Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Yosemite National Park Valley - Part One

In my last post we left the awe inspiring Glacier Point in Yosemite National Park and drove into the Wawona Tunnel. Just after exiting Wawona Tunnel and entering the valley from the south you will see one of the most famous views of Yosemite Valley called the Tunnel View.

You will see El Capitan and the Bridalveil Falls on opposite sides of the valley, and Half Dome in the distance.

Enlarge to read this historical look back in time.  As always, all photos can be enlarged by clicking on them once and then again when they open on a new page.

The Bridalveil Falls is often the first waterfall visitors see when entering Yosemite Valley. In spring, it is thunderous; during the rest of the year it has a light, swaying flow.  * Please note: the spelling of "Bridalveil" as one word is not a misspelling -- it is spelled this way on the National Park Service Yosemite web site.

We hiked to the base of the falls and watched the pretty formations of water which did at time resemble a gauzy veil, as you can see in the photo collage above.

The first sight of El Capitan from the valley floor is impressive! It is a 3,000 foot high block of granite on the Northern side of Yosemite Valley, and it is the largest monolith of granite in the world.

The size of all the walls of granite peaks surrounding the valley are tremendous.

"In God's wildness lies the hope of the world." ~ John Muir

Some views of the beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel located in the Yosemite Valley.

The hotel web site states: "The Ahwahnee shines as Yosemite National Park’s distinctive AAA® Four-Diamond hotel.  Known for its magnificent fa├žade, and architecture, The Ahwahnee was specifically designed to highlight its natural surroundings, featuring Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and Glacier Point.  The destination of queens and presidents alike, The Ahwahnee offers a perfect balance of history, hospitality and elegance."

Cathedral Rocks and Spires, opposite El Capitan, form the Eastern side of the canyon through which Bridalveil Creek flows.

The Merced River is approximately 112 miles long, flowing from the Sierra Nevada into the Central Valley and San Joaquin River, which ultimately flows into the Pacific Ocean.  According to the Yosemite National Park web site: "In 1987 the U.S. Congress designated the Merced a Wild and Scenic River to preserve its free-flowing condition and to protect and enhance the unique values that made it worthy of special protection under the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. Both the Merced River above, through, and below Yosemite Valley, and the South Fork of the Merced above, through, and below Wawona have this special status."

A more distant view of the Bridalveil Falls.

El Capitan glowing as the late afternoon sun shines on it.

In the late afternoon the deer come down into the valley to look for fresh greenery to eat. We spotted this young doe near a trail we were walking on.

This little fellow came right up to me begging for food. Unfortunately, visitors throw snacks to some of the animals which is frowned upon. There are many signs throughout the park asking not to feed the animals as they then do not learn to scavenge their own food and suffer when winter comes and the amount of visitors decline.  Also, many precautions are made to secure disposed of food in bear proof containers to prevent the bears from looking for human garbage to eat.  This protects both the visitors and the bears.

A view taken from the Swinging Bridge. The famous Yosemite Falls would be visible from this point, flowing down the peaks in the distance, but as we visited in late August the waterfall was only a trickle in size as it is fed mostly by snow melt.

In my next blog post I'll show what we did see of Yosemite Falls, also Tuolumne Meadows and some magnificent views from Olmsted Point and Tioga Pass.

I'm linking this post to Jenny Matlock's "Alphabe Thursday." The letter this week is "B" for Bridalveil Falls.
I'm also linking it to Claudia's "Friday Finding Beauty" on her blog Dippity Road, and Sandi's "Friday Favorite Linky Party" on her blog The Whistlestop Cafe.

Please visit all three blogs over the next two days and join in all the fun!

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Glacier Point at Yosemite National Park

After visiting Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming last summer my husband and I knew that while we were visiting Northern California this summer we wanted to include a trip to Yosemite National Park as we knew this was one of the most beautiful National Parks preserved for all time.
Yosemite National Park is a showcase of spectacular geological features, including the greatest concentration of granite domes in the world and the largest exposed granite monolith in the world. The park embraces almost 1,200 square miles of scenic wild lands set aside in 1890 to preserve a portion of the central Sierra Nevada that stretches along California's eastern flank. The park ranges from 2,000 feet above sea level to more than 13,000 feet and has these major attractions; alpine wilderness, three groves of Giant Sequoias and the glacially carved Yosemite Valley with impressive waterfalls, cliffs and unusual rock formations.

We visited the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia trees which I blogged about in my prior post, the day before, and today we re-entered the park, driving through the iconic southern entrance's Arch Rock.

