October 8, 2018

Breathtaking Yosemite National Park & Wonder Valley Ranch Resort

Retirement Practice # 59 is over and I wanna go again! DayTripper Tours Tour Manager Patti and driver David picked me up early on Sunday morning for the “Scenic Yosemite & the Sugar Pine Railroad” 5 day trip. I had my suitcase packed and I was ready. What I wasn’t ready for was coming back home. Would love to live up there and see those majestic mountains every day. But then I remember I am only “practicing” – I haven’t retired yet. Yet.

On our way north we picked up more folks and then headed for Bakersfield. First up, a scrumptious lunch at Hungry Hunter Steakhouse. I had the chicken meal and we all enjoyed the bread. Not sure what kind it was, but it was really good. Then I waddled back to the bus for the ride to Wonder Valley Ranch Resort in Fresno. David pulled the bus up to the gate and we were boarded by a couple of cowgirls brandishing pistols. We soon found out they were friendlies and even gave us drink coupons. Well howdy there! We gathered in a reception room for some quick info and keys and off to our rooms to get settled in. Some of us enjoyed a tour of the ranch from the back of a horse drawn wagon sitting on hay bales. After a buffet dinner, we were treated to a magic show (still don’t know where the coins came from) and a cowboy singing around the campfire. We knew a lot of the songs and we sang along. It was fun! After folks went to off to their rooms, I came back and played my ukulele sitting around the fire. So peaceful out in the sticks and the uke sounded awesome in the cool night air. After blowing the sparks off my notebook a few times, I eventually decided to turn in.

Monday, Day two.
I got up early so I could walk around the ranch. At one end of the road were the horse stables. I just had to go and see them. On the way back, I stopped at the little petting corral and had a selfie taken with a goat. I took out my ukulele again and played in the fresh mountain air. I even played a tune as some folks brought their bags to the bus. David loaded our gear, we climbed aboard and with one last wahoo and we were off.

Next up was the Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno. This is the life work of Baldassare Forestiere, a Sicilian immigrant and citrus grower and visionary. His dream of being a citrus farmer and the hot Fresno summers took him just below the surface to create living spaces and tunnels with open roofs for his plants to grow and flourish. One such plant produces six different fruits! There was even a driveway for his car. The trees were tall enough that one could walk outside on the roof and pick the fruit. The man had more time than money and created the underground rooms with just his hand tools. Very grateful that part of it has been preserved for us to go see. It was amazing. I would totally rent out that space for the night. Off we go to the Chukchansi Resort & Casino for our two night stay. Our bags were promptly delivered to our rooms and we set off for the buffet. Passing thru the bright lights and sounds of the games, we made our way to the other side of the casino and enjoyed the many many offerings on the buffet line. And we were all stuffed it was soooo good. I had brought some money to “donate” to the casino so I set off to do just that. I had fun and that is the name of the game.

Tuesday, Day three.
The hotel set out a nice spread for breakfast so we all had our fill and jumped on the bus. We traveled to Yosemite Valley and eventually to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel where we had a nice view of the mountains from our dining tables. The food was delicious! We had time to walk around and check out the gift shop or just enjoy the view. Inside one of the rooms was the biggest fireplace I had ever seen. I stood in it and I looked like an extra from the movie, “Honey I shrunk the kids”. It was huge!

Off we go to the Yosemite Valley. Along the way we passed many of the burn areas. It was so sad to see and the smell from the scorched trees still lingered and penetrated the walls of our bus and with the rain coming down, well, even Mother Nature seemed sad as well. Eventually we arrive at the Yosemite valley Tram Tour. Because it had been sprinkling, we took a bus tour. Our guide pointed out many places telling us stories as we went. We were able to get out at a couple of spots and take our personal award winning photos with our cell phones. No words can describe the sight of the huge rock faces jutting up from the ground. Our docent told us facts like how the glaciers scraped and carved out the valley and canyons. It is an awe inspiring view into years and years of life on this planet. And even with all the tourists around, the mule deer were plentiful and unafraid and it was easy to be still and watch them walk around. I even saw a squirrel. I kiddingly said “stay still” and it did so I could get a picture then it scampered off. With time to spare, some of us walked over to see Yosemite Falls. Even with only a trickle of water spilling over the edge, it is still beautiful. After this it was back on our bus and back to the casino, yes, I said back to the casino.

Wednesday, Day four.
We packed our bags and after breakfast took off for the Sugar Pine Railroad. This steam train runs about 4 miles outside of Yosemite, but the terrain is pretty much the same – beautiful. I love trains so I was in my element here. It is an out and back trip. Once we reached the end of the tracks we had an opportunity to get out and stretch our legs while the engineer filled up with water. It was a nice relaxing ride with great scenery along the way. Next it was off to Ducey’s on the lake for our yummy lunch. Afterwards we checked into the Hilton Garden Inn in Bakersfield for our last overnight stay.


There was plenty of time so once again I found a chair and went outside for more ukulele practice. Soon it was time to head over to the Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace for dinner, dancing and a country western band. The food was good and the music was as well. We even had some excellent dancers from the group out on the dance floor showing their fancy moves! Well done! Some went back to the hotel on the first trip at 8:15 but a few of us stayed till the late hour of 9 p.m. to close the place down. Great show and it was fun to walk around and see all the memorabilia from Buck Owens and friends.

Thursday, Day five.
I was up early and I didn’t want to wake anyone so I took a chair out to the empty back parking lot for another session of ukulele practice. It really does sound great in the fresh air. After the hotel breakfast and repacking for the last time, we climbed into the bus. David headed towards L.A. Next up was a visit to The Autry Museum in L.A. Here we saw how the west was built and a glimpse of what it was like back in the day. I loved seeing the covered wagons and just imagined how it would be like to travel across country riding in one of them. Of course, back then, there weren’t many other options. We had a bite to eat in their little restaurant and then it was back on the bus. David pointed the bus south and in reverse order, we said “good bye” and “see you next time” to our new friends as they got off at their respective boarding stops.

What an awesome trip. I seriously could have stayed there in Yosemite but I didn’t want to mess up Patti’s count so I left with the group. It truly was breathtaking. Such a great tour I’m glad I finally took this one. Thanks DayTripper Tours for another wonderful vacation. Looking forward to my next one.

~ DayTripper Traveler Donna Grover
Tour: 5-day Scenic Yosemite
Date: September 30-October 4, 2018


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