Yosemite Valley

Sunday was my last morning in Yosemite (insert face of extreme sadness), so I decided to treat myself (since a mini-vacation isn’t treat enough) to breakfast at the Ahwahnee Hotel (Majestic Yosemite officially, but whatever). I will likely never have an extra $400-$600 a night to stay there, so I will peasant sneak my way in with breakfast reservations. I said goodbye to my little cabin in the woods:

And headed to breakfast:

I was there at eight, so it was still pretty quiet and uncrowded which was lovely. They sat me right by a window and I enjoyed chatting with the two servers in my area for most of the meal. People always have the neatest stories of how they ended up working in National Parks. Maybe that will be me one day. I enjoyed some delicious $15 pancakes which would give my dad a full-blown seizure to know (which is why our family never eat a meal there). Ambiance ain’t cheap.

I spent about 30 minutes walking around the hotel exploring before heading out for the day. When I left, there was almost no one out and about, so it was easy to stop and take a billion photos on a whim. I was initially bummed at how cloudy it was, but it turned out to be a totally gorgeous morning for pictures.

And I drove up to Tunnel View for one last look because I was having a hard time motivating myself to leave.

I decided to extend my trip slightly by stopping at the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. I have never been in that area as the road has typically been closed due to snow when I have visited Yosemite in the past. I also always had a sour taste in my mouth over it because I had a high school coach who was OBSESSED with hating it. He was a running coach, so he often ran with us and talked incessantly about how angry it made him all the time and how they had destroyed a national treasure by flooding the valley. Then, of course, there were the indigenous people who were either killed or run out of the area after thousands of years of habitation and careful cultivation of the valley grasses and meadows. So, I was interested to see this place that had sparked such ire.


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It’s still a beautiful area, but what a loss.

I drove back to Sacramento after eating lunch at the dam, and got back to reality on Monday (against my own wishes). All I want is to be a full-time lady of leisure in the mountains. Is that too much to ask??

Vernal and Nevada Falls

On Saturday, I had initially planned to hike to Cloud’s Rest from Tenaya Lake, but after talking to a park ranger who told me that she thought it was too slick (there is a narrow rock ridge with steep drop offs that you have to pass which is apparently quit iffy when wet) to chance it, I opted out. My second choice was the Upper Yosemite Falls trail, but I spoke to a different park ranger who said he thought it was worse than Half Dome and you are pretty much hiking in direct sunlight the entire way (it’s the zig zag trail in the photo yesterday). Ew.

He and another park ranger with him both recommended the hike to the top of Vernal and Nevada Falls via the Mist Trail, so I decided on that. I took my sweet time getting going on Saturday morning and started the hike at nine. I walked the mile from Camp Curry (Half Dome Village *eye roll*) to the John Muir trailhead at Happy Isles Bridge, then walked on it until I got to the Mist Trail. It was a glorious morning – low 30s and sunny.

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The hike was beautiful and on a nice path for the first mile or so. I was a bit chilly in my fleece, but it was really nice weather for hiking. I’d certainly rather be too cold than even slightly warm.

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After about a mile or so (I have no sense of distance when walking), I started climbing steps and was able to view the Vernal Fall. It was so beautiful even though it was a fraction of the size it is in spring or summer.

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If you look closely, then you can see the tiny people on the rocks. Some idiots were actually swimming in the pool which is incredibly stupid considering it drains right into a fast moving river of giant boulders. I will never understand how people can be so careless around water. More people die on the Mist Trail than anywhere else in the park because of that current. I don’t go anywhere near the edge of the river, the pools, or climb around the rocks near the river – too many people slip, fall, and go over that way.

Anyway, after viewing the waterfall and judging careless people, the real steps began.

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Endless steps. My pedometer registered 100 flights by the top. I had a hard time on them because they were very steep and I kept making the mistake of looking down and getting light headed. Then there was this:

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Thank God for the hand rail because it was slick. I finally made it to the top of the fall and rested while watching natural selection in action. More idiots. Maybe I grew up with overly cautious parents, but never in my life has climbing over a fenced area on the edge of what is essentially a cliff seemed like a good idea. As children, we were never allowed to get off the trail, climb on things that were fenced off, or disobey the signs and warnings in the park. Maybe I’m a boring person, but I prefer safe and responsible adventuring.

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A view without foolish folk:
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I was going to turn around at this point and head back, but I fought against my inner lazy lady and kept on hiking toward Nevada Fall. It was an easy walk in the shade to the base.

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And then it was more stairs – what turned out to be almost 150 flights of stairs. Thankfully, stairs are a lot easier to climb up than just going over rocks. The view was pretty nice though.

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I made it to the top of Nevada Fall after three hours of hiking and it was far more spectacular than I could have ever imagined. I also enjoyed the company of two middle-aged Irish gentlemen who intermittently argued about Monty Python and sang folk songs for about an hour as we ascended the steps. They also shared some of their Whisky with me at the top and we had a lively discussion about the mosquitoes in Ontario versus Texas (one of them spent the past year in Canada). It was a charming way to survive the stairs.

