Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 1 5:30- Pre-Trip Inspection, check pick-up list. Make log entry. Start to first pick-up. 6:00 6:00- Pick Up in SF 6:45 or Check first and last names and origin of each guest. (Note capacity for English.) I, 7:00 Ralph, introduce everyone to everyone, so I can almost remember the early names, and everyone has an idea of where everyone else is from, a good conversation starter. I also try to engage the early pickups in conversation about what they have done so far and how long they are staying, what they are doing tomorrow, etc. By the time the van is getting full, this may not be possible. Depending on how many are left, and where we are, I may start the “tour” or just point to interesting locations as we drive by. Full rate $95 + $10 park fee = $105 Hostel rate $65 + $10 pk fee (they’ve already given $10 commission to Hostel) Not everyone picked up in a hostel gets this rate – some pay full price. 7:00- Leave SF via Bay Bridge - Pick Up in East Bay (if necessary) 7:30 Welcome to Extranomical Adventures’ Yosemite Park Tour. My name is Ralph and I’ll be your driver and tour guide. California State Law also requires me to be your boss when it comes using seat belts, so everyone please buckle up. It’s the law of the land and the law of my van. On way to bridge. I’ll go over the itinerary after we’ve left San Francisco, but right now I want to go over some history and sights on our way out of town. As late as 1833, this little peninsula was a dead end, inhabited by a couple thousand Native Americans and the monks of a Spanish mission, and was mostly sand dunes. There were no bridges, ferries, mostly sand and seagulls, and by 1846, there was a little village of 200 white settlers called Yerba Buena where the financial district now stands. It took days or a week to go all the way around the bay to if you wanted to see the peninsula from the top of Mount Tamalpais. By 1848, its name had been changed to San Francisco, and it was a sleepy village of a few thousand. Then there was that little discovery of gold up the Sacramento River, and 2 years later there were 35,000 people looking for a place to live. California became a state in 1850 and this was its largest city. The discovery of Yosemite in 1851 helped tourism to become an important sector of the state’s economy. After the Earthquake of 1906 most of the area we have seen this morning, the area enclosed by Van Ness Avenue, Market street and the bay either fell down and/or burned. The Army dynamited a row of mansions along Van Ness, hoping that the lack of fuel along that strip would stop the westward march of the flames, which largely succeeded. There are many old Victorian homes west of Van Ness that are over 100 years old. But, the residents were determined to rebuild, and when they did, they left Van Ness extra wide to accommodate the popularity of that new-fangled invention, the automobile. Using the seemingly unlimited Redwood timber growing up and down the coast, they re-built San Francisco bigger and better. The colorful Victorian homes you’ve seen Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 2 stacked up wall to wall lining the hills in picture postcards, were built during this period. It was a contractor’s dream. But they had a problem: how to dispose of the rubble left behind by the earthquake. Well, they hauled the rubble to the north using human labor and horses, and dumped it into the bay, creating new real, estate which addressed another issue that was coming up on the calendar. Civic leaders realized that, when the new Panama Canal was finished, the Bay Area could be reached by Eastern passengers and goods in one third the time and it could be very good for rebuilding tourism. It was time to announce to the world that San Francisco was “back”, so to speak. They decided to throw a huge Grand Re-Opening Party, and called it the Panama Pacific International Exposition. They used the new landfill real estate from Bay Street north to the water and between Fort Mason and the Presidio to construct an amazing array of buildings in a classic architectural theme in the spirit of the Greeks. Enter first span of bridge, emerging from darkness to see the Ferry Building. On your left you can see some the sights of the city. Just below us is the Ferry Building, which is Pier Zero, with odd numbered piers going away from us around to the north and west. The smaller island with the white buildings is Alcatraz, which was a notorious Federal prison that held such infamous criminals as Al Capone, and the famous Birdman. The big island beyond Alcatraz is Angel Island. It is now a 740 acre state park and preserve, and is a great place to visit, walk, picnic, rent bikes, and see spectacular views of the city and the bay. But back in 1910, it was opened as an immigration station, or perhaps detention station is more accurate, the 1st stop for approximately 175,000 immigrants mostly from Asia, many of whom were unfortunately kept there for up to 2 years. Many of the original buildings are still standing and some of the cells that the people were kept in still have daily diaries written by some of those detainees. I’m sure you’ve all seen pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, which is a perfect example of a suspension bridge that has 2 towers with 2 very thick cables going from one shore, up over the first tower, then swooping down and back up to the second tower, and then back down to the other shore. We are driving across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which is actually 2 bridges and a tunnel. As you can see, we are leaving the city on the lower deck, and the upper deck above us carries traffic into the city. The roadbed and all the vehicles are suspended from smaller vertical cables that are draped over the 2 huge ones. This section is actually 2 suspension bridges with 4 towers, and 2 spans joined in the middle by the massive anchors, which we are passing by right now. Pass by middle anchors. In the 1930’s the demand for automobile access to the city was so great that both the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge were authorized in 1930 and completed in less than 7 years, this one in 1936 and the Golden Gate Bridge in 1937. This bridge carries more traffic than any bridge or tunnel in the world, averaging over 280,000 cars per day. Up ahead is a double-decker tunnel through Yerba Buena Island. Because this is five lanes wide and 2 highways tall, it is the largest bore tunnel in the world, measured top to bottom. There was a lot of rock and dirt to blast away, and being out in the middle of the bay, there was really only one place to put it all – out in the middle of the bay. If Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 