Day 17 (June 22, 2008) Mariposa Grove and arrival to San Francisco


   Leaving Wawona Hotel to South, in our way to the Yosemite N.P. exit, we still will have a last visit on it: Mariposa Grove. There we will walk through giant Sequoias to be amazed by the biggest living being in the planet. After this visit we will go for the 4 hours’ drive to San Francisco, where we will try to enter by Golden Gate Bridge. If we were with time enough we could stop in Sausalito and if it was at lunch time we could enjoy the seafood there. Once in the city, we would look for good views of the bridge and go to Golden Gate Park to visit the Japanese garden and see the bison in the field they have in that same park. All this before leaving our bags in the hotel and delivering the car.

Route Yosemite - San Francisco


       What a nice sleep this night! Mountain is so quiet at night. Unfortunately there is no track of bears, I would wish to see one on despite of all the warnings; or, at least, sensing the presence of one.

   Anyway, we use the common showers and go downstairs for breaking our fast. Breakfast is great with a lot of the things I like: eggs, sausages, bacon, etc… (I’m not a person for only sweet food). As it is a buffet I’m going out twice my size.

   Once in the car, we’re going on to South by the same road we came yesterday. The ride until Mariposa Grave junction is short and a few minutes later we’ve parked in the earth area where the road dies. The slots are marked using tree trunks, but they’re not from here. I know that because these are trunks of a regular size pine trees while the trees around are ten times bigger at least.

   It’s clear we’ve reached the Sequoia place, just in the parking there is one with its ten meters of perimeter at a guess. This is the start of a track to explore this forest so special. Just at the beginning there is a hut with information and maps that you can take. Their price is 50 cent, which you should put inside a box. I can see it is a 10 kilometers return track so I can say now we’re not going to do it entirely. There is a smaller track, 3.5 Km. We may do this, let’s see.

Historical photo   The historical photo in the front of the brochure is quite impressive as shows the Sixth Cavalry posing with a fallen sequoia. All of them!!

    You feel absorbed from nature in a few seconds of starting the track, which snakes between huge trees through wooden bridges over the streams. You feel like in a bigger scaled forest, so you’re smaller than usual here. Like Ewoks, which forest used for filming was one similar to this one, only closer than San Francisco.

Mariposa Grove trail

   Just after a short walk we find the first wonder: The Fallen Monarch. This is the fallen sequoia from the historical picture, which incredibly has not changed with the years. You can check that in the pictures, like if it is so much wood as per insects could rot it. We pose too with the awesome massive roots.

Fallen Monarch
Fallen Monarch

   We go on walking through this forest which makes us feel like gnomes as we keep looking up all the time, where the top of these trees appear far. There are signs along the track showing the distance to the highlights. I would like to reach the trunk a tunnel was made for wagons first, and cars later, could go through. Meanwhile we’ve reached the next highlight: “Bachelor and three Graces”. This is a big sequoia with three thinner ones close around it. A lot of imagination for this name!

   Later we find a couple of fallen trees over the path, which have been cut by the middle in order people can pass through them. It allows checking the diameter, which must be around two meters, and the ring system showing the age of these trees. It can take a whole life counting them so the ages are given approximately: two thousand something years.

Sequoias cut in the path

   We’ve been walking one kilometer and women ask me where I want to end our track. When I answer I would like to reach the tunnel tree they point me a sign saying it is still 5 Km further. So we walk just a little more, enough as per seeing the Grizzly Giant - the biggest sequoia in the park – and turn around for going back to the car. I think I won’t have the chance again of seeing so big trunk that a tunnel should be made through it for letting vehicles to pass, although I’m thinking too 5+5 are 10, and no way of walking 10 fucking kilometers this beautiful morning.

Yo y una secuoyaSecuoya en Yosemite

   I’m a big person, so imagine how small I’m feeling in the picture at left.

   After I would find out there are actually two tunneled trees in the park and one of them was really close to the Grizzly Giant. But with no chance of coming back we enjoyed this walk by this fairy tale forest.

   Once in the car we go fast as we want to reach Sausalito at lunch time and it’s 11:30 AM now. Just a few minutes later we pass by the exit of the park, which is the main entrance too, and we can see the welcome sign for the incoming cars. As it was no sign in the road we used to getting in – or we just missed it - I stop for a picture with it. The logo is representing a landscape identical to one picture we did yesterday. Judge yourself :

Paisaje en YosemiteSeñal en la entrada de Yosemite NP


   Identical, aren’t they?

   We pass by Oakhurst soon, our first city since we leave Bishop yesterday morning. It’s small and looks like a typical mountain town. Main road is full of stores and gas stations and I stop in one of them as today is the day we must deliver the car and we should do that with the tank as empty as possible so I’m thinking about spending my last dollars in fuel, 40 specifically. Then I look for the “shortcut” I’m bringing printed from Google Maps with a route through secondary roads until Merced. Now I’m hearing myself, it sounds like we’re going to get lost for hours.

Ranches in our way to San Francisco   I drive between large ranches with intense yellow grass where we cannot see the houses, which will be far from the boundaries marked with a three wired fence. We don’t see anybody and there are no signs to check we’re on the right way so every time I think we’re getting more lost until we reach a city and it is actually Merced, the one I was expecting to arrive. I think we’ve been so lucky here.

