Ahhh Yosemite, one of THE most visited of the National Parks here in America. Basically carved from the imagination of Muir and Olmstead this park resides 4-5 hours away from LA and I was called by its siren song, like thousand of others during the recent Memorial Day Weekend. Come with, won't you for day 2 of my journey to the Yose?
Day 2 of my Yosemite adventure had me waking up early and getting into the South entrance of the park to take a super secret shuttle from the Wawona Store into Yosemite Valley (ultimately ending up at Yosemite Lodge). This shuttle is not really advertised but if you don't feel like trying to find a parking spot and/or dealing with the windy mountain road on the way back, this shuttle is for you. It leaves the Store at 8:30am and leaves Yosemite Lodge at 3:30pm and in between, you try to sandwich as much Yose stuff as possible.
The Wawona Store is right next to the beautiful Wawona Hotel which looks like a killer place to stay.
There is a great covered bridge by the property as well which I checked out for a few minutes as I was waiting for the shuttle.
Eventually you get into Yosemite Valley and the hordes of people staying at either the hotels or the various tent towns in the valley. The hordes were a little less hord-ish because of instead of snowing on me this day (like it had done in Mariposa Grove the previous day), the weather decided to rain the entire day. Fun!
I started off the day at Mirror Lake. When I got off the shuttle at the Mirror Lake trailhead, the shuttle driver said that we could find Mirror Lake by ambling up a paved road for about a mile. Paved? What? Forget that, look at this nice unpaved trail that seems to run parallel to the trail
I will take that! Welp, that was a mistake. While beautiful and parallel to the road, there is this little thing called the Merced River which splits the trails in 2 and while shallow in places, one British hiker remarked to me that if I wanted to cross the river it would feel like "1 million little needles piercing your legs at once". Sign me up!
Needless to say I didn't cross but here are some shots of the trail to give you a sense of things.
And the boulders that make their presence felt.
Be forewarned, this is a horse trail, no doubt about it, and the evidence of their presence is everywhere. After awhile I stuck to the grasslands around the Merced for my own sanity.
Some shots are worth going the wrong way.
Since I had a tight schedule due to the once-a-day shuttle I wrangled for myself, I backtracked on the trail to the junction with the road and decided to really hoof it to Mirror Lake. Now, Mirror Lake, for those not in the know, is a lake that slowly loses its water during the Summer but when it is full, it gives you an amazing mirrored reflection of Half Dome and the surrounding rocks.
Of course, as I got to this quintessential view of the park, here was my wonder for the ages.
Ahhh clouds and rain, a great combination. What I was more interesting in (and you should totally check it out when you are there) is a rock cairn garden (?) full of rocks placed by fellow travelers.
Of course I had to add my rock but man, what a cool scene!
I decided to hop back on the shuttle and shop for knickknacks before exploring the Western part of the Valley.
Allow me to digress for a moment about my general thoughts about Yosemite Valley. The truly impressive thing about being in the Valley is the immense size of the surrounding countryside. You are literally walled in by thousand of vertical feet of rock, which is arranged and weathered in amazing and awe inspiring ways. Even if you are in a heavily forested part of the park, there are the walls, peaking out to say hello.
I suppose to appreciate the entire grandeur of the place, you need to get up high like Glacier Point (closed the day I was there) or the "tunnel view" but to get a sense of the size, you need to get down low into the Valley.
Next up on my Yosemite Valley adventure was Yosemite Falls. The Falls aren't just one upper falls
not just one lower falls
but an impressive double waterfall coming down an impossibly high rock.
What was also really cool was there was finding out where John Muir lived for 2 years. Can you imagine having this view?
The trails around the waterfalls are for the 99% of us, flat, paved and a bit of urban living in a wilderness.
Also, while most people are looking at the waterfalls,
I HIGHLY suggest turning around and checking out the amazing rock walls.
If you are in this section of the park, I definitely recommend checking out the glacier erratic boulders that dot the trail.
The whooooooole day it is raining on my head, a really lousy, lousy day. The clouds and weather were killing all the views and paved trails were killing my outdoor "buzz". I decided to wander back near the lodge to try to find a trail recommended by the Wilderness Press Yosemite guide. To be honest, I really couldn't find the trail so I just started walking down by the Merced River, alternating between a paved bike path and foot trails.
Eventually I came upon a beautiful meadow which was making my day much much better.
Despite all the rain and the tourists and my distinct lack of time management, all of a sudden the clouds partially lifted and started drifting across the rock face.
I must have watched this go one for at least 20 minutes, it was a transcendental experience. There were several other people who stopped what they were doing to watch the clouds dance on the mountains, that is the type of experience Yosemite can offer.
After that, it was shopping for more knickknacks on the shuttle and then back to Wawona. "Back To Wawona" might end up being a great country song.
So what is my take on Yosemite as a park? Well the grandeur and topography is tough to beat. Also the friendliness of all the staff in the Park was top notch. I also thought the shuttle system and signage was great, the Park knows it is getting a lot of visitors and it does its best to accommodate them all. One could always wish for better weather but still, the memories will last a lifetime (until the next time!).