At the end of July, we took some time off and drove to Yosemite with some dear friends – Yosemite veterans who’ve camped in the park over a dozen times in every season and know the peaks, domes, waterfalls and valley like the back of their own hands. They were the perfect travel companions, especially considering this was my husband’s first visit and my first time back since visiting with my parents in July of 1980. Despite Yosemite’s fame, the park hasn’t exactly been high on my list of places to visit. As much as I love nature, I hate being surrounded by people who don’t recognize the difference between wilderness and Disneyland. Thankfully our friends aren’t like that, so when they asked us to join them we jumped at the chance. And I’m so glad we did.
This spectacular view of the valley (called “inspiration point” or “tunnel view”) is one I didn’t remember from my previous trip to Yosemite. My photographs from 1980 only show a sliver of Bridalveil Fall between large trees growing in the foreground; the valley, Half Dome and El Capitan were completely obscured. Ordinarily I wouldn’t support the removal trees in a national park, but in this case I think it was the right the decision – the grandeur of this vista has been restored. Now it’s a view I’ll never forget.
Our first full day was spent in the valley, riding bicycles & adjusting to the higher elevation.
We visited the historic and oh so beautiful Ahwahnee Hotel …
where I immediately began planning a return visit for our wedding anniversary. Doesn’t the Winter Club Room look cozy? Perfect for playing cards after spending the morning cross-country skiing perhaps? Hmmmmm
Later that afternoon, we relaxed under some trees on the edge of a meadow and watched climbers scale the face of El Capitan. Don’t forget to pack your binoculars!
On our second day, we enjoyed a walk in the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
According to the National Park Service, the Grizzly Giant is one of the largest trees in the grove and is estimated to be over 1,800 years old. Even more amazing to me, the enormous lower limb on the south side of the trunk measures nearly seven feet in diameter – bigger than any non-sequoia tree trunk in the entire grove! It was truly incredible to stand beneath such an awe inspiring tree. If you visit, please stay on the trails and remember to lower your voices so that those around you can enjoy the sounds of nature. Thank you!
Afterwards, we drove up to Glacier Point. This breathtaking view of Half Dome, Nevada Fall and Vernal Fall (taken from Washburn Point) was a first for both me and my husband – and one of our favorites.
Our original plan was to hike from Glacier Point down to the valley, but my sore ankle, my friend’s sore knee and unexpected rain showers made us change our mind. Regardless, we had a lovely day complete with a delicious picnic that included front row seats to this gorgeous view. And we’ve all agreed to tackle the Four Mile Trail (as well as Panorama Trail) on our next trip – peak life experiences for sure!
Meanwhile, we’re all working to improve our endurance, strength, balance and agility. One of the worst mistakes visitors to Yosemite can make is to overestimate their abilities while underestimating the risks. Remember, this isn’t Disneyland.
One hike I have no intention of ever trying is Half Dome. Instead, we enjoyed the view from Glacier Point and watched climbers on the beak-like tip of Half Dome (known as the “visor”) with our binoculars. If you plan on visiting Yosemite, please remember to bring not only your camera and binoculars, but also an awareness of the hazards you may face. If you want to go home alive and in one piece (as well as get the most out of your trip), I can’t stress how important it is to plan ahead, arrive prepared and treat nature with respect.
On our way up to the Glacier Point Geology Hut, these two fools were running and chasing each other off-trail. One wrong step on the slippery granite and they could easily have fallen 3,000 feet to their deaths, earning a Darwin Award for sheer stupidity in the process. On this visit I was utterly shocked by the number of parents who either allowed their kids to cross protective barriers or placed their children in dangerous situations for a photo opportunity. One jackass with a camera was telling/forcing his crying five year old to sit on an enormous (and very slippery) boulder clearly outside the cordoned off boundary – until I told him to stop. Doing my best to remain calm, I actually had to explain to this man that people die and are horribly injured in Yosemite every year because of the same poor judgement he was exhibiting. There’s even a book on the subject. As well as this wonderfully written article. And this one too. Needless to say, the man hadn’t read any of these; instead, he looked utterly surprised by this information. His wife thanked me.
The following day, we headed up the Tioga Pass Road – we needed to get away from people. We needed some peace and quiet.
Click here for the rest of the story: “Yosemite Summer Vacation Part II: Finding Heaven”
I’ll sign off today with an iphone image of Half Dome & Clouds Rest from Glacier Point. Enjoy!