liked it."
    ::yes::
    They were on a completely different scale.
    No kidding! Holy cow!
    That's what I suspected. Too many donuts, I guess.
    mmmm… donuts...
    We may have had a couple of each along the way.
    I would hope so! When you see snow... you have to.

    It's a rule.
    Sheesh! Good thing I already sprayed all of those aerosol cans to warm things up last winter.
    Um...

    I'll never forget a quote by my fave author. "The next time someone talks to me about aerosol cans and the ozone layer, I'm going to track them down and throw up on their shoes."

    I wonder if anyone still thinks they have any effect on the ozone layer?
    But then every other day sucks a couple of times during the year.
    Actually...
    My regular cycle is 2 evening shifts (til 10:45pm), then two days (start at 6:30am) then a midnight shift at the end of the second day.
    So... I have two sucky days in every five. (then I have 3 off... unless I get called in or scheduled for O/T.)
    Yeah, she really went all out! This is a good microcosm of day-to-day life in our family.
    :laughing:
     

    docsoliday1

    DIS Dad #834 Cubs, Dolphins fan forever
    Joined
    Mar 12, 2008
    I watched them all, but I have to admit that I didn't get the all-out hype for them. I like a good medieval battle scene as much as anyone.

    But in the end, it just wasn't my thing. I could see it was well-made by talented people who cared about the story. I was reminded of an old Roger Ebert line: "I admired it more than I liked it."
    Interesting.
    I grew up with the books and really enjoyed all the detail Tolkien put into them.
    I felt the movies stuck with the books much more closely than most books -> movies do.

    I'm a bit surprised you and pkondz didn't like them...they're similar to Disney movies (good triumphing over evil) and we are on the DIS boards. Different strokes for different folks.
     
  • rdkeim

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 23, 2006
    Loving your TR. I love a road trip and am a National Park enthusiast. I'd love to get to all of them but I'll never make it - too old. But, I've made a dent. Anxious to see what the main attraction is!
     

    pkondz

    . . Dis Dad #797 . . Hoping to get lucky
    Joined
    Mar 9, 2007
    I'm a bit surprised you and pkondz didn't like them...they're similar to Disney movies (good triumphing over evil) and we are on the DIS boards. Different strokes for different folks.
    Will happily admit that I could be completely wrong about them. I've only watched a few minutes of the first one and a smattering here and there... So I really haven't given them a fair shake.
     

    franandaj

    I'm so happy, I could BOUNCE!
    Joined
    Nov 15, 2009
    There was a visitor center right by the entrance, so we stopped there to get our bearings, pick up a park map, and fake enthusiasm about holding a giant pine cone.
    He's already got the cheezy smile for the camera down!

    They are related to the California redwood, and the redwood can grow taller, but it is dwarfed by the sheer volume of the sequoia trees.
    Living near Big Basin, I've been there a bunch. Never made it up the hill to see this park.

    When we finally passed the 5,000-ft. elevation mark, you could see the change in the forest.
    I love when you can see the changes in plant life at the various elevations.

    The Giant Forest Museum had some cute exhibits inside, including this one that compared the sequoia to the space shuttle, the Statue of Liberty, and 20 elephants stacked on top of each other. In case you encounter that situation in your travels and need to know whether it’s taller than a sequoia or not.
    You know I have had the opportunity to ponder such a question....

    The hike from our parking lot was somewhat steep downhill, and I wasn’t looking forward to climbing back. It may have been due to the higher elevations. Or it may be due to me being fat and out of shape. One of those.
    Definitely the elevation... :rolleyes1

    There was still snow present on the mountain ridges at these elevations, so it presented some unique challenges along the way. Good thing my kids are problem-solvers.
    It wasn't until I read this on the computer that I saw there was really snow there! I'm such a Californian (and Fran and I don't do much hiking), I could have been wearing sandals and had a real big surprise!

    The drive through Kings Canyon is supposed to be incredibly beautiful. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see it, as the road was closed due to California’s record snowfall that year. We missed the road opening by about a week.
    You never think that road are going to be closed that late into the season. Then again Mammoth is still open for skiing!

    Along the way, there was a hollowed-out tree trunk you could climb through.
    Very cool!

    For some reason, he decided it would be a good idea to drop his sister’s sunglasses out the window. You weren’t supposed to walk out beyond the fence off the trail, so that led to some fun gymnastics as he tried to retrieve them.
    At least he is agile!

