03-06 August 2010
As we were on the west coast, leaving San Francisco what would make more sense than carrying on down the coast? Heading back inland from where we’ve just come obviously. It was this thinking that found us heading the 175 miles to Yosemite National Park.
After the long motorway slog out of San Francisco, city gave way to town and finally to countryside as we started to hit the winding, climbing roads toward the mountains surrounding Yosemite. It was a gorgeously sunny day but not too hot which was a relief as we passed the signs telling us to turn-off our a/c to avoid it boiling over at altitude.
After spending the night in a cheap (but lovely and secluded) campsite on the outskirts we headed into Yosemite itself using our Inter-Park cards which had turned out to be a good investment saving us loads of money in entrance fees. We’ve seen so many beautiful places on our little jaunt that its easy to become jaded but this was yet another truly beautiful place: tall trees, massive mountains, wonderful waterfalls.
Similar to Yellowstone, Yosemite has a main loop road with long stretches of one way roads and other roads linking between. From here you can get to most points of interest and it works pretty well once you know where you’re going. The village centre though always seemed busy and it was here that we stated our search for somewhere to stay. The search didn’t take long; unfortunately this was because we were told straight off that we should’ve booked six months earlier and everywhere inside the park was full (six months earlier we weren’t even sure which continent we’d be in at this stage).
The one campsite that might have space was a forty minute drive up and over a different mountain but as it appeared to be our only ‘choice’ we headed up, only slight hindered by the obligatory road-works along the majority of the route. We eventually trundled up to the campsite entrance to find a ‘Full’ sign at the entrance; however being knowledgeable campers we ploughed on regardless which was a good move because they did have a few spaces but had forgotten to take down the sign. With great relief we picked the most secluded spot we could find (which was not very).
Back into Yosemite, we headed to the village centre. Busy, busy, busy. Got some ideas of where to go and what to do in the short time we had. Grabbed a spot of lunch (horrendously expensive place for our meager budget - I recommend the bowl of chilli for the cost conscious… free bread!). Afterward we walked to the nearby waterfalls. As we checked out the falls, some kid checked out Katy (the camera never lies).
But the camera does deceive… just out of shot there were over a hundred people at the bottom of our waterfall, climbing over rocks or paddling in the water (which was still freezing cold despite the baking hot sun). Too many people for us, so we documented the area and left. Back to the centre, we found an information booth and chatted with a volunteer lady who gave us some good advice / routes for walking; she was in her 70s (guess) but assured us she still did these walks every year so we figured how hard could it be? Her suggested route combined with an early start would mean missing or being shielded from the worst of the midday sun. But as it was by now late afternoon we headed back to camp, stopping off at a viewpoint for El Capitan, a landmark rock-face in Yosemite (I think I’m right in saying it is the home of rock climbing in America). Back at base, Katy cooked one of her legendary chicken risottos, made only slightly more tricky by having to constantly stir over a blisteringly hot and smoking barbeque. But at least we managed to cook and eat before nightfall (its so much more pleasant when you don’t have to eat by torch-light).
Up bright and breezy the next morning, we were at the start of the Glacier Point trail by 7:00am, so had the place almost to ourselves. Fresh breeze but bright blue skies suggesting it was going to be another scorcher. Flip flops off, walking boots on. Pleasant stroll became serious walk as we climbed the side of the mountain but we were rewarded by increasingly magnificent views. Several hundred feet more of vertical climb and we reached the top by mid-morning and joined up with the hordes of sensible people of who chose to arrive by bus.
With a sweltering sun but only a third of the way through we ploughed on (buoyed by the knowledge that the hardest climb was over). Dusty, root covered pathways led downhill to Nymph Falls; a beautiful setting with crystal clear but freezing cold water torrenting through the valley. We ate lunch on a flat rock dangling our feet in an eddy. Some French people arrived, we left. From here on my Achilles heel started to become increasingly painful and the serious walk became a painful hobble back uphill again… for seven miles. The one thing that kept me going was passing other people who I know had further to go than me in the opposite direction.
But we finally made it and caught the bus back to the village. Thirteen miles is quite a walk in its own right but when you include a couple of mountains it seems so much more. I would be asking for sympathy if Katy wasn’t as fresh as a daisy by the end of it (but she was so I’m not). And I kept on thinking to myself that the lady who advised us to do the walk would never have survived this. Would she? Still glad we it though; the views were amazing and I think we saw the best of the valley in the short time we had.
And that was pretty much the end of our time in Yosemite; you could easily stay for weeks discovering its many delights but we were forced to leave due to lack of camping space (ours being commandeered by a ranger). Right, I’m off to have a word with that volunteer…