Saturday, October 29, 2011

Yosemite trip day 1

This was written around a month ago now but I've been on the road almost continuously since then, having finally arrived back on Monday afternoon from a trip giving lots of talks in Beijing. Today is mostly devoted to catching up on some much needed blogging, and the first order of the day is to complete the US trip as much as possible.

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Only four days until the next travel adventures start and I'm behind by three countries already. In the last installment we'd finished the first few days in San Francisco and I was couchsurfing in Ocean Beach, talking into the early hours with my host before getting up at 5am to head to catch a biofuel truck with ten others heading East to Yosemite. (Update: since speaking with my couch host, Songqiao, about the Khan Academy I've just recieved news that she has now met Salman Khan. I'm very keen to know how this came about!)

The group was nicely diverse with the group stretching across four continents. Our driver, Jordan, a Californian born and raised had spent a good deal of his life in the outdoors, and when he wasn't showing the wonders of Yosemite to tourists he was to be found on the surf or the slopes.
 I was rather wary of taking an organised tour, but given that I haven't driven for a decade and the original plan of driving with a friend had fallen through, I didn't have too many options. Thankfully it worked out fantastically and we had an outstanding three days, seeing many of the highlights of the national park and getting much more information than I could have uncovered myself.

The drive to the park took just a few hours, stopping off along the way to pick up beer and fruit for the coming nights in the camp. Forest fires the previous week had meant that we couldn't stay in the regular campsite and so we were a few minutes drive outside the park proper. It turned out that the new campsite was far nicer than the other and we found ourselves camped, almost alone, under gently rustling canopies and with a river running a few meters from the tents. We got the camp set up, two to a tent, and then headed in for an afternoon's excursion into the park.

The first day's stop was to go and see the Sequoias. I'd been expected to be impressed, but after 20 minutes of walking through the forest, with large trees around us, the first sight of the giants really blew me away. Through the densely packed trees, all of grey or green, a wall of red appears to stand out. It's so much larger than everything around it that it takes some time to understand the perspective. I tried hard, but frankly failed to get a single photo that captured the scale of them, and without this, they are simply photos of red trees. Anyway, there are plenty of great photos around so I'm not too worried. It would be nice to find a way to really get the immensity of them in a single frame, without the need for the cliched photos of a dozen people hand in hand around the trunk.

The first hike was really a training run to see how far our guide could push us on the first full day of walking, and given that we'd done pretty well as a group he decided to go for a long, hard hike the next day up in the high country.

We came back from the sequoias and got to cooking. Jordan, an excellent cook, had organised us well enough that within a couple of hours we had a banquet of Mexican dishes before us and after an hour of gorging we were ready to drop,

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