Yosemite!

26 May

James and I just got back from visiting Yosemite National Park with Cat and Scott. It was one of the places I wanted to visit while in America and it despite the crowds and other (sometimes quite inconsiderate) tourists, it didn’t disappoint.

Day 1 – Lower Yosemite Falls

We flew into San Francisco Airport Sunday morning, hired a rental car, picked up Cat and Scott in Oakland, then drove to Yosemite. We checked in around 3pm and took the free park shuttle to Lower Yosemite Falls. It was an easy walk – maybe a 20 minute round trip if you don’t stop to take photos.

We wandered to the rocks near the base of the fall but the closer we got to the waterfall the more we got misted on (and the slipperier the rocks were). It seemed like such a large waterfall when we were there, and it wasn’t until we saw the falls from a distance that we realised that it was basically the runoff from Upper Yosemite Falls.

We stayed at Camp Curry (which had an awesome view of the falls and the surrounding granite). Our lodging was pretty basic – 4 beds in a raised tent. It was unheated so when it hit below zero one night it got pretty chilly.

Ha, I remember when we were settling in for the night Scott came into the tent last. He got into his bed and said, in the most disappointed voice you could possibly imagine, “Aww! This bed is shit!”

Day 2 – Mist Trail

Apparently the Mist Trail is Yosemite’s signature hike. It’s not difficult – there are some steepish parts and at one point you climb a narrow granite staircase but anyone in shape should find it trivial. And even though it’s crowded it’s so worth going – the views are absolutely spectacular.

We started at around 9:30am and it was already fairly busy but when we went back down (maybe around 2?) parts of the hike were really packed. If I could do it again I’d go even earlier – maybe 6am.

This was on the way to the first waterfall. You can’t really tell but we were starting to get sprayed a fair bit – I think right after this photo we put our rain jackets on.

And yes that’s a rainbow. I could not believe how ridiculously beautiful the hike was. I’m pretty sure that while I was admiring the waterfall/rainbow view, a butterfly fluttered past. It was like being in a Disney movie.

When we reached the top of Vernal Falls there was this huge slab of granite where you could rest and admire the view. You could either turn around and go back or continue to Nevada Falls. I reckon it was worth going all the way to Nevada and though James agreed he thought that the first waterfall gave more bang for your buck. If you do decide to turn back after the first falls you should go just a tiny bit further to see the Emerald Pool right after it.

We saw some pretty awesome stuff on that second half – like a deer running right in front of us and a squirrel burying an acorn (only for another squirrel to unearth it right after he left). Here is the original squirrel burying his acorn.

The scenery wasn’t half bad either.

When we reached the base of Nevada Falls some of us were more excited than others.

… lots more excited.

The hike was very well groomed all the way up – it was either clearly marked dirt trails or granite steps the whole way. See?

I had hoped there would be boulder scrambling but I guess they wanted to make the trail as safe as possible with that many people doing it (seriously, go early).

We finally reached the top and rewarded ourselves with some food and a bunch of goofy photos.

It was actually a really large area with the waterfall, a stream, rocks, sand, a large open area and more forest to the sides.

Top of the world! (James is scared of heights so did not join me. The whole time he was like “careful! Be careful! Don’t get too close to the edge!”

Do you see that tiny rainbow in the bottom of the photo? That’s the rainbow we passed on the way up. =)

We lingered there for awhile, eating and taking in the view. The way down was much faster than the way up, but the increased crowds meant that bottleneck areas were a lot more bottlenecky. Still, there were worse things to do than admire the view on the way down (the Vernal Falls rainbow was much less impressive by that time though – another incentive to go early!)

Also that evening while we were in the camp rec room, a little squirrel decided to explore Scott’s bag. He got in and started rummaging around – we were worried he was taking a dump in there but later on Scott found a peanut in there that he thinks the squirrel was going for.

So cute! Look at his bushy tail! Look at his tufted ears!

