Day eight arrives and some of the group headed off for a chopper flight over the mountains before we packed up to make our way to Yosemite over the Tioga Pass. We stopped many times along the way to take advantage of the fall colours and then as we reached the gates to the park we were advised by the ranger that the park was closed and that the highway only to be treated a through road with no stopping for photographs allowed. Yeah, right! Nonsense.
We had only travelled a few minutes when we came across the first group of people stopped and it was the same all the way across. Our first images inside Yosemite were looking across a partially frozen stream to the distant mountain ranges. Wonderful!
There had been a lot of progress with the government negotiations and there was a good chance that the park would open the next day, our last day in Yosemite as we were departing for San Francisco. We did another loop back to where the ranger was stationed to see if we could get an update but the park was still closed at that stage. The ranger was very helpful and advised us that he was the only ranger on duty and he wouldn't be moving from that spot. Basically, go for it :-)
We had had been on the lookout for Black Bear for our entire trip and as we entered the park there he was. Our first and only bear encounter. Excitement was at an all time high so we quickly changed lenses and tried to grab a shot, along with dozens of other people.
Although there were a lot of people in the reopened park, the numbers were nothing like what would normally be there. People we spoke to told us of huge traffic jams and long delays getting around being the norm. The government shutdown and subsequent re opening of the park on our last day there had really played into our hands.
Day twelve and it's time to photograph the Golden Gate bridge. We drove along the coastline first and were amazed at the birdlife nesting on the small off-shore island. Literally thousands covered the islands. We made our way to the northern end of the bridge. Someone should have told the fog Gods we were coming because there was no bridge to be seen. It was a different story on the other side though with spectacular views back to the bridge as the fog layers rolled in and out.
We continued our journey and went on to the huge Redwood forests of Muir Woods. These trees were immense and thankfully Muir had had the sense and foresight to lobby for their preservation many years ago.
We took in sunset from Manon Point looking east to the Golden Gate Bridge and were rewarded with a stunning full moonrise beyond the bridge.
Day Thirteen and it's checkout day with some staying on and others leaving. I had a 5:30pm flight to LA to link up with the midnight flight back to Australia so I had time time up my sleeve. Four of us headed to the airport for a chopper flight over the Golden Gate Bridge and remarkably, as it turns out, under the Golden Gate Bridge. Stunning, amazing, wow!!!
Afterwards we made our way to the renowned fishermans wharf and Pier 39 for lunch at the Wipeout Bar. The activity on the bay was spectacular with numerous sailing boats out taking advantage of the strong breeze. And then there were the Sealions. I'd heard about the sealions in the bay coming up onto the wharf but I wasn't prepared for the sight of hundreds of them jostling for position or just lazing in the sun.
What an incredible time we had all had. We'd been rained on in a desert at the lowest point in the USA, snowed on in a ghost town, had a rare snowfall with the fall colours still in full swing, flown under the Golden Gate Bridge and had one of the most famous parks in the world to ourselves. Strong new friendships had been forged as we all experienced a once in a lifetime photographic event together.
Bring on Eastern Sierras 2015!!!!