April 6, 2017 Mariposa Fairground, California

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

A Final Visit to Yosemite National Park

El Capitan

El Capitan

A spectacular valley without a doubt! I had been wanting to revisit Yosemite for many years but was usually going through that part of California either too early or too late in the year. So this year I waited out the weather and finally yesterday made it into the park.

Yosemite

Yosemite

Mariposa Fairgrounds Campground

Since every campsite in Yosemite was reserved ( and this is early April, not exactly peak season ), I chose to stay at the Mariposa County Fairgrounds, just south of the town of Mariposa. This is just a grass ( turned to mud during the 3 days of rain I experienced here ) field with only a couple level spots, but they do have electric and water hookups AND a very useable wifi   system. Right next to the highway and spaces are pretty tight, but at $30/night, a bargain in                   $$$ California.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

When I arrived the only open road into the National Park was Route 41 into the south entrance of the park. This meant backtracking on Route 49 and picking up Route 41 in Oakhurst, a long way around to access the park, took about 2 hours, what with a tree clearing road closure for 40 minutes on Route 41 and then a 25 minute wait at the ticket booth for the park. Fortunately, while I was in the park, Route 140, the western entrance to the park, that had been closed due to a road washout, was reopened and it only took me about 45 minutes to return to my campsite in the afternoon.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

With this winter’s above normal snowfall in the Sierras, all of Yosemite’s waterfalls are pretty impressive right now.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Falls

Due to the prolonged drought and the bark beetle, a lot of the trees within, and outside, the park have died and the valley looks a little more worn and desolate because of this. The huge crowds, even now, at the beginning of April, also contribute to the worn appearance of the park, loved to death, I suppose.

Spring Runoff Yosemite

Spring Runoff Yosemite

The large parking lot at the Visitor’s Center and Lower Yosemite Falls was completely full, and despite circling around the lots twice, I was unable to find a spot to park here. And, again, remember, this is in early April, not peak summer time. I know I would never want to experience this place that time of the year.

Spring Runoff Yosemite

Spring Runoff Yosemite

Without a doubt, this place is still a miracle of Mother Nature, but it is just too small an area to handle the millions of people that visit each year. Unlike other popular Parks like Yellowstone or Glacier, all the visitors are concentrated in a relatively compact area on the valley floor as oppose to being spread over several hundred square miles as in Yellowstone.

Blown Away

Blown Away

This waterfall appeared to be completely blown away by the winds howling along at the top of the canyon walls.

Blown Away

Blown Away

The road to Glacier Point and also Route 120 that comes over the mountains from the east side of the Sierras, are both still closed as usual until much later in the spring. I guess that means I will never get to see the view from the upper reaches of the park, since I can’t imagine coming back again. Still an awe inspiring valley, if only we could get rid of all the tourists!

So now it’s on to the coast, Bodega Bay, for a few days of yet more rain, then slowly continue my trek north, along the Oregon coast.

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April 1, 2017 Lake Kaweah, California

Potholes

Potholes

Still Waiting Out Weather Conditions for Yosemite

While waiting for the snow to stop falling and messing up opportunities to explore Yosemite National Park, I have been poking around the back roads around Three Rivers, California, and, once again, when weather permits, taking drives up into Sequoia National Park. The shot above shows a potholed stream at the end of Mineral King Road, just outside Three Rivers.

The Climb up to the Sequoia Groves on Route 198

The Climb up to the Sequoia Groves on Route 198

Last post I showed a Google Maps image of the serpentine road leading up into the sequoia groves …

Serpentine Road to the Sequoia Groves

Serpentine Road to the Sequoia Groves

… but I thought this image taken from the road itself would give a better idea of just how severe a mountain drive this is.

Mountain Stream

Mountain Stream

But one of the advantages gained by climbing this road up into the 7000′ elevation range is discovering snow melt filled streams like this one running through the tall pines.

Mountain Stream

Mountain Stream

Snowpack measured in the Sierras this spring show levels up to 190% of normal accumulations, a very good sign of California finally getting a little break from the severe drought conditions of the past several years.

Potholes

Potholes

Being up here this early does present many obstacles to getting to explore the upper elevations ( roads closed due to snow accumulation ) around Sequoia National Park, but it also does give one access to many steams that later in the year have most likely all but dried up and disappeared.

Spring Runoff

Spring Runoff

Spring Runoff

Spring Runoff

Potholes

Potholes

Redbud and Mountain Stream

Redbud and Mountain Stream

Still finding redbud blooms while exploring the upper elevations!

Hope to proceed up to Yosemite in the next day or two as there appears to be a brief window of favorable weather approaching.