Day 3 – Tuolumne Meadows, Tenaya Lake and Rafting

Day 3 involved a bit of driving – it was maybe 1.5 hours to Tuolumne Meadows and Tenaya Lake. The drive was nice and scenic and all around you could see chunks of snow that hadn’t melted. Because it was comparatively far from the valley floor there were a lot fewer people around.

The hiking areas were flat except for Lembert Dome, which was basically a massive granite dome that you could walk halfway up.

On the way we saw a marmot! He was originally sunning himself on a rock but scurried into his cave when he saw us.

Every 10 seconds or so he’d come back out to see if we’d gone, and got progressively grumpier and grumpier when he saw that we were still there.

Afterwards we walked through the meadows to the Soda Springs (this area with puddles of carbonated water). The springs were small and underwhelming but the walk there was gorgeous – we saw a bunch of squirrels, deer and even a few hares. No bears though. =(

Afterwards we headed to Tenaya Lake. Apparently you can normally walk around it but it was roped off because they were regrowing some of the vegetation. But anyway it was pretty trippy to see sand and snow in the same view (there was actually some snow a lot closer – maybe a 5-10 minute walk to the left)

This was the view facing west – amazing!

When we got back to the camp we went rafting along the Mercer River. We had a lot of views of Yosemite Falls and got to see the other campsite as well as some deer.

Day 4 – Mariposa Grove and Tunnel View

On our final day we checked out after breakfast and drove to Mariposa Grove to see some 2000 year old sequoias. Again it was about a 1.5 hour drive from the camp, but in a different direction.

I found it a little lame compared to the other stuff we did. It was nice seeing the trees but they suffered in comparison to waterfalls, granite cliffs and mountains. =(

Although we did get to see this little guy. I will never get tired of squirrels.

We hiked around for about 2-3 hours – it was nice but not spectacular – and then drove to Tunnel View for one last look at Yosemite.

I wish we’d had time to fit in Glacier Point as well but overall I think we saw a good mix of things in the time we had. We had picture perfect weather the whole time we were there, which was lucky because apparently May can be hit or miss.

We all agreed that Mist Trail was the highlight and the lowlight was how inconsiderate some of the other tourists were – there were parts of the valley with litter all over the place. Seriously, who goes to a national park and then throws their water bottles and cigarette butts on the ground? It’s shitty enough normally but why on earth would you do it at a national park where presumably you’ve gone to enjoy the pristine wilderness? WTF is wrong with people?

But anyway if you can get past that and travel around at off-peak times the scenery is incomparable. I wish we could have had a crack at the Half Dome hike. We’ve hiked a similar distance with similar elevation gain so I’m pretty confident we could do it – though James’ fear of heights could be a problem at the end. But the cables weren’t up while we were there so we’ll have to leave that (and hopefully our first bear sighting!) for another time.

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6 Responses to “Yosemite!”

  1. Janet May 27, 2013 at 9:07 pm #

    You took some really great photos, especially the one of the squirrel on the edge of the tree in Mariposa Grove. And I agree with you, why do people litter? It drives me CRAZY!

    • pamperedhousewife May 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm #

      YESSS! I was shocked that people could treat it so disrespectfully. =(

      • Janet May 27, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

        Many years ago my family and I were entering the park (with a long line of cars). A passenger in the car in front of us got out with a McDonald’s bag in hand. He placed the full bag (of trash, I’m assuming) on the side of the road! I was so angry that I wanted to scream. Nowadays, I would say something. 🙂

      • pamperedhousewife May 28, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

        Maccas AND littering. Double awfulness. Like it would have killed him to wait for a trash can. ><

  2. Joan May 29, 2013 at 6:44 am #

    Awesome travelogue, Kaye! it’s makes me keen to go. We went to Yosemite in winter. Apparently beauty in winter too. Look up videos of frazil ice in Yosemite.

    • pamperedhousewife May 29, 2013 at 9:25 am #

      It’s like a slurpee!

      I’m guessing you guys didn’t stay in the unheated tents if you went in winter. How long did you stay for? I’d love to go in the off-season but unfortunately a lot of the roads and hikes are closed because of the snow.

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