We almost cancelled our stay in Yosemite because we wanted to extend our stay in Carmel by two more nights. Fortunately we convinced ourselves to stick to the original plan of visiting this popular national park. In a way, the mountainous environment with cool, brisk temperatures was a welcomed change from the coast that has been in our field of vision for the past few weeks. Yosemite National Park is probably the busiest destination we have been to yet. We were completely blocked out of one of the trailheads on our list due to full parking lots, despite trying several times throughout the day to snatch a spot. There were swarms of people enjoying the breathtaking landscape along with us everywhere we went. Although we found some nooks of solitude, overall the national park was meant to be shared with the thousands of others who came to connect with nature as well. The highlight of our visit here, and maybe the biggest adventure of our entire road trip to date, was when a black bear just ran into the windy streets of the park dodging our car by less than an inch. We all couldn't believe what we just witnessed. Major kudos are in order for my hubby who calmly hit the breaks in the nick of time! In addition to a bear we also came in contact with deer, a fox and a salamander. Two nights embraced by nature surrounded by the Sierra Nevada Mountains is one of the best weekend escapes I can think of for those who live nearby.
The vertical rock formation dominates the southern sites of Yosemite National Park. The 3,000 foot boulder is a popular rock climbing site. Recently, a world record was broken for the fastest female to climb to the summit. Although El Capitan is seen throughout the area from different vantage points, my favorite viewing spot was from a random, less known Yosemite Valley lookout point that only three others discovered to share the magnificent views with us. Seriously, if you head to Yosemite don't get trapped by the marked stops. Keep driving and you will find secluded areas to soak in the beauty. The top row of pictures are from The Tunnel View Lookout. There were droves of visitors all trying to snatch a great shot along with us. The second row of images, and in my opinion the much better ones, are from the undiscovered lookout point just a few miles away.
To get to this bridge visitors follow a long path along a meadow that offers great views of Half Dome, which at 8,800 feet tall is an iconic landmark at Yosemite. I especially enjoyed the peaceful views from the bridge, which we pretty much had to ourselves since everyone else was so wrapped up in photographing Half Dome (second row, middle photo) from the meadow.
A well-known affordable retreat with epic views of Half Dome that offers a great location at the base of Glacier Point, Curry Village has withstood the tests of time and has been a destination in Yosemite since 1899. Unfortunately, due to Covid, the entire grounds were closed. Regardless, it was fun to stroll through the endless rows of tents that have housed visitors for over a century and see the property that hosts Half Dome Village which normally is filled with stores, restaurants, events and wandering souls who have great travel stories to share.
There are many lookout points to enjoy the Bridalveil Fall. Once again we were lucky enough to find a nook where we not only enjoyed unobstructed views of the fall without hundreds of other tourists in sight, but we also found a lookout point that had a beautiful, pristine creek in the forefront. When you visit Yosemite, be patient. Trust that past the masses parked along well-known stops, you will find something even more majestic and serene, and less discovered just under a mile away.
On the very start of the Mist Trail in Yosemite is a stunning trail along the Merced River. The waters are the clearest waters we have ever passed and the overall landscape kept us speechless. The trail itself was very busy with hundreds of people pouring into its path. Take the road less traveled. Just look for a small trail along the water and you will have it all to yourself.
I'm so happy that we selected Tenaya Lodge for our lodging during our stay in Yosemite. The Explorer Family Cabins are immaculate and modern while still providing a slightly chic, rustic feel. Each family cabin has two bedrooms, living area, bathroom, a small kitchen area and a private patio. Small groups of cabins share a large, outdoor fire pit for those nights that call for making smores. The main lodge is beautifully appointed with warm, country-esque décor and was eagerly decorated for the holidays during our stay. Because of the current pandemic many of the amenities that would normally be offered were not available, like archery and room service. However, the hotel did continue to offer great programs like flashlight stargazing walks which we signed up for immediately! We had a great guide who walked us deep into the woods with only the minimal illumination of our flashlights. We learned some great wilderness facts, spotted a salamander and gazed at a star studded sky. What a night! Overall, this is a wonderful choice when staying in the area.
Tenaya Lodge's main restaurant has a beautiful ambience and great service but serves very mediocre food. We were really disappointed with our breakfast and made sure to avoid dining here for future meals. Cocktails by the outdoor fireplaces on their patio would be lovely. Otherwise, don't have high expectations for low quality food at high resort prices.
The Ahwahnee Hotel
After reading Small Fry, a memoir written by Steve Job's daughter, Lisa Brennan-Jobs, I wanted to visit the hotel famous for hosting his wedding. In true Job's fashion, the hotel is understated in a very alluring way. I was very unimpressed when we first entered the hotel lobby but after roaming the various halls and closely paying attention to the details in the interior decorating, I quickly fell in love with the space. We ate lunch at the dining hall which was self-seating with food ordered at a counter (due to Covid regulations). The food was ok but the grandiose and bright room made up for it. Although our homemade pretzel was not as good as the menu promised it to be, I enjoyed having its smiley face staring at me while I sipped my curry sweet potato soup.
Ducey's Bar & Grill
This lakeside restaurant is part of the Ducey's on the Lake property in a town called Bass Lake 20 minutes outside of Yosemite. It is one of those establishments that make you really happy to support and proud to be a patronize. The staff, from the moment we entered, was so friendly, eager to please and hard working. Our breakfast was delicious and we especially loved the lake views from their outdoor patio with warmth radiating from the heating lamps. I definitely recommend making the short drive over to experience pretty views and a great meal.
Overall, Yosemite National Park was a great and memorable choice for a road trip stop. We cannot believe how insanely busy the park was and similarly, beginning Saturday evening, how many people were checking into our hotel. The line to check in literally wrapped around the spacious lobby. There is no sign of Newsom's restrictions here. No pandemic in the world will keep people away from this specific park. Our guide mentioned that summer brings more than quadruple the amount of visitors than this time of year. If you are planning a visit, I suggest visiting in October through beginning of November to beat the high season crowds. Unless you are an avid hiker, I think two nights is a great amount of time to visit. Of course, it is easy to linger here longer and just breath in the mountain air for as long as possible.
My connection with Nature has grown fonder and stronger over the past several months. She has given me a sense of peace and confidence in her embrace that I have never experienced. Normally I am the gal who stays out of the woods yet months later I am walking into the woods in pitch darkness. I have learned to trust that the massive power of our Universe/Mother Nature/G-d (they all really are the same driving force in my opinion) is the greatest force that exists and so these days I have humbly just followed wherever I am being called even if it leads me to the most unexpected places.