3 you look at the water to your left, you will just get a glimpse of Treasure Island, but you’ll get a much better view as we come out the other end. Enter tunnel. The original plan was to build a perfectly flat island and build an airport, but in 1935, it was decided to hold another world’s fair to celebrate San Francisco’s new record breaking bridges. Some else thought, “Now what do we do with it? I know – we’ll hold a world’s fair” and the Golden Gate International Exposition was born! World’s Fairs were very popular back then. They had to have something to take their minds off the troubles in Europe. After the Fair, it was time to start launching those battleships and it was quickly turned into a naval base, and many of the large buildings you see are left over from that. Exit tunnel. The east section from the Island to Oakland is a long cantilever and a series of trusses, all of which are rigid structures built of many triangles of steel beams. On the left you will see that they are building a new bridge right next to this one. This new bridge may actually compete with the Golden Gate Bridge for sightseers because it is a radical new design, the single tower suspension bridge. There will be one tall pylon in the middle, with both ends of 2 huge cables gracefully descending to either end. The traffic lanes will be next to each other, not stacked, and the tower will be in between! A suspension bridge actually wiggles a little under vibration, such as in an earthquake. This rigid section didn’t hold up as well in the earthquake of 1989, and part of the upper deck broke and fell into the lower deck. Miraculously, only one person died on this bridge, as she didn’t see the hole and drove off the edge. It only took 10 years for them to decide on a new design and find the money to replace this one. The new one is expected to be done in 2007, and then, believe it or not, they will dismantle the old bridge and cart it away, which should be just as interesting as watching them build this one! But that assumes that funding for a little 40% cost overrun of 1.2 billion dollars! If pick-up at West Oakland Bart, get in right lane and take I-880 to Broadway Exit. On the ramp, take the first left and go about 2 blocks and turn right into the Bart parking lot, and turn left parallel to tracks and station. After pick-up, continue toward houses, turn right to stop light and turn right again on 7th. Go several block, under freeway and turn left on Castro St. Entrance to I-980 is about 3 blocks. Stay in right lanes and take I-580 toward Hayward. On our left in the hills is Berkeley, home of the flagship University of California Campus. The tall white tower is the bell tower of the administration building. Notice the large container cranes on our right. This is the Port of Oakland, one of the largest seaports on the West Coast. Ships full of boxcar-sized containers dock here and the cranes pick them up and put them down in stacks on the ground, where special trucks move them onto railroad cars or over the road trucks. George Lucas was inspired by those cranes to create his giant Imperial Walkers seen in the Empire Strikes Back. Downtown Oakland is further off to the right. We’re going to continue east on 580 through the suburbs ending in Livermore, up over the Altamont Pass into California’s Central Valley. We’ll then go east on state highway 132 to Modesto, southeast on 99 until we stop in about 90 minutes for gas and a short restroom and snack break. Then we’ll continue southeast on 99 to Merced, where we’ll go east on state route 140 towards the foothills of the Sierras, where we’ll start seeing Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 4 some spectacular vistas and scenery. If there are any questions, I’ll be glad to answer, otherwise I’m going to put on some music, let you rest your ears and eyes. I’ll give you a while to rest and talk about some other points of interest later. 7:30 If pick-up at Dublin Bart, get in second right lane as you get to bottom of hill approaching I-680. It’s a somewhat tricky exit right under the overpass, and very close to the second 680 exit. It’s called Hopyard Rd, and it’s a long ramp. Turn right on Hopyard, but into the left lane as soon as possible, to turn right on Owens Blvd. Bart is about a mile down the road, on left. Turn right soon after entering the parking lot and loop around to the left and pull up along the tracks (now facing west). After pick-up, continue westward and turn left to exit and turn left on Owens again. Another mile to Hacienda, and turn left into right lane which enters I-580 East and you are back on your way. If you look at the hills up ahead, you will see the Altamont Pass Wind Farm, which has over 7500 windmills. It was built to test different designs for cost and efficiency. Windmills need a 12 mph wind to operate economically. This pass has a high average daily wind speed of from 18-27 miles per hour. It is the biggest wind farm in the state, containing almost half of California’s windmills. Although California makes more electricity from wind than any other state, engineers say that it is ranked only 17th in terms of potential, with many Midwestern states having better average wind speeds. For some reason, birds and bats are not good at seeing and avoiding the blades and often fly through and get killed. Here we are in California’s Central Valley. It is 400 miles from north to south and ranges from 50 to 100 miles east to west. It has 2 major rivers: the San Joaquin River, which we will soon be crossing, flows north from about Fresno, and the Sacramento River flows south from Redlands. They join together at Antioch, and then empty into the north part of San Francisco Bay, also known as San Pablo Bay. The valley is typically very dry for seven months of the year, and irrigation is needed to grow crops here. But just a 100 miles away are the Sierra Nevada mountains, running most of the length of the state from north to south, with large piles of snow every year, especially from here to the north. With the growing population in the south, the California Aquaduct was built to bring water from the northern mountains to the desert climates of Los Angeles and San Diego, where there are now over 15 million thirsty people. We are crossing the California Aquaduct right now. 7:30- Drive through Oakland, Livermore, Altamont, Central Valley to Turlock 9:00 Coming down Altamont into Central Valley. Here we are in California’s Central Valley. It is 400 miles from north to south and ranges from 50 to 100 miles east to west. It has 2 major rivers: the San Joaquin River, which we will soon be crossing, flows north from about Fresno, and the Sacramento River flows south from Redlands. They join together at Antioch, and then