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Taking to the road for holiday weekend

Lower gas prices and travel bargains mean more people taking trips this Memorial Day holiday.

AAA projected the number of Americans traveling this weekend will increase 1.5 percent from Memorial Day 2008, with about 32.4 million travelers taking a trip of 50 or more miles from home. Last year, 31.9 million Americans traveled during the same period; a drop from the 35.3 million travelers who vacationed in 2007.

Most of the traveling, it seems, will be by car. According to AAA, 27 million people — or nearly 83 percent of all travelers — are planning a road trip.

No doubt thousands of those folks will be at Yosemite National Park, where waterfalls are at their most beautiful and wildflowers are everywhere.

"The waterfalls are magnificent," said park spokesman Scott Gediman. "They are the best I've seen them in years."

Gediman said the Memorial Day holiday weekend traditionally is the park's busiest weekend.

"We are expecting about 25,000 visitors per day, beginning on Friday," Gediman said.

A plus for the weekend visitors, and for overworked park rangers, is that Tioga Road opened for travel Wednesday.

"Having Glacier Point and Tioga roads open will allow people to go to different areas of the park and not get jammed in the valley," Gediman said.

The weather this weekend promises to be gorgeous, with highs at Yosemite near 70, though the National Weather Service predicts a slight chance of thunderstorms.

Gediman said visitors should be patient and plan ahead.

"If you are coming as a day user, try to come early, before 10 a.m.," he said. "We ask people to drive slowly and enjoy the scenery. There are a lot of deer, bear and other wildlife out, so drivers need to be careful."

Campsites in Yosemite are hard to come by, but there are other options for the late planner.

An online survey by the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds has identified more than 70 campgrounds that have campsites available this weekend.

Among them: Angels Camp RV & Camping Resort, Flag City RV Resort in Lodi, High Sierra RV & Mobile Park in Oak- hurst, Kit Fox RV Park in Patterson and Merced River RV Resort in Delhi.

Staying closer to home? Get out the shorts and sunscreen. While it's not expected to be as hot as last weekend, highs are forecast in the 90s.

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