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ScouseLeeM on Tour
27th Oct 2017 - 30th Oct 2017
Yosemite and Death Valley

2 'mini' bucket list items for the price of one..when I kicked off my list 20 years ago, I grouped together a bunch of US west coast activities as 1 intended bucket list trip.

That never quite happened, as I've covered a lot of those things on individual visits. 20 years on, I can 'almost' tick that big item off - just one little jaunt to the Volcano national park in Hawaii left, to finally complete my 47th of 50.

Having been 'forced' into yet another, 30-something'th weekend in Vegas, I tried to make use of my remaining holidays and maximize my time in the States. So the perfect opportunity to cover a few more national parks in Yosemite and Death Valley.

With a brief stop back in San Francisco -  it was a very early morning start with a cheese omlette the size of my head in a 24 hour diner, before setting off. Starting in Tuolomne Grove, the home of the giant Sequoia trees, we were unleashed and free to wander, having been warned by our guide that the walk back was the equivalent of walking up 40 flights of stairs. He must have been talking about a dolls house or have very short legs, as this is a pretty gentle stroll up a very slight incline, so I would certainly pay no heed to any such warnings. My travel buddy for this walk, Cynthia, even managed it in a pair of flimsy flip flops, and despite her protestations she does no excercise whatsover.

The trees certainly live up to their billing, when they say giant this is no exaggeration. The photo highlight in this Grove is the 'tunnel tree', and pretty much does what it says on the tin - a tree with a big tunnel carved into the roots that you could drive a car through. There is not much left of this tree, only a stump. Still, a stump of enormous bear sightings here, but several noisy squirrels, and a rare sighting of a (fast moving) bobcat scurrying across the path right in front of us.

Following this, a full day in and around Yosemite Valley - stopping at various iconic sights including Half Dome and El Capitan, the rock climbers mecca. Indeed, a number of nutters were climbing while we were there. Barely perceivable to the naked eye, and only a third of a way up the rock, only by using 120 x zoom on a camera could you really make out they were humans - that gives an idea just how high this bloody thing is. Yellowstone was cool, but I'd have to say, for me, Yosemite was a little more 'oooooooh' to look at, a very worthwhile stop.

Following a whirlwind of burgers, a truly enormous steak, and a truly amazing cultural immersion into the American phenomenon of 'tater totts' at Wahlburger, plus a walk to reminisce along the Vegas strip, it's time to chalk off Death Valley. Barely believable I've never done this before, given how close it is to Vegas and the number of times I've been here, and a very enjoyable day. Not quite the scenery of Yosemite in some ways, but then again, it is a desert. But for a desert, the hottest place on Earth is quite spectacular.

Stopping at the abandoned ghost town of Rheolite, and also the most amusing Area 51 themed 'Alien Brothel' (offering 'free tours'!) en route, we meandered around all of the sights this park has to offer -  including Badlands salt plains, the colourful Artists Pallette, Zabroskie Point, the Mesquite sand dunes (where sci fi nerds can go crazy, used in the Star Wars films for planet Tatooine scenes), and also Scotty's Castle - a bizarre grand mansion built in the middle of a desert by an old time con artist. Quite adifferent atmosphere from Vegas and well worth the short trip.

Also a highly educational trip - the toilets as Furnace Creek, where we stopped for a picnic, havea handy visual guide to your dehydration level placed above the urinals - allowing you to directly anayze the colour of your own pee v the chart. Marvellous..

So with those 2 mini bucket list enries in the bag, time to use up my few remaining holidays with a couple more stops in the US en route back to the office...

Next: San Antonio & St Louis
Previous: Malta & Gozo

Diary Photos

Yosemite Valley

Tuolumne Grove - bloody big trees

Giant Sequoias

Bloody big tree stump

Tuolumne wildlife

Tuolumne Grove

Yosemite Valley


Half Dome

No Title

El Capitan climbers...way up

El Capitan climber - 120 x zoom!

Yosemite skyline

San Francisco Bay Bridge

San Fran Diner - unusual decor

Yep - Vegas yet again

Bellagio fountains for the umpteenth time

Nevada entertainment

Alien tatt - Area 51

Death Valley wildlife

Rheolite ghost town

Road to nowhere

Mesquite sand dunes

Mesquite sand dunes

Scottys castle

Medical advice at Death Valley - check your pee

Badwater salt plains



Death Valley troupe

Artists Pallette

Zabriskie Point

Death Valley

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