empty into the north part of San Francisco Bay, also known as San Pablo Bay. The valley is typically very dry for seven months of the year, and irrigation is needed to grow crops here. But just a 100 miles away are the Sierra Nevada mountains, running most of the length of the state from north to south, with large piles of snow every year, especially from here to the north. With the growing population in the south, the California Aquaduct was built Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 5 to bring water from the northern mountains to the desert climates of Los Angeles and San Diego, where there are now over 15 million thirsty people. We are crossing the California Aquaduct right now. Cross aquaduct. But they’re hungry, too, and this valley produces a vast amount of America’s agricultural products: half of all fruits and vegetables in the US, more milk than Wisconsin, more oranges than Florida, more cotton than Texas, enough rice to export to China, and twice as many almonds than the rest of the world put together. If California were counted separately, it would be the 5th largest economy in the world, and agriculture is the second largest industry after tourism. We also produce more garbage than China, but not for long the way they are growing. All that growing takes a LOT of water, and it wouldn’t be possible without the Aquaduct. It is 444 miles long and carries 2.7 billion gallons per day, carrying water from melting snow in the northern mountains all the way to the urban desert in the south. But this is the second major Los Angeles. They also damned the mighty Colorado River with the Hoover Dam, and now Americans take so much water the river often dries up before reaching Mexico and the ocean. Other crops found here include fruit grapes and also grapes for wine, walnuts, artichokes, peaches, dates, figs, kiwis, nectarines, olives, persimmons, pistachios, plums, raisins, strawberries, garlic, and of course cattle. If you name a vegetable, I’ll bet it is grown somewhere in California. All this growing wouldn’t be possible if the soil here weren’t as good as it is. Five hundred million years ago, most of what is now the western edge of the US was once under a vast, shallow sea, part of the ancient Pacific Ocean. For 200 million years, the sea creatures, algae, plankton and plants lived and died in that sea, and their carcasses, and remnants fell down to the bottom and built up a deep bed of sediment. As the pressure of the upper layers weighed down, the lower layers were compressed into sedimentary rocks, which I’ll talk more about later. But the upper layers remained soft and were just waiting for the right moment to make our standard of living better. That happened, starting about 250 million years ago, as the Pacific plate began to move eastward and the North American plate began to raise up and buckle. The rise in elevation eventually drained the shallow sea and exposed the deep beds to the sun and the invasion of land species to the new beachfront property of California, and real estate values have been going up ever since! As this movement continued, the land began to buckle and form the coastal mountain ranges, which were originally much taller, but wind and water have worn them down to their current heights. But here in the Central Valley, we are talking Top Soil, and it is up to 100 feet deep, making it one of the most fertile gardens on earth. As long as it keeps snowing in the mountains! Keep hoping that global warming problem goes away. That’s enough grim reality for now. Here’s a little music to pass the time. 9:00- Stop for gas, rest room and snacks. CA99 - Last Turlock exit “Lander Av Los Banos”. 9:15 Turn left under freeway and just beyond are Valero on the left and ______ on right. Choose one. Okay, we’re stopping for gas and a rest stop. Please wait for me to open the door, watch your head getting down, watch for cars – California drivers! We’ll be here about 15 minutes and you can go to the rest room, buy some food. Please don’t wander and be Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 6 back here and ready to load up at 9:15. All must exit before fueling. ________ has the autopay negative cash machine, enter pump number and put cash in. Get change and receipt inside. Free fountain drink!!! Make log entry. Check for puddles, low tires. 9:00- Drive CA99 south toward Los Angeles, and exit at CA 140 east to Sierra foothills, gold 10:45 country, and Yosemite Park Arch Rock Entrance Okay, seat belts everyone. We’ll be oohing and aahing in less than 2 hours. I’m going to give everyone about 20 minutes to finish eating and putting away your wrappers and trash, and re-start the teleprompter when we get off the freeway and turn eastward again. If you look ahead to the left, you can see the Sierra Nevada Mountains, (or at least the foothills). It is the longest continuous mountain range in the US, 430 miles from north to south and from 40 to 70 miles wide, with many peaks over 12,000 feet, or 4000 meters. Just 500 years ago the western hemisphere was inhabited by scattered tribes of Native Americans, who are believed to be descended from Asians who migrated across the Bering Strait into Alaska from 20,000 to 100,000 years ago, depending on who you talk to. The Spaniards started exploring Alto California in the early 1500’s, but nothing much happened here in until 1769, when Father Junipero Serra started establishing missions along the coast in San Diego. In 1776, the 6th one was called Mission San Francisco de Assisi, but it soon became known as Mission Dolores. It was a hard life for reasons of Spanish politics, and because land was mostly sand, not great for growing things to eat, and it didn’t rain for 6 months every year. The missions were the entry point for the Catholic religion, AND Spanish culture, language, and authority. The Spanish holdings in the New World spanned the Pacific Coast of all of South America and North America up here to the bay, with the mighty Spanish Armada ruling the seas. They eventually sent expeditions up the rivers, giving many of the Spanish names, including the Rio de Merced, or River of Mercy, which will become familiar to you over the next 5 hours. The town of Merced that we just passed through was named after this river. It was 1820 and things were changing and, thanks to the British Navy beating up on the Spanish Armada for decades, Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821. The Mexican government worked with the church to build the 21st and final mission in 1823 in the village of Sonoma, the local Indian word for Valley of the Moon. I had a milder climate than San Francisco, and decent land for crops and livestock. At that time, Mexico included what is now California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In the 1830’s, the government in Mexico City was preoccupied with the Texans and the US Army and exerted very little control over this territory so far away. The few Mexican soldiers that remained were left alone and some established their own small fiefdoms. One of these was General Mariano Vallejo, who was in charge of the Mexican garrison stationed at the new mission in Sonoma, and who enriched himself greatly. The ongoing conflict between natives and eastern settlers continued and resulted in sporadic skirmishes, and the Russians were even moving in from the north. With very little in the way of law and order, this really was the wild, wild west! Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 7 In 1846, while all of this was going on, a group of illegal immigrants from the United States, living in Sonoma, were upset that they were prohibited from owning land, and formed their own militia and resisted the authority of the Mexican General Vallejo. US Army Lt John C Fremont walked into this dispute and sent some of his men to Sonoma and captured General Vallejo and his cohort and brought them back to Sacramento. It was sort of like the battle at the Alamo 10 years earlier, except that this time the Mexicans surrendered, and nobody died. Not a shot was fired, and they designed a flag sporting a grizzly bear, and the revolt gained the name Bear Flag Rebellion. They raised the Bear Flag over Sonoma, and declared the Republic of California. That lasted 23 days. Before they even had a chance to fill their fountain pens to write some laws, the Bear Flag was replaced by the U.S. Flag, as the U.S. Army moved in to take over the garrison in the early days of the Mexican American War. We also run tours to the Wine country, and stop for lunch right next to that original mission building. The tour also includes great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and Muir Woods in Marin County. If you are interested, I can sign you up for tomorrow! Let me know when we stop. And now, back to our program. Now things were REALLY about to change! Gold was Discovered in January of 1848, just 9 days before Mexican War ended. When news of this discovery made it back to civilization, it resulted in a FLOOD of immigration from the eastern United States, known as the Gold Rush, the next year, 1849, the fortune hunters that poured in to find gold were named Forty-Niners, after a popular football team, (pause for laughs) They overran this area with little regard for the natives who already lived here, just like they had done back east for 250 years. The local tribes had basically been putting up with the crazy Mexicans and crazy Americans running around in California, but the influx of 100,000 greedy, and rude 49-ers finally pushed them over the edge, and they did their best to drive the miners and other settlers out and some of their targets were the Trading Posts of John Savage in early 1850, one of which still stands along this highway. This is the town of Mariposa, which is Spanish for “butterfly”. It still retains much of the “old west” flavor, as you can see. Hundreds of small hamlets sprung up in the foothills, forming the backbone of the new economy as thousands rushed in and spent their life savings. Yes, there was gold, but by the end of 1949, most of it was already gone, and like most booms, the Gold Rush was built more on hype than substance. John Savage had some clout and complained to the military government, which authorized the formation of a posse, basically a rag tag group of not-yet-rich miners, whose purpose was to track and corral the uncooperative Indians. This Mariposa Battalion is believed to be the first group of whites to gaze upon the beauty of Yosemite Valley from the floor, and lived to return and spread the news of its magnificent sights to the newly formed State of California. Some believe that the Joseph Walker trapping party stopped short of tumbling over the cliffs high above back in 1933, although they may have seen another spectacular valley called the Grand Canyon of the Tuolomne River just to the north. (They had no idea where they were – they didn’t have GPS back then, y’know!) Some of the soldiers tried to communicate with their captives, and noticed the similarity of Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 8 2 Indian words, Awahneechee, and Yosimeechee. The first was the name they used to refer to themselves, and the second referred to the others, or the enemy. The name Yosimeechee became associated with the beautiful valley, and when it appeared in print, it was spelled the way we see it today. Reports of the valley’s spectacle and grandeur filtered back to civilization from San Francisco to Washington. The beautiful valley and reports of the Giant Trees nearby attracted growing hordes of tourists, trappers, hunters, miners and settlers, who moved into the valley like it was the newest suburb of Las Vegas. Lucky for us, the back to nature movement was getting started under the leadership of Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, and just in time! Yosemite became one of their causes. In 1864, President Lincoln took his attention away from the Civil War long enough to look to the future and grant the Valley and the largest grove of Giant trees to the State of California to preserve for future generations, which was a new concept at the time. Meanwhile, back in Indiana, a man named John Muir started walking to the Gulf of Mexico. He may have hitched a ride here and there, but he really liked to walk and he hiked into Yosemite Valley for the first time in 1868, and, in one sense, he never really left. He ended up living and working here for years. His love for the area, his prolific and skillful writing, and eventual friendship with important people like Emerson and Teddy Roosevelt, were very important in the nature movement, and the preservation of land in this country. He also founded the Sierra Club in 1892. The efforts of people like Muir, Emerson and others, eventually resulted in the formation of the National Park System, starting with Yellowstone in 1872 and Yosemite and Sequoia in 1890. Yosemite is among the most popular of our national parks, getting over 4 million visitors each year. It is 1200 square miles, or 3000 sq km. There are 800 miles of trails within the park. The valley floor is 7 miles long and up to 1 mile wide. All right, that is enough to think about for a while. Descend into Merced Valley. This is the Bear Creek, which feeds into the Merced River, which starts up in the High Sierras, racing down through Little Yosemite Valley, plunging down 2 spectacular falls, meandering through the more famous Yosemite Valley, and then accelerates down this valley to join the San Joaqin River on its way to the bay. Now we have finally reached bottom of our descent, and have joined up with the Merced River. If you look to your left, you will see the remnants of the Yosemite Valley Railroad, opened in 1907, which ran from Merced to El Portal just outside the Park. It was an expensive route to maintain, because spring floods would often wash out the bed and repairs were constantly needed. And the increasing number of automobiles and widening of the road we are on over here to accommodate them spelled the doom of that railroad. I want you to notice 3 things as we drive upstream along the Merced River: Notice the shape of the valley we are driving through. It is pretty narrow here at the bottom, and wider at the top, with an approximate V-shape. Second, notice that many of the rocks along the sides are similar, with a dark color and have stripes and layers. Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 9 The third thing is the size of rocks in the Merced River. Remember when I talked about the ancient Pacific Ocean? Five hundred million years ago, this location on the globe was under water, part of the vast shallow sea off the west coast of the Ancient North America. Millions of years of dying organisms floated down and added to the ocean floor, and were eventually compressed into layers of Sedimentary Rock. The Pacific Plate and the North American plate have been fighting ever since, and as the Pacific plate pressed eastward, just like a rug on a wood floor, the land here began to buckle, ripple and raise up above sea level, every little movement causing another earthquake. As the land lifted up, the wind and rain started to wear it down, and streams cut into the top soil and then the old sedimentary rocks laid down and compressed millions of years before. The rocks along the sides with the stripes and layers are some of these ancient sedimentary layers. About 20 million years ago, this area was rolling hills and gentle valleys. The land continued to lift up and lean to the west as the mountains rose higher, and the valleys became steeper and the water ran faster, eventually cutting deep V-shaped valleys and canyons, for about 18 million years! The ripples and folds were filled from beneath with the earth’s hot mantle, forming ridges, domes, and even volcanoes that broke through to explode into the air. As the rock left the earth’s hot center, whether breaking through or just filling in, it cooled and hardened into different kinds of rock, depending on what minerals are present, and each type of rock has a different hardness. Geologists call these igneous rocks. Much of the Sierra Nevada Mountains are made of these relatively new igneous rocks that have been uncovered by millions of years of erosion by wind and water. By about 10 millions years ago, the mountains were about as high as they are now and had snow in the winter. Eight million more years of melting snow carved out the steep V- shaped valleys that still exist in many areas. The valley of the ancient Merced River was about to become extraordinary, because of its location among the mountain peaks and a long, cold ice age. Sometime between 1 and 2 million years ago, the earth’s climate became colder, perhaps only a few degrees, so that the winter snows in the high mountains accumulated more than the summer heat melted, and after thousands of years, the snow was so thick, eventually 1000’s of feet thick, and the snow in the valleys became compressed into ice. At this time, the North Pole ice sheet covered all of Canada and even some of the future United States down to the Great Lakes. The polar sheet didn’t reach this far south, but because of the high altitudes, the Sierra Range got its own little glaciers. We still have Glaciers today in Antarctica and the northern high altitude parts of North America and Europe and Asia. This mountain ice got so thick that it started flowing downhill in a river of ice, at a rate of feet per year, instead of miles per hour like a river of water. The ice collected in the valleys and was so deep that the land looked like a bumpy skating rink with a few mountain peaks sticking out here and there. This first glacial period lasted until about 250,000 years ago, and may have seen several advances and retreats. This valley collected the ice from an enormous area of the high mountains surrounding it. The ice was 1000’s of feet deep in places and put enormous pressure on the earth below as it slowly slid downhill, pushing anything loose in front of it like a giant snowplow. Any weakness or crack in the rock was exploited and the glaciers started to break them loose Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 10 and carry them away. There was nothing left below but bare bedrock and ice. The great pressure began to change the shape of the valley, which eventually became U- shaped as the unstoppable glacier crushed, carved and carried away huge portions of the valley walls, including boulders as big as houses, and giving much of Yosemite Valley sheer cliffs, instead of a sloping V-shape. The large boulders eventually worked their way down to solid ground, and pushed them down stream until the warmer temperatures at lower elevations melted the ice, which spewed the rocks and boulders out the end like finished parts falling of a conveyor belt in a factory. As the climate became warmer, the glaciers began to retreat as they melted. Rocks and boulders were left behind in the river bed, the larger ones never moving again. This glacial moraine actually formed a dam that created a long deep lake in the valley floor for thousands of years. This lake got shallower as it filled up with silt from the streams and waterfalls left hanging and with rocks that continued to break off of the cliffs on either side. Eventually, the bottom of the U filled up, leaving the relatively flat valley floor and meandering Merced River we see today. The upper valleys that once fed the earlier river, were now left hanging off sheer cliffs, with their water falling hundreds of feet straight down. Most of the soil in the high country was scraped off and so with nothing to slow down the water, the waterfalls were fed by melting snow and raged in the spring and when the snow melted completely away in the late summer, the falls shut off like a faucet. At least 2 more glacial periods came and went, the last one reaching its furthest extent about 20,000 years ago. Each time a glacier stopped growing and started to melt back, it left large quantities of stone and debris behind. 