Saturday 19th-Tuesday 22nd September-Silicon Valley to Sierra Nevada via Yosemite National Park

I love California. I knew I would. In Mountain View (in the heart of Silicon Valley) people actually had pomegranates, figs, lemons and oranges growing in their gardens. 50% of the cars here seem to be a Toyota Prius. They have them in colours I have not even seen before. There is of course also a proliferation of kale salads, green smoothies and tempeh sandwiches. All right up my street. It’s hard to explain but the people in California seem  familiar to us, the most normal in the country. Apart from that the state is also stunningly beautiful.

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After three nights spent in an Airbnb at Mountain View, California, seeing Foo Fighters in concert and working on job applications, we left for the beach at Santa Cruz.

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It is always hard to get camping reservations for Saturday night, wherever you are in the US but we had managed to get a last minute booking at a stunning site on the cliff top just outside Capitola. The weather has been pretty hot the last few days but the site was cool with the sound of the ocean crashing below us.

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The beach was lined with houses just like the one Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford lived in in the film The Way we Were (or just like Two and a Half Men, as Dave pointed out). This is the first Pacific coast beach I have walked on that actually had other people on it.

We set off very excited on Sunday morning for Yosemite. In order to get to the mountains we had to cross a hot, flat area, agricultural area which was not a lot of fun. California has not had much rain for 4 years and is in a severe drought. This is a real problem as the state grows most of the country’s food. We rode through many miles of totally parched landscape which is clearly desperate for rain. Not wanting to sound selfish, we hope it waits until we have left in another 3 weeks.

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This beautiful reservoir was looking very dry and the landscape had taken on a Valley of the Kings look.

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Arriving in Yosemite, we were immediately impressed by the staggering beauty of the place with sheer rock faces towering above the Yosemite Valley where most of the campsites and guest services can be found.

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Camping here is not a wilderness experience. Curry and Yosemite Villages are service centres run by the park, housing a massive supermarket, a variety of cafes and restaurants,museums and a lounge complete with rocking chairs and WiFi. Having had plenty of wilderness experiences already, we absolutely loved the convenience of it all.

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Having said that, the things that made it so special, apart from the landscape, was the atmosphere on the campground after dark with the stars twinkling and the smell of woodsmoke. It was really special.

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Bears here are very used to humans and show up regularly on the campsite looking for human food. A bear has to eat 5,000-20,000 calories per day at this time of the year-all from foraging for berries and the like so the option of high calorie human food is very attractive. All pitches come with supersize bear boxes for your food and toiletries plus instructions not to leave you food out of arms reach or even turn your back on your food. To make things worse, squirrels in the park now carry plague.

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We did not see a bear while we were there but we know they were about as we could hear the rangers guns going off after dark, shooting rubber bullets to keep the bears away. I know this sounds harsh but it is for the protection of the bear not the humans. A fed bear is a dead bear and all that. We did see a lot of squirrels though, some too friendly for our liking. We read up on the symptoms of plague to be on the safe side.

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The ride through the park this morning was really beautiful.

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Once out of the park we stopped at a cool, 50s style diner in the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains and treated ourselves to veggie burger and fries.

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The landscape outside of the park is almost as beautiful as inside. In some ways better than the Rockies.

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At our motel Dave oiled the chain using an empty mustard bottle with a cool backdrop.

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Tomorrow we head to Lake Tahoe for two nights and then onto the Napa Valley. Before that one last photo of Yosemite.

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