By Chase McGovern —
MOUNTAIN AREA — “Teens will love it! I can tell you from experience, because I am one.” — Chase McGovern
If you are traveling to the South Gate of Yosemite, a great place to visit is the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. It is an hour-long scenic journey through the Sierra National Forest, where you get to see Lewis Creek, different types of trees, and learn information about the area.
As you first arrive, you’ll be looking at tons of tall pine trees and beautiful flowers. You immediately see the train and train barn, their book store, museum, gold panning, and gift shop.
Once you start to board the train, you can sit in a car with a roof or sit in an actual tree that has been carved into seats. When you’re seated, the conductor will sound the whistle and you’re on your way.
The conductor will start telling you facts about the area, such as what type of trees you’re looking at and interesting information about the area you’re traveling around, and how it was 30 to 40 years ago.
As you head down the tracks you get to see more nature in the woods, such as saplings and pinecones from many different trees, and a variety of flowers. The pinecone is actually the trees’ seed, and some need fire to plant and start to grow — as you will learn on the train.
You’ll also get to hear lots of foreign languages from all over the world, because of the international tourists on board with you.
Soon after your journey begins, you stop and get to check out all the stuff you saw on the train, but get up-close with it. There is also a crystal clear river that you can admire — which is Lewis Creek. Once you board again, you will get to see the old train and where logging companies used to cut and take trees.
I think this trip is great for all ages and would recommend it to everyone. The sights you see and the information you learn is all really cool, and that’s just on the train.
The gold panning is great for kids, and you keep what you find. The museum is super cool and has tons of stuff from part of a famous tree that fell to American Indian grinding stones. The bookstore has lots of informational books on the area but also kids books and room decorations.
And, last but not least is the gift store: they have model train, clothes, books, water bottles, and pretty much anything you desire. I found riding the train and learning about the area very fun, and great experience, and will definitely do it again.
South Gate Brewing Company
After your big day you will probably be hungry. Since you went to the South Gate of Yosemite, a good place to eat is at South Gate Brewing Company. It’s about 11 mile from the railroad to South Gate Brew.
They have food for vegans, vegetarians, meat lovers and everything in between, incuding fries, pizza, wings, and salad and nearly anything else you can think of. They make homemade root beer and it’s some of the best root beer you’ll ever taste. They have lots of windows to view the town and plenty of seats for everyone to enjoy their meal. South Gate has great food and service and I would recommend to all in the area.
After your meal, if you want to read a book or explore the area more, and you’re wondering “Where’s Waldo?” you can find out at at branches Books & Gifts in the Old Mill Shopping Center. Ask the owner to give you a “passport” stamp it and you can use it to go to 24 other locations around the area to find Waldo. If you find 20 or more you win a prize. So, hopefully I see you out finding Waldo. There are many wonderful places around the area and I think that going and finding Waldo helps you see more of those places — it is definitely a fun activity to do for all ages.
Another thing to do is go to Bass Lake. Bass Lake is a great place to swim, see the pine trees, and possibly spot a bald eagle. You can also rent boats, kayaks, canoes, paddle boards and more. There are even a few great restaurants around the lake.
One of the first things you will notice, other than the lake, is all the pine trees and flowers. You may see some eagles and other birds like ducks and geese, and if you get bored admiring the animals — you can go to Miller’s Landing and rent one of their boats or try other aquatic activities, such as paddle boarding.
When you get out to the dock to receive the item you rented, you will be greeted by very nice workers that will assist you with whatever you need to make sure you are safe and ready for the fun day ahead of you. Once you’re on the water you can go to many different coves and other places to swim, such as Willow Cove.
The lake is about four-miles long and a little less than half-a-mile wide, at its widest. If you are boating, make sure you are safe and not going inside the orange buoys — unless you are going 5 mph or less in order to anchor your boat. If you are paddle boarding stay inside the 5 mph, or slower, buoys — for your safety.
Paddle boarding, canoeing, and kayaking are a great way to admire the scenery at your own pace and take breaks to swim and stop on the shore. Floating around on the water is my favorite way to look at all the scenery around the lake. When you’re done with your rental, just bring it back to the dock and the workers will take care of it for you.
After your day on the lake on the lake you’re probably hungry again, and at Miller’s Landing you can grab a delicious meal when you check your rental in. Millers has really great service and very nice staff. They have shaved ice, ice cream, and their famous burgers and tons of other fresh food items such as the acai bowls. You can sit outside and look at the lake or sit inside and relax.
Once you’re done with your meal, if you want some ice cream, a must-have is their fudge bucket. It contains a hot fudge coating, then three scoops of any flavor you want, with optional whip cream, caramel, chocolate, sprinkles, and a cherry. It is definitely a good sharing size for two, three or even four people. After you finish you can check out their gift shop where they have shirts, candy, and house supplies if you need it.
And remember: be safe on the lake.
Chase McGovern, 15, is Visit Yosemite Madera County’s summer intern through the Boys and Girls Club of Oakhust, where he is an active member. Chase will continue to attend Yosemite High this coming school year, where he will be a sophomore. The internship is a career-launch program sponsored by PG&E.
“It’s a pleasure to have Chase as our intern from the Boys and Girls Club of Oakhurst for the summer, and show him the ropes of tourism marketing and public relations,” says Therese Williams, Director of PR for Visit Yosemite Madera County. “Chase is a bright and enthusiastic young man and he has a big future ahead of him.”