Day 16 (June 21, 2008) Yosemite National Park


Map of Yosemite NP   We need to leave early from wherever we spend the night to Yosemite National Park. Our plan is to come into the park by Tioga Pass which, although it is a longer way, it is the most beautiful one too. Once in Lee Vining, we will drive across the park, right to left, stopping at the places we like. The idea is visiting the valley, passing by Visitor’s Center and walking to some Falls. I’ve chosen the double falls called Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls for this. Then we will drive to South, to Wawona Hotel, where we will spend the night. Depending on the time, we will or won’t take the road to Glaciar Point. The hotel is close to Mariposa Grove, but it will likely be for the morning of next day.

   Spots marked at map are:

 25 - Valley and path to falls
 26 - Glacier Point
 27 - Hotel Wawona
  5  - Mariposa Grove


Bishop        We walk around Bishop with new energies after resting from yesterday’s tough driving journey. The city looks so different at daylight with loud colors and picturesque things, as a British phone box, a pink Cadillac or other weird cars…

    We check out from hotel and take the same road we used last night to arrive. As breakfast was not included we’re thinking about stopping somewhere in our way for it. Soon, the landscape appears wonderful around: we have the fir trees populated before the white peaked mountains. We pass by a lake. I think it could be Mono Lake. I stop in a gas station as I don’t want surprises while driving through the mountains in the National Park and we take some breakfast in its Deli café too: three hot dogs with coffee by 5$ all.

   After this quick stop we go on our way to the mountains, which snowed tops are looking closer every time.

LakeSnowed mountains

   When we reach Lee Vining, close where we stopped last night, we take the road to Tioga Pass which makes us go from being surrounded by mountains to being physically on them. It’s strange thinking yesterday we were at 50º in one of the lowest spots below sea level and now we should change our summer clothes as we’re touching the snow. This is when stopping in a place where the landscape is wonderful with a water fall.

   We stop again later in a beautiful lake. It’s Ellery Lake and, as the sign marks, we’re 9538 feet high. I have no idea how many meters is this, but I’m concerning about timing now if we need to stop so often. We never will reach the hotel!

Tioga PassEllery Lake

   We pass by another lake but we don’t stop until the machine for purchasing the admission fees for the National Park. It works like in Death Valley, we must go to the Visitors Center to get the documentation. It’s 1:30 PM now and we still have a long way in front of us until reaching the Visitors Center and we could lunch.

   10 kilometers later we’re out of the car again in a place with toilets a big parking area and a lot of people around in a picnic. This is Tuolumne Meadows. We can see a big granite wall called Lembert Dome but we go across the road to the side with no people for enjoying the grass and a small lake alone. We lay for a bit and get some pictures before going back to the car. It’s difficult leaving these beautiful places as one is not used to such wonderful places .

Lembert DomeTuolumne Meadows

   I’m trying to avoid stopping that much so I’m passing by some places until I cannot resist to going down in Tenaya Lake. But we’re back on road quickly after getting our sight and our pictures. My wife points a deer twice, I don’t manage to see the first, but the second stands at the edge of the road, 4 meters from us. As we’re hungry we’re only thinking about lunching now and I keep driving while making pictures from both sides of the car. We still stop one more time along this road: Tioga Road. We can be at the edge of an endless granite abyss. There are firs rising from the rock. But the great open view is even more magnificent, allowing seeing a vast landscape and I’m not realizing how big this is until I can see the small shadows are from the clouds in the sky. The entire sky is projected over this landscape.

View from Tioga RoadLake between mountains

   Finally is around 3 PM when we reach the end of this road. Looking at the map at the beginning of this page we can see we’ve just gone across the park from right to left. I turn to my left in the T intersection, down to valley with the Visitors Center and the places where we will be able to lunch, although quite late. Somehow, after the first tunnel, there are a lot of stopped cars in a mess. At the beginning I think about an accident, but then, when the tunnel ends, I do what everybody is doing: stopping the car and looking at the stunning views at right. We get out from the car too like hypnotized by the amazing sight: Merced River go along the junction of two big mountains, from the bottom of the valley until passing under us, with water falls in the walls of the mountains here and there. The picture is the one below, but we have the feeling it doesn’t do its justice.

