Monday, June 3, 2013

The west side of Yosemite

May 28-June 3, 2013

It was an uneventful ride to Moccasin Point Recreation area, except for a few momentary lapses of phone GPS connectivity, always at the worst possible time.  We did manage to get there without getting lost, any flat tires or close encounters.  

On check-in at Moccasin Point, the gate attendant took a look at our rig and said, I don't think you are going to like the spot reserved for you.  (That's never a good sign)  It's sort of small, but everything is wide open, take whatever site suits you.  (When making the reservation, Twinkles gave them our RV length and they had indicated the site was plenty big.)  After taking a disapproving look, No Way !, we backed into another spot and unhooked the RV. It was then back to the office to make sure all was well with the switch, it wasn't, the site was reserved for the weekend, but another site was open that should be good.  It was fine, although not so level, so it was hook the RV up again, move to the other site, back in and set up again.  Twice in one day, I really didn't need the practice ! 

Moccasin Point is really nice though, nothing to complain about, the sites are in a wooded area overlooking the Tuohumne branch of the Don Pedro Reservoir.  There is a boat launch, a marina, a bath house, fishing and lots of houseboats.  We have a full hookup site with picnic table and fire ring. The downside is no WiFi and poor phone reception. (WiFI is available for another $8.00 per day)  Don Pedro Lake was built by the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts and the state of California.  It is the 5th largest man made lake in California and is located in the Stanislaus National Forest.

Wednesday was another ride into Yosemite Park but from a new direction this time.  Route 120 from Moccasin Point is a good road, but very steep and curvy with huge scenic views. I have been giving the GMC a monster workout over the past month with all the hills and curves.  I have been using the transmission in tow mode and/or engine brake on long steep downhills and really saving my brakes.  The tires however are taking a beating, wearing extra fast.  
Lots and lots of tourists now at Yosemite, a high percentage are foreign visitors, it's like the United Nations.  We spent most of the day in the Valley area, the meadows and the Merced River, so plush, so green, so clear.  After a while every vista starts to look more spectacular than the last one and you sort of go into sensory overload.  I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite spot in Yosemite Park.  

On Thursday a more relaxing local flavor sort of day.  First a few miles down route 120 south to Chinese Camp which was like the name implies.  It has an old Wells Fargo building and a very cool old general store.  Next we traveled a few miles on Route 49 to the town of Coulterville, established in 1850.  I had read that it was an interesting old mining town, but it far surpassed my expectations.  Coulterville was a gold mining town that in it's heyday that had 10 Hotels, 24 Saloons with a population of 5,000 people.  (I think the sign now reads population 150 as you ride into town)  It has a very original Main Street with several restaurants and interesting shops.  Also the old "Jeffery Hotel" and its "Magnolia Saloon" that are about as original as you can get.  We visited the excellent museum with great exhibits and artifacts.  In front of the museum sits "Whistling Billy", the 8 ton Porter Locomotive brought to town in 1897 to haul ore cars from the mine and the infamous "Hanging Tree". 

Friday was a return to Yosemite to tour the Tioga Road area of the Park.  This was our first experience in this area and it was great !  We hiked a beautiful trail to Ludkens Lake, it was the proverbial clear mountain pond, fed by a small stream. There were pockets of snow along the trail which was feeding the stream.  There were huge fir trees along the trail, almost as impressive as Sequoias.  We were mostly alone out there with only the sounds of the gurgling stream and the birds.  We then stopped at Olmstead Point, Tenaya Lake and Lembert Dome and finally Tuolumne Meadows, all impressive.  The Tioga Road area is unique, lots of huge granite domes, high elevations with pockets of snow remaining in the forests and snow capped mountains in the distance.  

