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Posted: Fri Jun 29, 2012 4:03 pm Post subject: My visit to Stoker's land.
Stoker has already posted a terrific summary of our visit to his part of the world, and many of our photos are nearly exact duplicates of his, but here is my version.
Daniel and I shared PMs on a range of similar interests in the past, and during the early planning of our West Coast Road trip (which I will cover separately in another thread) I discovered that rerouting our drive inland to visit him in Bishop, California, would only add a couple of hours to the total road trip. Furthermore, it would allow a visit to Yosemite National Park, the site of some of the most breathtakingly arresting scenery you will ever lay eyes upon. I looked forward to this visit for many many months. It was to be my first forum meetup, and I was excited as hell. All the stories of you guys in the UK meeting up with mates just a few miles away had always made me so envious, as I am the only steam enthusiast that I know of within 1500km at the nearest. So I was looking forward to this immensely.
However, as Daniel mentioned, the timing proved to be unfortunate as he found himself caught in the chaotic upheaval of moving house exactly at the time of our visit. But that’s all well and good – we would just wing it and make the best of it.
Driving up Hwy 395 from San Diego, the Sierra Mountain range rose up out of the desert to the west, and the White Mountains to the east, in a gradual progression from small hills in the south to mountains of striking height and majesty as we drove farther north, reaching 14,000 feet at the town of Bishop, nestled in the Owen Valley. However about an hour from Bishop we noticed a dirty brown smudge on the horizon which grew and grew until we drove into a dust storm, and I will borrow Daniel’s “of biblical proportion” description, that was howling down the valley, obscuring much of the surrounding beauty.
As Daniel was unsure where exactly he would be living in the days leading up to our arrival, and also being unsure of our ability to contact each other on the road, we had agreed to meet at a point that was not in such a state of flux - the city park. We found each other easily, and after a quick freshen up at our motel, we followed Daniel of town to his new as-yet unfurnished home, which is located in one of the most picturesque settings you could imagine. Picture yourself sitting on your back porch, watching the sun set behind the 14,000 foot wall of the Sierras which seem to rise up from just beyond the garden fence, as if you could reach out and touch them. That is the reality of Daniel’s new backyard. One could sit there with a cold beverage and ponder at length, and in awe, the power of nature that could thrust up such a colossal mass of stone.
I was left in charge of a beautiful Jensen 55 which was calling out to be steamed, while Daniel fled to the backyard to get the barbecue underway in the waning light of the evening. He shortly returned with a plate of scrumptious burgers and buns, with slices of a delicious cheese, as well as lettuce, mustard and all the best add-ons. I was acutely embarrassed to find that in the excitement of the meet-up, the steam talk and engines, my appetite had evaporated and I was unable to finish what may have been the best burger I have ever tasted. Nevertheless, it made a tasty midnight snack later that evening.
During the course of the evening we steamed a number of engines. All four of the ones I brought (An MF Twin, KMV Pocket Engine, Dean W’s “Idaho Whizzer” and a little Jenny Wren. The girls had the camera for part of the evening, and I was not diligent in photographing the evening's steam activities, but Daniel has already posted videos of those, plus the Jensen 75 anyway. One good video that I have is of his mighty Fleishmann 135, the Girthy One, underway with the Anchor Steam Beer bottle chuff-pot. What an enormous, glorious old engine! It was a fitting end to the steamup. By then it was after midnight, and we all retired back into town for some much-needed sleep.
The following day, Daniel and Paralee led us in what was to be the finest guided tour of Yosemite National Park one could wish for. He is a geologist by training, and is possessed with encyclopedic knowledge of the geology and history of the surrounding area, and possibly the entire world. It was truly amazing how much we learned; about geology in general, and as it applied to the molding, sculpting and scouring of the vicinity. And volcanism too, much to the delight of little Fiona, who has become a volcanomaniac lately. It was on this day that she started her rock collection, under the guidance of Daniel who explained the differences between the rocks, and how they were formed. By the time we left the USA twelve days later, she had amassed about a kilo of little pebbles of various colours, patterns and textures, which she brought all the way back here in her little suitcase.
Here are a few pictures of our adventure, with some notes here and there.
First, a comically unflattering picture of both of us.
Better, but it seems the flash didn’t fire properly as it’s badly underexposed. This is a much-brightened photoshop effort on the original.
This is the 135/2 under steam, of course.
These are pics of the varied scenery along Hwy 395 north of Bishop
Another interesting geology and history lesson, with the kids scrabbling in the underbrush looking for stones, bugs, or possibly rattlesnakes.
Nope, no snakes.
Chasing the Stokermobile up Tioga pass…
Lovely alpine lakes along the way.
Upon discovering a roadside patch of snow, Faye made her first snowman. It’s a wee one, but she was well chuffed with him.
At the Tuolumne River, “Uncle Daniel” taught the girls a thing or two about the art and science of skipping stones.
Daniel and the ladies, Paralee, Faye, Fiona and Erica, approaching Yosemite with the Half-Dome in the background.
Daniel has already posted much better photos of Yosemite than mine in his post, but I must show a few more. First this.
This is the face of El Capitan, the 3000+ foot granite monolith which is indescribable in words. Even to see it in person leaves you at a loss. We often try to place objects in our steam engine pictures for scale – a Coke can, a cigarette lighter and such. To get an idea of the size of this cliff, you need to think big. The Eiffel tower, perhaps? No, if it was placed at the foot of the cliff face, it would not even be visible above the trees. Bigger. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world at 2700 feet, would still fall short of the crest. You see the red circle of course, in which, if you look very closely, you will spot two climbers on the rock face. One to the right and slightly lower has a white rucksack dangling from his or her rig. "El Cap" takes, for fit and trained climbers, three days on average to climb. This dizzying prospect involves climbing crevice by crack as far as possible in one day, then attaching a hanging camp to the rock face, essentially a hammock hanging hundreds, or thousands, of feet in the air. Then the next day, detach and begin inching ever upwards again. Unbelievable. And the best part? Daniel himself has climbed this face, among hundreds of other peaks in the Sierras! He described some of his adventures, including one harrowing traverse across the gap from a spire of rock to the main face, in a driving thunder and hail storm. You are a braver man the me.
Another view of “El Cap”
We went wading in Yosemite River, which was refreshingly chilly, and sparkling clear.
Bridal veil falls.
Again, the scale is difficult to grasp. Here is a video, which better shows how long it takes the water to plunge the thousands of feet to the valley floor. What is visible here is actually the upper of two waterfalls, which falls about halfway. The lower one is behind the trees.
And finally, here is my own picture just before we parted ways, Daniel driving a three hour beeline back to Bishop and us carrying on west and north to our next stop for the night, Jamestown.
Daniel I can’t tell you what a pleasure it was to meet you, and how much the family enjoyed our stay with you. Thank you my friend for everything – the hospitality, the great dinner, the tour, and the friendship. You are an absolute star. Till next time! _________________ Regards,
We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
Great report Kevin and i know i said it on Daniel's thread before but the scenery in his part of the world is beautiful, good to hear you & your family had a wonderful trip. _________________ My Website: http://swiftfoxsteamco.webs.com/
Kevin, thanks verymuch for sharing yr vacation with us. A glimpse of yr luvly family & frends with such fantastic scenery. Stoker sure lives in a great place.. The story was superb too _________________ Steamy Windows 4ever
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