Friday, January 20, 2012

CA vacation: leaving Yosemite traveling eastward to Death Valley

We left the cabin in Yosemite to travel at least 8 hours east to Las Vegas. Before we exited the Yosemite National Park we stopped at Tuolumne Grove to see the Giant Sequoia trees.

I tried to capture how tall the trees were. 

Over time, the rangers learned that the only way to force a Sequioa tree to reseed is through fires. As we traveled in an out of the valley we saw several controlled fires used to stimulate the continuing growth of the forests there.  The rangers had placed signs near the controlled fires saying, "do not call 911, controlled fire in progress."

 Rachel wearing her sundress standing against a giant Sequioa tree.

I thought this "green" eyed susan was unique and beautiful.

We are all standing inside of a sequioa tree!  It is called the tunnel tree.  No one is squished and there is plenty more tree on either side of our family.  Sequioas are truely magnificant to view.

A bit further in the hike there was a fallen, dead sequoia that you could walk/ crawl through.  Most of us walked through until we had to get on all fours.  I walked through until I was squatting down, but left through a narrow break so I did not have to climb on my stomach to get through.  Rachel on the other hand, was excited to crawl all the way through a huge, fallen tree.    She did this twice!

Here is a view of the east side of Yosemite.  It was gorgeous.  I'm so glad we traveled this way.  Many people never get a chance to view this side of Yosemite.  The east side of Yosemite has a rockier terrain.

We drove along Tioga Road.  I took these photos while Abram was driving.  I believe this is the Tuolumne River. 

This area is called the Tuolumne Meadows.  I was disapointed we couldn't stop and enjoy the area.  Hopefully we will get a chance to visit Yosemite again and come here for a day.

What is this tree growing from?  As I looked up at the mountain side I saw several trees growing.  Nature is amazing.

Traveling eastward did not provide many opportunities for bathroom breaks.  We had spotted a building labeled for tourist information, which we quickly discovered was closed.  While looking around the building I discovered a walking path that had huge pine cones strewn around it.  I asked Abram to get a picture of the size difference between what I'm assuming was a Sequoia pine cone vs a "normal" pine cone! 

After I realized that it looked weird holding up two pine cones, I just held up the Sequoia one. 
Leaving the Yosemite Valley and the Tuolumne area provided many new views and constant switchbacks on the road.  Only the passengers could appreciate the beautiful terrain out the window.  The driver had to concentrate on negotiating a car around the curves and keeping as far from the cliff edges as possible. 

As I watched this cyclist climb up these mountains I thought, "The view is amazing, but the shoulders suck.  I would not like to be biking on these roads."  Kudos to him though. 

Here's a great view of what it was like to drive through these passes!

Unfortunately, we took all of these pictures through the car window.  I have no idea where we were, but it looks amazing.

I affectionately call these mountains, chocolate mountains.  It reminds me of shaved chocolate.  When I was driving through the Canadian Rockies in 2004, I saw several passes with mountains like these.  It brought back many memories.  (I will have to make vacation photo journals of all the places we have visited.)

As we traveled on one of the only high ways leading to Death Valley, we found ourselves driving behind a car from Massachusetts!  Life can feel so small some times.

Abram has the camera now and took a picture of our crowded car.  Part of the travel entertainment was listening to Tobin quiz Leah with her medical exam book.  It usually went like this:  "This 'condition' [Tobin tries to pronounce it; Leah guesses what he is trying to say] causes x, y and z."  Leah says the wrong answer sometimes and Leah says "are you sure you are reading this right!"  Medical terms are extremely difficult to pronounce, but when you have an aunt questioning your ability to read the answer key it's another issue all together.  It helped to pass the over 8 hour drive to Death Valley!

Abram's artistic view of the terrain through the rear view mirror.

I thought that driving from the mountains to Death Valley would mean that you would descend the whole time. I was wrong. So often we would drive down to 1000 ft of elevation, to then assend back up to 4000 ft of elevation. It made for an interesting drive and we did get to Death Valley.

We didn't realize that our excursion to the Tuolumne Grove would have prevented us from getting into the Death Valley museum.  But we do have this great photo of the temperature in Death Valley at 5:30pm.  It was 109 in the shade!   

Did you know there is a resort in Death Valley with a golf course?  Neither did we!  After seeing the temperature we quickly retreated back to the air conditioned car.  I was shocked to see these great palm trees juxtaposed against the sand dunes.  Researching names of the places we visited allowed me to learn that Death Valley has a golf course, resort and ranch at Furnace Creek. 

The palm trees were huge. 

Sand dunes or more chocolate mountains?

This was the site along the road near the ranch.  I was not expecting to see any treess or bushes in Death Valley.  Yes, we chose to go during a very hot time of the year, but I am glad we were able to see this amazing place. 

We stopped at the Furnace Creek Ranch gift shop.  Leah took our hot family photo.  In the background you can see the mountains and sand dunes.

I wanted to get Leah's photo with kids.

While we were standing on the grass (as a New Englander I call it crab grass, our weeds), we noticed a very interesting bird near us.  Here is a great picture.  This is a road runner!  They are much smaller than the Bugs Bunny version, but it moved so quickly all over the grass.  I think it may have been waiting to see if we would feed it.  It obviously is accustomed to people.  It was very near us and calm the whole time we were around. 

We left Death Valley and headed to Las Vegas.. Death Valley was 110 at 5pm. We got to Las Vegas around 9pm at at temperature of 98!  Not much cooling off in the city even if it is in the desert. 

This was an amazing day, seeing sequioa trees, climbing through them, driving to Death Valley, briefly  hanging out in the heat and then traveling further east to Las Vegas, the city of lights.

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