On the way back to the campsite, we stopped at  the historic town of Groveland to look around, checked out the Farmers Market and then went for a couple of beers at the famous "Iron Door Saloon".  The Iron Door Saloon claims to be the oldest continuously operating Saloon in California.  Many buildings in these old towns had iron doors for fire protection.  There are a lot of historical things hanging inside the Saloon and it still has the original wooden bar.  We had a good time there talking to a couple of locals who had recently returned after wintering in Apache Junction, Arizona.  We then returned to the campground to find our serenity gone, lots of weekend campers moved in during the day !  

Saturday we drove to the nearby town of Sonora for the "Friends Festival, a BBQ, ribs/flea market/car show type event.  They had a nice poster promoting the event, it sounded great, but it was a total bust, hardly anyone there, 2 pathetic food vendors, mostly mediocre street rods, we stayed about 20 minutes and left.  The town of Sonora on the other hand far exceeded all expectations.  It has a vibrant classic downtown loaded with nice shops, restaurants, bars, many beautiful old buildings.  We are putting Sonora on our favorites list for sure.  We stopped at Sierra Nevada Adventure Co. to look at hiking shoes and we both ended up buying new ones and Twinkles also got a small backpack. We then went back to the RV and cranked up the AC, it was a very hot 95 degree day and to think we were walking through snow yesterday. 

Sunday was a solo historical trip for me to Jamestown, CA to "Railtown 1897".  This is a rail line that was started in 1897 and operated until the depression, was then reorganized, then replaced their steam Locomotives with Diesels in 1955 and moved their shop to Oakdale, CA. Somehow, amazingly the original Maintenance Shop and Locomotives were left mostly intact.  In the 1970's the line was brought back to life as an excursion train ride.  They have one of the original Steam Locomotives from 1897, #3, built by the Rodgers Locomotive Works in Patterson, NJ.  This railroad and in particular the #3 Locomotive has been used in over 200 motion pictures, TV programs and commercials over the years. Even more amazing is the shop, it is totally original, fully equipped with all the original tools and equipment needed to maintain Steam Locomotives including the fully operational roundhouse. The town of Jamestown is also an interesting old town established in 1848 with the discovery of gold just west of town.  It seems that every town here strange up during the gold frenzy. Railtown 1897 

I then rode north on Route 49 to the town of "Angels Camp" famous for Mark Twain's famous story, "The Jumping Frog of Calavaras County".  Mark Twain was in the Angels Camp and heard the story at the "Angel Hotel" and wrote the story which went on to much fame.  In May of every year they have the "Jumping frog competition at the fairgrounds which is a major festival in the area.  Angels Camp is another interesting old town, with lots of history, even without the legendary jumping frogs. 

I then went to the town of Murphy, CA, another gold mine town with much history, but now very upscale with 25 wine tasting shops, nice restaurants, cafes, and boutiques. I am thinking, I need to switch to wine as I am in the famous wine growing region, there are vineyards everywhere, but instead I had a beer at the Murphy's Hotel, just so I could see it inside.

Tomorrow we head southwest for San Juan Bautista, more to be revealed.

WiFi is failing me, more photos to be added latter, stay tuned !

Twinkles and Slick

El Capitan from Yosemite Valley
Merced River in Yosemite Valley

Bridalveil Falls in Yosemite

Beautiful wildflower in Yosemite Valley

Inside the Magnolia Saloon in Coulterville

Hotel Jeffery in Coulterville

Peace Garden in Coultervile

The Whistling Billy Locomotive in Coulterville

The Chinese Camp Store and Kiwi Tavern

Mountain stream flowing into Ludkens Lake

Ludkens Lake view

Tenaya Lake

Lembert Dome

The Iron Door Saloon in Groveland

California state seal in Sonora

Logging truck in Sonora

Bar interior in Sonora

Inside the Railtown 1897 engine House

The famous #3 Locomotive

Blacksmith Shop

Railtown 1897 excursion train

Old ghost "Eskimo Pie" sign on Jamestown building

Interior of the Murphys Hotel

Sidewalk in Angels Camp, it's like the walk of fame for jumping frogs

Angels Camp downtown

Mural on side of the Angels Hotel

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