Saturday, January 03, 2015

Yosemite National Park

It's always good to get the chance to visit somewhere new, so I managed to convince my cousin Leilani that we should do a mini two day trip to Yosemite National Park while I am home. It takes around 4 hours to drive to Yosemite from the Bay Area. Since it is winter time and other roads are currently closed for the season, we entered the park at the Highway 140 entrance along the Merced River. Despite the sunny weather it was very cold outside, especially in the shade. You could see ice on the rocks and in parts of the creeks and rivers throughout the park. As we drove around the Yosemite Valley yesterday afternoon we caught so many iconic sights, starting with El Capitan.

The best views of the day were when we stopped and walked around Swinging Bridge, which allowed us to get some great shots in the afternoon sunlight.

 Next we stopped at Sentinel Bridge and got our first good look at Half Dome.

After a quick stop at the Yosemite Village store for some souvenirs we hit the road and headed south to the Wawona Hotel, our accommodation for the evening. Along the way we discovered the famous Tunnel View, which was especially beautiful with the nearly full moon rising at dusk. The Wawona Hotel is a Victorian era lodge that normally closes during winter, but they were open for a few weeks over the holidays. We ate some cheese and wine in our room at Clark Cottage before heading into the main building for dinner. We passed time while waiting for a table in the dining room by sitting in the guest lounge and listening to piano player Tom Bopp. It was quite enjoyable as we played some competitive games of Uno and drank our hot cocktails. Dinner was very filling and I regretted eating all that wine and cheese beforehand as we went back to our room for the night.

This morning we had a leisurely breakfast before checking out of the hotel and heading down to the Mariposa Grove to see the giant sequoia trees. Normally at this time of year the Mariposa Grove Road would be closed, but since the first major snowfall hasn't happened yet we were able to venture in. As we entered the parking area it quickly became apparent that we were going to have trouble finding somewhere to park, We did three laps of the parking lot, but had no luck finding a space. Considering the amount of snow along the roadside and ice on the trails that may have been a good thing from a safety standpoint, but it was disappointing not to be able to stop and explore.

We headed back toward the Yosemite Valley and were able to enjoy the sights of the forest from Wawona Road in the daylight. We stopped once again at the Tunnel View with its amazing vantage point of the Yosemite Valley that includes El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall and Half Dome.

We did a quick drive through parts of the valley we didn't cover yesterday, including the Curry Village and Upper and Lower Pines campground areas before heading back to Yosemite Village to park and walk around. We explored the Ansel Adams Gallery, Yosemite Museum and Indian Village before grabbing a late lunch from the deli. Next we stopped at the Lower Yosemite Fall Trail, which had great views of both the Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls at its entrance. As we walked up to the viewpoint for the Lower Yosemite Fall I was somewhat shocked to see the number of people who were climbing up the large boulders in the creek to get closer to the fall, especially as it was starting to get dark and there was a lot of ice on the rocks and in the creek. I really hope no one fell in!

Our last stop before leaving the park was catching sunset at El Capitan. It was quite beautiful and peaceful as people stood in the meadow and watched the sunlight fade on the granite rocks. I couldn't think of a better way to end our two day Yosemite adventure.

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