JUNE was uncommonly dry and warm this year. I barely returned from the Washington/NYC trip to translplant tomatoes, peppers, melons and more lettuce when we departed to Oregon to pick up the new camper in Albany, Oregon. It is a pop-top slide in camper so it has a low profile. We started with a half-ton truck but in July traded it in for a heavy duty three-quarter ton truck to better carry the load.
Our first trip with the new set-up was to Yosemite National Park. Neither one of us had been there so it was a new adventure. I would say that everything I have ever read or seen about the park is true. It is spectacular in just about every sense. Overwhelmingly vast, geologically stunning and beyond human scale. In early/mid-June the park was not overcrowded, but the park campgrounds were full or reserved so we had to stay in a forest service campground about 8 miles outside the park. On the way into the park on the first day we pulled over to take in a view of the canyon walls rising up from the Merced River and this tree was growing alongside the rock wall of the pullout on Big Oak Flat Road.
It was baffling; flat needles like any coniferous tree, but instead of a cone there was a nut. And, because I have to know the answer I searched the books in the visitor center until I found out what it was; Torreya californica, also known as California Nutmeg. This tree is a species endemic to the western slopes of the Cascade-Sierras and Coast Range Mountains of Northern California; not uncommon, but not abundant. I just found out about The Sibley Guide to Trees so it may have to join my traveling hort library.
After looking down into the Merced River canyon we traveled on into the valley, our first views of El Capitan and Bridal Veil and Yosemite falls opened ahead of us. All breathtaking for their sheer size. We spent all day in the park. The continuous shuttles make it easy to get around. We took the short walk to Mirror Lake where we sat and ate our lunch and then walked to Ahwahnee lodge.On the walk from Mirror Lake we spotted the last few blooms of Mariposa lilies and the leaves of Asarum, a native wild ginger and finally Asclepias californica (I think) also known as milkweed or butterfly weed.
The lodge is beautifully restored and like all early national park lodges, massive in scale and use of local materials. Early June seems a pretty good time to visit and we didn’t feel overwhelmed by large crowds everywhere and the weather is fair.
The following day we had planned to hike off of the Tioga Road, but extremely cool weather and forecast snow kept us mostly in the truck and stopping for the big views, most notably Olmstead Point which looks back south towards the valley and Half Dome where we glimpsed a long line of hikers along the cable trail. We drove east through the park and down into the Mono Basin and then to Mono Lake. Another place of unusual geographic features created by the interaction of two forces, high alkalinity and fresh water springs that created the tufa spires. Also home to largest numbers of nesting California Gulls. We saw quite a few birds species and a couple pairs of osprey nesting on some of the tufa spires–quite safe from predators.
The temperature at Mono Lake was a comfortable 60 degrees when we left the lake and fifteen minutes later we were at the Tioga Pass entrance to the park and the temperature was 38 and we saw hail, snow and rain on the road back to the Big Oak Flat entrance to the park. We headed back towards home the following day by way of Woodson Bridge state recreation area on the Sacremento River, just east of Corning, CA. We stayed 3 nights. It is a lovely, quiet park and a bird watchers paradise. On one of our morning walks we saw a pair of fledged Great Horned owls –very exciting! This park was one of many on the closure list due to California’s massive budget problems; say it ain’t so. We plan to go back to Yosemite and spend more time exploring and include Sequoia Kings Canyon in the trip.