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I relaxed for a half hour on top eating lunch and taking in the scenery.

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It only took me two hours to get back down and it was really easy (as opposed to going down at Mount Tallac). And I saw a little furry friend who was working on getting chunky for the winter:

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I stopped briefly at Vernal Fall again to enjoy the view:

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And I sent my sympathy down to all of the hobbits trudging up from below:

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The trail was certainly challenging at several points, but not miserably so. I didn’t feel like I was going to collapse when I finished and I even had enough energy to walk the mile back to my tent, then went on to the visitor’s center to check some more stuff out. It was nine miles round trip from Half Dome Village and totaled just over 250 flights of stairs on my pedometer, but it was worth every step. Here is a view of the two falls from Glacier Point:

I spent the rest of the afternoon piddling around the village area. One of my students I work with told me to check out the Miwok Indian village behind the visitor’s center, and I didn’t even know that was there. Talk about some devastating history (to be fair, show me some Native American history that isn’t devastating). My student told me that they still use the village for ceremonies today and shared some of their history, so I was glad I had a chance to visit (he’s a member of Miwok tribe in this area).

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Glacier Point to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point

Earlier this fall I remembered that there was a three day weekend around the corner (for Veterans Day), so I decided to spend it in Yosemite since it’s way less crowded the closer you get to winter. I originally planned to camp, but since you can’t reserve the campsites in the off season I had STUPID ANXIETY about it, and chickened out. I laid in bed for weeks completely panicked that I would arrive and there would be no campsites. So, I made other more official arrangements. On Thursday night I drove to Yosemite View Lodge in El Portal (which I highly recommend for off season as it’s nice, affordable, and has a spectacular view of the river) which is just a few miles from a park entrance. I woke up early Friday morning and drove into the park. I stopped about 57 times to take pictures of leaves.

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The really fantastic thing about traveling alone is that you can stop at every overlook and pullout to take 578 pictures of every leaf, stream, and mountain you see. And NO ONE is there to complain about it. ’Tis a dream. When I got into the park I stopped at Bridalveil Fall since it is so hard to access in the summer. I parked right next to the trailhead and there were only a few other cars in the parking lot.

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The fall isn’t as raging as it is in spring or summer, but I don’t care. It was still lovely and totally uncrowded.

I then drove up to my favorite view of the park – Tunnel View. Unfortunately, it was still early and was extremely cloudy, so the view wasn’t as over the top as usual, but it was still beautiful.

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I was going to hike Four Mile Trail up to Glacier Point because Glacier Point Road was closed earlier in the week, but on Thursday night the Yosemite National Park website had an update that the road was open again. I don’t know why I would walk up a mountain when I could drive up it, but I suppose there are probably some weirdos who feel differently about that. Even with the clouds, the view was still breathtaking.

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I ate a sandwich at Glacier Point, then on my way back I noticed that several cars were parked by a trailhead on Glacier Point Road. Since I had zero plans for the day, I hopped out of my car and decided to check it out. I ended up taking the 5.5 mile loop to Sentinel Dome and Taft Point. I am so glad I did because they sun came out and the view was insane. Sentinel Dome is a big granite dome that offers an almost 360 view of the area. The hike to the dome was short and easy, then you just had to make your way up the actual dome part which was steep, but not massive (like Half Dome). Rain was rolling in from one side, while they other was bright blue skies.

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The historic Jeffrey Pine used to stand on top of Sentinel Dome and was made famous by the Ansel Adams photograph in 1940, but it died in 1977 and fell over in 2003.

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I walked down from Sentinel Dome and took a loop trail over to Taft Point. You can hike to either Taft Point or Sentinel Dome in less than a mile or you can take a loop that is quite beautiful for a total of 5.5 miles and see both. At that point on Friday I was planning to do the hike to the top of Yosemite Falls on Friday, so I took a few pictures of that route.

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Not sad to have skipped that zig zag trail for miles. If only Rickon had run like that trail. Anyway, I enjoyed a peaceful walk in the forest on a nice dirt trail.

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After an hour or so I reached Taft Point and the Fissures. I was walking along not paying attention at all and almost fell in one because there were so many bushes around it.

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That would have hurt. This one was a bit more obvious.

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The view from Taft Point was also incredible (there is no bad view in Yosemite). Taft Point was named for President William Howard Taft who allegedly “came across” the point when touring with John Muir. He had intended to explore the area up from the valley by horseback, but alas, his girth was too much for any equine to bear. So, instead, his staff set out a fried chicken lunch allegedly near this spot. That’s some classic American President nonsense for ya. I DISCOVERED THIS. IT WAS ME. Regardless, Taft Point is the point pointing out there.

