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Trip Report Yosemite, Monterey and Big Sur TR

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We just returned from a quick one week trip to Yosemite NP, Monterey Peninsula and Big Sur with a dollop of San Francisco thrown in at the end - “we” is DW, DD and me. Thanks to Fodorites who helped in putting together our plans.

We left from BWI on a Southwest flight to Oakland with stops in Birmingham and Nashville along the way. The price of the flight were too good to pass up, plus the 3 stops each way meant we would accumulate enough pretzels and peanuts for all who stopped at our door on Halloween. Our one hour change of plane window in B’ham turned into almost 3 as the connecting flight from Denver was delayed; giving us the opportunity to find some food to replace the sandwiches made for the trip and left in the fridge at home. Note to the people of B’ham. Your airport really needs some decent place to find food, especially on the gate side of security. Making do with what was available, we arrived in Oakland about 11PM and picked up our rental car – we were given a Chevy Malibu instead of the car we had asked for and assured was always there but it turned out to be a roomy, nice driving auto. Our first night was at the La Quinta nearby. Not bad at all and a good price. The room was clean. The included breakfast was quite good actually, better than expected, and there is free wi-fi and a free workstation in the lobby.

Getting an early start and ignoring Fodorite suggestions, we left for Oakhurst, a town utterly without charm, located not far from the Park’s South Entrance. Fodorites suggested that we skip Oakhurst and either stay in the Park – but there were no rooms available- or stay in a town with more charm, like Mariposa. We chose Oakhurst because we wanted to see Nelder Grove in the National Forest near the South Entrance. The drive from Oakland to Oakhurst took about 3 hours and does not get scenic until past Merced. What Oakhurst lacks in charm, it makes up for in convenience. There are lots of well priced motels, fairly decent restaurants, a huge Raley’s supermarket where we were able to stock up on picnic goods, and the usual chains found in strip malls. We stayed at the Shilo Inn – a place that I would highly recommend. At a price of about $70 it was the lodging bargain of the trip. Our room was huge – I’ve stayed in so called suites that were smaller, well furnished and spotlessly clean. Shilo Inn offers free coffee and tea in the lobby 24/7, has a friendly staff, a small pool, sauna and work-out room. It is a scenic 20 minute or so drive to the Park’s South Entrance. It also has free wi-fi. The included breakfast was excellent – the best of the trip.

Since we arrived about noon, we had the afternoon to hike the Shadow of the Giants trail in Nelder Grove and visit the Mariposa Grove located in Yosemite near the South Entrance. The drive from Oakhurst to Nelder Grove and then on to Yosemite is a scenic one. Although Nelder Grove doesn’t have as many spectacular Sequoias as Mariposa, we were the only ones there and the feeling one gets being alone among the giant trees is moving and very different from the Yosemite experience. We entered Yosemite using what may be the best bargain in the USA – my $10 National Parks Senior lifetime pass that was good for entry for all in the car. Although we were far from alone in Mariposa Grove, it was not nearly as crowded as it would have been a few months earlier and both the weather and trees were spectacular, as the weather would be for most of the trip. After a few hours in the Mariposa Grove we returned to our hotel, visiting Bass Lake along the way to see a beautiful sunset.

Next – a day in Yosemite were we do things we did not thing we were capable of doing.

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