    We finally reach the main event—the biggest reason we took this trip.
    OK....The things so far have not been? :confused3
     

    Self_resqing_princz

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Aug 5, 2010
    oh man! That ending got me. The somethings never change picture of the castle- teary eyed... and somethings do picture of your daughter driving... I don't even know her and it made me shed a tear. Too sweet! Very nice TR!
     
  • Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Okay, I'll give you that one.
    :woohoo: That's one point for me!

    Flooding it is! Break out the Arks!!
    I'm not taking on any animals, though. Can't afford to feed them.

    oooohhh… scary boo in Marathon Man (Ever see it?)
    Sadly, I have not seen that one.

    I would hope so! When you see snow... you have to.

    It's a rule.
    I agree completely. Plus, the temptation to throw snowballs at your family is too great to pass up.

    Um...

    I'll never forget a quote by my fave author. "The next time someone talks to me about aerosol cans and the ozone layer, I'm going to track them down and throw up on their shoes."

    I wonder if anyone still thinks they have any effect on the ozone layer?
    I dunno. It was always my go-to joke whenever we'd have a nice warm day in March or something. "Hey, global warming is great! Better go spray some more aerosol cans, etc." It was easier to say that than try and work in private jets or cow methane emissions, etc.

    Actually...
    My regular cycle is 2 evening shifts (til 10:45pm), then two days (start at 6:30am) then a midnight shift at the end of the second day.
    So... I have two sucky days in every five. (then I have 3 off... unless I get called in or scheduled for O/T.)
    Which, if I recall correctly, is pretty much every day.

    Interesting.
    I grew up with the books and really enjoyed all the detail Tolkien put into them.
    I felt the movies stuck with the books much more closely than most books -> movies do.

    I'm a bit surprised you and pkondz didn't like them...they're similar to Disney movies (good triumphing over evil) and we are on the DIS boards. Different strokes for different folks.
    Will happily admit that I could be completely wrong about them. I've only watched a few minutes of the first one and a smattering here and there... So I really haven't given them a fair shake.
    Yep, different strokes and all that. Like I said, I can acknowledge they are well-made without being my cup of tea. I actually liked the first one the best. But for me, they were too long (with a lot of slow stretches) and took themselves too seriously for the most part. I think that's the secret to what made Star Wars such a hit--it had the Han Solo character who was the smart-aleck willing to call BS on everybody else when it started to drown in mythology. LOTR needed a Han Solo type.

    I firmly admit I am in the minority on this one, though. There have been a few massive cultural hits that I just couldn't quite get into for whatever reason. LOTR is one (and the less said about the Hobbit movies, the better--I found the first one nearly unwatchable). Seinfeld is another. Everyone loves it, and I just didn't get it--but I can admit some episodes are very funny. I just tried watching The Sopranos and I'm struggling to understand why everyone loves that show as well.

    It's fine. Everybody has their thing.

    Loving your TR. I love a road trip and am a National Park enthusiast. I'd love to get to all of them but I'll never make it - too old. But, I've made a dent. Anxious to see what the main attraction is!
    Well, some are really, really hard to get to. Like Isle Royale. Or almost anything in Alaska (with no roads to them whatsoever). But most of them are worth the effort.

    Any guesses on the next one?
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    He's already got the cheezy smile for the camera down!
    We've trained him well!

    Living near Big Basin, I've been there a bunch. Never made it up the hill to see this park.
    Really? Did you ever want to go?

    I love when you can see the changes in plant life at the various elevations.
    That is pretty neat. We live in an amazing world.

    You know I have had the opportunity to ponder such a question....
    :scratchin

    Definitely the elevation... :rolleyes1
    Yeah, that's gotta be it. Thanks!

    It wasn't until I read this on the computer that I saw there was really snow there! I'm such a Californian (and Fran and I don't do much hiking), I could have been wearing sandals and had a real big surprise!
    :laughing: I bet you wouldn't be the first!

    You never think that road are going to be closed that late into the season. Then again Mammoth is still open for skiing!
    I knew it was a possibility going in. The websites were pretty clear that the road doesn't typically open until May. Still would have loved to see it, though.

    At least he is agile!
    It's a blessing to be young!

