Saturday, May 23, 2009

California is a Land of Contrasts

All along this trip we've come across information boards that say things like "Wilderness Has Many Intrinsic Values" (which sounded like a justification) and ask questions like "How else have these animals adapted to the climate?" (which is what I wanted the board to tell me). At some point in Bodie, I believe, we came across one that said "Bodie is a city of Contrasts." As per usual, we were not impressed.

However, I can now say that California is a land of contrasts. We started out the day in a cute little cabin besides a bubbling creek, and ended it in a business hotel attached to a casino.

Let's start at the cabin.

An absolutely adorable lodging at the Virginia Creek Settlement just outside Bridgeport. The creek could be viewed from our porch or the windows of the living room area.

Our first dilemma of the day was where to eat breakfast. Unfortunately we had two strong possibilities in the area, the well known Whoa Nellie Deli near the enterance of Yosemite and the Hay's Street Cafe in Bridgeport. Ultimately we decided to go with the cafe, which had been recommended to us by Virginia in Kern River and again by my mother.

Fishing is a big deal in Bridgeport. Our cabin had fishing paraphernalia all over the walls and we watched kids sit on the creek with little rods and tackle. The Hay's Street Cafe has different hours for "Fishin' Season" and "Freezin' Season" and I could imagine a lot of the patrons there doing both. Breakfast was delicious and we enjoyed an almost 360 degree view of the mountains from the windows.

We took the 395 back down through Lee Vining and took the 120 into Yosemite. Here was our first contrast, as we climbed altitude and entered some kind of alternative winter wonderland.

It was cold, and the lake was still partially frozen over.

The east enterence to the park is closed for the winter and had only recently been opened. The roads were lined on either side with snow that had been plowed out of the way.

After going back down a couple thousand feet the snow dwindled into little puddles. Tech Support got out and decided to be silly.

As we got closer to the Valley, the snow disappeared entirely and it got hot.

Down in the Valley it was crowded. I'd been forewarned, but I was still overwhelmed after being spoiled in Manzanar and Bodie with relatively few other tourists. We were directed to park a short ways away from the visitors center, and entered the fray around the area.

After having our fill of exhibits on granite, John Muir, and the Awahnee people, we went and had lunch at the Awahnee.

Tech Supprt fretted over what hike to take. Half Dome wasn't going to happen (it's 16 miles long), that was for sure. We were still feeling tender after Bodie too, so a short hike was all we wanted. In the end we decided to hike from the Awahnee over to Yosemite Falls, about 1 mile. It was crowded, but worth it.

While in Yosemite I learned something about Tech Support that I hadn't discovered in our almost 6 years together: He has a crush on Half Dome. The entire time we walked around the valley he kept angling his head and pointing through the trees and saying, "If this branch weren't in the way, you could see Half Dome," and "Don't worry, we'll get a really good view of Half Dome from Glacier Point."

I wasn't worried.

When pressed on this obsession with Half Dome he explained that there were very few sights in the world that were so unique. The way Yosemite was formed, the granite, the sheer scale of the mountains, these things impressed him.

But his cool reasoning didn't convince me. If that were true, he would have been looking for El Capitan too. No, the man has a crush on Half Dome. Matters of the heart cannot be explained with plutons.

We did get a few good views of Half Dome from the Valley.

But the better views were up at Glacier Point.

How can I compete?

After Glacier Point we'd had enough of people and traffic for one day, and got back on the 41 to head down into Fresno. So far in the day we'd been on snow covered mountains, a hot summer day in the valley, and now we entered cute little California towns with names like Coarsegold.

And for ten minutes it even seemed like we might be in Illinois.

In Fresno we hit the first highway with over 2 lanes that we'd seen since we left Los Angeles.

And we found our hotel. I'd booked the Downtown Fresno Holiday Inn for some reason or another that I couldn't remember. We weren't planning on spending much time in Fresno, so a functional chain hotel seemed a good idea.

We got off in the empty, industrialized downtown of Fresno and discovered our hotel was attached to a Casino. Across the street from our room was the courthouse.

And when we went to get something to eat at the closest restaurant in the area (though, does McDonalds qualify as a restaurant?) we discovered there were at least 5 bail bondsmen within walking distance of our hotel. When we got on our elevator to go back up to our room we were joined by smiling older people who tried to talk to us in German.

Do people really come from Germany to go to a Casino in Fresno?

We were now far away from the cabin and the bubbling creek. The king sized bed was nice though.

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