We drove down Highway 49 to Oakland and up Highway 41 to Yosemite. It wasn't so much of a detour as we feared, as the roads were much less winding just after Mariposa than they had been just before. We entered Yosemite through the south entrance and immediately drove up to Yosemite Valley. Once more we had an experience that was literally breathtaking, in that something catches in your throat when you see the view from the southern entrance of the valley. No matter how many times you may have seen it photographed (pace Ansel Adams and the 200 other people snapping it from where we stood) the experience of being there and seeing El Capitan, Half Dome and Sentinel Rock "in person" is just stupendous. Apparently the idea of starting the national parks of the US came from the writings of a Scot, John Muir
. It's said that when he saw Yosemite Valley he shouted with joy, and you can understand how he felt! I guess he didn't have the benefits of an asphalt road or a 4x4 either.
From there we drove down to Yosemite Village near the end of the valley and had a pizza lunch, unfortunately wasting valuable time in which we could have been soaking in the scenery by waiting for the pizza. We continued up and over the only road east through the park, which winds up through many different kinds of mountain landscape. At first it reminded us of the Stockholm archipelago, with white rock smoothed by glaciers. Later in Tuolumne Meadows there were lush fields with huge rocks jutting abruptly out of them. Later still in Tioga Pass (almost 10 000 feet), which lies just northeast of the park, the landscape started to resemble Scotland and further still, on the way down the Tioga Pass, it became rocky scree:
This road may not seem steep on the picture but it was a 7% gradient for 6 miles and I could smell burning tyres when we stopped at the bottom, which I haven't experienced any time before now despite our many mountain drives!
We had stopped for a while at Tenaya Lake and got talking to a couple of people from LA who had a flat in Mammoth Lakes, which was our destination. They were packing up to leave and said "OK, now the Gourmet Gas Station?" I had to know what this was, and they explained that there was a Mobil petrol station just where this mountain road rejoins a freeway south (still at over 7000 feet!) which served quite high-class food. We decided to check it out and indeed there is a petrol station serving rack of lamb, filet mignon with giant shrimp, loin of elk and other delicacies! However we were not hungry enough to partake of these so we settled for an (admittedly enormous) portion of carrot cake. These kind people also took our photo at Tenaya Lake.
I'm not quite sure why Saskia has a plaster on her nose but I think she got bitten by something there. She doesn't believe us when we explain that plasters are for bleeding things and that they don't relieve pain. I guess the psychological factor is a big one.
Our hotel, Quality Inn at Mammoth Lakes, is comfortable. When we tried what we thought was the indoor pool it turned out to be a giant jacuzzi at something like 45°C! It was another hot day. Normally one would expect temperatures up in Yosemite to be lower than elsewhere but today they were 39°C or 102F. From the TV news I understand that the whole of California is experiencing a heatwave. In San Francisco public transport was free due to the "clean air day" policy that they have to encourage people to leave their cars at home.