    OK....The things so far have not been? :confused3
    Everything so far was really cool. But the #1 reason for the trip still lay ahead of us.

    oh man! That ending got me. The somethings never change picture of the castle- teary eyed... and somethings do picture of your daughter driving... I don't even know her and it made me shed a tear. Too sweet! Very nice TR!
    Thanks! We've spent quite a few years taking our kids to Disney, so it seemed appropriate to note how much time has passed.

    And thanks for reading along. If you have interest in seeing a bit of California, we're still going strong.
     

    rdkeim

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 23, 2006
    :woohoo: That's one point for me!



    I'm not taking on any animals, though. Can't afford to feed them.



    Sadly, I have not seen that one.



    I agree completely. Plus, the temptation to throw snowballs at your family is too great to pass up.



    I dunno. It was always my go-to joke whenever we'd have a nice warm day in March or something. "Hey, global warming is great! Better go spray some more aerosol cans, etc." It was easier to say that than try and work in private jets or cow methane emissions, etc.



    Which, if I recall correctly, is pretty much every day.





    Yep, different strokes and all that. Like I said, I can acknowledge they are well-made without being my cup of tea. I actually liked the first one the best. But for me, they were too long (with a lot of slow stretches) and took themselves too seriously for the most part. I think that's the secret to what made Star Wars such a hit--it had the Han Solo character who was the smart-aleck willing to call BS on everybody else when it started to drown in mythology. LOTR needed a Han Solo type.

    I firmly admit I am in the minority on this one, though. There have been a few massive cultural hits that I just couldn't quite get into for whatever reason. LOTR is one (and the less said about the Hobbit movies, the better--I found the first one nearly unwatchable). Seinfeld is another. Everyone loves it, and I just didn't get it--but I can admit some episodes are very funny. I just tried watching The Sopranos and I'm struggling to understand why everyone loves that show as well.

    It's fine. Everybody has their thing.



    Well, some are really, really hard to get to. Like Isle Royale. Or almost anything in Alaska (with no roads to them whatsoever). But most of them are worth the effort.

    Any guesses on the next one?
    Possibly Yosemite?
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    Bonus Chapter 8: This Is Why We Travel

    There are currently 61 National Parks in the United States. Every single one of them is worth visiting (ok, except maybe Hot Springs National Park). Some of them are ridiculously inaccessible, to the point where I’m fairly certain I will never see them. The National Park of American Samoa is on a tiny island in the South Pacific. Some parks in Alaska, such as the Kobuk Valley or Lake Clark or Gates of the Arctic, have no roads leading to them and are only reachable by small charter planes. Unless you want to spend 6 months hiking to them. Others, such as the Great Smoky Mountains, are easy day trips from well-populated areas. But no matter where they are located, the national parks always reward you for the effort it took to get there (except maybe Hot Springs). You’ll almost always see something there that you wouldn’t have been able to see anywhere else (except maybe Joshua Tree National Park).

    It seems like there’s a hierarchy within the parks, though. You have the ones nobody has ever heard of (such as Pinnacles or Congaree) and the ones nobody makes much of an effort to see (like Saguaro or Indiana Dunes). You might even have parks you visit once and never want to return to again (looking at you, Everglades).

    There would only be a few parks that reside in those categories. You could certainly make an “inaccessible” category as well. But once you eliminate those, everything else would fall to subjective tastes based on your personal preferences when ranking favorites.

    But there always seem to be three parks that stand out in everyone’s mind—the ones that everyone feels they must see. They’re some of the oldest national parks in the nation (and the world), the “Granddaddies of Them All”. Even foreigners all over the world know of them and want to visit: the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite National Parks.

    I’d seen the first two multiple times. But up until this past spring, I’d never seen Yosemite. Given its stature and reputation, that was the biggest item on our wish list when we put together our itinerary. As I’ll explain later, the entire trip was planned around this park.

    We left Kings Canyon in the early afternoon, heading west and slowly making our way out of the Sierra Nevada and back down into the… (yawn)…

    Zzzzzzzz….

    Huh? Oh, sorry. We were in the Central Valley again.

    We made it to the city of Fresno, stopped for gas and some McDonald’s fries to munch on, and then turned north on route 41. From there, it was roughly two hours to reach the park boundary.

    It was obvious that this was the “back entrance” to the park, as we almost missed the entrance sign and had to turn around just to take a photo of it. They saved the nice signs for the other roads into the park.



