Queen Elizabeth II and her 18-car entourage descended the...


YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. -- Queen Elizabeth II and her 18-car entourage descended the high Sierra today, leaving behind the snow-covered peaks of Yosemite National Park as the icing on her California visit.

The queen and Prince Philip headed for Castle Air Force Base, a 2 hour drive from scenic Yosemite down the mountains to the San JoaquinValley, from which the royal party was to head for Seattle and later British Columbia in Canada.


In Yosemite, the queen waved a final farewell to a small group of Californians outside the Awhahnee Hotel. Park rangers on horseback and a California Highway Patrol helicopter scanned the area before the queen's motorcade passed.

Clouds and low-hanging mist gave way to sunshine after a night of heavy rain as the queen's party departed.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip attended a memorial service Sunday in a forest chapel for three Secret Service agents killed in a weekend car wreck on the way to the picturesque retreat.


In the chapel, dwarfed by giant sequoias, they sat in the front row as the Rev. John Davis prayed during a non-denominational service for the three Secret Service agents killed Saturday in a car crash as they rode ahead of the queen's motorcade to Yosemite.

The queen, in a bright turquoise-colored suit and wearing a diamond brooch, and Philip, in a dark suit and blue shirt, listened with somber faces as the pastor praised the agents' dedication.

Afterward, in a meadow 200 yards from the Merced River, the queen accepted several gifts -- a willow basket from a Pomo Indian woman, a brass plaque from Yosemite's signmaker and a signed print of a 1944 Ansel Adams' photograph, 'Clearing Winter Storm.'

Adams took the picture, now valued at $12,000 per print, from Inspiration Point where the queen and Philip paused briefly when they arrived at the park on Saturday. Adams' son, Michael, presented the photo.

There were blue skies in the morning but afternoon rain forced cancellation of part of the queen's itinerary: a private tour of Mariposa Grove -- home of Grizzly Giant, the biggest sequoia tree in the park at 206 feet in height and 30 feet in circumference at its base - and a trip to the Bagdger Pass ski resort.


As they motored around the park the queen and Philip asked William Burgen, the park's assistant superintendent, dozens of questions about the park's history and its animal and plant life.

The queen wanted to know the size of the park, 1,100 square miles, and the number of visitors each year, which is about 2.5 million.

Burgen said Philip was interested in the park's woodpeckers, eagles and peregrine falcons.

At dusk Saturday the queen took snapshots at the base of Yosemte Falls. On the same tour Philip took pictures of the sheer valley walls.

The California Highway Patrol continued its investigation into the accident that killed Secret Service Agents George P. Labarge, 41, Dayton, Ohio; Douglas W. Robinson, 38, Newark, N.J.; and Donald A. Bejcedk, 29, Chicago.

The royal motorcade passed the accident scene about 30 minutes after it occurred. They could see the wreckage of the head-on collison, and a spokesman for the queen said she was 'greatly saddened and shocked' by the tragedy.

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