Leaving San Francisco is never easy, but when your next stop is Yosemite NP it gets you through! I’d heard that there was a bison herd in Golden Gate Park, so that’s where we headed via the Painted Ladies. The Painted Ladies are houses built in the Victorian style and painted multiple colour to enhance their features, and they’re beautiful. Sitting on a hill (unsurprisingly, being San Francisco) near Haight-Ashbury they really are a beautiful sight and well worth a visit. Next stop – bison! I’d never seen one before so this was extremely exciting – little did I know that I’d soon be surrounded by buffalo…
Next stop was a little town outside Yosemite called Groveland. Groveland is a small town that was established during the Gold Rush, and we decided to stay the night before heading to Yosemite the next morning. We set up camp by a little river, noting the ‘watch for mountain lions, watch for bears and watch for rattle snakes’ sign, and went up to have dinner at the Iron Door Saloon. The cocktails were excellent and they had quirky decorations all over the place. We sat under a moose head and watched as people stuck a thumb tack in a dollar note and threw it at the ceiling – one girl did well and got it to stick first go!
This was the first night camping in the new Tepui tent! After much hilarity and struggle it all came together and we went to bed. Waking up excitedly to go to Yosemite, there’s a problem… The tent is melting. We’ve overlooked the fly and it’s been sitting directly on the tent all night and everything’s soaked! Whoops! So, with today’s ‘problem’ out of the way, it’s off to Yosemite! But… Clearly the tent fly is yesterday’s problem because my lovely little car decided it didn’t want to go to Yosemite. We stalled for a bit but, after an hour in traffic, we made it to the gate. Where the car sputtered and died. Now, I’ve been travelling long distances in this car for a while, so I can only assume that it’s mum’s fault. =)
I managed to get the engine to run long enough, if I drove fast enough, to get the fifty meters to the Rangers Station car park. There the lovely Ranger tried to help out by increasing the rev rate of the car while idling so that we could at least get to the camp ground, that was full, but luckily he found us a corner site to stay at for two nights until I could get a tow truck in. He also told us that we’d broken down at the gate on what was the busiest day he’d seen in the park in 20 years. Sorry to everyone else who was trying to get in that day! So – wonderful! Camping in Yosemite, how amazing! Except…. that the good parts of the park are not walking distance to the gate we were camped by. So. Excellent – camped in the only not-that-interesting part of Yosemite National Park.
We spent a morning hiking to the nearby redwood grove. It rained. Fortunately we had enough food to be there for three days and settled in to camping life. I was desperate to see a bear so we spent an evening sitting in a field even though we knew we had zero chance of a bear encounter. Pretty though. On Monday morning the tow truck arrived and I got to spend $300 on getting back to the town we’d just come from. I then got to spend another $600 on a new coil. It was exciting times.
Next day – back to Yosemite! The car felt good and off we went! Half way up the hill though…. Nothing. No power. Long string of curse words from me. I pulled over and we popped the hood to discover… That the mechanic hadn’t put the distributor cap back on properly. Thanks mate – glad to see that $600 didn’t cover that… So, with the help of a passerby with a magnetic screwdriver (possibly should have forked out extra cash for one of those rather than my regular one) we got it back on and were off.
Finally making it through the gates, we wound our way down to the valley. The park reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It’s so beautiful, although sad to see a lot of dead trees around – the drought’s been rough for the last few years. Lots of sheer cliff faces and waterfalls – a group of us spent twenty minutes watching climbers up El Capitan. One group had hitched up their little tent and were sleeping half way up the bloody wall! It was incredible to watch, and you only realised it was a person when they moved they were so far up.
It was the 100th year celebration of the US National Park Service so the park was even busier than usual (in fact they surpassed their annual visitation record), so with no campgrounds available again, it was a slow and winding drive back up out of Yosemite valley. Looking back from the top you can see the whole way across the park and it’s just a stunning vista. Crawling through the rock tunnel at the other end of the park we didn’t find the suggested camp grounds and end up driving all the way to Fresno before finding an odd campsite run by a woman who looked super out of it. She described her camp ground as ‘primitive camping’, which was fine, and found us a spot by the lake where we cooked dinner, got bitten by mosquitoes and didn’t see a bobcat, not matter how hard I looked for one.