I left Monterey at dawn to try to get to Yosemite early in the morning to secure a good camping spot. I was half-hoping that there would still be spots in the valley…. of course there were none. Valley camping spots in Yosemite are either reserved a year in advance, or taken by climbers at the coveted Camp 4, at the base of El Capitan. Instead, I was shuttled up to White Wolf Campground, which resides at the top of the mountain? It is hard to call it a mountain because Yosemite is really a valley surrounded by level land on each side. Yosemite, which is carved by glaciers, is a unique landscape. Once I actually drove down into the valley, I was stunned by the natural beauty, driving with my mouth wide open.
This view from Inspiration Point was hazy that morning because of wildfires off in the distance; I love how it adds to the magical feel. El Capitan frames the picture below on the left, with Merced running through the middle.
These pictures don’t do the size of Yosemite justice: El Capitan stands at 2,900ft from the valley floor, and it is to think that two guys (Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson) free climbed the Dawn Wall early this year. This was the first time in history that the whole thing has been free climbed. If you haven’t seen the pictures, definitely Google them now.
The first afternoon that I was there, I got a couple maps and postcards from the village, and asked the rangers about their favorite hikes. This is always one of the things I do at parks – just like waiters in restaurants, the people working usually have the best suggestions. One lady suggested that I do the Mirror Lake hike, an easy 5-mile hike that offers spectacular views of the valley. For the most part, this hike is in the woods running along a creek – watch out for the horses and horse shit, though. It opens up to a perfectly still lake to reveal the view of Half Dome reflected. This hike somehow makes Half Dome appear smaller than it really is.
The second day I drove all the way down to Mariposa Grove, which is located at the Southern most tip of Yosemite. This area is a haven for giant Sequoia trees, and a historical marker of where tours would pass in through in the old days. Walking among these trees you feel as though you’ve entered a mystical land, where magic still roams and dinosaurs could appear at any moment.
Just to give you an idea of size…. I wear a size 9 women’s shoe.
You can still see the tunnel carved for old wagons in the base of this tree. A larger one similar to this was weakened by a similar tunnel, and eventually fell over. I had quite a nice PB&J on the remainder of its trunk.
In for a long day of driving, I decided to go past my campground and up to Tuolumne Meadows, which is another famed spot of Yosemite, but for a very different landscape. Lakes, meadows, and deer abound near Tuolumne. I got to the spot right around twilight, and everything was beautiful. Most of these photographs were taken around Tenaya Lake.
And that’s all for my first two days in Yosemite. With the last two, I upped my hiking game and saw even more amazing sites. Also, I must find more words for amazing, beautiful, wonder, stunning…. I’m running out of adjectives for everything on this trip.
They don’t say Yosemite is the motherland for no reason. The Queen of all the National Parks Yosemite offers so much.