10:45- Photo stops in the Valley floor – Bridal Veil Falls, Tunnel View, El Capitan, Sentinel 11:30 Bridge Get out and pay $125 per van. Our next stop will be at Bridalveil Falls in about 10 minutes. We make it our first stop because 1) is has a restroom, 2) it’s very close to the parking lot, just a 5 minute walk, and 3) so you can see it from below and then be amazed when we get to our second stop, where we see it from above! I’ll be stopping here just long enough to pay your entrance fees, so please stay in the van. We are just minutes away from Bridalveil Falls, and you can see how the valley floor suddenly widened out to reveal the flat surface formed by the lake filling up with sediment. Here is the moraine of the last glacier, which was very small compared to the first one, and merely shoved this pile of earth along the valley in front of it without making major changes to the shape of the valley. Okay, we’re at Bridalveil Falls. Please wait for me to open the door, and watch your step, and be extra careful about cars. Notice the restrooms on the right, and the beginning of the trail to the falls at the end of the parking lot. If you need to use the rather rustic rest rooms, go stand in line first, and look at the falls afterward, but we’ll be at Yosemite Village in a little over an hour, and they have more modern facilities there. Don’t take the left fork in the trail, or you may end up lost at the other end of the valley. Take the right fork, which ends up at the base of the falls. If you get close enough, you might get Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 11 wet, and the path may be slippery, so be careful. And there is a sign that says “Stay off Rocks – Slippery” and that means even when they are dry. I’ve seen bloody foreheads walking back from the Vista Point! Also wait for me to open the door and be careful when you get out – this parking lot is crowded and the drivers are crazy. Set your watches and be back here in 20 minutes, or we’ll vote you off the island. 11:30- Drive toward Wawona, stop at Tunnel View – parking lot on right just before tunnel. 12:30 Alright, everyone buckle up. We’ll be at the tunnel view in just a couple minutes. You will be about 700 feet, or 230 m, above the valley floor, a little higher than the top of Bridalveil, with a great panorama of Yosemite Valley. You will see El Capitan, the largest exposed granite slab on earth, more than twice the size of the Rock of Gibraltar, Half Dome, the highest point bordering the valley at the extreme opposite end, and Bridalveil Falls on the right. The water may be hard to see from this distance, but look for the notch in the cliff wall with the 3 rounded points called the Cathedral Rocks behind it and the Leaning Tower to the right. Please wait for me to open the door, and watch your step, and be extra careful about cars. The view up here is very distracting for you AND them. We’ll stop here for about 5 minutes. If you need me to take some pictures, I’ll be available. Drive back down toward village – stop at El Capitan, prefer right side of road. Alright, everyone buckle up. Here’s a little more geology while we’re on our way to the base of El Capitan. The plumes of molten rock that welled up from deep below the surface each had differing percentages of various minerals, which resulted in rocks of different hardness. The granite in El Capitan is particularly hard, and more of it survived the assault from the glaciers, and less of it has sluffed off and fallen ever since, leaving it extremely tall and straight. Its cliff face is about 3000 feet high, and there is another 600 feet of summit up above where we cannot see. It is the Mecca, or is it Medina, for rock climbers far and wide. Hundreds climb it every year. It was first climbed in 1958 and took 43 days! Now the fastest climbers can do it in five hours. The record is under 3 hours! The youngest person was Scott Corrie who was 12 years old when he climbed it in 2002. Please wait for me to open the door, and watch your step, and be extra careful about cars if you cross the road. They may be looking up at El Capitan. We’ll stop here for about 10 minutes. Again, ask if you want help with pictures. You should be able to find Bridalveil Falls again straight ahead as you exit the van. Continue toward village – turn and slow down on Sentinel Bridge and park. Alright, seat belts everyone? We’re working our way east on the Valley loop, and Yosemite Falls is coming up on our left. It is the tallest waterfall in North America, and the 5th tallest in the world. There are 3 sections: Upper Yosemite is 1430’ or 436m, then there is a Middle Cascade of 675’or 206m, and Lower Yosemite is 320’or 98m, for a total of 2425’ or 740m. Here is something really interesting about domes and arches. Remember the plumes of hot magma that welled up to fill the folds under the rising mountains? Even though hot, liquid and flowing, magma was still under enormous pressure from the layers above. As Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 12 it welled upward, it started to cool, and the outer layers cooled and became solid first, and the cooling progressed inward and downward. This created an invisible internal structure that was only revealed as time passed and layers were removed, pressure was released, and then the plutonic granite exposed. The release of pressure allowed the underlying rock to expand and the differences between cooling layers result in large cracks between layers. For a dome, all of the rock covering the dome has been removed, microscopic cracks are filled with water, which freezes and forces the cracks wider. The granite slowly decomposes with the removal of layers, like peeling an onion. This process is called exfoliation. In the case of an arch, the sides of a plume were broken off and scraped away, revealing the arch-shaped layers. To continue the onion analogy, imagine a vertical slice through half an onion. This area is the largest collection of such granite domes and arches in the world, and Half-Dome is undoubtedly the best known. If you look at the busses, you’ll see it is the Logo for Yosemite Park. There was probably a huge crack down the middle of the original dome, possibly from a large earthquake, and the first major glacier came down Tenaya Canyon and eventually swept the missing parts away, polishing the face that remains. Our next stop will give us great view of Yosemite Falls, plus you can see the meadow of landfill where the old lake used to be. And as we turn and cross the Sentinel Bridge, I’m going to slow down a little to let you look out the right side for a dramatic view of Half Dome which is Yosemite’s most recognized landmark – in fact, is the symbol of the Park that appears on signs and buses and such. Please wait for me to open the door, and watch your step, and be extra careful about cars. We’ll have 15 minutes here which is enough time to take a few minutes and pictures of the falls, and then scurry over to the bridge - watch for cars if you cross over! Please don’t go any further. They may be looking up at Half Dome. Back in 15! 