   I drive by the side of the highway until I can join it. We pass by Modesto and exit in Manteca for taking route 205 which goes directly to San Francisco. It’s clear the names of the cities were set by Spanish people but I cannot explain why they choose these words. Did they chose just random words starting by M? We’ve passed by Mariposa (butterfly), Merced (favor), Modesto (modest) and Manteca (butter) and would pass by Madera (wood) if avoiding the “shortcut” .

Bay Bridge   I’m sensing close to the Bay City three hours later: more cars, landscape changed from fields to buildings and exits more often in the highway. The first exit I can identify is the one saying something about Oakland. I must pay attention if I want to take the Golden Gate Bridge. I finally take one saying something about a bridge and I get in a mess for a bit, but ending in a bridge, only I don’t know which one. Golden Gate is red and this is grey, but it could be the right way anyway as I must take a bridge to get the Sausalito area before getting into Golden Gate. This bridge ends, but we immediately get into another one, a very long one. We can identify San Francisco skyline at our right. I cannot tell if this is good or not.

   We end at feet of Transamerica tower and now I know we’ve reached our destination, and I also know we won’t ever lunch in Sausalito. New problem: I haven’t got any map from Financial District, the one where we are. So a 4 hours’ drive so good in orientation will finally have a crappy end.

San Francisco skyline from Bay Bridge

    I’m going to explain the next the most brief and optimistic I can: I offer a tour by San Francisco downtown, repeating our pass by the most iconic buildings, until finding the way of escaping from the one way streets making us driving circles. I finally find Columbus Avenue, which that long as per appearing in the map I’ve brought. So now we know where we are and how to reach the hotel I park the car to lunch somewhere here, at 4 PM. We go into a place called Burger Meister and get three burgers served in a basket with a lot of fries and some salad. Delicious! Around 20€ for all three. I ask directions to the young woman about our next plan as I don’t want more “tours” today. We’re going to check in at hotel and leaving the baggage in there and then driving to the Golden Gate to see the bridge and visiting a couple of spots in the park, as this is the furthest place to visit in this city,: the Japanese Garden and the Bison Paddock. Then we will deliver the car. And we have two hours and a half to do that.

 Columbus AvenueSan Francisco street

   We reach the hotel with no issue and Castle Inn rooms are not disappointing. With no baggage we take the car directly… directly to the orientation mess. Sea use to be a good reference, but not here, as it can be seen from anywhere. Lombard Street is a main and long street but it has a touristic part popular for being one of the steepest streets in the world and the problem is this specific part is in the opposite direction of the whole street so I’m forced to turning when I want to go straight. We take the advantage of being here to take some pictures, though. We reach Golden Gate area after several turns. We could see in our way how good is the 4WD car on this city as starting the car in a steeper street is not an issue with these.

Lombard St.Golden Gate Bridge

   In our way to here we could see the typical streets and buildings of this city, some paintings in walls… but I didn’t expect Golden Gate was so difficult to see. We know we’re now close to the bridge, but this is an area with a large park and highways. We leave the one we’re driving through in the last exit as I could read it goes directly to the bridge and we should pay the toll twice for a return trip. But still, the trees are hidden the bridge until we pass by a place with no trees where the red bridge can be seen. We stop and take some pictures here. When we’re driving to the park, I’m thinking about coming to somewhere with different views of the bridge.

   We take a while for finding the entrance to the park but once inside we can see the Japanese Garden entrance as shown in the picture at left: closed. Now we just have to find the bison and, again, we take a while for finding them in the opposite side of the park. We cannot see anybody around and I can feel how the time is pressing us for delivering the car on time in O’Farrell Street.

Japanese Garden's GateBison paddock Golden Gate Park

   That street is close to Union Square, so I must take Oak, then Market and O’Farrell from there… it seems easy… or not. I don’t understand how easy I can get lost in this city where the blocks are square as in Barcelona, but the one way streets are “driving” me crazy here! Some part of uselessness from my part will do the work too. The thing is when I was driving by the street I wanted I’m forced to turn and then IHabitación del Castle Inn get into the maze again. Is amazing how easy I can pass from “I’m going fine” to “Where the hell am I?” in this city. Is not a surprise the place is closed when we arrive, we ask to a kind of guard of this parking and he confirms we must come back tomorrow. We thought about coming back to the hotel using the most popular tram, but it must wait for tomorrow too. I’m out of fuel, that’s the only thing I’ve done well with the car today, but I must put some for this extra day.

   We come back to the hotel, which fortunately has free parking, to rest from this long day. Night fell in our way and we just buy some sandwiches and fruit nearby for dinner in our rooms. I’ve got the feeling my work is not well done for San Francisco: at the moment we reached the city – from the wrong entrance, by the way – we’ve got into a chaos for the visits. I must prepare the route for tomorrow for avoiding what happened today but, at least, we’ve got the advantage of having still the car, which is a great help in this city.

   One last thing: for the first time in this travel around USA, it’s so cold!