Everything we'd heard about Yosemite turned out to be true...it was ridiculously busy (apparently this place attracts over 4 millions visitors a year), you did need to make a reservation to actually stay in one of the campgrounds months in advance, but it was well worth the drive and was stunning
. One of the main features of this park is the waterfalls, and due to a lot of snow late in the season this year, they were in full flow. There are trails that walk you right up to the foot of some of the falls, and we got absolutely soaked by the spray - it was like walking into a rainstorm. Another main feature are the giant granite outcrops that dominate the skyline of the park - Half Dome and El Capitan are particularly well known and attract rock climbers from all over the world. Yosemite is also teeming with wildlife, and the icing on the cake was getting to see a black bear (probably around a 2 year old cub) really close, grazing on some grass in a clearing amongst thick trees and totally unperplexed by a bunch of tourists. In case anyone was wondering, we can also confirm that bears definitely do shit in the woods. In a very dignified manner in fact - this bear casually climbed up on a tree log, squatted, and did his business, in a way not overly different to that demanded of the squat toilets in south-east asia, but with ever so slightly more grace.
As we hadn't made a reservation in one of the park campgrounds, we had to leave that evening to find somewhere to stay, and so we took the drive over the Tioga Pass out of the park. This road only opens for a couple of months of the year, impassable the rest of the time due to snow, but luckily for us it had just opened a few days before. At it's highest the pass reaches nearly 9000ft and there was still a lot of snow around, but the views looking down into and over Yosemite Valley and beyond were awesome. We set up camp in the mountains at Tioga Lake State Campground, just out the other side of the pass, and made chili con carne...yum.
We gave a bit of thought to the decision whether or not to make our final detour of the road trip and head back inland a few hundred miles to Yosemite National Park. It was tempting to give it a miss to be honest and continue heading straight up the coast, but in reality we might never have the chance to visit again (at least not for a long time) so we decided to go for it. The drive took us all afternoon and evening, but the great thing is it stays light so late, particularly the further north we drive, and by around 8pm we'd found a campsite just outside Yosemite and were ready to head into the park first thing in the morning.