Yosemite National Park
Trip Start Jun 15, 2008
8Trip End Jul 07, 2008
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We left Oakhurst rather early because Yosemite National Park is fairly large and we knew it has many different sights worth going to. The first one just inside of the park (on the south where we entered) is Mariposa Grove. A nice Redwood (Sequoia) forest. It is bigger than Muir Woods, but is not as densely populated with Sequoias. There is a tram tour inside it which takes about 75 minutes to do, but because it doesn't allow for many pictures to be taken as the vehicle only has brief stops along its route.
We took the tram tour to the furthest point in the grove that it went to and decided to walk back so we could do it more at our own leisure. It was only about 3 km back to the parking lot anyway.
Walking back was nice and relaxing (if a tad hot perhaps) and we got to see some spectacular redwoods and just plain nice foresty sights
On the road between Mariposa Grove and our cabin in Yosemite Valley we took a detour to Glacier Point where you can get a spectacular overview of Yosemite Valley. While going there we passed Washburn Point first and stopped there to catch the sights. Sadly enough we found that the smoke from the previously mentioned wild fires followed us all the way to here. So the view WAS spectacular, but rather foggy-looking. Normally on a clear day you can see for miles around. We decided going onwards to Glacier Point was (har har) pointless, so we turned around and continued to our cabin for the night.
We arrived at our cabin still early enough in the day to brave a little hike in the surroundings and we went to the Mist Trail (One of many trails in the park). We didn't walk ALL of the Mist Trail as it was uphill (STEEP!) for a good 12 km. Doing a small part of it however is still well worth the effort (and effort it was in some parts!) and we went all the way to Vernal Falls Bridge before doubling back. Going up took us a good 90 minutes and down was a mere 20-30 minutes
Part of those 90 minutes uphill was also spent taking pictures, but those were a convenient combination of taking a nice scenery picture and catching our breath. Us poor couch-potatoes (Martijn doesn't consider himself a couch-potato, more a bed-mushroom) are not meant to be mountaineers it seems.
The trail was clearly immensely popular for hiking as we continually encountered people coming down (and a few going up) the path. Seeing people coming towards you smiling and walking easily can be quite disheartening when you're sweating like a Yeti in the Sahara. BUT we muscled on and it really shows off how nice Yosemite National Park can be.
After our climb on the Mist Trail we felt like going a little bit more lazy and use the free shuttle bus service that runs throughout the entire valley where we stayed. It was getting rather late by then so we went for the one waterfall that we wanted to go to the most. Lower Yosemite Falls was a 15 minute walk from the bus stop and we made it there just before it got too dark to take pictures (that include people).
After all of that healthy activity it was time to crash down onto our beds in our cabin for the night
Try and picture a 4x4 meters (12x12 feet) single room wooden shed with 2 beds in it and 1 little dresser and you have an image of where we slept. Yet it is amazingly well isolated so that it stayed close to 30 degrees there all through the night. The camp grounds management (we were at Curry Village) was nice enough to add an airco, that didn't work, to the room too :)
Our source of relief for the night was 1 fan that could circulate the warm air for us :P
Now you might suggest that we could have slept outside under the stars or had the door and 2 windows open to cool down the place, but all over Yosemite National Park are bear-warnings. Not just any bear... BIG BLACK BEARS...
The place the bears are spotted most frequent is of course where all the humans camp out and leave nice smelling food lying around. (Which explains the almost hermetically sealed cabin we slept in.)
Our cabin was rented to us with the knowledge that it was bear-proof. Which seemed amazing as upon closer inspection of our nightly abode it appeared to be made entirely of plywood.
A bit of trivia for the curious-minded: Every year over 100 cars in the parking lot are broken into because people leave SOMETHING smelling tempting to the bears in it. Even something as simple as a cherry-flavoured lipbalm can be the causing of you having to explain to your insurance why the doors on your car have been torn off at the hinges like they were made of rice-paper.
Good morning, anyone want a pillow positively drenched in sweat? Going cheap...
We were due to leave the park on the east side, which required us to drive all the way through the park on the Tioga Pass Road. If you are uncomfortable with driving on a road at 70-80 km/h (45-50 mph) with a steep drop on your right all the time and turns and bends where they signpost a recommended speed of 40 km/h (25 mph) THEN you should have someone else as your designated driver while in Yosemite National Park. Oh, and there was no metal railing to be seen anywhere... FUN!!! ;)
Fun for Frank to drive, fun for Martijn who gets carsick on bendy roads (and with lots of accelerating and braking) and dislikes heights, and fun for Trude because... Well... Trude was fine really..
Thankfully there were quite a few nice stop-points along the road to recover and enjoy the scenery.
One of the main stops along Tioga Pass Road is called Olmsted Point and, apart from the man-made road and the hordes of tourists there, you can really feel like you are exploring unspoiled nature. From Olmsted Point you can overlook Yosemite Valley and/or just unwind there as Frank did. (Gotta let the mind recover from death-defying driving every few hours at least...)
The place has many rocks in weird and illogical locations. They were left there by retreating glaciers during the last ice age. It really gives a calm and relaxing atmosphere and we took the opportunity to stretch our legs and meditate under a tree a little bit. (Because we're SUCH spiritual people! :P)
A few minutes onwards from Olmsted Point is Tenaya Lake. A lake high up in the mountains (we were at about 2400 m. (8000 ft.) above sea level). The water in the lake is beautifully clear and it was tempting to dive up. However after checking with a finger or two we decided that we didn't want to dive into water that would give us hypothermia ;)
We continued onwards to Bishop, a small intermediary stop along the way to Death Valley. (Don't want to drive the ENTIRE day...)
Wish us luck on the hottest point of the trip (and the USA)... Death Valley is not exacyly known for its rain or cool winds...