July 12 - The posting of this blog will signify that we have returned to the land of connectivity, leaving behind Nature's Grand Cathedral. We drove down from Tahoe on Friday, after Elena and Kieran's first horseback ride. The drive was uneventful but very twisty, a nice heart-stopping combination of blind curves, no shoulders, and a cycling event out on the roads.
We didn't have a camping reservation that night, and I was as little worried about getting a space, but we got in at the second place we tried on the east side of the park, along a little lake in the national forest off of 395. Since it was still just mid-afternoon, we headed up into Yosemite. As it turned out, one of the campgrounds on Tioga Road had just opened for the season that day, so we drove over there and managed to score a site. So it ended up being a rather expensive night of camping, but worth it to get a spot in the park. I just hope someone over at "Shorty's" has wised up and removed the cone from the space we abandoned.
We did a short hike Friday evening from Olmstead Point, which offers a panorama looking down Tenaya Canyon, essentially looking out towards the Half Dome from the other side of the usual vantage. We started Saturday (Happy Birthday to me, We're in Yosemite) exploring Tuolumne Meadows. The only other time I've been in Yosemite was November, so the Tioga Road through the Meadows was closed (it is at 8000 feet). I went with the kids on a Junior Ranger hike while Rob climbed Lembert Dome. Then I took a nice stroll across the Meadows to a carbonated mineral spring, and then we all climbed one of the smaller domes on the west side of the valley to get looks at the Meadows, the surrounding mountains, and a peak at the Tuolumne River before it descended into the canyon, and out of our reach, at least until the kids are a little bigger.
Last stop of the day was the Tuolumne Grove. ("We're doing *another* hike because it's Mommy's birthday and she wants to see sequoias, that's why.")I'll leave it to better writers to describe giant sequoias; ever the botanist, I was actually equally interested in seeing young ones. The Park Service is working on that; at least they've figured out that the species they tried so hard to protect from forest fires is actually fire dependent.
After an overnight at the tightest campground in the world (we missed the window for getting reservationin the Valley so we reserved at a campground just outside the park—clearly proximity was the one thing this place had in its favor), we got up early Sunday for our day in Yosemite Valley.We had been so worried about finding parking, and then found ourselves the second vehicle in to the big lot near Yosemite Village. Here the camper stayed for the day while we explored by bike. This was perhaps our best idea ever. If we'd had any qualms about investing in a bike rack and hauling four bikes all the way across the country, they were laid to rest on Sunday. We saw Yosemite Falls, waded in Tanaya Creek (took half an hour to get feeling back in my ankles), and hiked to the top of Vernal Falls (the kids loved the Mist Trail, named for the spray from the waterfall), as well as got the kids initiated as Junior Rangers, all without ever looking for a parking space. I would have been happy to have the parking lot farther out in the Valley and extend the bike paths further. But we biked over 10 miles, in addition to the hiking, so we were probably pushing our luck with the kids' stamina as it was.
After a second night shoehorned next to our new-best-friends-in-a-popup, we spent our last half-day in Yosemite. We drove up to Glacier Point (also closed for winter the only other time I was here) to see the panoramas of the whole valley. It was neat to look out at the top of Vernal Fall, which had seemed such an enormous climb, and see in context, i.e., not very far above the valley floor. We made a quick stop at Bridalveil Fall, an experience which argued strenuously for the extension of the bike path out to there, and now we are headed to San Francisco.