We did a quick stop to see the historic Wawona Hotel, a National Historic Landmark located four miles from the Park's south entrance and cradled between the majestic Mariposa Grove and Yosemite Valley.  A Victorian-style lodge still offers lodging in its 104 guestrooms, reminiscent of European-style hotel rooms.  The long history of the hotel can be read on this link.

Our next stop was Glacier Point, an overlook with a commanding panoramic view of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome peak, and the High Sierra.

The views from this area were truly spectacular!

The scenic overlooks had a variety of views to enjoy.

Click to enlarge this photo of a diagram of the mountains and peaks visible from Glacier Point. (All photos will enlarge if clicked on once, and then again when they open on a new page)

Overhanging Rock 3,000 feet above Yosemite Valley.

A vintage 1902 photo of park visitors posing on the same Overhanging Rock! Obviously access like this to the rock isn't allowed any longer for safety's sake.

The view looking down to the valley from Glacier Point.

Here we are with Half Dome peak to the left, and Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls visible to the right.

A closer view of Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls. Yosemite is home to countless waterfalls. The best time to see waterfalls is during spring, when most of the snow melt occurs. Peak runoff typically occurs in May or June, with some waterfalls often only a trickle or completely dry by August.  Considering we visited the park in the third week of August the water was still flowing very strongly.

Nevada Falls is a 594-foot waterfall on the Merced River

Vernal Falls is a 317 waterfall on the Merced River south of the Nevada Falls.

One last look from Glacier Point before we go back into our car.....

....and drive into the Wawona Tunnel to travel to see the beautiful Yosemite Valley, which will be my next blog post!

I'm linking to Wednesday"Outdoor Wednesday" event on Susan's blog A Southern Daydreamer, and Cathy's blog A Bit of the Blarney for her Wednesday "Adventure Express."  Please visit Susan and Cathy today and join in all the fun!

Bookmark and Share

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park

On our first day visiting Yosemite National Park located in Northeastern California, we entered The Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoia Trees, near the park's South Entrance. The grove contains about 500 mature giant sequoias. Giant sequoias are perhaps the largest living things on Earth, and may exceed 3,000 years in age!

Almost as soon as my husband and I entered Yosemite we saw this coyote crossing the road.  It was to be one of the few wild animals that we see the next few days, so it was an exciting sight for us to see!

Worth reading, this park placard gives information about the Giant Sequoias and some of the history of their preservation.  (All photos will enlarge if clicked on once, and then click on again when they open in a new page)

The "Fallen Monarch" tree roots. This tree fell more than three hundred years ago. You can see how massive these trees are!

Another view of the "Fallen Monarch."

In this famous 1899 photograph, U. S Cavalry officers on their horses are up on top of the very same "Fallen Monarch" tree. Tannic acid in the wood suppresses the initial growth of fungi and bacteria, essentially arresting decay. Only when rain and melting snow have leached the tannin from the wood can decay begin. Biologists suspect that this tree had been down several hundred years before the Cavalry photograph was taken.  Photo source

The "Bachelor and Three Graces." A group of four trees, three of them growing very close together, with a fourth a little more distant.  It is said that their roots are all so tightly entwined that if one tree should fall, they would probably all fall.

The "Grizzly Giant" is one of the largest trees in the Mariposa Grove and, at an estimated age of 2,700 years, one of the oldest living Sequoias.  It has survived forest fires and many other perils.  The informational placard in the middle of this photo mosaic shows it's size in relation to other well known objects.

A cute squirrel we saw along the grove's hiking path.

Some 50 yards beyond the Grizzly Giant is the "California Tunnel Tree," cut in 1895 for stagecoaches. Another tree, the "Wawona Tree," had a tunnel cut through it in the nineteenth century that was wide enough for horse-drawn carriages and early automobiles to drive through. Weakened by the large opening at its base, the tree fell down in a storm in 1969.

The "Faithful Couple" are two large trees which have fused together at their base but remain clearly separated above.

Some beautiful flowers growing in the Mariposa Grove.

In my next blog post I'll show more of Yosemite National park and the spectacular views from Glacier Point!

I'm linking with Mary at The Little Red House for "Mosaic Monday." Click on the link to enjoy her beautiful mosaic and to find the links to all the blogs participating today!

