Monday, 15 June 2009

California & Nevada Day 11

Today: Yosemite!

We started off from Carson City at about 5 am. Kippy was driving and the rest of us were half asleep. Well, actually, despite me desperately wanting to stay awake and watch the scenery, I think I fell asleep just a little. I was awaken by Miles and when I came to, I realised that we were looking at a hot spring by the road. Kippy stopped the car so that we could go and take a photo.

Then, quite close to the entrance to the park, we stopped by this gorgeous lake that was like a mirror.

We entered Yosemite National Park at Tioga pass, and 15 minutes later we saw scenes like this:

And this!

Those deer didn't seem to mind that man being so close to them, so we decided to move in closer with our long lenses, too.

See, they didn't mind... just carried on as normal...

We continued our journey and came across another mirror-like glacier lake.

As Kippy was driving and I was sitting in the front seat I couldn't help but snap away photos along the road, just to keep as mementoes from the trip. This one shows the wonderful rock that the road has been carved into.

I took dozens of shots from inside the car, but I won't bore you with them. I will just treasure them for myself. ;-)

Now, I really wanted to see marmots, as I'd never seen one in my life and I'd heard that there are some in Yosemite. Kippy said that we are bound to see a marmot or two at Olmsted Point. K & J have been to Yosemite five or six times in the past few years and apparently they have seen marmots every single time at Olmsted Point; just in the car park by the road. But this time there were none. This is the view from the car park towards Yosemite Valley, the famous Half Dome in the distance (on the right hand side in the horizon).

Kippy said that there is a nice view from lower down so Miles and I took the paved path down, and continued further on an un-paved path.... and then I saw one!! Yup, a marmot!!

I couldn't believe it. So cute! But also so shy.... he scuttled away far too quickly for me to get a proper photo of him.

See, not even a closer crop of this photo is good... damn. Well, hopefully we'll see another one the day after tomorrow when we come back. I was very excited to have seen one anyway! Very cute!

Well, Mr (or Ms - what do I know!) Marmot gone, we carried on a little further still and admired the glorious view.

Yes, Miles was there, too.

Half Dome on its own:

I've been to Yosemite twice before, but I've never seen Half Dome from this side before - 'this side' being north; I've only seen it from the Valley (west) and Glacier Point (south).

Next, we were driving along the road heading towards Yosemite Valley when I spotted a beautiful waterfall right next to the road and asked Kippy to stop. As I later found out, Kippy got a seriously wonderful photo of it with the help of a tripod (and of course a seriously good eye), so I thought I have to do something else with my hand held shots of it and came up with an HDR image like this (just to be different)(and just because I couldn't compete with Kippy with a straight-forward photo):

Haha. Me, competitive? Never!
OK, the drive continues... when we had descended quite close to the valley altitude and were surrounded by forests on both sides of the road, we came upon a spot where we saw lots of cars parked by the road and lots of people gawking at something and pointing and looking excited. "Can't be just deer", Kippy commented.... it must be... it must be.....! And it was! A bear! Kippy & Jeremy have always been looking for bears when they have been in Yosemite - without success. So they were extremely excited to see one now. Almost as excited as me!

See that? in between the trees?

Let's zoom in.

There it was, a brown bear, just minding his own business. Quite literally, actually.

You know the saying "Do bears poop in the woods?". Well here's the answer to that riddle. Kippy said something along those lines when the bear was taking this poop, which made me laugh, which is the reason this shot is not in sharp focus. Yeah, it's all Kippy's fault. Well, OK, maybe it was just me trembling from the excitement of actually seeing a wild bear! But not to worry, for the bear didn't just stay hidden in between trees. He walked out of the woods... to an open meadow. Looks like he is wearing a tracking collar, which is one of the ways to try and avoid bears and people mixing in Yosemite.

Anyway, he started grazing...

...until some kids got too close to him and scared him away back into the woods!