    It was another 45 minutes of driving (behind a very slow old-timer in a convertible who apparently wasn’t aware of the pull-offs to allow others to pass) before we drew near to the famed Yosemite Valley. Along the way, we drove through an area that had been hit by the wildfires that surrounded the park last summer.



    I had a very specific reason for entering the park on Rt. 41, coming up from the south. When driving in that direction, you reach the valley by driving through a tunnel through the mountain that is about a mile long. Upon emerging from the tunnel, there’s an observation point/lookout immediately to the left called Tunnel View, which gives visitors an amazing view of the entire valley below. I wanted this to be our very first view of the Yosemite Valley.

    And we just so happened to be arriving late in the day, when the sun would be behind us, giving perfect light.

    Look, I know I’ve screwed up a trip plan or two in my time, but when I’m on my game, I’m cooking with gas.

    We rounded a bend, high up in the Sierra Nevada range once more. We entered the tunnel, knowing we were about to see the valley for the first time. And yet, I still don’t think we were quite ready for it. We could see the end of the tunnel approaching—at first, just a tiny point of light ahead. Gradually, that opening began to widen and then, right in the center of our view in a feat of perfect engineering, a roaring waterfall appeared. Another second or two and we burst out of the tunnel. Immediately, everyone in the car let out an involuntary “WHOA…..” Julie later said she felt her eyes tear up.

    I pulled over into the parking lot at the overlook. It was as though we had entered a completely different world.

    The view from here was indescribably beautiful. It’s one of the most jaw-droppingly glorious sights I’ve ever seen in my life. If we had done nothing else on this trip, it still would have been worth the cost and effort to get here.

    Just look.



    Dude, seriously? You’re facing the wrong way. That’s the tunnel. You have to turn around and look east.

    Let’s try again. Close your eyes and turn around. Ready?

    Now open them.



    I was mesmerized. To the left, the vertical rock face is the famous El Capitan. It’s a 3,000-foot (914 m) sheer wall of granite that is popular with rock climbers all over the world. You might have chewed off a few fingernails watching a guy climb it bare-handed without ropes or equipment in Free Solo.

    The other famous rock formation, Half Dome, is visible in the background further to the east of the valley. Now to get a set of scale, look at the “carpet” of trees. Those are not just scrub trees. Those are lodgepole pines, which typically grow to 150 ft (45 m or so) in height. And they look tiny.



    We stood here a very long time, just taking it in. It’s a special place. We took a lot of photos, and I’ll try not to torture you with too many of them. We couldn’t help ourselves—this looked like the Gateway to Heaven.

    This is Bridal Veil Falls. As you can see, it was roaring full of water. This was a major reason for visiting in the spring. The snow is still melting, causing all of the waterfalls to be at peak flow. Later in the summer, this and many of the other waterfalls in the valley will slow to a trickle, or even dry up altogether.



    We tried some family photos, but it was hard to get the lighting right. They would either come out too dark, or, when we used the flash, it looked like we were standing in front of a fake backdrop.







    My phone wasn’t much better:



    We waited for a while as the sun set and the shadows crept up the rock faces. We finally decided to leave when two busloads of tourists showed up to watch the sunset.



    We drove down into the valley. Now the granite cliffs surrounded us, and we were still overwhelmed with the beauty of Yosemite. It was easy to see why John Muir had argued so passionately for its protection with Theodore Roosevelt.

    Yosemite Falls came into view after we drove past El Capitan. It’s actually a triple-decker falls—three different tiers dropping over 2,400 ft. to the valley floor. This is another waterfall that will completely dry up over the course of the summer.





    The sun was now dropping quickly behind the mountains.



    We saw several people gathered on a bridge, watching the sunset reflect off of Half Dome. So we got out and watched it, too.



    We moved on and finally checked into our hotel for the next two nights. We were staying at the place formerly known as the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, but due to a lawsuit over trademarks was now being called the Yosemite Valley Lodge. Now, as of this writing, the lawsuit has been settled and it will now be known as the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls once again. Got all that?

    It’s always a treat to stay at a National Park lodge. Yes, they’re often very rustic (i.e. no air conditioning, no TV, no phone). Yes, the accommodations are often old and in need of updating. But you can never beat the location. Especially if the nearest place to stay outside the park is 50 miles away.