Bookmark and Share

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Michael Chiarello's Bottega Napa Valley Restaurant

It was our last night in the beautiful wine growing region of California in Napa Valley and my husband and I wanted to make it memorable, so we made reservations at celebrity Chef Michael Chiarello's Bottega Restaurant in the town of Yountville. Yountville is known as the culinary capital of Napa Valley as there are many fine restaurants located there, including the legendary French Laundry, but I've been a fan of Chiarello since I first saw him cook on my PBS TV station years ago, and I wanted to dine in his establishment.  He was also the son of an immigrant family from Calabria which attracted me to his style of cooking, as this is the same region of Italy my husband is from. (All photos will enlarge if clicked on once, and then again when they open on a new page)

The award winning Chiarello has built a small business empire on the idea of gracious Napa Valley entertaining. He was executive chef and partner in Napa’s famed Tra Vigne restaurant for two decades, on the Food Network with his show Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello," and is now also on the Cooking Channel show with new episisodes of  "Easy Entertaining with Michael Chiarello."  Michael is the proprietor of a small family winery, Chiarello Family Vineyards, making highly rated estate wines from historic over 90 year old vineyards surrounding his home in St. Helena, California.  He also owns Consorzio Flavored Oils and is a cookbook author.  His full professional biography can be read on this link.

In 2000, Chiarello founded "NapaStyle," a showcase of handcrafted home goods and artisanal foods that encourage experimentation in cooking and entertaining. NapaStyle shares Chiarello’s perspective on Napa Valley living through a catalog, website and retail stores, as well as through television shows and cookbooks.

In 2008, Chiarello found the dream location for his Napa Valley flagship store in Yountville, CA. Housed in a historic 1800’s brick building, NapaStyle Yountville includes a Panini Bar and Cafe, Wine Shop and Tasting Bar, Olive Oil Bar, Salumeria and outdoor terrace seating for forty five. Napa Style Yountville is located directly across from Michael’s new and acclaimed Bottega Napa Valley restaurant.

Bottega restaurant is part of the historic Vintage Estates, located in one of the oldest wineries in the Napa Valley, the former Groezinger Estate, and is open for lunch, dinner, and after dinner.

There are two indoor dining rooms that seat ninety and also a private dining/wine room and bar. They are decorated in warm shades of olive green, gold and browns with Venetian plaster walls, and imported Murano glass chandeliers. The ambiance is both rustic and elegant.

There are also forty outdoor lounge seats on the Terrazzo and twenty six outdoor dining seats on the Terrazzo as well, as you can see in these photographs above and below.

The outdoor bar and covered outdoor lounge is open for late service, weather permitting.

The kitchen is partially visible from the dining room. A wood fire oven is located directly behind the stack of dishes.

I was especially impressed by Bottega's signature water glasses made from stainless steel lined copper which keep their delicious sparkling water very cold. The photo was taken from his NapaStyle website where they are offered for sale.

Bottega's Italian cuisine menu highlights the bounty of artisanal and house made ingredients, as well as local produce. The menus change seasonally, and the present dinner and lunch menu can be viewed on this link.

As appetizer, my husband had wood grilled octopus olive oil braised potatoes, pickled red onion, and salsa verde (top middle photo), and I had Chiarello's famous "Polenta Under Glass," with caramelized wild mushrooms, balsamic game sauce (top right photo). They were both absolutely exquisite!  We each had a taste of each others appetizers because we were both proclaiming them to be the best we ever ate!  I was really impressed with the polenta under glass and found this video on his web site that explains how it is made.

We drooled over the descriptions of all his pastas on the menu, so our very friendly waitress Laura, who is also a talented photographer, suggested we share a portion of ricotta gnocchi, salsa di pomodoro della Nonna, with pecorino (bottom left photo), as she said they were her favorite. As she promised they were "melt in the mouth" light and delicious. We also shared a dinner special of wood-oven roasted whole sea bass with grilled white eggplant, Calabrian chili dressing, and lemon aioli (middle bottom photo). Everything was superb! 
Laura also convinced us to have dessert and we shared a chocolate molten fudge cake with vanilla hazelnut anglaise sauce (bottom right). Hot and sweet it also melted in our mouths.

We can honestly say this was one of the most delicious meals we have ever eaten and the perfect culmination of our four days in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys.  We returned to our hotel under the light of this bright full moon, sad to say goodbye to this segment of our trip that began in San Francisco. The next day we were headed to Yosemite National Park, one of the most beautiful national parks in the United States. I hope you'll join me on future blog posts to see some of the outstanding sights we saw!

I'm linking to Michael Lee's blog Designs by Gollum for "Foodie Friday." Visit her today to see links to all the participating blog and their wonderful foodie posts!

Bookmark and Share