12:45- Yosemite Village for lunch and free time. 1:45 Continue beyond bridge to stop, turn right and next left to park at Village Store, or follow sign to Day Use Parking – point out sign as we drive past it. Okay, I’m sure you’ve all been waiting to hear this next announcement. LUNCH! And you get some time to really walk around and stretch those legs. Some attractions in Yosemite Village: You can buy food at Degnans Deli, the Village Grill, and the Village Store. You can look at the exhibits at the Museum and Visitors’ Center. There is a re- creation of a Native American Village, and the Ansel Adams Gallery. You can hike to the base of Yosemite Falls, if you hurry and don’t linger here in the village. Sometimes the lines at the Grill and Deli can be long. We will meet back here at 1:45, and then drive up to the Tuolomne Grove of Giant Sequoias, where we’ll have about 75 minutes to walk among the trees, so don’t be late – you won’t want to miss them. You may want to have water for that hike, as the trip back up the hill to the van can cause you to work up quite a sweat. Please wait for me to open the door, and watch your step, and as always, be extra careful about cars. If you would please wait for me by the map (and restrooms in Day Use Lot), I will help you plan your time, and then we can go our separate ways. Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 13 Explain where we are, and how to get directions back. If you are not sure where to go, remember Village Store (or Day Use Parking Lot) and ask for directions. Questions? Back at 2. Don’t be late, we want plenty of time for the Giant Trees! Remember water for the hike! Before loading, Make log entry. Check oil and tires. 1:45- Drive to Tuolomne Grove of Giant Sequoias 2:15 Follow signs to Exit Park- then CA140 to Tioga Road. We are at an elevation of 4000 feet here in the Valley, and we’ll be driving up towards the high country, to an elevation of 6000 feet or about 2000m, and you will see some spectacular views along the way out the left side windows. We’ll be going through a very long tunnel, and we’ll reach the Tuolomne Grove of Giant Sequoias in about 30 minutes. Ever since our society collectively decided to establish protected natural areas, complete fire suppression has been the natural response. Just ask Smokey the Bear. Preventing man- made fires is still a good thing, but we have learned that we can’t be so simplistic. On your left you will see some charcoal and fire scars on the trees in this area. This was a prescribed burn, as they call it. The rangers choose the right time and conditions, work hard to establish an area of containment, and prepare the loose brush and debris on the forest floor that we call duff. Then a fire is started and allowed to burn. This process is repeated in a new area each time, and over time, this simulates the natural cycle of fires caused by lightning that the trees have evolved to live with. There are 2 species of tall trees in California are especially well-adapted to fire, and, in fact, they need some amount of fire to thrive. Until recently, they were thought to be the same genus, but the trees we will see today have recently been given a new scientific name, and their relationship grew more distant. Have any of you have seen the tall redwoods near the coast? The Coast Redwoods are called Sequoia sempervirens. Many of them are more than 300 feet high, and the record is 368 feet, or 112m. They tend to have a straight trunk, with an even, pointed Christmas tree shape, and some are as old as 2000 years! They only grow within a narrow range near the Pacific Coast from Big Sur south of Monterey up to the Oregon border. The reason they live so long also makes them resistant to rot and the trees make excellent lumber. This is unfortunate, because 95% of them have been cut down in the last 150 years. There is one grove just minutes from San Francisco, in the Muir Woods National Monument, named after the John Muir, the famous naturalist I told you about this morning. It is a very beautiful place, and really a totally different experience than we will have today. You can go there on our other tour to the Wine Country that I already told you about, and if anyone is interested, it’s a great trip and we’re going tomorrow! (Radio voice) This message brought to you by Extranomical Adventures, and your local sponsor – Me! The trees we will see today have a new scientific name, Sequoiadendron giganteum, commonly called Sierra Redwoods, or Giant Sequoias. They only grow on the Western face of the Sierra Nevada range from 5000 to 7000 feet elevation, or 1500 to 2100 m. These amazing giants don’t get quite as tall as the Coast Redwoods, but they get much Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 14 bigger around, and have been measured as wide as 44’ across near the ground, or 13 meters. They grow up, for about 800 years, and then they grow out for the rest of their lives. Like their cousins near the coast, their wood and bark is loaded with tannic acid. Tannic acid is fire resistant, and also gives them resistance to insect and other parasites, which is why they can live to be over 3000 years old! They don’t have deep soil to work with, so their root systems spread out up to 150 feet from the center. We thought he really big ones are the biggest living things on earth, probably in all history. Recently, it was determined that there is a mushroom colony in Michigan that is over a mile wide, and is all one organism. Lucky for us, the wood is not particularly valuable for building, because it warps when it dries, so cutting of the Sierra Redwoods has been mostly sporadic, for reasons of novelty and sport. Still kind of stupid, but at least they weren’t clear-cut for profit. If you look out the left side, you will see the devastation caused by a big fire in 1990. This fire was a turning point in the history of forest management in the Park, and affected the way we think about fire’s place in the forest ecosystem. By suppressing all fires all the time, we actually harmed the Giant trees, making it hard for them to sprout new seedlings. We changed the ecosystem, as we allowed the accumulation of an unnaturally deep bed of duff on the forest floor. There were 2 problems with the old policy of zero tolerance. It turns out that Giant Sequoias need a little fire to reproduce! Who would have thought? They reproduce only from the tiny seeds from cones that may hang on the branches for 20 years before falling. The gentle heat from a small fire slightly roasts the hanging cones, causing them to dry up and split open. This releases their seeds onto the newly burned ground, which is now ideal