Posted by: lindsaygoes | September 26, 2012

Las Vegas to Yosemite

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On the way to Las Vegas we stopped at Seligman, a little town on Route 66, full of old cars, 50s style shops and American memorabilia. A fun place for a bit of a break. Once we were settled in Vegas we headed downtown to Fremont to watch the Fremont experience, where the world largest screen arches over your head forming a canopy between the buildings and every hour they have a video display co-ordinated with music. There are also lots of neon lights and glittery things to catch your attention. Then we went back to the Strip. By this stage it was dark so we could admire all the shiny. We watched the water show outside the Bellagio which was very impressive. It was lovely to watch the streams of water bending and swaying, dancing to the music.

The next morning we hit the strip again. We went to the Forum Shops which is all done up Roman style with an animatronic show on the Fall of Atlantis. It did cross my mind that if Las Vegas was abandoned and discovered centuries in the future by archaeologists what would they think? We also wandered in and out of casinos to escape the heat, losing all our money along the way. Actually that’s not true, I didn’t do any gambling at all. After an afternoon break we went and saw a show in the evening. We saw Illusions with Jan Rouven and ended up getting seats in the front row which was a little scary, but ended up fine. It was such a fun night with some great tricks and banter. I’m always especially impressed when someone’s humour crosses cultural and language barriers.

On the following day we drove through Death Valley, stopping at a couple of points along the way. We went to Badwater Basin, the lowest elevation in the US at 86m below sea level, and we weren’t out of the van for long because of the heat. When we stopped at the visitor center for lunch (which was cooler) the temperature there was 44*C, so fairly warm, but not as hot as its gets in the middle of summer. The heat and dryness of Death Valley is a result of it’s unique geography. The low elevation means the higher air pressure traps warmer air, but the enclosing mountains also recirculate hot air as well as capturing rainfall before it reaches the Valley. Is that enough science for the moment? Next we called in at Manzanar, which was one of the camps used to intern those with Japanese ancestry during World War II. It was very moving watching a film narrated by those who had been in the camps and then walking around the camp, an enormous area now mostly reclaimed by scrubland. After dinner in the camp a few of us set off for some hot springs in the area. It took a little while to interpret the rough map our tour leader had been given, but eventually we found it and had a nice soak in a warm pool, sand underneath our feet, surrounded by plants, powerlines buzzing overhead. The water was incredibly clear, even with just a half moon for light you could see your toes at the bottom.

Our first stop the next morning was a famous local bakery, which was enormous inside, filled with shelves upon shelves of breads and pastries. All very yummy! From there we headed to Yosemite park, and after one of the most scenic lunch spots of the trip had a walk around Tuolumne Grove. Driving through Yosemite I was initially a bit disappointed with the size of the Sequoias, but not after the walk. There are some truly enormous specimens around (although as my tree identification skills are pretty poor I think some of the ‘small sequoias’ I initially saw were pine trees). I stood against the trunk of one which had fallen down and even on its side it towered over my head. There was even a dead one, straddling the road with a tunnel carved out large enough to drive a car through. We also saw a deer and some chipmunks, very cute. Then we continued driving through Yosemite, stopping at some spectacular view points along the way. Our campsite was associated with a lodge which had a pool and a hot tub which was a nice way to finish the day.

The next morning we headed back into Yosemite and started a hike from Glacier Point, going past Nevada Falls and Verbal Falls on our way down. There was some spectacular scenery looking into Yosemite Valley. Most of the hike was downhill, but I felt very sorry for the people coming up. The path from Nevada Falls was increasingly steep, in some cases a staircase, in others just a collection of rocks which you had to find your footing on. I only fell over once. It took us almost four hours and we definitely felt like we deserved an ice-cream after that. We also had a bit of a rest and watched a film on Yosemite before heading back to camp to take advantage of the pool and hot tub once more. As it was the last full day of the trip we weren’t completely finished for the day because we had to get everything cleaned, so that was fun.

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