Yosemite in a Day

Trip Start Jun 05, 2010
Trip End Jul 25, 2010

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Flag of United States  , California
Saturday, June 19, 2010

We were up early as planned and on our way by 7am. We were going to be heading east to the mountains for about 300 miles and we were estimating four to five hours to get there. We wanted to make it before lunch to give us enough time to take in some of the sights.

We headed out of the city on the Bay Bridge and through Oakland where we merged onto our first six lane freeway. It's incredible to think San Francisco is only a city of 800,000 people and they have roads like this.

After heading further through the hills we were faced with field of golden grass. It becomes obvious why California is known as the Golden State. The landscape says it all. As we continue and the roads gets smaller we pass on either side miles of strawberry, peach and almond plantations, some selling from small stalls on the side of the road. We didn’t stop, we have too far to go today.

Finally after crossing a few hundred miles of highway we begin to wind back towards our old friend the Rocky Mountains. Although this time much further south, we make a familiar journey through winding steep valleys alongside fierce rivers to Yosemite National Park.

After entering the park it immediately has a different flavour to Yellowstone. Its valleys sides are more rocky, rugged and steep. This part of the park definitely has a more condensed feel to it.

We head towards The Yosemite Valley Visitors Center to almost be faced immediately with a traffic jam. It soon became obvious this park was vastly overcrowded. We had come on a Saturday when everyone is making weekend trips, but it was still surprising that they allow this many visitors in. It took us over an hour to find parking for lunch and about ten minutes to eat it and get some advice on how to maximise our few hours here.

It seems the park is much more orientated towards parking and trekking to see various sites. Whilst this was available in Yellowstone it wasn’t necessary. This seemed to make it difficult to try and see some of the sights.

We wanted to cover a few different sights, the Yosemite falls, Glacier Point and Meprosa Grove for the Giant Redwoods (fat ones). We saw the falls on the way to the visitor centre, it is the highest waterfall in North America at 2,425ft. We briefly saw it again when leaving the valley. For a better view we would have to trek and we didn’t have time for that. We continue south towards Maprosa Grove which was over an hour journey through the park. We headed up the valley sides and stopped at tunnel view for a spectacular view through the valley.

Continuing on we wound along the mountainsides towards Maprosa Grove. Eventually we arrived and we only had twenty minutes or so to see some of the redwoods. As I mentioned before these were the wide variety known as Giant Sequoias, different to those we had seen at Muir Woods. They can grow to 26ft wide and the scale was truly incredible to see. Seeing a few of the Sequoias that had fallen revealed the scale of these giants in a way you could not appreciate whilst they were standing. After staring in awe we headed back to the next spot. Very aware that sunset would be approaching soon.

After nearly another hour drive we arrived at Glacier Point. It’s hard to keep the car on the road when approaching Glacier Point as you begin to get small glimpses of the view you are about to see. As you climb in altitude you also enter sections where the snow has not melted from the forests and the roadside. Arriving at the parking area it’s a five minute walk to the lookout where we were faced with possibly the most incredible view I have ever seen. The panorama of the park from here is more than spectacular, you can see for miles across, thousands of feet up and down into the winding valleys below. Looking across the valleys you can see the gigantic stone mountains that make Yosemite characteristic. The centre piece of the view is the famous half dome and you can see climbers and campers on the top. This is impressive given how exposed the top seems from here.

People were setting up with picnics for the sunset but it was still over 30 minutes away, it was not warm and we had another five to six hour journey ahead of us so we began to make our trip home. As we made our way out of the Yosemite the sunset was setting with some spectacular colours over the park. When we reached the gates to leave it was dark and we were left with the remainder of our trip in the dark.

The roads in the US do not seem to be very well lit. While this is ok in the countryside areas it becomes much more of a problem on the highways as it become very difficult to make out exit ramps and the direction of the road in some areas. We eventually made it back to the Hotel just before 1am and paid the price for the valet parking as it was late and would be easier to load for the first part of our journey south tomorrow.
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