for the seeds to find usable nutrients. And once sprouted, there is no competition. It’s all been burned!. If the seeds fall onto a thick bed of needles, leaves and other duff, the seeds would find it very hard to sprout and survive. The second problem can kill the trees that are already strong and healthy. The accumulation of lots of duff, and smaller live species became fuel that made a random natural fire turn into a firestorm that raged through the forest and burned huge scars down low, and rose into the high branches that would survive a smaller, more natural fire. Once the high branches burn, the tree will die. Giant Sequoias and Coast Redwoods are well-adapted and resistant to fires as long as they are frequent, short enough, and low enough to allow the fires to go out before the high branches catch fire. 2:15- Hike to Tuolomne Grove 3:30 Turn right on Tioga Road, and after about a mile, turn left into Tuolomne Grove Okay, we have 75 minutes to hike to see some big trees and come back. It’s about 1 mile downhill to the Dead Tunnel tree, and then you have to come back up, so think about that when you are watching your watches. Stay on the paved path. There is a fallen Giant that I highly recommend. After the tunnel tree, look to the right of the path for 2 logs over a tiny creek, and it’s about 30 feet further. I need to take care of some things here in the van, and then I will jog down to catch up. I suggest motoring downhill at a brisk pace until you start seeing the Giants. The other trees on the way would be giants in any other forest on earth and you may be wondering “Is that one? Wait, is that one?” Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 15 But when you see one, you’ll know it. They’re close to the path, beyond huge, and very red! You’ll see that we’re pretty much alone up here, so take the time to listen and appreciate the silence for the next hour. Please wait for me to open the door, and watch your step, and be extra careful about cars. Let’s be back here by 3:30. More Redwood facts: Bark is typically 1 foot thick and can be as thick as 2.5 feet. Dead Giant died 300 years ago. Tunnel carved in 1878. Big tree can weigh 6100 tons A 20-foot cross section sent to Centennial Exposition in 1875 was thought to be a hoax. There are 2 more groves in Yosemite Park, Merced nearby, and the Mariposa Grove near the southern border of the park, over 2 hours away. Takes as long to decompose as it does to grow. 3:30- Pack-up and leave Park via 120 to Oakdale. 5:00 I hope you all enjoyed that hike. Let’s buckle up and roll. We are leaving the park on a different highway. We are further north, and state route 120 drops down a very long, spectacular hill into the foothills, and we’ll pass through a few small towns on the way to Oakdale, just this side of Modesto. We’re making our one gas and snack stop there in Oakdale. (There are a few fast food places, a grocery store and a good taqueria.) We’ll stop for 30 minutes and then continue west on 120, bypassing Modesto through Manteca, and then merge with I-205 through Tracy, and then join I-580 and follow our tracks from this morning back to San Francisco. We should have everyone dropped off at your hotels by 8:00. I’m going to play some music and let you relax and enjoy the view for a while. Continue the very long descent until the pipes are visible on the left side. Look to your left and you will see those huge pipes coming down the hill. That’s San Francisco water coming from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir inside the park. Back in 1913, the Tuolomne River Canyon was like a smaller version of the Yosemite Valley, a little smaller, like a cute younger sister that didn’t get all the attention, running somewhat parallel to the Merced River, but further north. Powerful people convinced President Wilson that San Francisco couldn’t find any other river anywhere to dam up and hold water for people to drink. It HAD to be INSIDE Yosemite National Park! John Muir fought this decision, ultimately lost, and he died the next year. Coincidence? Hmmm. Well, your San Francisco city water is flowing down those pipes, making electricity in the power plant and reservoir at the bottom, and collecting in the Don Pedro Reservoir, and then flowing through another aquaduct going west. Then it’s pumped up into another reservoir in the hills south of the city, where it waits for 600,000 people to turn on their faucets. Fun Fact: The Groveland Saloon claims to be the oldest still-operating bar in the state – established in 1852 5:00- Stop for gas, rest room, quick meal. Make log entry. 5:30 Okay, we’re stopping for gas and a rest stop. Please wait for me to open the door, watch Yosemite in 1 day with Righteous Ralph page 16 your head getting down, watch for cars. We’ll be here about 30 minutes and you can go to the rest room, buy some food, sit down and eat. Please don’t wander and be back here and ready to load up at 5:30. All must exit before fueling. Make cash deposit Get change and receipt inside. Make log entry.. 5:30- Drive west through Central Valley, Altamont, Oakland, Bay Bridge, to SF Make drop-offs 7:30 at Bart stations as necessary. In Castro Valley - Take 238 connection to I-880 North, unless 238 is horribly backed up. You WANT to connect with far right bus lane at Toll Plaza (free and fast!), which is NOT AVAILABLE from I-580 approach. From I-580, take I-980 into downtown Oakland, get off at 12th St, stay on Brush (frontage), turn R on 7th St, and L on Union to get onto I-880 North (NOT south!) OR take I-80 East to Powell exit, and get back on I-80 West to SF. Note view coming into the city. Sunset over GG Bridge? Sappy Songs? Possible stop at YB Island – left exit/right entrance Fun fact. See the Transamerica Building? Imagine stacking 3.5 of them in a tall pile. That’s the height of El Capitan. 7:30- Drop off at hotels in SF 8:00 Okay, we’re almost done. You were a good group and I appreciated your interest and curiousity. On behalf of the rest of the company, I would like to thank you for being such a fun group. I hope you will recommend us to friends, and if anyone is interested in spending another day with us in on our Muir Woods and Wine Country tour, please let me know right away and I’ll see if there are openings tomorrow or _____ . If you feel you enjoyed your trip and my magnificent oratory, and you feel like expressing this in a monetary fashion, I will be happy to accept it graciously. Thanks for making this a fun job! Okay, we’re going to say good-bye to ________ …… 8:00- Park van and clean. Count and reconcile cash and gas receipts on pick-up sheet. Make 8:30 final log entry. Call to report successful completion. Put pickup sheet, cash, receipts, and driving log out-of-sight, or bring to Rodrigo.