California’s Highway 108 slinks through rocky gorges and around sunken lakes just beyond the northern limits of Yosemite National Park. I’m spending a few days road tripping the scenic byway because I’m on a mission to find the “tree man.” That’s what they call Ken Brunges, who lives in the shadow of one of the biggest juniper trees in the world.
Yosemite Valley—home to Yosemite National Park icons such as Half Dome, El Capitan, and Bridalveil Fall—is more than worth visiting. But those who confine their park visit to the valley are missing out on 99 percent of Yosemite. And though the park’s high-country highlights involve a bit of hiking to see, most of them can be reached fairly easily from scenic Tioga Road.
Animals are great. But when I’m hiking, I prefer them at a distance. The sudden appearance of a jumpy marmot in Alberta or a hump-rumped agouti in Belize—even more, a lip-smacking elk on the Oregon coast—freaks me out. Above all, I’m scared of bears, the sharks of the forests. I once clung close behind a shotgun-bearing guide…
The 19th century has a way of working its way into casual conversation in Columbia, California, one of a trio of gold-rush towns—Sonora and Jamestown are the others—clustered together on the fringe of Yosemite. All three are worth exploring—whether you use one of them as a home base while you’re touring the national park or simply want to soak up living history in the heart of the Sierra Nevada Mother Lode.
Few travelers venture outside seven-square-mile Yosemite Valley—much less beyond the national park’s boundaries. That’s a mistake. The greater Yosemite area—including much of Tuolumne County, which is home to a lion’s share of the park and many of its lesser-known gems—abounds with worthwhile attractions and offers visitors a glimpse at local life beyond the shadow of Half Dome. Here are four must-dos.
I decided that I wanted to spend my last 72 hours in a Kenyan city. But which one? The modern capital, Nairobi, or the historic port, Mombasa?
I asked Twitter, but results were mixed. So I went to both.
It feels good, after four safaris in a row, to spend a few days on the southern tail of Kenya’s 333-mile coastline that stretches between Somalia to the north and Tanzania below. As far as the eye can see, white-sand shores greet the turquoise Indian Ocean.
An elephant is between my tent and the Wi-Fi. I watch it wander from bush to bush. Pulling twigs off trees, munching on leaves. Looking around. What else do you expect when you’re staying at a place called Elephant Bedroom Camp? And yet, I catch myself actually upset (for a second) that this elephant is keeping me from my Twitter.
Konee grins and offers a fist bump. I return it. “Woowww,” he says, in disbelief. This jolts me. Over our past two days together in eastern Kenya, it’s become clear that Konee isn’t really a fist-bumping kind of guy. His sudden enthusiasm is due to the fact that we—or rather he—had tracked down for kudu in the dusty ten-foot-tall bush, off road, and under a mid-day sun.
Since I’ll be clocking plenty of Land Cruiser-passenger hours chasing wildlife across the sun-scorched savannas of Kenya for the next few weeks, I’ve come to Hell’s Gate National Park for a single reason: to walk.