Merced River from Tunnel View   Later on, after meeting a couple of ranger trolleys full with tourists we reach the valley and the river. The landscape is still beautiful here as the water falls we saw from far appear here impressive. This is the spot with more traffic and we can see the Visitors Center, but I go on following the sign to Ahwahnee, which is a hotel I know it has got a restaurant .

   Entrance is all in wood with a platform for along the front for the hotel . We park some meters after it and get into the place following that wooden platform. It’s not a surprise kitchen is closed but at least we’re offered their appetizers menu, where I can see how expensive is lunching here. We order from the lowest range of prices soup hummus and sandwiches with water and this way we’re not going to pay more than 20$ per person. We’re alone in the big eating room, well, not completely alone as two squirrels have got inside from the terrace looking for leftover food. A big blue black-headed bird comes in the terrace. I cannot identify it and I think we don’t have of those in Europe. Looking the animals we’ve finish our lunch and we’re not going to take anything for dessert so we take the car and go directly to Visitors Center. We get maps and some info about the park and purchase some souvenirs too.

   We have time for a single visit, so we follow the signs to Upper and Lower Falls: two water falls on different levels. When we park we can perfectly see the Upper Fall and it is quite impressive from here. We follow then the path through the beautiful forest and keep meeting people coming back every when and then. I see more of those blue birds here and I’m chasing one with my camera all along the way and it is avoiding me as if I was a paparazzi. I get a lot of pictures, but not a single good one. The one at right is the best I can get:

Blue bird in YosemiteUpper Fall in Yosemite

   We pass through a wooden bridge over a stream created by the falls. This conifer forest is very beautiful and we can enjoy every corner. We can hear the thunder from the falling water from here, which we reach immediately for getting stunned one more time today. It is the Lower Fall and there are a lot of spots for good pictures avoiding the people, which is obviously here.

In our way to Lower Fall Lower Fall in Yosemite

   A sign pointing to “Upper Fall” shows it is possible to reach the.. well, the upper fall, but we suspect it will take a while walking up through a steep path, so we enjoy some more time what we have in front of us before coming back to the car. I want to reach the hotel before dusk as I don’t want to drive through massive granite formations in a complete darkness.

Forest in Lower Fall pathLower Fall Path

   We’re driving directly to it as the sun is gone and the light will follow it. Since long time ago, the edges of the road are full of fallen, opened and empty pine cones, but they’re huge too. It’s like half of a meter of size and I stop when checking there are no cars in any direction and ask to Eva to get one quickly. This way we’ve gotten this giant pine cone as souvenir. What kind of animals would eat from them? 10 meter sized squirrels?

   We see the junction to Glacier Point, but we must go on to the hotel with no stop. Except for another one, just a few minutes after it, when the row trees at our left just opens to a magnificent views. There are the most popular peaks in Yosemite: El Capitan and Half Dome. A view like this was the only reason for going to Glacier Point. The picture we get at this point is wonderful and tomorrow we will find out it is exactly the sight taken as logo for this National Park. This picture is in the next page, then.

   We finally arrive to Wawona Hotel at daylight, but when it is really ending. While checking in we’re advised not leaving any food in the car. When I ask why I’m answered it is because the bears. I laugh skeptical, but then I’m showed some pictures about what a bear did to a car parked outside this hotel to get the food inside. There is no better way of getting convinced.

Hotel WawonaHall at Hotel Wawonna

   So we take everything could be eaten from the car and check we don’t leave a single crumb of anything before going upstairs to our rooms. We just leave our things and go out to explore the place now is not dark yet. We walk across the huge flats of grass and check a big barbeque just finished, how bad!

Hotel Wawona

   Inside the hotel the life is fantastic too, with a pianist playing and joking with the music and we seat in the terrace outside for dinner. We’re so good that even order champagne and we’re shocked when seeing what is coming is a bottle of Freixenet. We get in conversation with the pretty waitress and want to let her know that brand belongs to a sparkling wine which factory is just beside our house in Spain. She explains later the people working in the National Park live in a village at the other side of the river and in winter they’re cut off. She also explains the bear alerts are real and sometimes they go down for food.

   Later on, we’re in chatting with a couple from the Netherlands which talk about the European football cup. They explain Spain is playing so good and winning all their matches. It seems next match is against Italy and then I predict that is going to be the end for our team.