Thursday, July 7th Trip to Lamar Valley (located in the northeast portion of Yellowstone National Park).
A trip to Yellowstone is not complete without an evening twilight safari through Lamar Valley. The valley teems with wildlife. The highlight this year was spotting not one, but two wolves on the north side of the road.
Monday, June 6th – Christa rented a bike at Curry Village. We biked to Mirror Lake trailhead and made the short hike to Mirror Lake.
We then biked to Happy Isles. Next, a bike trip to Visitor’s Center. Lunch at Degnan’s. Girls earned their Junior Ranger badges. I really appreciated the time the Visitors Center Ranger took with the girls in reviewing their Junior Ranger books and talking to them.
Bike trip to Lower Falls.
Bike trip back to camp.
Beat the heat at the river (with a beautiful view of Half Dome). I made a solo bike trip to Village Store to buy groceries. I took the long way, enjoying the ride and the views.
Sunday, June 5th – We drive out to the trailhead for the Merced Grove of sequoias. The hike is steep at certain places but the trail is not crowded. The sequoias are massive and inspiring.
Next we head to Tuolumne Meadows. The Visitor Center there had not yet opened. This is very disappointing. I would have hoped the Park Service would have done a better job to have let us know before we made the trip up to the meadows. At a picnic site, Park Rangers pull over bikers. The bikers were typical of those we would see over the course of the summer: rude, bad language, noise pollution generators, and no consideration of others. One of the bikers proceeded to argue to with the Ranger… an argument he would loose. Do not mess with law enforcement in the National Parks.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch and Christa and girls went on a hike. I make a handful of contacts on HF trying to start my list of NPOTA contacts.
I very much dislike the Tioga Pass road. No shoulder to speak off. Very white knucklish. I don’t think I would want to try and take the travel trailer over the pass.
Saturday, June 4th – We had an easy morning but were off and on our way by about 8:30am. On our bikes, we may a short trip to Happy Isles in order to attend a Junior Ranger program. Bicycle is really the only efficient way to travel around Yosemite Valley. Driving a car makes no sense. There is no where to park and the roads are crowded. The bus system in the valley is over utilized; buses are packed tight and make seldom appearances. The valley is generally flat with lots of bike trails. It makes it very easy to get around.
The Junior Ranger program started at the Happy Isles Nature Center, we spent a bit of time there and then walked around a bit. The Ranger programs here are top notch with both adults and children getting a lot out of it. Happy Isles was pleasantly empty and encompassed by the loud river flowing near it. After the program we spent some time inside the Nature Center. They have great displays – the one I liked the best was about the trees native to Yosemite. If you are looking for calm and peace in the Yosemite Valley, Happy Isles is one place where you will find it.
Today is the day Christa arrives! Unfortunately, it proved to be a series of problems, some of which could have been overcome by better planning on my part. Christa was arriving via the YARTS bus that was originating from the Fresno Airport. There are a few stops in the valley where she could get off but we were told the only place to rent a bike was at Yosemite Lodge so I suggested she get off there. Her bus trip went find and we ate at the food court at the lodge. Massively crowded at the lodge. People everywhere. Afterwards we find out bike rentals are by the day and must be returned by 5:00pm. That stinks. We have Christa take the shuttle to the camp site, we ride our bikes. It takes her about three times as long to arrive. She is not happy. We walk over to Camp Curry for dinner (about 1/4 of a mile away from our campsite) and see that they have bike rentals. We could have just avoided the entire Yosemite Valley Lodge circus! The pizza at Curry Village was excellent. The ice cream inside the Curry Village Lodge/Dining Room was better. At the main entrance inside they have a huge poster advertising the old firefall. The idea of the firefall fascinates me. Yesterday when we were enjoying a reprieve from the heat along the Merced River, I talked with a volunteer who shared her memories of seeing the firefall as a child. I bet that had to be an amazing experience.
Friday, June 3rd – We’ve been on the road for one week. Our morning starts in Lower Pines Campground, Yosemite. I wake up later than usual; around 6:30am. Standard breakfast for us: coffee for me, oatmeal for Emily and I. Sarah has been eating cereal. I notice an oily residue on the trailer’s driver’s side tire may be from a bearing seal leak. That could be catastrophic. I take pictures with my phone with the intent of sending them to Christa so she can contact the Olathe Ford RV dealership to get an expert opinion. I am all about preventive maintenance.. both with the station wagon and the travel trailer. I had extensive work done on the trailer prior to our departure: a new set of tires, axle bearings repacked, trailer brakes checked and adjusted, air conditioner serviced, refrigerator serviced, water heater serviced, trailer roof resealed. I had the propane regulator mount moved to better allow the fit of my two 6v batteries. I try to jump on a maintenance issue before it happens. The grease on the trailer tire rim has me worried.
