We have taken Amtrak twice before, about 15 years ago and about 8 years ago, so it was time for another trip. This time we decided to go on Amtrak's California Zephyr to see Sequoia trees at Yosemite National Park. We caught the California Zephyr in Ottumwa, Iowa on Friday, March 14 and arrived in Sacramento on March 16.

Our first day venturing to Yosemite found us stopping to take many photos. It is about an hour's drive from the southern entrance to Yosemite until we arrived in Yosemite Valley. We checked out the general store and bought souvenirs and ate at the deli for lunch. We headed out back towards Apple Tree Inn and considered hiking the 2 miles to see the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, but since it was already 5:00 p.m. we decided to make it a day and hike to the Grove first thing in the morning.

Wednesday we packed up and headed to Sacramento via a different route, stopping at Mariposa Wineries for some tasting and purchasing of wine. We also stopped next door and stocked up on almonds and pistacchios. Then on to Sacramento again. We got gas for the rental car, dropped that off and walked to Holiday Inn, stopping through the California Capitol since it was right on the way. We looked for a new restaurant, but ended up eating at Holiday Inn again that night also. Up early the next day, catch the train and head on home. Lots of interesting people and lots of interesting scenery this trip.

I will continue to add photos and text, so stop by again in few days.

Ottumwa, Iowa
Hotel Ottumwa
It was a good decision to drive to Ottumwa to catch the Amtrak California Zephyr. We stayed in the Hotel Ottumwa, which is old, but comfortable and has a restaurant which made it very convenient for getting our meals. They had a large buffet, not fancy, but with a wide assortment of good food, including salads, soups, chicken, spaghetti, mashed potatoes, vegetables, and desserts plus lots more. You could also order off the menu if the buffet didn't interest you.
Ottumwa Amtrak and Trailways Station
The Amtrak station is a few blocks from the Hotel Ottumwa. The section near the windmill is the waiting area for trains and also busses. Short term parking is provided in this area. If you are departing on a bus or train, then park on the west end which is at the right in this photo. Also in this building is the Wapello County Museum and for a nominal fee you can spend some time looking through the various rooms in the upstairs museum.
Holiday Inn Sacramento
Sacramento, California - This photo is taken from the Amtrak Station looking towards the Holiday Inn where we stayed before and after our journey to Yosemite. As you can see, the Holiday Inn is quite close, just behind the apartment building with a roof that reminds me of a pagoda, so it's easy to walk the short distance.
Mountain Scenery up close, way Too Close
California Mountain Roads
We traveled to the mountains of Yosemite. We didn't realize we would have to go on mountain roads to get there. Yikes! If you look really closely you can see a red vehicle a bit to the right of center in this photo. Also in this photo, near the front of the photo is a tire track. It is somewhat hard to tell, but that tire track is only 12 - 15 inches from the edge of this scenic spot we parked at. Notice the guardrails? Nope there aren't any. We did not enjoy traveling on these roads. At this point we are approximately halfway to our destination of Fish Camp which is near the southern entrance of Yosemite. If you visit Yosemite, you need to be aware of the seasons. Even in March, some roads at Yosemite are still closed due to snow on the roads. It is also possible that you would need to put tire chains on your car (state law).
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite Visitor Center
When we finally got all the way to Yosemite Valley and walked around. We stopped at the store/gift shop and stocked up on the usual deck of cards, cap, postcards, etc. Then we headed to get a sandwich and some pop and chips at the deli. The Visitor Center, pictured here, had a nice selection of books plus a ranger to answer any questions you might have about Yosemite. One thing I didn't think of when we were there was - Bears. I'm glad we didn't see any.
Apple Tree Inn and Tenaya Lodge
Apple Tree Inn
Here is the cottage we stayed in at Apple Tree Inn on our trip to Yosemite. Now these cottages are part of Tenaya Lodge which is only 300 feet or so north of the cottages. In a cottage this size there were two units on the main floor and one unit upstairs. It is mid-March in California, but you can see there is still lots of snow hanging around. While we were there, a contintental breakfast was served in the large upstairs meeting room of the main building each morning. Breakfast at Tenaya Lodge was also a possiblity, but we always chose the faster option and saved our special meals for evenings.
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
After hiking for about two hours on slushy snow, we finally made it to the giant sequoias. It was a winding road to travel to get here, but the trees were defintely all we expected. It is hard to imagine how tall they are. Even being there makes it hard to realize because most of the trees are tall, so no one tree stands out. If one of these was growing in your backyard and all the rest of the trees were normal size, then it would be easy to understand why they are called giants.
Sequoias at Yosemite
Can you see the people on the left side of the tree? That gives you somewhat of an idea of the size of the trees. One of the more famous trees here, the "Grizzly Giant" is about 2000 years old and more than 200 feet tall. Even as large as they are, they still are fragile. The roots are close to the surface and spread out a lot. There are many famous sequoias here, many of them fallen. They are resistant to decay. For example, the Fallen Monarch fell more than 300 years ago.
Wine, Almonds and Pistachios
Sacramento again
The Trip Home and Where's my Luggage?
Putting it all in perspective
Planning our next trip on Amtrak (and hoping it's soon)