As mentioned in the intro post to this blog series, Yosemite National Park was the first stop of me and Dan’s Pacific Northwest road trip. It was both me and Dan’s first national park experience. Let’s just say that Yosemite set the bar high. Very high.
For starters, the park is 1200 square miles. Being that you could spend an entire lifetime exploring this park, I wasn’t too hard on myself about not being able to see everything it has to offer in a mere three days. Still, it was a magical three days and I’m still in awe of the beauty that we saw while we were there.
Our first day was pretty low key. Between our early morning flight and subsequent jet lag, we were more than okay with taking it easy. The drive from the park entrance down to Yosemite Valley was beautiful in and of itself. The roads were windy, the trees were plentiful, and the sky was the bluest blue. We stopped at several overlooks along the way and ultimately made it to our campsite.
Speaking of our campsite, it couldn’t have been more perfect. We stayed at North Pines Campground, which is known to be one of the more quiet campgrounds that Yosemite Valley has to offer. Our site was among the trees with access to a small beach overlooking the infamous Merced River. Dan surprised me with a hammock and we found the most peaceful spot for it; it’s where I enjoyed my morning coffee daily. With the river flowing and the birds chirping, it was a dream come true.
I must note that reserving a campsite at Yosemite can be challenging. Reservations for the time period in which you’d like to visit open up five months in advance. The craziest part? All campsites sell out within fifteen minutes! Be sure to scope out the site that you’d like to reserve prior to reservations opening up and have your credit card ready the second that they do. For more info, check out the following page: www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/camping.
Anyway, once we got to our site and set up, we hung out by the campfire, made some food, and drank some wine. Over the course of the evening, were greeted by critters such as deer and an overly-friendly raccoon. Before crawling into our tent, we took some time to appreciate the stars. In my humble opinion, early to bed and early to rise is the name of the game when it comes to camping.
Our second day in Yosemite was jam-packed and I loved every second of it. We took advantage of the park shuttle to get around, as it’s free and eliminates the issue of dealing with parking. Our first stop was at Happy Isles, home of the Mist Trail, which leads to both Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. We hiked to the first of the two falls, Vernal Fall. It was absolutely beautiful, complete with a double rainbow.
Next, we took the shuttle back to our campsite and hopped in the car. The shuttle does an impressive route around Yosemite Valley, but does not go elsewhere. Our next destination, Bridalveil Fall, is just outside of Yosemite Valley and requires a short drive to get there. Unfortunately, Bridalveil Fall was nearly dry. As we later found out, Mirror Lake and all of the falls (except Vernal Fall) dry out come September. Being that I’m a self-proclaimed waterfall chaser, I hope to one day return to Yosemite in the spring, when the falls are in their prime.
Rest assured, the drive to Bridalveil Fall was not in vain. Our time there involved a short, yet lovely hike surrounded by majestic mountains. Further, it positioned us that much closer to Wawona Road, the highway that leads to Glacier Point. The hour drive to Glacier Point was well worth it, particularly at sunset. The views of the sun setting on Half Dome were simply breathtaking.
Being that we had to check out of our campsite by noon and had a long drive to Lake Tahoe, we hit the road early. Of course, I enjoyed a blissful cup of coffee on my hammock before we did so. We purposely exited the park by driving through Tuolumne Meadows. Sadly, we didn’t have enough time to make any stops on our drive out, but I witnessed enough beauty on that drive to have yet another reason to revisit Yosemite.
…Next stop, Lake Tahoe!