On Saturday we drove out to the Yosemite Valley for the first time. We did the Tiago Pass in May, but we hadn’t visited the valley before. Though we know the air quality in California is not great, what we saw when we drove to Yosemite through the Central Valley was shocking. The pollution was so visible—a blanket of thick, black, heavy smog hung over the valley, which takes about two hours to cross. We had never been in a ‘red-to-dark red zone’ before. When you see this level of pollution in a sparsely inhabited area you have to really question what we are going to do to fix this massive problem. The smog hangs there when the winds die down, so this is the pollution being blown in from San Francisco and Los Angeles that is trapped in the valley until the winds pick up again. We had to rise above the smog through the Sierra Nevada foothills to about 3000ft before we left the smog behind us.
Yosemite itself was lovely, well worth the drive. We stopped the car often to get out and have a look around. The kids and Michael scrambled down to a river bed that had the slightest amounts of water in it. We then stopped off to see El Capitan and while we were there Michael spotted climbers on the rock face. I managed to get photos of some of the climbers, who sometimes actually sleep over-night on the rock face. Lunatics!
We decided to do a gentle walk to Mirror Lake to see Half Dome. ((I have a bad foot, so this was even against the therapists directions, but what can you do!!)) I guess we haven’t lived long enough in California, because we were expecting to see water in the lake. It doesn’t stay full for most of the summers normally, but we still were not expecting to walk to the centre of it on completely dry sand.
Instead of driving the 3 hours back to the house, we decided on staying the night about an hour outside the park in Mariposa. For dinner we went to Betts Gold Coin restaurant. One of the owners was friendly and seemed to enjoy his wine. He decided to spend some time with us (he was the 2nd person to ask if we were Australian on this trip) and wanted to ask the kids an American history question. He gave them the answer first and then proceeded to give us a small lesson on the first presidential candidate of the new Republican Party, John C. Fremont. The children got a gold $1.00 coin for listening and giving him back the answer he originally gave them.
In the morning before heading home, we stopped off at the California State Mining and Mineral Museum and for a small museum it was really interesting, especially if you like rocks and gems.