Though not rich by a looong shot, I try to do something with my wonderful daughter every year during her summer break from school. Of course, I have fun too. So we climbed in the old truck and headed out.
Last year it was Big Sur. This year Big Sur is sadly burning, so we did something else she enjoys. We went white water rafting. This time on the Middle Fork of the American River. Then we went hiking in Yosemite; specifically to the top of Yosemite Falls. This was my third time to the top. The first time was with my brother, Rod, and the second with my dog and best friend, Ruddy.
The falls currently are almost non-existant, but at the top some lovely pools can still be found. Near the edge they are somewhat crowded with people, but away from it several are more deserted. Following are some pics (click to enlarge). My apologies though as some are screenshots from videos. We like to make a video from our summer escapades to keep for memories’ sake. Can you spot us in this first one?
During the 5 hour or so voyage we discovered that somebody had fallen into the river from another vessel at a particularly dangerous point. Two rafters had drowned there before, we were informed. The poor sot was roughly rescued, and appeared shaken.
The view from our tent at the American River.
After a couple of days there we drove toward Yosemite, but somehow got off track. That turned out to be a good thing because we discovered a lake previously unknown to us: Lake Tulloch in Mark Twain’s Calaveras County and as it was oppressively hot we decided to go for an unofficial swim.
The Sierran foothills have lots of lovely little lakes due to snowpack runoff. Here’s one such we happened upon.
After that we headed to Rainbow Pool just off Hwy 120 to Yosemite. Rainbow Pool is said by one aficionado to be one of the finest swimming holes in California, but we found it too crowded and after a brief stay pushed on.
The road into Yosemite was a bit depressing with mile after mile of dead trees. The blame for the deaths range from Pine-Bark Beetles to drought to fire. At its base, though, it’s Climate Change. As the earth warms, the cold temps that normally kills the beetles each winter, thus controlling their damage, is not occurring and they are surviving the more mild season to breed and ravage the forest.
One other negative: I do believe that if John Muir could see Yosemite Valley today he would be immensely saddened. The Valley is busting at the seams with cars (including ours) and people. Also, it seems that many visitors see Yosemite as little more than an just another amusement park. Comparatively few of Yosemite’s 4 million yearly visitors actually leave the Valley’s seven square miles to see the countryside around, preferring instead to frequent the stores for souvenirs, snapping selfies and yelling raucously. At least that was our impression. Maybe it’s a good thing they stay in the Valley judging by the amount of garbage we saw on the ground.
Ok, enough grumbling.
Here was one area in the Valley we had to ourselves.
By chance, in the high back country we found one of the most beautiful wild swimming holes I’ve ever had the pleasure to take a dip in. It was long, and deep in the middle section (I’d guess around 9 feet), with a small falls at one end, and I imagined the Miwok Awanichi pre-conquest enjoying regular get-togethers there. Here’s the kid above.
And me swimming.
We stayed the night and enjoyed a splendid view of the stars with tall evergreens in silouette and the music of the river below as soft accompaniment.
Heading back the next morning.
Back at the rim next day we thought we were going to witness a tragedy as one guy, trying for a selfie and to impress some girls he arrived with, took to leaping on the rocks right to the edge. Fortunately for him, luck ensued.
Here’s Half Dome from the Upper Falls Trail.
After Yosemite, we headed toward the coast to travel down famous Highway 1. As I mentioned, the Sur is burning and was closed, though the road was not. The air was a yellow/brown that you could taste, which I discovered after stopping for a nap. Firefighters and their trucks were apparent all along that stretch. Down the road, we also happened by an interesting place called New Camaldoli Hermitage, which advertised “Holy Granola” ;).
Visit to a deserted Beach.
One thing I’ve often noted in my trips around California is that virtually every bit of road has been appropriated by someone, whether public or private, and a person trying to save money by camping out is hard pressed to find any piece of land he/she can put in for the evening. On several occasions I’ve been rousted from a much needed sleep in the middle of the night with a bright light in my eyes held by a man with a badge, and even if dead tired and a driving hazard to himself and others one is compelled to get back on the road. National Forests, however, are an exception, and thus, heading down the road, we camped the night near the San Marcos Pass in the Los Padres National Forest, enjoying a big, high view of Santa Barbara at night. It was the best sleep of the trip. By morning fog had rolled in, but in time that burned off.
As we were just opposite Painted Cave road, after gathering our stuff we headed up the steep incline to see the Chumash wonder from the 1,600s. Unfortunately, due to abundant graffiti and vandalism evident on the rocks around, the cave has had to be secured behind a locked iron gate.
One interesting facet of this trip was our noting of several species of wild growing fruit. In the Sierras and surrounding counties blackberries and grapes are plentiful, barely noticed by the locals but a delight to travelers who know what they are. Here’s some berries near our campsite next to the American River.
Not far away I discovered a fig. See them on the left?
Wild grapes along the 140.
And here on the 154 near our impromptu campsite is delicious Holly-Leaved Cherry, another California native.
That’s all for now. It’s back to beans and water.