Visiting El Capitan and Half Dome
These travels occurred in late September/early October 2021. The posts are gathered under the ‘Travel’ category (top right of page) and numbered to indicate the order in which they should be read.
On the trip to San Francisco there were several stops at stations where we could get out and stretch our legs for 5 or 10 minutes. Several times I saw passengers get out with a bottle of water and napkins to wash their windows. The passenger’s windows on the upper level were out of reach from the platform and those folks were out of luck. I’m still looking for the car wash that Amtrak could pull into for a quick scrub.
As we come down out of the Sierra Nevada mountains we find palm trees where just an hour ago we saw short, stunted trees due to the elevation, followed by tall pines and firs on the way down.
Sacramento is a bit rough looking for a state capital. Granted, we are seeing train yards and industrial areas for a while, but there are scores of abandoned homeless camps trackside. Additionally, there are skeletons of cars with every conceivable usable part removed parked beside the tracks. The only thing not removed is the paint. I wonder how many of these vehicles had been stolen, parked here, then stripped as opposed to abandoned then stripped. Amtrak advertises this route as part of the “see America” tour, so why no effort from either Amtrak or the City of Sacramento to clean it up? I’m not advocating breaking up the homeless camps, just clean up the trash after the folks move on. Some of the trash has been burned or has been abandoned for months. Then we pass through some train and track maintenance yards. There are stacks of rails, ties and equipment, but that is fine with me. I am an equipment geek and enjoy seeing what is required to keep the railroads running; I doubt there are many trash geeks out there to enjoy the trash vistas.
Once again we trade our train for a bus for the last leg into San Francisco. The bus drops us off at a street side bus stop and then we call a taxi to get to our hotel and the late dinner I mentioned in the last post.
We are booked into this hotel for 2 nights and the next morning we have to meet a bus 3 blocks from our hotel at 6 AM. There is nothing open yet for breakfast or even coffee in the area except the hotel in-room coffee with that dreadful powdered non-dairy creamer. So no coffee it is. After about 2 hours we stop at a kinda full service grocery store for breakfast. A ham and cheese sandwich with oj it is for my breakfast…
Traveling on, our guide is imparting all kinds of info about SF traffic, the water system that feeds SF, John Muir (search on line for him, a fascinating person) and his views on water from the parks supplying the cities, and the hills we are passing through. Our guide tells us that SF is 20% filled land and that SF Bay was originally 550 square miles and now 850 square miles. He used to live in the Boston area and claims that Boston is 80% filled land. I haven’t had a chance to ask The Google yet, so I’m not sure I believe that one.
Speaking of the hills, the road up Mount Washington in NH is a mild country lane compared to California Highway 120 toward Yosemite. We are in a full sized motor coach (that’s a big bus for us New Englanders) and Jack, our short Asian driver chuckles as he careens from one sharp turn to the next without guard rails to ensure we stay on the roadway. If he were to miss a curve, it is a long, steep way down.
We do finally make it to Yosemite and our tour guide advises we will have a 3 hour window in the park and since the shuttle bus system is suspended due to Covid, it is primarily a walking/hiking experience. Before we get to our 3 hour stop, we were treated to several short stops where we could get out and photograph El Capitan, a 3,000 foot mountain that climbers like to challenge as well as Half Dome, a bubble shaped rock formation. Both are stunningly spectacular and since they are beyond my ability to describe, I included pictures. It was difficult to take pictures of either from base level because they are both enormous and the roads go very close to the bases.
Since we are also on our own for lunch, we decided not to take any serious hiking trail and headed out to find a bite to eat. We walked about 1-1/2 miles from the bus stop before selecting a simple burger stand. The line was long-ish and I can’t imagine the lines during the summer busy season. We took our time walking back (meaning I was getting tired…) and found 3 deer quietly resting right beside a busy paved path, enjoying some shade they found. Lots of people passed within 20 feet of them and the deer didn’t seem to care. I imagine a backlot like at Disney where the wildlife has to show up, punch in at the time clock and take a shift entertaining the park’s guests. Once their shift is over, they are free to wander around and enjoy the tastiest vegetation.