american west, california, Camping, Hiking, Kids, national parks, outdoors, Travel, Uncategorized, writing

Yosemite Valley Views

It’s no secret how much my girls and I love visiting Yosemite National Park. There is no shortage of wonders to behold, and with literally hundreds of miles of trail to explore, it’s not a surprise that Yosemite is one of our favorite places in the world.

The last time we visited the park, we headed into the famed Yosemite Valley on a clear, bright August day. For the bulk of our day trip this past Friday at the end of July, we were right above Yosemite Valley, high above at Glacier Point. The day was cool and cloudy, with the threat of an afternoon storm looming in the air. Though if anything, this added to the beauty of the expansive view at the point. The deep green pines stood in stark contrast to the grey of the clouds above us- and the grey of the massive granite Half Dome straight ahead of us. It was truly breathtaking.

We began our drive in the early morning on Friday, July 30. We were heading up to drop off the boys for a backpacking trek through Yosemite. Sami and I would be spending the rest of the day up there to explore more. Though this was not a first trip for either of us, there was still much to explore within the boundaries of the national park. We entered the park from the south, taking CA-41 through Clovis and the Sierra National Forest. With the ongoing Covid restrictions, entering the park was relatively fast from the south entrance, close to the Mariposa Grove, a grove of giant sequoias growing in Yosemite National Park. We continued north up to Glacier Point Road, which terminates at Glacier Point.

We walked toward the overlook and were greeted by the awesome view of Half Dome, as well as Vernal and Nevada Falls. We enjoyed our Subway lunches while taking in the views and laughing at the chubby squirrels looking for stray sandwich bits. After lunch, we set about to explore Glacier Point.

Sami loved hopping on the large rocks as we took the short hike to the point. We stopped at the Geology Hut, which made for some nice Instagram photos, and a brief lesson on geology. There is work being done around Glacier Point, such as updating the restrooms and the Geology Hut, making the exhibit more up-to-date. At the overlook, Sami enjoyed peering at the valley below in order to figure out what places she had visited on out trip back in 2019. There was some water in Yosemite Falls, likely thanks to late summer storms.

After hanging out at Glacier Point with the boys for about 45 minutes or so, it was time to take them to the trailhead to begin their trip. We backtracked a short distance on Glacier Road and stopped at Mono Meadows. From there the boys started their hike. Sami and I followed them the half-mile to Mono Meadows. The hike was pretty and green, with tall pines growing in the upper montane forest habitat. Sami wasn’t too into the hike at this point though. She had her heart set on visiting Yosemite Valley again, even though we will be returning this Thursday and camping for the weekend.

Sami hiking to Mono Meadows

Not one to say no to such a reasonable request, we headed back to the car and made the 45-minute drive, traveling through the Wawona Tunnel and emerging in Yosemite Valley. We were greeted by the familiar sight of El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls. And still, we were amazed by the sheer beauty of the Valley on a cloud-covered day.

With the limited visitation, driving through the Valley, as well as finding a parking space in the Village was really easy. This experience was much different than when we visited two years ago and were caught in traffic and had to ‘manifest’ a parking space. While there were park visitors, we didn’t see nearly as many Friday as in the past. While I’ve been ambivalent about some of the Covid restrictions, it was actually kind of nice. Sami and I started walking toward the visitor center with the intent of buying a junior ranger book and checking out the selection of plushies, then making our way to Lower Yosemite Falls. Thunder rumbled low in the distance as we began our walk through the pines. And not more than a quarter mile in, the heavens opened up in a deluge of water. At first we enjoyed the walk in the rain, but as it soaked through our clothing, we were happy to be under the awning of the conservancy shop. We were not able to go inside to browse thanks to the pandemic, but we were able to order off the menu boards. After receiving our items, we waited a few minutes to see if the rain would let up, but it only intensified. We ran to the cafe for lattes and shelter while we waited out the storm. The cafe was bright and cozy in contrast to the storm outside, and we sat and played Pokemon Go. Sami got started on her junior ranger book, and after a while the rain slowed enough so that we could get back to the car without thoroughly soaking again. I was happy to find that my Osprey daypack was indeed water resistant, keeping my phone and other essentials nice and dry. Clearly, the hike to the falls was out for the day, but even the summer storm could not put a damper on our love for the Yosemite Valley.

Even the parking area is pretty!

Some things to consider:

At time of writing, the Covid19 pandemic continues on, and with the increase in cases of the Delta variant, the restrictions that had relaxed within the state of California have gone back into effect. Masks are required in indoor spaces regardless of vaccination status. Reservations are required to get into the park.

Summer storms can creep up in the Sierras. We learned the hard way to be weather ready. Bring layers, as well as a rain poncho. We did have rain gear- in the car, of course (insert eyeroll).

Glacier Point road is one that is typically open from May-October. I read on the park website that in 2022 the road will be closing for maintenance. More information can be found here.

It was really hard to leave the park, and I can’t wait to return this Thursday. Hopefully the weather will cooperate with our plans to hike in Tuolumne, swim in a lake, and do some fishing. One thing’s for sure- we will enjoy Yosemite’s happy trails!

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