Manifest Destiny 2015

…And Then There Were Cows

Alternate Title: The day we took the minivan offroading
Alternate Title 2: The day we ruined the rental car
Alternate Title 3: How are you enjoying your rest day, Memere?

As you can probably see, some stuff went down today.

We started the day off pretty mildly. We went to Pop’s Restaurant for breakfast. Yep, that’s the name of it, and that’s what’s inside. Charming little place, diner food, nice wait staff, food was good. Matthew got a Mickey Mouse pancake, what a nice little surprise! It must have been good because he ate the whole thing. I got a pancake, an order of bacon and an order of hashbrowns, both of which were enough to feed a small army. I ate about half the hashbrowns…and most of the bacon…

This is where the true adventure begins. Note that the day started off as a rest day with an optional excursion for the adventurous. Well, then we decided that everyone should go together to go see the Sequoia grove. We popped the address into the GPS and off we went. The drive went pretty smoothly at first. We were driving along some pretty cliffs with redwood trees along the road. Things got a little bumpy when we came to some turns that had less than satisfactory roads, but hey, we’re in the woods, that’s to be expected. We saw a couple of signs for free range cows, so we were on the lookout, but didn’t spot any. The whole drive was supposed to take 45 minutes according to the GPS, but the locals we had met at the restaurant said it was only twenty. We would find out.

We had driven about a half hour when came to a four way stop on a dirt road about 2 miles from our destination, and the GPS said “go left.” So we went left. Well, something had clearly gone wrong, because the road narrowed to barely accommodate one car. “Is this right?” we all wondered. But it’s what the map said, so we kept going. Soon, the car didn’t even fit onto the road at all, and we were scraping along the edges of pointy branches and bushes. “We should go back!” “This can’t be right!” “What do we do?” Everyone started panicking, but we kept getting directions from the GPS to keep going. “You have reached your destination,” she eventually said, as we were squished in the middle of branches on either side, looking up to a hill on one side and a tree-lined cliff on the other. We all panicked. Grampa got out of the car to investigate what laid ahead. Meanwhile everyone else in the car whipped out their own GPS to try and find a way back to civilization. Mom plugged the route to the sequoia grove into her phone. We were approximately 40 minutes away from it. How Grampa’s GPS got us to that spot past what we believed what was either a hiking trail or an ATV path to a destination that did not exist, I have no idea. My best idea is something involving the Twilight Zone, but Rod Sterling is dead so he can’t pop out of the woodwork to explain to us what happened. We may never know.
Well, just as what goes up what comes down, the bushes you pass on the way in will be the bushes you pass on the way out. We slid back down that tight, bush-overrun path for two miles, scraping and scratching against the pointy branches. You could hear them scratching away at the car like nails on a chalkboard. Matthew put his hands over his ears saying “this is dangerous!” and “they’re destroying the car!” while Stacey told him he wasn’t helping. Once we were past the bushes we continued over a rocky path until finally we were on flat ground again.

We continued to follow Mom’s and Stacey’s GPSes, no longer trusting technology blindly. There was a detour on one of the larger roads, forcing us to take a less-beaten path to head to the grove. We were swerving around a little bit, driving steadily but slowly. All of a sudden we approached a black blob on the side of the road. “What is THAT?” Grampa asked as we got closer, and as we were feet away, I said, “COW. THAT’S A COW.” He slammed on the breaks. Here we were in the middle of a mountainous forest, and we stumbled upon a cow. We were all laughing hysterically at this point. We kept driving, and not thirty seconds later, we stumble upon a brown blob on the other side of the road. Another cow! We scooted passed him, and then turned a corner. Past the turn, there were at least eight cows blocking the road. A bunch of adults, a little adult, and a baby. All walking around, looking at each other, taking their sweet time. Only today would we find cows in the woods. We had to honk and inch forward to get them to move. They all bounded up the hill out of our way. One tried to hop up but failed to make it successfully, like when Mimi can’t successfully jump onto the couch on the first try.

About five minutes later, we finally had found the parking lot of the Shadow of the Giants trail. I got out of the car and hugged the first tree that I saw. It was like we had found land after months at sea. Over the river and through the woods and over the rocks and through the bushes and past the cows to the freaking sequoias we went.

Now, the words to describe the trail we walked through won’t ever be able to do it justice. If you want to know how pretty and amazing the sequoias are, you gotta see them yourself. I kind of feel bad, because I’m going to try to write about them, and after hearing our saga of the journey to the stupid trees, you’re going to read this and say “that was it?” But trust me, it was worth it to get there. These trees were amazing. They’re the largest living things on earth. They’re ridiculously wide and amazingly tall, the bark is textured and old, and I won’t be able to get into more detail than that, and the pictures will only be able to give them a fraction of the justice they deserve. So I’m just gonna say it was really awesome, trees are cool, and it was worth the drive.

Matthew enjoyed the nature walk. He pointed out all of the informational posts we passed on the way through and got a kick out of how big the trees were. He even got to stand inside one, which was pretty neat. We also ran into another family walking on the trail with a boy about the same age as him, maybe a little older. They got into a bit of discussion about trees and fires. It was pretty cute. Along the walk we also collected pine cones, because they’re huge. At first we assumed that since they were so big, they must obviously be sequoia pinecones, but after reading some of the info signs, they actually belong to sugar pine trees. Sequoias, despite their huge size, have pinecones even smaller than the pine trees back home. The more you know.

After quite the long jaunt, we returned to the car and headed back to the hotel. The “rest day” had turned into the “rest afternoon” considering it was past 2:00 by the time we were back in the car. We drove back to the hotel, and after a morning of transportation fiascos, we were back in 20 minutes, just as the locals had predicted.

We got some lunch from McDonalds, refreshed, washed some dust off our feet, and we were ready to go for round two. This was the optional portion of the day: the drive to Glacier Point, from which you can see all kinds of angles of Yosemite National Park. Mom, Grampa and I were the adventurous few who decided to embark on this portion of the trip. We went on a pretty drive, up along a bunch of cliffs with views of the valley and pretty trees. Once we passed the gate for Yosemite National Park, I was in a national park for the very first time! We stopped in at the Information Center to find out about the Junior Ranger program, which Matthew may explore tomorrow. We also bought him a flyer that talked about all the animals in the park.

Next we drove up further into the park. We stopped at another scenic point to take pictures and have our first sighting of the park. From this spot, we had a really great view of the waterfalls. After a few pictures, we then continued to Glacier point. It was pretty crowded, and mostly with tourists from Europe, we noticed. There was a British girl complaining that there was nothing worth taking a picture, but trust me, there was plenty. We took plenty of pictures. Again, you kind of have to see the photos to understand what I’m talking about. It’s this big, mountainous area surrounding the valley in the middle, with all kinds of trees and rock faces that are really unique. The Half-Dome, which is one of the more famous mountains (cliffs? rocks? I’m not sure of the proper term), looks like the profile of an emperor penguin. It was pretty cool up there. Look at my pictures, I could describe it more, but you really have to see it.

We drove back down through the park, passing some deer on the way. I finally got to see a deer, after missing an opportunity to do so many times. The one I saw was on the side of the road facing the valley, like she was enjoying the view at dusk. So pretty.

After our drive, we met Auntie Stacey at the restaurant at our hotel for dinner. Our waiter was really obnoxious, but the food was good. I got chicken schnitzel, which we decided was on the menu because of the amount of European tourists in the area. Regardless, it was tasty. After dinner, we got a car wash, hoping it would take some of the more obvious scratches off the car. Eh… It looks better. Then it was back to the hotel for some rest and relaxation.

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