We left Sequoia National Park and headed to Yosemite via Fresno. Yosemite is one of those places etched in the American consciousness. Ansel Adams to The North Face logo to Looney Tunes, Yosemite is everywhere. We were excited to visit the park, and our expectations were exceeded. Yosemite National Park is the most spectacular natural place I have ever had the privilege of visiting.
We arrived and set up our camp in Wawona, about a 45-minute drive to Yosemite Valley. Our first day was mostly spent strolling around Yosemite Valley and Village (we did see Lower Yosemite Falls and Bridalveil Falls), but the Village reminded us of Disney World. We also did a lot of lazing about in our hammocks and catching up on good books. We found the campground in Wawona to be quiet and peaceful. Our site had a lot of space and the Merced River was just a short walk away. We planned to do some bigger drive/hikes the second and third days.
We woke up early on the second day and headed to Sentinel Dome. Sentinel Dome is a high, round, granite monolith that peeks up the valley across from Half Dome. The hike was pleasant, and after a steep walk up the back of the rock, you could see the gorgeous Yosemite Valley—the cliffs, the waterfalls, the rivers. We had the place mostly to ourselves. After we descended, we drove to Glacier Point. Glacier Point offers some of the most majestic views the park has to offer. It’s hard to top the views from Glacier Point. We read that when the valley was filled with glacial ice, the glacier reached heights of about 700 feet above Glacier Point. Insane.
The next day, we woke up even earlier, drove to the Valley and hit the trailhead for Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls: about a 5-mile hike, but with a 2,000-foot elevation gain. The hike to Vernal Falls was fun. A large amount of spray and mist hit us as we walked the granite steps to the top of the cliff. The views at the top were spectacular. We kept walking up, past Emerald Pool and to the top of Nevada Falls. This was the strenuous part of the hike—think lots of steep and tall steps and switchbacks. All on uneven, rocky ground. The top of Nevada Falls was part grandeur and sublimity and part terror. The sheer power of the melted snow rushing off the cliff is truly something to behold. We also saw a bear just off the trail on the way down. It made us a little sad, knowing that bear/human encounters usually are bad for the bear (and there were a lot of people on the trail), but it was a cool experience. We spent the rest of the afternoon cooling off in the beautiful and clear Merced River, just a short 3-minute walk from our tent. The sun was hot and the river was refreshing and cool and clear. It was a beautiful way to end our stay at Yosemite.
Next stop: Muir Woods National Monument – Point Reyes National Seashore – Berkeley and San Francisco, California
Stop 9: Berkeley & San Francisco, California