I’ll just nip this in the bud from the outset.
There were no sightings, confirmed or unconfirmed, of Yosemite Sam on this particular adventure. Something of a shame, I’m sure you’ll agree!
Fear not, this was an adventurous enough day trip, and it all kicked off before we’d even departed San Francisco on what was a stunning morning.
So at about 6:20am we stood awaiting our pick up from Union Square as the minutes ticked by… 6:25… 6:30… It got to 6:40 and we began to worry (when we’d confirmed over the phone we’d be advised he can sometimes run 10-15 minutes late).
Thankfully our booking confirmation also came with a number we could call in case our bus didn’t arrive, so Sarah was quickly on the phone where the lady on the other end assured her Andre (the driver) was on his way, just running a little later than usual.
Sure enough, he actually turned the corner as Sarah was hanging up… and promptly drove right past us!
Fortunately he only made it past the intersection where it also seemed he had another pickup, so we finally made it on board.
It seemed a popular trip, as there were many other pickups in the area, the whole task made more difficult by San Francisco’s many one way streets.
Still, after a last drop off at the tour depot (where one rather large, and embarrassing for us an Australian refused, to make room for the final passenger claiming he required 2 seats) we were finally on our way towards the Bay Bridge and out of the city.
That is until our bus driver swiped another vehicle, and proceeded to drive 5 blocks with the damaged car in pursuit, horn blaring the whole way!
He finally pulled over, insurance details were exchanged and after another trip back to the depot we were finally on our way.
Now Andre, the bus driver, it turns out he is more than just a driver (with a penchant for the act of driving at speed, whilst taking corners with only one hand on the wheel so he can work a microphone with the other), he was also the tour guide.
We booked through Extranomical Tours if any body cares to know, but unfortunately for Andre, who actually seemed a very knowledgeable guide, his heavy, Eastern European accent made much difficult to understand.
Thankfully, the scenery was stunning, however the mercury also climbed as we reached the Central Valley, one of the worlds most fruitful agricultural regions, and was quickly topping 35 degrees (celcius).
Now our first stop in this magical wilderness (only the 3rd official US National Park in 1890, although protected since 1864), was the Mariposa grove of the giant Sequoia’s.
Not to be confused with Sequoia National Park (the home of General Sherman, the worlds tallest tree), this was still a lovely way to get our first glimpse of the park.
Although it was only a short 20 minute walk down to the grove proper, with the high temperatures, it wasn’t long before we were ducking from one shady patch to the next (and it certainly made for some exertions on the ascent back to the bus).
It was however just an appetiser for the beautiful Yosemite Valley which was to follow, which more than made up for Andres’ shortcomings as a tour guide.
Perhaps pictures will capture this place better than words, but aside from the spectacular views, other highlights included plenty of native squirrels, and an unexpected encounter with a young brown bear!
There remained some confusion as to how much free time we actually received in the Yosemite Valley (our initial understanding was that we’d have an hour and a half after our designated 1/2 hour lunch break), however when we did stop, it was in total, an hour and fifteen (possibly some time lost due to the mornings delays…)
Fortunately, we’d already taken the precaution of eating our lunch on board the bus whilst in transit, thus allowing us to make the most of what time we did get!
As we strolled towards the Yosemite Falls, an obvious destination in this short time frame, we noticed a small group of people huddled to one side, snapping and filming away.
When we usually go to investigate such things, we generally discover it to be a rather disappointing anticlimax.
However this particular day was different, for there before us, perhaps 20-30 metres across a shallow gully, foraged a young Brown Bear.
A spectacular sight!
Additional stops underneath El Capitan (in search of rock climbers apparently) would conclude our park visit, a visit that saw us depart feeling pretty satisfied…
Despite the whole journey taking longer than anticipated, Andre still thought it a great idea for us to have one last pit stop on Treasure Island, a man made construct in the middle of San Francisco Bay (it was constructed for Naval use, however I believe its future may be in condominiums).
True to word, the city views were spectacular, however the chilled winds were not (especially after the heat from the Central Valley).
It did provide a nice conclusion to our animal watching for the day, as several Raccoons were sighting rummaging amidst trash cans as we took in the city lights…