The next morning we got up bright and early, packed up and piled into the rental, and headed off to spend our day at Yosemite. Because we had had a big dinner, neither of us was interested in breakfast yet, so we headed straight for the park.
First thing you see as you come into the park is this cool granite tunnel. Would an Airstream even FIT through there?!
Initially I was frustrated because I knew there was a great view of the valley, and as we followed the road in, I understood where that view was, I just couldn’t see it from our side of the loop road. It is from an overlook that you only see on the road on the way OUT of the valley! So we drove in and stopped at the sights along the way as we wound our way back there.
The first sight once you get to the main loop is El Capitan across the meadow on the other side of the river..
And Bridalveil Falls on the road side. We didn’t walk back to it, we’ll save that for when we have more time.
Lesson 1: Everything at Yosemite is bigger than you ever imagined! It’s breathtakingly HUGE, and around every corner is another jaw dropping, amazing mountain of rock rising up impossibly high. It’s just stunning.
We continued along the loop and as soon as there was a place to turn around we went back towards El Capitan Meadow, stopping there for a few minutes to look around. Now we could see Cathedral Rocks and Spires, which we couldn’t see from the other side of the loop when we were at their base! Again, they are impossibly huge and imposing.
Dave snapped a picture of me searching the walls around El Capitan for rock climbers.
Bridalveil again, but from the other side of the river…
We continued down the road and missed the turnout, had to park and walk back to it – we finally found Valley View. THAT’S what I was waiting for!
I could have looked at this all day.
Dave snapping a picture of El Capitan
We finally got going back on the loop towards the visitors center, and stopped to pull off at the Swinging Bridge with a view of Yosemite Falls and Sentinel Dome.
Grabbed a friendly stranger and had them snap a pic of Dave and I
Continuing past the visitor’s center we finally got a great view of Half Dome on the right, and Royal Arches and North Dome on the left.
Again, just so so big. So big. I don’t even have words for how impressive all this is. If I had time I would have liked to just pull out a chair and sit there all day watching the light and shadows change on the rocks as the sun moved across the sky. But this trip was just going to be a quickie.
We headed back to the visitor’s center, talked to a helpful person at the desk and decided to take the Mirror Lake trail after lunch, as a way to get off the main road and see a bit more before the day was out. We went in the visitor’s center and watched a short movie about the history of Yosemite. After watching it I felt so grateful and touched that people so long ago had worked to preserve it for us to visit today!
And here’s the other thing. I know it was partly because we were there in the off season, but it felt like we almost had the place to ourselves. There were a lot of people there, but it didn’t really feel that way at any of the stops. It wasn’t annoyingly crowded anyway. Lots of foreigners, which was interesting, it seemed like every person we heard talking was speaking a different language. But still, when we wanted to stop and just stare in wonder at something, we could do it and didn’t feel pushed to hurry up and move on.
After resting at the movie, we tried to swing by the deli and pick up lunch, but everyone had the same idea at the same time, and the place was slammed! There was a little store there and so instead we picked up some pre-packaged snacks – jerky, a muffin, chips, some drinks, etc, and jumped on the bus to get to the trailhead for Mirror Lake.
The path to Mirror Lake was beautiful. It wound through tall trees, and giant boulders. It was an easy walk, reminded me of the trails at BG Lake.
Mirror Lake was really just a wide spot in the river. There was a big stone out there, and the lake reflected the granite walls of the valley.
The river went over a little natural dam and down some rocks, and we sat on a boulder at the bottom of that and ate our lunch and watched people carefully pick their way across the log jam, waiting to see them fall in!
This was one of my favorite shots of the trip. They made it!
We headed on back, and I took a picture of Dave on the trail
Right before a giant rock fell on him – ha ha
Nah, just goofin’ around! Here I had him pause on the trail to give some scale to the boulders on either side. I couldn’t believe we were just walking through this amazing rock fall.
Along the way we stopped and watched as this couple decided to wade across the river.
Back through the tall trees on the way back.
Unfortunately, this was all the time we had, we needed to get started back towards San Jose before it got too late. We rode the shuttle back to our car and headed out, stopping at Valley View one last time for another picture now that the sun was lighting up this side of the cliffs. It’s so magnificent, it’s just amazing.
We headed out of the valley, up a long hill, and along the way we saw a couple pull offs. We stopped at the last one before it looked like we would be over the hill and gone. We looked back towards the valley and what did we see? A breathtaking view of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Cathedral just over the ridges.
The pull out had a marker with a 3D Half Dome to compare to the real thing.
And that was our last glimpse of beautiful Yosemite Valley. But we’ll be back again. I definitely did NOT see enough of Yosemite.