Thursday, October 6, 2011
as long as i live, i'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing - john muir
California is a huge state filled with a wide variety of landscapes and people. It has beaches, deserts, mountains and forests of all kind. Molly and I stayed in the northern half of the state before making our way down the east side towards Death Valley. Between visiting friends of Molly's in Berkeley and Death Valley we spent a wonderful day and a quarter in our first established National Park, Yosemite. We arrived in the south side of the park at Mariposa Grove to walk amongst the Giant Sequoia trees. These trees were probably just as tall as the grand redwoods but they were overall much larger because of their enormous girth. We opted not to hike the whole trail because it was getting late so we didn't see the tree you could drive a car under but we did see plenty of great giants.
The campsite I'd chosen was a non-reservation one up along the ridge south of the valley. It was nice, small, quiet and had some really cool boulders all around. We chose a spot, set up camp, made some quick food (which we then put away in the provided bear-proof container) and headed to bed. Like Yellowstone, Yosemite's evening temperatures are fairly low (I think it's the mountain thing) therefore we piled on a few layers before sleeping and set aside others as back-up. The only problem was keeping our faces, especially the nose, warm. In the morning we woke early, cleaned and packed up camp (something we were becoming experts in), and headed out for the overlook called Glacier Point. Here you get outstanding views of the infamous Yosemite Valley which includes the Half-Dome and Yosemite Falls. The view was amazing and I'd definitely recommend driving to the overlook if you ever get a chance. It's a little "out of the way" if you want to spend a lot of your time in the Valley where most of the tourist activities are; but it provides an overlook of one of America's most beautiful landscapes.
We then drove a little ways down the road to one of the multiple hikes within the park. It was really nice, bringing us through meadows and forests and by boulders and finishes with a climb up a rock face. We spent a bit of time at the top just enjoying the coolish weather and excellent views from the top.
We then traveled down into the valley to see if we could do one of the small, easy hikes to the bottom of Yosemite Falls, the highest measured fall in North America. The water flow wasn't super full as it was the end of summer and it tends to be much lighter at that time of year. However, the valley was PACKED! And I don't even think it was the highest tourist time of year. The valley though is very narrow so there is limited, limited parking. And its super congested. So we opted not to try and maneuver through all the people and settled for a stop by the river where Molly waded in the cool water.
Our exit out of the park to nowhere's ville camping was along the northern road to the eastern exit. Although we drove by overlooks and stops, we opted out of them and only made one short stop at the Tuolumne Meadows. There wasn't too much to do since we weren't hiking so we didn't spend long at the ranger station. We were both fairly tired with a few more hours driving ahead of us so we popped back in the car to finish out the day.