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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Ansel Adams, obviously)
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.
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.
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.
That would have hurt. This one was a bit more obvious.
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.
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.
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.