Donna and I were up early on Thursday morning. We wanted to head up to Yosemite National Park and beat the crowd. We left Park of the Sierras at 6:40am and rode the Spyder up CA41 to the park’s south entrance – about 30 miles. From there it was another 35 miles to the Yosemite Valley. Even with the early start, we hit some traffic and there are no opportunities for passing slow vehicles most of the way. Yosemite National Park covers a huge area of the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range – around 1,168 square miles – roughly three quarters of a million acres.
Our route took us up Wawona Road past Chinquapin. We went through a long tunnel through the granite mountainside on the south side of the Merced River. We made a quick stop in a parking area and got our first view of Yosemite Falls. Although we were all the way across the Merced River from the waterfall we could hear it roaring like a jet engine in the background.
From there we continued to the Yosemite Valley Village on the north side of the Merced River where we had breakfast. We each has a banana and hard boiled eggs and coffee before we left, but we were ready to eat again. Donna had a breakfast sandwich – eggs, bacon and cheese on an English muffin. I had biscuits and gravy and somehow ended up with a double order – I managed to eat it all.
While I was in line to order our food, a European couple with a child of five or six years old was ahead of me. The guy asked for two breakfast sandwiches. The cashier taking the order asked, “Bacon, sausage or soy?” The guy looked puzzled and said he would also like a breakfast burrito. The cashier responded with another quick “bacon, sausage or soy?” Again, the guy was puzzled and said “two breakfast sandwiches.” This went back and forth a few times before the guy’s wife stepped in and said bacon. I’m sure the soy was creating the confusion – the poor guy didn’t understand the cashier’s question and the cashier wasn’t offering much in the way of help.
After breakfast, we parked the Spyder in the day use lot west of the Yosemite Valley Lodge. I had camped in Yosemite National Park a few times in the ’70s and ’80s. It’s a much different place today. Of course most of the views aren’t different. But the crowds and the parking situation and campgrounds have changed greatly. Also, many of the trails are paved and wide today – back in the day the trails were – well, they were trails, you know, dirt paths. The lot was filling quickly even though it was only a little after 9am.
We got on a free shuttle bus which makes a loop west then crosses the Merced River and continues east up to Half Dome Village before circling back to Yosemite Valley Lodge. There are a number of free shuttle buses and they pick up at the bus stops every 10 or 15 minutes. The buses are crowded – we had standing room only on the shuttles we rode.
We got off at the second Half Dome stop.
I shot some photos, but it’s hard to capture the scale of the granite mountainsides all around.
The elevation within the park varies from around 2,100 feet above sea level to over 13,100 feet above sea level. There are a number of waterfalls. The most well known are Bridalveil Fall, Vernal Fall and Yosemite Falls. Yosemite Falls has the longest drop of any waterfall in the USA – it falls 2,425 feet through the upper fall, the middle cascade and the lower fall. The waterfalls are fed from snow melt at the top of the mountains – some of them are dry in the late summer/early fall.
From Half Dome, we took a shuttle to the Lower Falls trail and hiked up to the bottom of Yosemite Falls. It’s an easy hike on a paved surface.
Yosemite Falls drains into the Yosemite Creek. The creek was running strong as much water was passing over the fall. With the large snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains this year, I expect the falls to be running strong well into the summer.
We hiked to the bridge over Yosemite Creek. Spray from the waterfall hung in the air and everything was wet. I took our selfie photo and you can see that there was a lot of water in the air around us.
We hiked back to our starting point at the day use parking lot west of the lodge. There were several cars driving the lot in search of a parking place. On average, four million people visit Yosemite every year. A record was set in 2016 when more than five million people visited the park. Like I said earlier, it’s no longer like the old days. Now there are crowds of people. The campground areas are filled with tents wall-to-wall. We headed out before noon.
When we came in to the park, I was surprised to find the kiosks at the entrance unmanned – there was no one there to collect the entrance fee. On our way out, the gate was manned and they were checking vehicles leaving the park for entry receipts. I had a National Parks Pass that Donna bought when she went to the Grand Canyon so we were good to go.
Mid-day traffic leaving the park was light and we made it back to Oakhurst in just over an hour. We stopped there at a fruit and vegetable stand Donna had noticed on the way out, then went over to Southgate Brewing Company for lunch. We enjoyed a couple of their brews and Donna ordered a beet and arugula salad with blood oranges, and fried goat cheese topped with chunks of chicken breast. She loved it.
I had their BLT with sriracha mayo – it was okay, but not too impressive.
Today we have much cooler weather – we expect a high in the upper 60s. We started the morning with pickleball. I don’t have much on my agenda. I’ll need to pay our electric bill for the week and then pay the daily rate – which includes electricity – until next Tuesday or Wednesday. We haven’t decided yet when to leave here or where we are going for that matter!