With the alarm set for 5:30 we were determined to see the sunrise over Yosemite. We were chomping at the wheel as we rolled through the park at 25mph. We got to Tunnel view nice and early just as the sun was coming up. There was a problem though, I got out the car and saw it leaking fluid. Shit. A quick look underneath and yes, green liquid was flowing out from underneath the car. Was it fuel? Radiator fluid? Brake fluid? I had to know, so I bent down and dipped my finger in it and held it to my nose….. *sniff*
“What is it Luke? Fuel?”
“No, it’s piss, and it’s all over the tip of my nose”
We both freaked out and Emma grabbed the wet wipes. As she wiped it off she turned round and said:
“Oh yeah, it’s probably from that massive puddle over there”
It wasn’t human, purely for the fact it was bright green. Also the amount of urine there was either came from a bear or a racehorse. Great start!!! The sunrise was amazing. Unfortunately the sun shone straight into the lens and ruined every photo, even with an ND filter on. So you are stuck with this one taken just after sunrise.
From there we drove the long climb to Glacier Point. The drive was lovely and took over 40 minutes. Glacier Point is nearly one kilometre straight up from the valley and offers views of most of the major landmarks. The view was breathtaking and we spent quite a bit of time there taking in all the sights.
On the way down I did manage to find a gap in traffic and give the Mustang a roar through a lengthy tunnel. No speeding, just a low gear to get the revs up. Sounded amazing, also felt about 18 and driving a Micra down Southend sea front.
The only real disappointment of Yosemite was that due to the dry summer the waterfalls had dried up. We looked at Bridalveil and Yosemite to find both of them dry. Up close there was a trickle but nothing to make you go “wow!” After a while I had to stop looking at the scenery as it was distracting me from the road. With it being very windy getting distracted is not a good idea. Especially after seeing the day before what could happen.
The village in the valley itself is beautiful. We had a look at the hotel we wanted to stay in, then went to the supermarket to get some supplies. The place was full of fit hikers of all ages, breaking the stereotype that all Americans are fat and drive everywhere. One strange thing we noticed is that nothing opens before 10am, and 11am for the most part. Even at the top of Glacier Point the information centre didn’t open until mid morning. We drove back a different route from Yosemite as we were heading to Modesto to see our friends Carl and Julia. After driving a bit it dawned on me we would be going through the now extinguished Rim forest fire region.
When we hit it, it was devastating. The California rim Fire was the 3rd largest in the state’s history, as well as the largest to ever hit the Sierra Nevada range. It burnt over a quarter of a million acres of land. It wiped out 111 buildings but fortunately it didn’t kill anyone. I had followed it before we left not just as I knew we were going there but because there were some of the worlds leading photographers in the area covering it. The road had been touched up and was like new, the hills around us were clear of greenery. It was eery, especially the smell. Have you ever got up close and smelt a recently used fireplace? There is a strong smell of burnt wood, ash and charcoal. The smell is distinctive. That smell was in every breath of air for miles. It was like getting that fireplace and burying your head in it, I could smell it on my clothes the next day. Most of the fire was away from us as we only passed through the bottom bit. But the trees below should have been huge 30 foot pines.
We have some photos of the hills bare and covered in ash but this photo is more of a closeup of the burnt forest. Around 2 miles after we left the burnt forest we got to a small town called Groveland. For 3 miles there were handmade signs nailed to every post, and tied to every railing. Obviously done by children and all saying the same thing:
“Thank you firefighters”
Over 5000 firefighters and 650 volunteering prisoner fought for 6 weeks to contain the fire and ultimately saved Groveland. The appreciation of the towns 600 people was obvious. It was almost like every person had made a sign, as we saw them for around three miles.
We stopped a few miles later after seeing a sign for ‘Chinese Campground’. We walked into one of the strangest places I’ve ever been. It was how you expected a bar to be in films. The hum of the beer fridge, the random pieces of cowboy equipment for sale. A small TV in the corner showing some rubbish with a local that doesn’t look round to see who has come in. We got some cold drinks and sat at the bar. The place was called the Kiwi Tavern. It was run by a New Zealander called Dave (I think!) and he had been there a while. From what I could see it was once a thriving place, but as Dave got older so did the bar and campground. There was a sign outside declaring the land, property and business for sale. I felt sorry for the place. It had obviously seen better days and was in the middle of nowhere. I don’t know who would buy it. The character of the place was brilliant though. It had some much going on, with the things on the wall and on the bar. I loved it! I had to take a sneaky photo. See all the random things you can spot.
From there we ploughed through the Californian countryside to Modesto where we would hook up with a lovely couple called Carl and Julia. Carl is a friend of mine from Wycombe and last September he married the love of his life Julia, an American he met while abroad. He moved to Modesto last year and I hadn’t seen him since. Probably a good thing as I’m sure I was still wanted by relatives after helping kidnap him for a stag do, but that’s another story. When we finally saw Carl he was wearing a bow tie, because he can. He is English they expect nothing less of him. If he wasn’t like Doctor Who they would be disappointed.
I passed onto him a gesture from a close friend of his back home, which was pretty uncomfortable but I had promised to pass it on. And they welcomed us into their shindigs! One thing the Americans do well is living space. A flat in the US is NOT a flat as we know it in the UK. It was nice and spacious especially compared to the box we had just moved out of. We were given a list of places to eat and we chose the Mexican joint across the road. I suspect this was to Julia’s disappointment. She is of Mexican heritage and probably fancied something different but she got her own back by ordering me the hottest, most tongue burning food possible. I can deal with spice but this dish was still boiling 15 minutes after it was put on the table. It wasn’t water either, it was cheese. How the hell does Cheese boil for 15 minutes. It was some of the most delicious food I had ever eaten but I was picking peeling skin out my mouth the rest of the night. Julia if you read this can you comment below what the dish was called, as I want everyone to try it.
[Sorry for the bad quality photo. For some reason I forgot how to use a camera while at dinner]
It was nice catching up with them, it made me realise how much I missed them. Ice cream topped the night off and we were to meet up again the following day so Julia could show us around town. Carl was due to come down on his lunch break. We got an upgrade at the hotel and slept in the largest bed I have ever been in. It was known as a California King Size. It was dreamy……… hurr hurr.