June 2016 – Yosemite and Great Basin

An overdue post!

Annnd two weeks on the road!   It was a real glimpse into how life will look as we travel.  We spent one week in Yosemite National Park and the other in Great Basin National Park.  Most people know about Yosemite, but Great Basin, located in Nevada, is one of our smaller jewels.   The park is so unknown that  a fellow traveler staying at the same RV park had never heard of it.

The drive from Sacramento to Yosemite is a relatively easy one, about four hours.  We decided to stay at the Thousand Trails RV Park, Yosemite Lakes.  IMG_4684[1]We are Thousand Trails members so it is a good deal for us.  The campground itself is pretty nice for an RV park.  There are sections for tents, basins, yurts and RVs.  Having full hookups is a sweet deal, but that means I can’t rate the facilities.  Bear did laundry and he had no complaints.  I used the shower once and it seemed a standard camp shower bathroom.  That means, relatively clean, bring shower shoes, and most of all expect bugs.

Our favorite part of this campground is the area just upstream of a swimming hole.  I’m not a fan of the swimming hole, I once kicked a boulder and have held a grudge since then. We did see our fellow travelers having a great time, so you may want to make your own decision!

The Merced River flows calmly through this campground and it usually is safe for wading or floating. My favorite spot is an area the river has split in two.  One side is very rocky, and painful to walk on without water shoes.  My flip flops were sufficient.  The other side is sandy and very still and was positively swarming with butterflies.  The girls had a grand time building dams and having races.  A lot of families enjoy bringing their kids by, so it was a wonderful place for the girls to make friends.IMG_4913[1]

The last time we camped here, we scored a spot right by the river, with a nice gentle bank.  This time we weren’t so lucky.  The place was packed and we had to sit in Sun Circle (or something along those lines, let’s just say, it’s aptly named).  Thankfully, we had full hook-ups, so air conditioning was available.  The campground also has a playground which is better designed for kids 3 and older.  It’s made from logs and metal and is best avoided under a hot summer sun.  Morning and evening are good times to visit. There’s a variety of courts from  basketball to mini golf, and it seems to attract a lot of visitors.

Yosemite Lakes is about 40 miles away from Yosemite Valley and 20 miles from our first day hike in Hetch Hetchy.  Hetch Hetchy is not as popular as Yosemite Valley, but I would still recommend getting there somewhat early, no later than 10am.  It is a hotter section of the park and lower in elevation.

We hiked out to Wapana Falls, a 4+ mile hike rated moderate by the national park.  The trail is well maintained and easy to walk on. It’s a gradual uphill, but there are great vistas and wild flowers along the way to distract you from any hiking discomfort.

The next day, we made the hike to May Lake, a High Sierra Camp that had not yet opened.  It’s a light hike, about 3 miles round trip.  IMG_4742[1]

The lake itself is classic Yosemite alpine lake;  crystal clear water framed by sheer granite mountains.  In the high country, you are guaranteed some amount of wildlife.  If you can’t spot a marmot, you are not trying.

DSCN6930 (2)Just be careful, these cute fuzzballs carry plague and other joyous diseases.  They’re also thieves and they poop on everything.

The girls each completed the Yosemite Junior Ranger  packets for a small amount of home school hours.  Both earned their badges, Bunny getting a ‘Cub’ badge and Goose getting the Jr Ranger Badge.  The Yosemite packet is nice, it’s got a good amount of science, critical thinking and creative activities.  It’s nice to have something to frame discussions about the educational aspects of the park.

We took a hike towards Illilouette Falls from Glacier point.  It is a backwards hike, meaning you go down then up.  It was pretty tough and the adults all spent time hauling children up the trail.  We managed and then we ate ice cream!

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My folks came with us, so Bear and I were able to sneak away for a date hike.  We picked the Ten Lakes Trail.  It’s a butt-kicker and it’s worth it!  We never make it to the lakes, instead we picnic at the top of the pass.  It’s a great vista, we were even treated to some passing deer.

 

We were sad to hit the road again, but eager to see Great Basin.  It was a new park for all involved and we had not heard a lot about it.  The more famous attractions are Wheeler Peak, the Bristlecone Trees and the Lehman Caves.  It’s also a great place for night sky viewing, if there aren’t clouds.  We scored one clear night.  Although we were all sad to be missing out on the milky way, we were treated to some great desert cloud-scapes.

We stayed at The Border Inn, aptly named for being on the border with Utah.  According to our phones, the laundry room was in Mountain Time.  Bear had a lot of fun confusing Siri while doing laundry in Utah.  The Border Inn was better than I had expected.  It is a combo gas station, casino (of course!), Inn, and RV Park.  It seemed most of the employees livimg_5009e on site and I felt secure there the whole time.  Our neighbors included some passing ranch hands and an entomologist collecting samples. (Score!)  We also got to meet part of the family of the owners.  They were more than happy to chat about their town and the sights in the area.  Bonus, they had three girls in tow so we finally got some kids to play with!

Wheeler Peak can be enjoyed via the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive.  We took care of that our first day there.  It is a winding road with some great vistas of the Peak and the valley below.

There are several trail heads along this route, including the Alpine Lakes and Bristlecone/Glacier trails.  Both are short enough for an easy to moderate day hike. Goose and Bunny managed it mostly under their own power!  The Alpine Loops Trail provided two pretty lakes.  There were a disturbing amount of flies in the area, but they seemed to be more interested in the river banks than us.

The Bristlecone/Glacier trail was an easy trail with the payoff of the oldest known living organisms: The Bristlecone Pine.  Oh, what beauties these trees are!  They are some pretty tough trees.  They are dense and resinous, which defends them from the elements and the beasties. They were surprisingly soft.  If you want to know if you’re looking at a bristlecone, just softly run your hand over the pines.  They are the softest pine I have ever met!

The Lehman Caves were a great treat and Goose loved every minute!  You have to reserve a tour and it is worth it!  We had to do the Lodge Room Tour as Bunny didn’t meet the age requirements for the longer one.  Frankly, that worked out best as she was interested, but not enraptured.  Goose could have spent the day chatting with the ranger.  The tour itself is informative, covering the processes that form caves and cave structures.  It also gets into the history of the caves, focusing mostly on the impact of tourism and people.

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We took a short day trip from Baker to Ely for a ride on the Northern Nevada Railway.  It was a treat, but I wish we could have had a train that got robbed.  We’re home safely and soundly, and glad to have been out and about.  We miss the road already and we can not wait to get out again.

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