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West Coast America

A tour guide once said to us whilst on a trip to Austria and Italy that this was not a vacation or a holiday but was a tour.   I can now understand after this adventure what that guide meant.  This is the tale of our “tour” which we accomplished in April 2006.   In all, we travelled 2700 miles and encountered many conditions which we thought were not possible in West Coast America during April.   Having flown into San Francisco from Glasgow via London (Heathrow) by United Airlines in a Boeing 777, we set off for the Nappa Valley in the rain (it was the wettest March/April that anyone could remember for this part of the world) driving our recently acquired hire excellent seven seat Mini Van.  We intended to have a wine tasting at one of  the many Vineyards, but when they wanted $10 per head for our party of five, we decided to visit the next local supermarket and purchase a few bottles for the same sum of $50.  OK we are Scots and canny with money!!  So disappointed with that, we set off for South Lake Tahoe on wet but clear roads.   That is, until we reached the 4000 feet level when we noticed the start of snow appearing at the side of the road.   By the time we got to South Lake Tahoe there was about two feet of snow on the ground and all side roads were impassable.   The place was full of young and not so young skiers taking advantage of the excellent skiing conditions.   We managed to get one of the last rooms in the Embassy Suites for the night but had not appreciated that there would have been so much snow which would restrict our sightseeing aspirations.   So  disappointed with the local conditions and having no intention to ski, we decided to cut our losses and move on the next morning to our next port of call - Yosemite National Park where we had booked a stay for three nights in a luxury lodge.   We managed to get an extra night there and again, since our lodge was at 7500 feet snow was the order of the day.   However the main roads within the park were clear and we managed to get about and saw most of the wonderful sights albeit in winter wonderland conditions.   Apart from being completely snowed in for one day with three to four feet of snow and black ice on the morning we were due to depart, we certainly did get a full appreciation of this wonderful area.
Yosemite National Park
John Muir from Dunbar on the East Coast of Scotland  (above left) was instrumental in having the area designated as a National Park in 1890.   He took the then President of the United States of America, Theodore Roosevelt, camping in the area.   He is seen above (right) with the President at Glacier Point in 1903.
The scene outside our cabin (left) and covering the Three Brothers (above)
Half Dome and Merced River (above left) and the author (above right) at Yosemite Valley together with a view of snow covered rocks (left) in Merced River.  The majestic El Capitan is on the left of this picture, across from Cathedral Rocks in  Yosemite Valley.
Whilst the heavy snow fall and icy conditions rather spoiled our visit to Yosemite National Park, we were still able to observe the beauty of the place which our countryman John Muir had envisaged all those years ago.   However we pressed on with our tour and headed south to the sunnier climate of Southern California.  Crossing the  Mojave Desert, we stopped the night at Barstow which is a small town in the middle of the desert.   We found the Ramada Inn with a swimming pool and marveled at the change in climate after traveling  a relatively short distance on our way to the Grand Canyon. The Hoover Dam, Las Vegas Calico Ghost Town before returning across the Mojave Desert to the Pacific Coast north of Los Angeles.
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The park encompasses an area of almost 1200 miles.
The Naturalist John Muir, portrait below, referred to those mountains as the “Range of Light”.   Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees and Tuolumme Meadows are only a few of the features for which the park is well known.   Yosemite’s beauty is evident during each of its seasons, from the waterfalls of spring to the wildflowers of summer, the golden light of autumn and the crisp snows of winter(and in our case spring also).  Deer, coyotes, squirrels and many other species of birds and animals are among the frequently observed wildlife in the park.  There are approximately 800 miles of trails throughout Yosemite, leading hikers to little known lakes, meadows, canyons or high-country vistas.