Ramsey decided to give us a guided tour of his park. Awesome! We piled in the car, and after a brief side trip to some local thrift stores, we were underway. It was nice to be able to sit back and enjoy the scenery as a passenger, free from the frustrations of the road, but I'll admit that a part of me missed it too. We pulled up to the gate, and it turns out that my annual pass is valid regardless of what vehicle I'm in, so we all got in for free! Score!
First up was another stop by Tunnel View. It was a bit overcast, but I feel that it adds to the scenery. There were far fewer tourists than usual, perhaps frightened off by the recent bad weather. A new dusting of snow covered the mountaintops.
We discovered that Bridalveil Fall was nothing more than a trickle, due to it being so late in the season.
Continuing our private tour, Ramsey took us to another spot that he felt was scenic. We agreed! This is El Capitan. With all of this surreal, majestic scenery in every direction, even a mediocre photo still comes out looking good.
This stream was very soothing, and we enjoyed the view for a few minutes. I found a duck, and followed it for a bit, but couldn't get the photo to come out.
I'd have to make do with some ravens instead! They were more patient with me.
We left the car for another vista, this time of Half Dome. People climb this, and in fact, climb most of the terrifying large mountains around here. Some things I will never understand.
We made our way to the Yosemite museum, grabbing overpriced hot coffee and cookies from one of the stores. So very many tchotchkes for sale. It struck me that with the crowds, the "lines" while hiking, flush toilets, the overpriced souvenirs, this was basically like Disneyland for nature lovers. Ramsey told us some pretty good stories about the idiocy of some of the visitors here, who get lulled into a false sense of security and don't use common sense. People dehydrated after multi-hour hikes because they didn't think they needed to bring water, people heading out on miles of difficult terrain an hour before dark or in a bad storm, that sort of thing.
Inside the Indian Cultural Exhibit, there was an Indian! I'd never seen one before. I also liked the sign above it with the park tolls, back in the day.
After an awesome flute performance by one of the museum workers, displaying native american flute styles, we wandered out back to the "indian village", a collection of structures which would have been found at a traditional Paiute/Miwok village, before white settlers took over the area. I have an affinity for native cultures, but I hate seeming like a "cultural tourist", so I enjoy things like this which I can use to learn about their history and culture without feeling like my ignorance is offensive.
The purpose of this one isn't immediately obvious, but nonetheless important: it's an acorn granary! I found this fascinating, because most of the time I associate granaries with agriculture. Given the critical nature of acorns as a staple part of their diet, it makes sense that they would find a way to preserve them. The inner cavity is lined with wormwood to deter pests.
Next up was a bark house. The informational sign mentioned that prior to the arrival of lumber operations, cedar bark was not used as commonly, as it was more difficult to obtain. Most of the structures were built out of brush instead.
The sign reads "This is the ceremonial roundhouse, or hangie, the center of village religious activity. Because this house is being used the old way, we ask that you stay behind the barrier and off the roof. Thank you." Behind the roundhouse was a sweathouse, traditionally heated by an oak-wood fire, and used primarily to help hunters mask their scent and for curative purposes. The sweathouse too, had a sign stating that it was still being used for traditional purposes. With so much incense cedar involved in their construction, I bet these buildings smell amazing when heated with a fire.
After getting our fill of culture, we went for a walk in the woods. There weren't many other people, so it was quite peaceful, listening to the birds in the trees and just soaking in the environment.
The path wound around large, moss-covered boulders strewn across the hillside. I thought they looked neat in the dappled light.
Eventually we found our way to Yosemite Falls, which is not nearly as impressive without most of its water.
I busied myself with trying to use an acorn top to make an annoyingly high-pitched whistle sound as we wandered along. Ramsey saw this large rock and decided to try to climb it.
As sunset approached, the deer came out to feed. They were fairly used to humans, but this fawn wasn't sure how to deal with it, running back and forth before finally joining its mother on the other side of the walkway. So cute.
Eventually we found our way to the car and ventured back to Oakhurst. Overall, even though Yosemite was very "touristy", I had a great time, and I'm glad I went. The views are second to none, and I can definitely see why Ramsey has chosen to work there the past few years. It's a few too many people for my tastes, though I suppose I shouldn't judge it based upon what was easy to access. There are some places where you can go backpacking for a week, and Ramsey didn't mention having any issues with finding solitude.
I had gotten an offer from an ADVRider named Pete, to join him and his buddy Nip in Lone Pine as they explored Death Valley. Unable to pass up this adventure, I decided to leave the next day for Fresno and head around Lake Isabella, not wanting to tempt fate by taking Tioga Pass again. Ramsey gave me a present - a nice compression sack for my clothes and sleeping bag, that he no longer needed, as well as a couple of small military bags to replace the easily-ripped plastic grocery ones I'd been using to keep my stuff organized. Thanks man!