We do a bit of camp maintenance: I sweep our pad of pine needles and dirt, pull the awning down to provide a bit of shade on the refrigerator side of our trailer from the rising sun. It is hot in the valley; daytime temperatures on reaching the upper 90s. Sarah and Emily, with Junior Ranger trash bags, pick up the trash around our camp site. I bring over two 5 gallon bags of potable water and fill the trailer’s fresh water tank. The trailer’s 5 gallon water heater produces hot water for dish washing. The girls have neither their radio nor their whistles and have been gone for longer than 30 minutes picking up trash in other areas of the campsite. They finally come wandering back. Each gets a whistle to put around their neck and a GMRS radio.
We head for the Visitors Center – the only place I have been able to get a cell signal. I send of the pictures of the wheel and axle. The word from the mechanic is that it is probably excess grease from when the bearings were repacked. I hope so – I will have to keep an eye on it.
We eat an early lunch back at Degnan’s Cafe – this time the sandwich orders go smoothly. Heading back to the our campsite, we decided to spend some time by the Merced River to cool down. The water is ice cold, but refreshing. At 2:30pm we join a Ranger Walk conducted by Ranger Jill Connors about the black bears here in Yosemite. The walk lasts for 90 minutes and was quite informative and enjoyable. We head over to Curry Village (Half Dome Village?) for an early dinner. Pizza! Then ice cream! Back to camp for relaxation: girls working on Junior Ranger workbook and reading for me. The sun is starting to set and we get some relief from the heat. I can look up from our campsite and see the glow up the setting sun on Half Dome.
Thursday, June 2nd – Depart about 9am and headed for Yosemite! Little to no traffic on CA 140 route into Yosemite. Pull into a gas station (Chevron) in Mariposa. Attempt to top of gas tank as there is no gas available in Yosemite Valley. Pull into an island. Get out and realize the exit route is near vertical drop with a sign that says “steep exit”. Indeed. That route would easily bottom out the hitch and trailer. Disaster. Sarah helps me back up the trailer, out of the island, giving me enough room to turn and make it to the other island (Sarah saves the day!). Fill up gas can (just in case). All my reading about Yosemite has told me that gas is not available in Yosemite Valley. I am concerned that I won’t have enough gas… the 5 gallon gas can on the back of the station wagon gives me some peace of mind (although I have not yet tried out the spout attachment to the gas can).
CA 140 route is windy but traffic is light. I make frequent use of turnouts to allow cars behind me to pass. I am probably averaging about 35mph. I found CA 140 to be the easiest drive into Yosemite Valley. We arrive at Yosemite, greeted by a bearded, smiling ranger who gives me the newspaper and map. No problem finding our campsite at Lower Pines. Sarah helps me back the trailer in. After a picnic table lunch, we take our bikes to the Visitors Center. We get the girls their Junior Ranger books. I join the Yosemite Conservancy (this provides me with a 15% discount on purchases in the Conservancy bookstore). We eat dinner at Degnan’s Cafe but they botch our sandwich order (roast beast instead of turkey). We call it quits early.
Wednesday, June 1st – Morning at Lisa’s. Before we visit Mom, we head to the Winchester Mystery House; Emily’s first visit. Visited Mom – she looked much better than last year and was very talkative. Sarah and Emily read to her and she really enjoyed it. Headed back to trailer with a lunch stop at Casa de Fruta on CA 152 about half way between Gilroy and Los Baños. I remember stopping here one time with Grandpa and Grandma Barrios (on our way to Carlsbad?). Girls swam in the KOA pool. Found a coin op car wash in Los Baños. Sprayed down the front of the station wagon (got some of the bugs off) then vacuumed out the passenger area. Headed to Walmart to buy a few missing items (small cooler, blue ice, other odds and ends). Topped off the gas.
Tuesday, May 31st – Morning at Barstow KOA. A quick breakfast consists of coffee and oatmeal. The girls have either cereal or oatmeal. Drive over Tehachapi Pass. This was my first time taking the travel trailer over Tehachapi Pass. The pass was a pretty easy drive. Up I-5 to Los Baños. Drop the trailer at KOA. Drive to Los Gatos. Stop for gas in Los Gatos… $53 to fill up the tank with California gas! Wonderful dinner with my sister Lisa and her family. We were also able to celebrate my dad’s birthday.
Monday, May 30th – Morning at Meteor Crater RV Park. Up early to leave the RV Park by 7am to see “the crater“. The crater was impressive. I am betting that was one loud noise.
Drive through Flagstaff. Horrible delay on I-40 west of Kingman, AZ and border crossing. Californians have not mastered the ability to merge. Arrive at Barstow KOA. Girls go swimming (which they have been looking forward to since Texas). It is hot and I am thankful the travel trailers air conditioning is working well.