    This was the reason the whole trip had been planned around Yosemite. Reservations open 366 days in advance for accommodations inside the park. And as with all national park lodges, it’s wise to book it as far in advance as possible. Especially if, like me, you would like to stay in one of the 6 family suites in the Yosemite Lodge that actually can hold a family of 6.

    I ended up trying for 3 days before I finally found an availability for a family suite for two nights. Since we were arriving on a Tuesday, I grabbed those dates and then planned the rest of the trip so that those dates would work for us.



    This room cost in the neighborhood of $300/night. And yes, that’s steep. But given the location and the needs of my family, it was worth it. This was the best room we’ve ever had in a national park. Look at this space! It was like having our own clubhouse:





    This sofa was in a little TV alcove. It pulled out into a bed.





    After cramming ourselves into various Hampton Inns, this felt like the lap of luxury. We loved it there.

    We had a late dinner in the food court at the lodge. If there’s a downside to staying inside a national park, it’s that the food options are generally lousy. We could either eat at the high-end dining room (and order everyone $35 steaks) or slum it at the food court. We got pizzas and calzones from the food court which were thoroughly mediocre. Which is actually a big win for a national park food court.

    We turned in for the night in our clubhouse. We had a full day of exploring the valley ahead.

    Coming Up Next: A lot of hiking and exploring. If the bus ever shows up.

    Driving map for the day:

     
    Last edited:

    rdkeim

    DIS Veteran
    Joined
    Oct 23, 2006
    Wow - Yosemite! Loved your description of your first view of the valley. It is definitely breathtaking. As far as scenery goes, it's our favorite national park to date. The family suite looks awesome! We were there a couple years ago and also stayed at the Lodge. I'm so happy to hear the original names are back! That really bugged me. At the north rim of the Grand Canyon there are 4 cabins right on the rim. I reserved cabins 2 years in advance - our trip is finally coming up in early Sept. The early bird catches the worm. Hoping you enjoy your time in Yosemite!
     

    Captain_Oblivious

    DIS Dad #257
    Joined
    Nov 10, 2008
    That view was worth the entire trip!
    Yes. Yes, it was.

    Wow - Yosemite! Loved your description of your first view of the valley. It is definitely breathtaking. As far as scenery goes, it's our favorite national park to date.
    I think picking a favorite national park is like picking a favorite kid. But Yosemite had been hyped as one of the best to me for 44 years, and I think it absolutely lived up to the hype. What a spectacular place.

    The family suite looks awesome! We were there a couple years ago and also stayed at the Lodge. I'm so happy to hear the original names are back! That really bugged me.
    Yeah, it was annoying that they were being so petty in the lawsuit. Whatever it's called, it was great to stay in the park.

    At the north rim of the Grand Canyon there are 4 cabins right on the rim. I reserved cabins 2 years in advance - our trip is finally coming up in early Sept. The early bird catches the worm. Hoping you enjoy your time in Yosemite!
    Have a great time! Julie and I really enjoyed being on the North Rim last summer.
     

    jglor

    Earning My Ears
    Joined
    May 28, 2015
    I just read through your entire trip report in about 2 days. I skipped most of the comments (sorry everyone! especially @pkondz), and just read your posts. I really enjoyed reading about your family's adventures.
    I feel you when it comes to your brother on the Disney World trip. I've done Disney World 3 times (trip #4 next month!), with just the 3 of us, Me, DW and DS(11). (You can read my never-finished trip report from 2015 in my signature). I would never go with family, because they would drive me crazy. I am a meticulous planner, and I get frustrated when my plans have to change. My son is worse than I am about that.

    If I tried to go with my brother, I would probably have to kill someone. We've done day trips to Disneyland with him (we live in SoCal - about an hour and a half away), and it's awful. Tons of standing around, trying to decide what to do, then once we make a plan, he will change his mind half-way there. He absolutely would be the one to show up a half hour late to a dinner reservation because he was off doing something else. Or more likely, the original dinner plan would be his (the most expensive place, with food we don't even really like), and we'd all grudgingly agree to go, and then he wouldn't show up at all.

    Your pictures of Yosemite are beautiful. I haven't been there since 2002 or so, and DS hasn't been at all. Never stayed at the lodge, we've always tent camped there. Sometimes in the valley and sometimes outside. Last time was one of the Pines campgrounds (I want to say Upper Pines, but I'm not sure). Definitely something I want to do again. Our son is right at the age where he can handle some of the long hikes.
     


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