“It is by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” —John Muir
Awesome! I am finding it difficult to describe this spectacular place! Unsurpassed beauty! Magnificent! Towers of granite mountains and cliffs with waterfalls toppling over them surrounding and protecting serene valleys and meadows below. I’ve never witnessed such spectacular nature!
We entered Yosemite from the southern entrance. First we had to drive through miles of twisty turny roads through the national forest. Finally we enter at the park station where you choose one of three directions to travel. On day one, we chose to travel to Yosemite Valley. More miles of twisty turny roads. After awhile we were hungry, so we pulled out in a large turnout, sat on the tailgate and ate our picnic lunch with a great view. It was lovely, but I had no idea how spectacular the next views would become. We eventually drove through a tunnel and since there was a lot of parking there, we pulled in. Wow! Drop your jaw gorgeous scenery! I guess this was “tunnel view”. What a spectacular view of the valley surrounded by magnificent granite giants with a graceful waterfall toppling over too! After taking far too many photos, we hopped back into the beast and moved on. More twisty turns until finally reaching the valley. It was awesome! You really had to stretch your neck up to see the tops of the granite peaks and the waterfalls coming down. You are surrounded by these overpowering giants while standing in a serene peaceful valley. You and a million other tourists. Everyone just wanting to witness this amazing place. Now to the visitor center to learn and plan. OMG! Traffic jam! Where on earth will we find a parking spot? Finally, we found a spot but it was about a half mile away.
Before leaving that morning, Opa said that we would drive around a little, visit the visitors center, and do some quick exploration. Sort of like a quick introduction and decide how to plan our days from there. I did not do my research beforehand, and dressed very tourist casual. I did not wear my tennis shoes, just my Hawaiian slippas. Big mistake for me that day! After the visitor center, we decided that since we had a parking spot anyway (and they were nearly impossible to come by), maybe we should just walk around a little and explore. We did some trails that went up to the base of the Lower Yosemite Falls and along the creek, looking for beauty and great photo ops. It was wonderful but I had the wrong shoes on to totally enjoy the walks. Unfortunately, my knee became so painful that I didn’t think I’d make it back to the parking spot. We ended up walking just under five miles of casual exploration that afternoon. Once we got back to the beast, I grabbed ice from the cooler and used it on my knee. I’ve had this feeling before and was quite sure that I may need surgery very, very soon. Maybe right now! Time to casually make our way back to our “home”.
The next day, we took it easy and opted to check out the wineries. I decided that I need to wear my tennis shoes no matter what. Good wine, a lovely lunch at a good restaurant, more good wine, and good shoes on my feet. Who could ask for more? How’s my knee? Great! Why are you asking? More wine, please!
Day three, off we go to Tioga Pass. We stopped at Olmsted Point and took lots of photos. Amazing! Breathtaking! We continued on and were lured by the beauty of Tenaya Lake. So, naturally, we stopped at the picnic area for lunch. There were plenty of picnic tables available but I needed to sit on the beach and stare at the beauty across the lake while I ate. So that is what we did and I enjoyed every moment of it. Onward to our trail of the day.
We chose to try to climb Lembert Dome. It’s only 2.8 miles round trip but has an elevation gain of 900 feet. Did I mention that elevation at the trailhead is 8,500 ft? This was an exercise on breathing very thin air. We did it! We were on top of the dome. Of course my fear of heights and nothing to hold on to prevented me from climbing to the tip on top, but that’s okay. Opa went further. It was crazy windy up there too! We got spectacular views and beautiful photos. Once we got back off the dome, we walked another trail around it and through a part of the meadow. Then, exhausted, we caught a shuttle back to where we parked. Yup, that was far more than 2.8 miles. We definitely added on some trails.
Next day, recuperation. More wineries!
Our next hike in the park was to Vernall Falls. It is 2.4 miles with an elevation gain of 1000 ft. This was definitely a quad and lung exercise. There were a lot of people on this trail. It of course, was horrendously steep with a long drop to the river on one side. We ate our lunch at the footbridge and continued upward. Opa made it all the way up. I stopped at “almost there”.
The granite steps were slippery and narrow. The drop significant. I got to see the waterfall and feel a little of the mist. That was good enough for me. Now for the descent. Here comes the thunder. As if the trail wasn’t difficult enough, we were again challenged with sleet and a heavy chilling rain. We were prepared and had our rain coats, but were very happy to get down and on to a crowded shuttle bus headed back to our parking lot. We had extra clothes along and changed in the truck. We started the long drive back out of the valley. You could get a parking spot anywhere now. People cleared out with the rain. We were heading to Mariposa Grove.
By the time we got to Mariposa grove, the sun was shining. I’m not even sure that it had rained there. We made it to the grizzly bear and tunnel tree and beyond when it started thundering again. This time we weren’t carrying our rain coats and did not have dry clothes at the truck. Not knowing exactly how long this trail would be, we decided to turn around. I know that we still got two more miles in on a moderate trail. It looked like the trail was a development in progress. It was nice, there were sequoias, but not anywhere equal to the beauty we experienced in Sequoia National Park.
Our last excursion was to ride the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. We love trains and this one was not a disappointment, albeit short and sweet. The engine is a historic geared steam locomotive called a Shay. It pulled two cars made of logs as seats and several traditional open window covered cars. We sat on the logs. It was a one hour narrated ride describing the history of the logging railroad operation in the Sierra National Forest.
I loved Yosemite National Park. I hope to go back at a time when there may be fewer people so I can selfishly absorb all that beauty without distractions. It is a most spectacular place!