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Yosemite National Park, California, USA: Of domes and spires
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
It's definitely not a good idea to be in California and give Yosemite a miss. The valley is famous for its awe-inspiring waterfalls. Each one as unique as the granite cliffs they drive over. The Yosemite National Park falls in the County of Mariposa.
We left Redwood City, San Mateo County at 9 AM. We took the highway 140 and reached Mariposa at noon. Mariposa, in Spanish means butterflies. In spring time, millions of butterflies flutter around Mariposa - a destination that falls on the migration route of the butterflies. Workers of the Gold Rush era, mostly Spanish, thus called the town Mariposa. Workers left. The name stayed.
Mariposa is referred to as Mother of all Counties. It was the largest County comprising one-fifth of the California State back in 1850. Soon after the discovery of gold, prospectors by the thousands, all with dreams of striking it rich, arrived in Mariposa County. Today, the County is amongst the smallest in California, houses 18,000 residents and has no street lights!
For lunch, we were guests at The Butterfly Café. A small eating place with a large menu. I urge you to try their house burgers. Fellow travelers who had salmon and pasta were equally delighted.
After a hearty lunch, we drove for about two miles to visit The California State Mining and Mineral Museum. Over 13,000 exhibits are on display. There's a special section that holds minerals found in the region. Highlight of the tour is to view The Fricot Nugget - California's largest existing Gold Rush specimen of crystallized gold. The nugget weighs almost 14 pounds. Also on display is a copper sheet, over 25 inches long, is in the same state of natural beauty as when it was found. The museum also takes you through a make shift mine wherein are exhibits of the process of digging, blasting and transportation of the ore.
From the Mineral Museum, we moved on to visit the History Museum situated at one end of the main street. On display were thousands of exhibits of the lifestyle during the Gold Rush era. Tools used, drugs administered, costumes worn, were all very well presented. Thanks to California Tourism, we were also shown their vaults which preserve original land records and other official documents dating back to 1853. In the museum campus, is a 5-stamp mill that is in operating condition. Hundreds of such stamp mills echoed in the region during the Gold Rush days. The mills crushed the ore and made it ready for further processing into gold and other minerals.
Mariposa has just one main road. On both sides are shop fronts and restaurants. Some of the buildings date back to the 19th century. They still preserve the charm. If you happen to visit Mariposa during summers, make sure to make hotel bookings months in advance. People from all over the globe will be in Mariposa - the gateway town to the Yosemite National Park.
Established as one of the first national parks in October 1890, Yosemite territory encompasses 1189 square miles of scenic wild lands in the Sierra Nevada, ranging from 2,000 feet above sea level to more than 13,000 feet. The park is home to alpine meadows, mountain forests, lakes, waterfalls, wildlife and groves of giant sequoias.
We left the charming town of Mariposa at 4 PM and arrived in El Portal to check into our hotel Yosemite View Lodge. Just a few miles away from the gates of Yosemite National Park, the hotel lives up to its name - standing at the foothills, just besides a beautiful creek. Dinner was served at one of the restaurants on the property. I rested well in a cozy room on the ground floor that almost touched the creek. The fireplace made the room more comfortable.
After a good night's rest and a hearty breakfast we left the premises at 8:30 AM. In just about 30 minutes we were at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls. Entry to the Park costs US$20 per passenger. The fee includes unlimited rides on the Yosemite Shuttle that operates at regular intervals on the Yosemite Valley Floor.
While visitors are free to explore the valley floor on their own, I highly recommend the option of taking a tram (open top, operates only in summers) or the bus tour that operates during winters. The cost is US$23 per person. This 2-hour guided trip runs through the valley and stops at all vantage points. We were on a bus which was driven by a big guy called Sam. I certainly would vote him amongst the best tour guides that I have come across. His sense of humour made the description of the view around more interesting! Look out for this guy when you are out there. Once you have taken the tour, and you have time on hand feel free to be on your own. The park offers many trails. Whilst we spent just a few hours on the Valley, visitors can spend days exploring the beauty of the valley and the mountains around. Lodging and camping facilities are available in the Yosemite National Park itself. Of course, you have the options at staying outside of the park. The park ticket is valid for 7-days.
During the few hours that I was there, the weather Gods were rather kind. I had blue skies, sunshine, snow and fog. What else would a landscape photographer ask for? The pictures will tell you more about the various falls, half dome, tunnel view, cathedral spires, granite rocks, Merced River and Yosemite Creek and large pine trees.
Our tour of the valley floor ended at the Ahwahnee Hotel. Named after the Ahwahnee Tribe, this is a historic landmark hotel and has been home to State guests and celebrities. In peak season, the rooms would cost upwards of US$350 per night. Some rooms offer excellent view of the Half Dome. The lunch was hosted by the hotel in one of their wood paneled, high ceiling restaurants.
After lunch we took the shuttle bus and dropped off at the Yosemite Village to visit the visitor centre and the Ansel Adams gallery. The visitor centre had a great display of the evolution of the granites. And the Ansel Adams gallery offered a great collection of black & white photographs shot by Ansel Adams and other renowned photographers of the era gone by.
At 5 PM we left for Tenaya Lodge. After negotiating 30 miles of mountain roads and witnessing an amazing sunset, we reached the hotel situated in Fish Camp. Covered in snow, Tenaya Lodge is set amidst a beautiful surround. The property has great rooms and offers extended stays and has many activities to keep adults and children occupied for days.
The next morning we commenced our journey to Sacramento about 180 miles away. Midway we made a stop at the Hilmar Cheese Factory . The company is the largest producer of cheese in the world. Processes over 1.2 million tons of cheese every day! It's a good stop to make. The company offers a tour of the plant, and has a café in premises that serves good food. Not to forget the many varieties of cheese on sale!
After a working lunch at the Hilmar Cheese Company, we moved on. We were in Sacramento at 3PM… energized to tackle busy business schedules for the next 3 days.
Yosemite National Park Image Gallery Photo viewer
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