Carol and Sherman are lovely hosts, i just feel like I am staying with my Grandparents. Last night Carol asked me at what time I wanted breakfast, so at 7am the three of us sat down to homemade pancakes, fruits, bacon and she even made me a cup of tea. I had planned a full day in the park today as I was not sure whether I would have time to visit tomorrow as well and wanted to get the most out of my day, by 8am I was on the road.
The place where I am staying is only a 25 min drive to the National Park of Yosemite, but I soon realized that once inside the park I was going to be doing a lot of driving. I had seriously underestimated the size of this park, rookie mistake!
I had a little list of must see attractions for a first timer so I started my day at Mariposa Grove. Here I was hiking through paths of giant sequoias which were simply majestic in their stature and presence. The literature says they are not the oldest or tallest of trees, but by volume they are the largest living things known to humans and some are older than 3000 years. It's a pretty humbling thing walking past these huge trees that tower high into the sky and that have been alive for so long. Their bark is a reddish color often black around the base due to fire damage over the years and as the trails meander uphill, some of the older and taller trees have been made into attractions and given names like, "The Grizzily Giant", "The Clothes Peg" and "Faithful Couple". The Lower Grove is packed full of tourists like myself taking pictures of the trees, but as I climb to the Upper Grove (only a three mile hike) the tourists become fewer and fewer and by the time I reach Wawona Point Vista (6,810ft high) I am alone with just the fresh air, a light breeze around me and a hawk flying above. The view looks out onto Yosemite Valley to the west and north, if you had a fear of heights this would not be the pace to be.
Next I started the drive to Glacier Point. To give you an idea of the parks size this was a least an hours drive from Mariposa Grove and I stopped at a couple of viewing points on the way, including a place where you could hike a 2 mile loop to visit Sentenial Dome. As I walked the trail to the dome I really started to notice just how intoxicating the smell of the forest was. Its probably one of the nicest smells I have come across and I assume it's the pine combined with the warmth from the earth, it was fantastic and I could not get enough of it into my lungs. I'm pretty sure this smell cannot be replicated by a candle, but I'm going to have to look for one as I know instantly it will bring me back to this time and place :)
After visiting the dome, I got in my car and made the final part of this drive to Glacier Point. I realized I was getting higher and higher, it's 7214ft high up here! As those that know me know, I am not often lost for words but WOW, there is not much else I can say to describe the views from this area of the park as I have never seen anything as stunning or beautiful in my life. I realize it's impossible to take a bad picture in Yosemite and the photos I took at Glacier Point look like postcard shots, they do not even look real, it's so picturesque. I spent around 30 mins just staring at the views (hopefully not with my mouth hanging open) and appreciating I was not at work in my grey cubicle (sorry for those reading this at work, but at least one of us has broken free, even if only for a brief period and the time is flying by:) but in the end the sheer volume of tourists drove me away. I would love to come back to Yosemite at a less busy time although I suspect as one of the most visited National Parks it is always busy. Note to self I would also like to camp and seeing all the people camping is making me excited for my Grand Canyon Trip in Sept.
On to the next places of interest (Tunnel View and Yosemite Valley) another hours drive. I really have under estimated the driving needed in this park and unfortunately realize there is no way I can visit again tomorrow before my 4 hour drive to San Francisco, it would simply be too much driving for me and I don't want to push my luck with the driving as it's been going pretty well so far. Tunnel View is one of the most photographed places in the park, I lucked out and found a parking spot straight away, took some pictures and moved on, again just too many people.
As I drove towards Yosemite Valley I started to realize the huge appeal of this park, it has just so many different appealing points of interest. In the morning you can be up high overlooking the valley with it's spectacular views and in the afternoon you can find a sandy "beach" near a running stream on the valley floor to take a refreshing dip in as so many families were. I stopped at "Swinging Bridge" and did a short walk through a meadow, with the tall imposing grey rocks towering all around me, it's was surprisingly cool down here but by this stage it was 4 o clock in the afternoon.
As I was running out of time, I quickly made my way to Yosemite Village and parked up. The are some small shops and restaurants here (catering to the day trippers like me and also to those camping in the park), I resisted the urge to have a beer (they were selling a german wheat style beer called Half Dome) and opted instead for one last walk to go view Yosemite Lower Falls. The walk was easy, on a paved trail and extremely busy, I also noticed that actually most of the visitors were foreign out numbering the US visitors, and that fact interested me. When I reached the falls, which were impressive you could also see the effects of the drought that California is currently having, clearly the falls were not full and the water level in the streams coming down the mountain were very low. Again I took a couple of pictures and started the walk back to the parked car.
From the Valley floor back to my accommodation it was a two hour drive! I stopped on the way at a recommended Mexican Restaurant and had a well earned burrito and a beer, I had been so busy during the day I had only had some nuts and a protein bar and I was starving. By the time I got home it was nearly 9pm, I spent some time chatting with Carol and Sherman about my day and then their family before calling it a day. I slept well last night, must have been all that gorgeous fresh air.
Overall I am pleased I made the detour to visit Yosemite although it's the first time on my trip I really felt like I needed more time in a place, I guess I will just have to come back for longer :)