But he didn't stay there for long.

So, there he is, in the middle of the meadow again, happily chomping away.

From the EXIF data on my photos, looks like we spent almost 20 minutes watching this little fella. But we had to leave him as we had plenty of other things to see before sunset.

Like burned out areas.

Another view of Half Dome (there it is, in the middle!).

Strange plants.

Another waterfall.

A close-up of the top of the above waterfall.

And this one continues down on the other side of the road!

And finally, Yosemite Valley.

Here's a closer look at the mighty Yosemite Falls. Top.

Bottom (of the top part of the falls). Just because I love the way the falling water looks, the patterns, the texture. It's mesmerising; I could watch it for hours. Well, one hour, at least.

We had a quick peek at one of the camping sites, Curry Village, where they have lots of tent-like bungalows for rent. (I would expect that you would have to book at least two years beforehand, though.)

Not a bad view behind the tents, eh? All rubbish bins are bear-proof in Yosemite. Bears are very clever when it comes to getting their mitts on humans' food. They learn to raid normal rubbish bins, of course, but can also easily brake a car window when they see food inside. These rubbish bins are fitted with a special bear-proof top. I didn't think to check at the time, but I guess they must be bolted to the ground, too.

Bears are not the only animals looking for titbits from humans...

The Californian ground squirrel was just in front of the Ansel Adams Gallery that we paid a short visit to. And this is another view of the top of Yosemite Falls from the same spot. I love the way the falling water looks... hence the many photos of it!

Next we went to a spot with a view over Yosemite Valley for our picnic lunch.

I walked on the above logs to get this photo:

A random butterfly.

After lunch we went back to Bridal Vail Falls. We'd tried to go there first when we arrived in the valley, but we would have had to queue for a parking space so we decided to come back later. The falls itself was far too showery to photograph - meaning that standing at the end of the path that took you to the foot of the falls you got very wet - so we walked back towards the car park and took some shots of the lower part of the falls (which were prettier anyway!)

After the lovely water falls we started our way back. Kippy said something like "Wouldn't it be great if we saw some more bears on the way back?" Yeah, sure - it'd be great, but aren't you being a little optimistic? I thought (and said, I think. ;-) But, lo and behold - as we approach the spot where we had seen the young bear in the morning, we saw a lot of people parked by the road again, gawking at something on the other side of the road. And there it was! Another bear!

I couldn't believe our luck. We watched and photographed this bear for about 20 minutes again, feeling very excited indeed. Then I overheard a woman say that there is a mama bear with cubs a few minutes down the road. That was it. We went straight back to our car and started driving! We weren't sure whether this woman was being honest or whether she was just after our spot, but we drove on... and on... and then we saw them! A mama bear....

And a cub!

Didn't see it? Neither did I for the first few minutes and I was getting really upset that everyone else had seen it... and then, it started to climb down the tree...

...there it was, in full view now.

It got on a branch...

...and sat there for a while.

As you can see, mama bear was close by.

Others had actually seen TWO cubs in the tree, and finally I got a glimpse of the other one, too. Here it is, a brown cub underneath the black one.

Then the black one ran up the tree again.

Looks so easy.

He stopped at another branch to look down. which time the Park Rangers arrived on the scene and told everyone to get in their cars and leave; the reason being that the road was quite narrow at this spot and our cars were more or less blocking it. Oh well, we had to go, but never mind - we were BUZZING from the excitement of witnessing all this! It was absolutely amazing to see wild bears and especially the cubs playing in that tree like that. Soooo cute. We were happy. For a long time! I was still grinning all through the hail and snow we encountered only an hour later on our way back towards Tioga Pass.

Wow, what a difference from the lovely summer's day we'd had all day! Even the alpine lakes were looking a bit more 'alpine' than in the morning.

All in all, what a great day. What. A. Great. Day!!

1 comment:

Geminai said...

Yay! Bears!!

(I'm still grinning!)