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March 29, 2017 Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

A Second Trip Up to the Sequoia Groves

Sunny, warm weather predicted for today, so I headed out early again hoping for cloud free skies up in the mountains.

Sequoia Black Bear

Sequoia Black Bear

On the way up, I spotted a dark spot way up above the road, fortunately right where there happened to be a turnoff. Unfortunately, today, not expecting to be shooting any wildlife, I had left my big, bulky 600mm lens at home and only had my 200-400mm with me.

Sequoia Black Bear

Sequoia Black Bear

So, not as sharp as I would like and unable to get any real close shots. This is one of, if not the largest black bear I have ever seen, easily has to be in the 400 pound range I would guess. Not sure, but judging from the size of him, and that incredible girth, I would guess that he doesn’t need to hibernate here in the Sierras, but probably just descends in elevation to find year round feed.

Sequoia Black Bear

Sequoia Black Bear

Several other folks stopped when they saw me there with my tripod set up and camera pointed way up the hill and I had a nice chat with a young couple from Argentina.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

The roads up in the groves were a little drier and safer today as the temps remained just above freezing and thus, there were a few more folks up here.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

I read in the local paper that the snowpack in the Sierras this winter is as much as 190% of normal after years of very little snow and rain. They are expecting flooding and full reservoirs this year after many years of severe drought. The extremely wet weather has certainly changed my travel plans as I had hoped to travel the coast all the way north through the state. But with road washouts, mudslides and even bridge damage due to slides, there are several sections of the coastal highway that are closed to travel this spring, some sections closed for as much as a year while road and bridge rebuilding work goes on.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

As you probably are aware, these sequoias are the largest living things on earth, based on volume , not height. Some of these tree trunks pictured are easily 20 feet or more in diameter.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

The weather forecast looks pretty spotty going forward as I hope to move a little north and at least get to drive into Yosemite National Park. Even with road closures there, snow still falling, and temps still dropping below freezing, all open campsites in the park are reserved and there is no place to camp within a 40 mile drive of the park. This is becoming the new normal, either make reservations a year in advance or forget about getting into the national parks.

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March 27, 2017 Sequoia National Park, California

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Finally Make it to the Top!

Weather for today was forecast to be nice, even up in the mountains! I left camp in complete sunshine and warm temps and headed up into Sequoia National Park.

Redbud

Redbud

Always have to stop for the redbuds.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

One minute, redbuds in bloom, next minute six foot snow banks and icy roads as I drive up and into the clouds. Again, these two shots were taken only 15 miles apart, but with a 6000′ change in elevation.

The Climb up to the Sequoia Groves on Route 198

The Climb up to the Sequoia Groves on Route 198

This small section of the road climbing to the sequoia groves is all at about a 6 – 8 % grade … and this is just a tiny portion of this serpentine road. Needless to say, this is one road that you do not take your RV on. Each twenty miles of travel on this highway probably only covers a straight-line distance of 5 or 6 miles, made necessary by the altitude gain of roughly 7000′ on this highway through the park.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Fortunately there were a few breaks in the clouds up in the sequoia groves, even saw a couple patches of blue sky. I was constantly monitoring the outside thermometer in the Prius as it hovered dangerously close to 32 degrees all the way through the groves along the highest elevations of Route 198 through the park.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Definitely a winter wonderland feeling up here today!

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

The crowds certainly thinned out at the higher elevations today as most folks were probably a little concerned with icy road conditions. Note the photographer’s assistant in the back of the Prius protecting my gear from marauding squirrels.

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

The clouds cleared as I proceeded north on Route 198 to Kings Canyon National Park …

Looking Toward Yosemite

Looking Toward Yosemite

… and began the descent on Route 180 to head home. In the image above … way out there is my next destination, Yosemite National Park, just waiting a bit for the weather to warm a little more before heading there, since they are still getting regular dumps of snow right now.

Roadside Waterfall

Roadside Waterfall

Roadside Waterfall

Roadside Waterfall

Leaving Route 180, I headed down the steep, winding grades of Route 245, where I stopped for a few shots of this nice little roadside waterfall.

Roadside Waterfall

Roadside Waterfall

Roadside Waterfall

Roadside Waterfall

Redbud Guardian

Redbud Guardian

Continuing down Route 245, I once again had to stop and shoot the redbud blooms and found this impressively massive bull guarding access to the best spot to shoot from.

Redbud

Redbud

Today I covered about 120 miles in my loop up and through the two National Parks. All the side roads up in the park are still closed by snow, so there would be much more to see if I were here in the summer, but I don’t think I would ever be able to handle the crowds. All the roads are two lane with no place to pass pretty much the whole length of the highway, so summer traffic would undoubtably be a bear. Plus there would be no redbud that time of year!

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