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It’s only a little over a two mile round trip to either Taft Point or Sentinel Dome, so it’s an easy and quick jaunt if you only have time for one. I highly recommend both.

After exiting Glacier Road, I stopped at Tunnel View again, then made my way down to the meadow by Half Dome Village for sunset.

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Le Magnifique as the French say. I then went to check in at Camp Curry (or Half Dome Village officially, but WHATEVER). I rented a heated tent which seemed super great until I had to find it in the dark. It was CREEPY. Everything was kind of orange from the lights and the white tents just seem like they are made for MURDER as they glowed in the darkness. I survived the night and was actually quite pleased with experience in the light of day. My cabin had a double bed and two twins, and was surprisingly spacious. I didn’t love walking to the bathroom in the cold darkness, but I had a headlamp on and I was motivated to hustle. The village got really quiet around 10 pm and I slept without interruption (I was really worried about noise) thanks to the hum of the heater in my tent and my earplugs.

There is really nothing like waking up in Yosemite Valley. It is just too beautiful.

Mirror Lake

Before we drove back to Sacramento on Sunday, we wanted to find a short hike to do that morning. I found the trail to Mirror Lake which said it was three miles round trip. So easy! We parked at the area labeled as the trailhead parking and started walking. We went by a camping area and there was smoke everywhere from the campfires. It was really pretty and smelled like bacon.



We discovered that the parking area was actually about a mile from the start of the trail, but at least it was a pretty walk.


????????????????????????????????????The walk to the lake was gorgeous and we were wowed by the nature the whole way.



We soon made it to Mirror Lake which was, for once, a place that was not disappointingly named.





I thought we would turn around once we got to the lake, but the trail went on, and so did we


We ended up on a small trail through the woods and things got Walking Dead pretty quickly.


There was one point where we decided to turn around, but my dad was able to spot someone walking through the woods. It seriously looked like a Walker. Thankfully, as we got closer, we discovered that the person was a person and that they were on a better trail. Crisis averted!



We eventually got to the end of the trail and I looked down to see that we had walked over five miles over the course of a few hours (lots of ambling about and staring at mountains). So, we stopped and took a healthy snack break featuring M&Ms and Reese’s.

IMG_4731And a drink break. I know you wanted a picture of me chugging.

Then continued our walk back.


We made it back to the car for a total of almost eight miles and four hours of walking, so it’s a good thing we always pack snacks because we would have probably killed each other in the wild from hunger rage. None of us can go more than a couple of hours without food.


We had sandwiches at the car, then started our drive back to Sacramento.






Our parents left Monday morning which sucked. It was really great to see them, but it was not fun dropping them off at the airport. This time we didn’t go in which prevented mass sobbing, but it was still super sad. If only Texas was closer. Their flight from Dallas to Killeen got cancelled and they had to rent a car and DFW and drive back home. So, they didn’t get home until almost midnight which suuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. I hope they come back!


On Saturday, we planned to drive into King’s Canyon, and we were told the previous day that the road was open, so we were surprised upon arrival to find that it was not. King’s Canyon only has one road entering the park (like Sequoia National Park, it is largely only accessible by hikers), and the road was closed at the arrow.


Womp womp. So, we didn’t get to see any of King’s Canyon National Park, and that was a bummer. I guess we just have to go back this summer.

We decided to head on up to Yosemite instead of hanging around for a few hours hoping it would open at noon. We got to Yosemite just after lunch and drove in on Wawona Road which opens up to one of the most magnificent views of Yosemite. In reality, though, all the views of Yosemite are spectacular. The place is so beautiful it looks fake.





On our way into the park, we stopped at Bridalveil Fall. When we visited Yosemite in July 2013, it was so crowded that it was almost miserable. There were so many people and the traffic was so bad, that we eventually just left out of frustration. There were still a lot of people at the park this time, but we found parking easily and didn’t get stuck in long unmoving lines of traffic in the valley. It was awesome!



So much water!

We eventually made our way to one of our favorite spots, the awesome village formerly known as Camp Curry. We have stayed there several times and always loved it. Sadly, there was no availability this time, but that is probably for the best because we didn’t have to repeatedly see this fugly sign for the STUPID HORRIBLE re-naming of part of the historic fabric of one of our greatest American treasures.


The Ahwahnee Hotel is now The Majestic Yosemite Hotel which is a TERRIBLE AND TRAGICALLY UNINSPIRED NAME. RAGEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

Half Dome.




Meadow featuring waterfall.


Deep breaths.

We next stopped at the Three Brothers Falls to enjoy some roaring water away from the terrible names.



We then headed to our hotel for the evening in El Portal, about three miles outside of the park. We stayed at Yosemite View Lodge and it was fantastic. Not only was it super close to the park, but the hotel is located right on the Merced River. We were pleasantly surprised by the beautiful view from our balcony.



The rooms were quite large and came with a kitchen, fireplace, and a massive bathroom. I highly recommend it.