I like to think that I’m not as afraid of heights as I used to be. I like to think a lot of things. Stood at the top of a 200ft spiral staircase with nothing but a cavern to break my fall, I decided maybe I was afraid of heights after all. But, much shaking and sweating later, I made it to the bottom to see the largest public cave chamber in California.
Moaning Cavern gets its name from the sound of water hitting the floor, nearby residents would think it sounded like a young girl wailing and trek down there to find here, never to be seen again. Spooky. Our slightly crazy guide took the two of us (again it’s off season so we get a personal service) down and even managed to out-fool Mark. First the tree roots were ‘leeches’, then she switched the ‘earthquake simulator’ on and for a grand finale she fumbled around pretending the lights weren’t working when she let us experience absolute darkness. It was fun even if the descriptions of the characters our guide could see in the shadows did make us doubt her sanity.
Arriving in Auberry was a welcome relief, no caverns or shaking staircases there. What a place to wake up. The sun’s shining, the coffee’s brewing, the wind chime’s are singing and Popo’s building a handrail – obviously. We take the tour of Kathy’s 20 acres and enjoy a few days of peace and quiet. I make a new best friend, Lucy the Chihuahua, and we watch the hummingbirds and drink a lot of wine coolers.
The next drive was one I was really excited about because we were heading into Yosemite. It was my turn behind the wheel and I was happy enjoying the woodland views but Mark kept saying ‘just wait until it opens up, you’ll be blown away’. Driving down into the valley floor you get glimpses of the scenery but it isn’t until you get through the tunnel entrance that you really experience the grandeur of it. It was a slightly hazy day and the lighting was soft so the view looked almost surreal, like a film set. I kept expecting someone to walk up to it and straight into a wall, Truman Show style.
Our legs were itching to explore so we eased ourselves in with the Mirror Lake trail. We head down the path waiting for, what we were told, are the most stunning reflections of the park….. not a drop of water in sight! A bit miffed we looped back round but got stopped dead in our tracks by a bear cub just 20ft in front of us. After a few ‘Holy shits’ from Mark and ‘Aw it looks so fluffys’ from me we processed that mummy bear might be nearby and made a dash for it.
Yosemite by day is one thing but by night it’s an entirely different experience. We were staying in Housekeeping Camp, right by the river, in a concrete hut that looked more like a military hospital tent. The mountains by moonlight looked like a black and white photograph and you could spot the brave (crazy?) hikers camping on the edges. After accidentally getting lost the woods in the dark taking one of Mark’s ‘shortcuts’ we made it back to base to light the campfire, cook s’mores and fight off racoons.
Waking up in Yosemite is pretty amazing, even if you haven’t slept much because you keep hearing racoons trying to get in the tent. I can’t imagine ever getting used to strolling out of a camp, looking up at Half Dome, dipping my feet into a crystal clear river. Beautiful. Before we hit the road we did the first mile and 1000ft of the Upper Yosemite Falls trail. The incredible views are just about worth the sweating and whining on the way up! We drove up to Glacier Point on the way out to see the valley from the other side and after realising we were out of gas, coasted back down on, as Kathy would say, hot air and holy water.
Another night in Auberry to catch up on sleep before the drive down to the bright lights of Los Angeles…
Current Locations: Auberry, Yosemite
Baby bears spotted: 1
S’mores eaten: 5