Amtrak Excursion 2014
2014 Ted H. Schaar

10. Yosemite
Yosemite falls

All you need is cash

Unable to locate Glenn, I called Amtrak Vacations and spoke with Brenda who gave me the local tour company's number. 

I was concerned because people at the Lodge By The Falls tour desk said only all-day tours visited the sequoias in Yosemite's Mariposa Grove, and we wanted to see the giant trees.

The woman I spoke with the night before answered. She said we were scheduled for a four-hour tour that didn't Include the sequoias

We could go to the sequoias for $200 more, she said.  It seemed like highway robbery, but we didn't have a choice.  I checked and it was too far away to reach on rental bikes, and there were no rental cars. 

The tour desk people even called some contacts they had on file but came up empty.

We decided to pay the $200 and soon Glenn arrived.  He was a California native and familiar with the park; now retired, he spent his career with the long-gone Bell System.


He picked us up in a mini-van owned by the tour company.  It had a statue of the Hindu elephant god Ganesha on the dash. 

Glenn called it a Buddha, but long-time friend Anand, of Pune, India, celebrates Ganesha's birthday every year, so I recognized the deity.

Julie's dashboard Ganesha
Dashboard Ganesha.
Courtesy of Julia,
El Capitan
El Capitan


As we drove along, Glenn pointed out the rock climbers' campground: a gathering of colorful nylon pup tents and counter-culture-looking mountaineers. 

Soon after, he pulled over near El Capitan and began scanning the gray-tan expanse with a pair of Bushnell binoculars.

He was looking for climbers, but Pam spotted them first with unaided eyes. 

There were two groups about half way up the cliff, almost invisible against the wall of stone. 

Glenn said the ascent takes days and climbers often sleep "hanging from the wall"--like bats, I thought. Hard to believe people are batty about their precious lives but each to her or his own. 


Next we stopped at Bridal Falls where the water flow is so wispy the wind sometimes blows it back over the precipice and the feature disappears. 

Yosemite Falls, the one near our lodge, also vanishes by the end of summer when the water supply dries up, Glenn said.

Don't look down

Roads around the park are narrow and curving, and dramatic drops are visible here and there from both sides of the car.  Reminds me of Bolivia.  Glenn drove slowly and carefully, trying hard not to make Pam carsick. 

Occasionally we saw small streams that plunged forcefully into the Merced River, Yosemite Valley's main waterway.   The river was named by Spanish soldiers; roughly translated, merced means "mercy" in English.
Bridal Falls Yosemite


Wound our way to the Mariposa Grove where the giant trees stand silently as they have for many hundreds, even thousands of years. 

In addition to girth and height,
their color is a striking characteristic.  A mellow and unexpected orange-red.

Sequoias abound in the grove.  General Sherman, the largest, is about 275 feet tall and 36 feet in diameter.*



Photos 2014 Ted H. Schaar except where noted.