Updated: Nov 22, 2022
Dates of visit: 15-16-17th of February 2020
My husband and I have been living in California for over a year now and going to Yosemite was long overdue. Last week we decided to take advantage of the President’s Day weekend and visit the park. It was a really last-minute plan, so, as you can imagine, all the hotels in and around the park were mostly booked. Nevertheless, we didn’t let this minor inconvenience stand our way.
After finding a nice, small hotel about an hour drive from the park, we started on our adventure early on Saturday morning. We left our apartment and arrived at the Yosemite visitor center three and something hours later despite the best attempts by Google maps to lead us astray. We thought that, because it was still wintertime, that we would have Yosemite to ourselves…not quite! The allure of the spectacular “Firefall” and the unseasonably warm temperatures meant that the park was still teeming with people. We spent our first day checking out the visitor center for the current state of the trails and places we wanted to explore. The park rangers were very helpful advising us and providing maps. We quickly left the visitor center and hurried to the car even more excited to start exploring the park…we didn’t get far. To our surprise, we spent most of the afternoon stuck in a terrible traffic jam. We found out later that someone had been injured and the only road out of the park was closed for hours. So, we threw an impromptu karaoke party to entertain ourselves for the three hours, that we were waiting in the car. It was already nighttime when the cars started moving. We just changed our destination in Google Maps and headed to our hotel, determined to see even more of Yosemite the next day.
With only 2 more days to go, we started the next day really early. By 8:00 am we were already parked and ready to trek up the 2-mile road to the Mariposa Grove. During the winter the shuttles that take people up the road to the Mariposa Grove don’t operate, so we shuttled our way up the road using our feet. Since we started so early, we essentially had the Grove to ourselves, which made it even more special. The sequoias were amazing! They were so tall, strong and old. We really wanted to see the Tunnel tree, so that’s where we stopped and headed back to the car. We spent the rest of the day checking out other famous locations around Yosemite Valley. On our way to the Valley we stopped at the Tunnel View. You can’t miss this place! The Valley is framed by the majestic face of El Capitan on the left and beautiful Half Dome on the right. As we continued driving down to the valley floor the Bridalveil Fall caught our eyes. We stopped and hiked to the fall. It didn’t take long. But when we reached the fall, we couldn’t believe how many people had the same idea! The base of the fall was packed and it was a challenge to take the “perfect” picture! Our last stop for the day was checking out Mirror Lake. We didn’t want to make the same mistake we made the previous day by spending hours at a standstill in a traffic jam while wistfully looking at the pedestrians walking past so we parked at the visitor center and took a shuttle. When the shuttle got caught up in the traffic we just got out and walked the rest of the way to Mirror Lake. The sun was setting when we arrived so we couldn’t experience the full beauty of the lake.
We weren’t sure what we wanted to do on our last day. We had brought snowshoes to Yosemite, expecting to find plenty of use for them, as it was still wintertime.
However, there was virtually no snow in the park and our snowshoes remained unused. We were torn between hiking Upper Yosemite falls or going to the Yosemite ski area to use the snowshoes we had rented. We decided to go snowshoeing because we had never used them before and to save the Upper Yosemite Falls for our next visit to the park. I must say snowshoeing is quite a workout! We ended up hiking for about three hours and some parts were quite steep. It was a lot of fun, but very tiring.I wasn’t prepared and barely made it to the top of the hill. I thought my hiking boots were heavy until I felt how light my feet were, once I unfastened the straps from the snowshoes and started walking without them. I felt like I could almost fly! Those few moments were something to remember.
I guess that’s it…our first trip to Yosemite. Last year When I visited my very first US National Park, I bought National Parks Passport and now, I was very happy to add another stamp to it. But Yosemite has so much to offer, we barely scratched the surface. I can’t wait to go back again, and I am sure it won’t be long before I return. On our last day, leaving Yosemite, we paused to take in the view of majestic Half Dome from the Sentinel Bridge, which was reflected in the water below us. That’s when I knew. I knew, I just had to go back and make it to the top of Half Dome.