Yosemite National Park – Day 6

The big day had finally arrived! After months of planning and reading numerous blogs, we were going to Yosemite National Park! (Side Note: Earlier this summer I finished a three-book series on Teddy Roosevelt, so that also added to my excitement)

We woke up at 6am on Thursday morning so that we could get ready, pack our hiking bags, etc. Chris had breakfast on the table for us at 6:30…and what. a. spread.

She fixed waffles, pancakes, ham, sausage, eggs, and fruit. It was marvelous. And a good way to begin a long day of hiking!

We then left the house around 6:50am as we had a one hour drive to the gate. We again drove on very narrow, winding roads and I think I had my arms on the dash in pure terror the whole way. My husband is a saint for dealing with me.

We made it to the gate around 8:05am and headed straight for Tunnel View. We got there and were surprised to see that it actually wasn’t all that busy. We took some photos, but they can’t even begin to do that view justice.

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I actually took this photo later in the day around 5pm when we were passing back by. But, Tunnel View is awe-inspiring at any point in the day!

After enjoying this view, we went chasing waterfalls (and it wouldn’t be the last time that day either). When you leave Tunnel View, you can drive a couple miles back down the road and stop at Bridalveil Falls. We were so excited and then we saw it!

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Don’t get me wrong. Bridalveil was lovely. But man, just wait until you see the photos down below.

Once you leave Bridalveil, you’ll re-join the road that leads into the main part of the Valley where you can park. We chose a parking lot near to the Visitor’s Center. There were plenty of spots available and we had no trouble parking. Remember: Gate by 8! Do this and you should have no problems.

We then walked around for a bit to get ourselves oriented and then hopped a shuttle bus to the Happy Isles shuttle stop. The shuttle was easy and not crowded early in the morning.

Once at Happy Isles, we found the trailhead for Vernal Falls and began our hike on the Mist Trail. We were accompanied by a lot of other people as this is the signature hike in the Valley. I definitely understand why. After you hike .8 miles, you come to the footbridge.

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I can’t quite remember if this photo was at the footbridge or not, but I had to post it. From the footbridge it’s another .7 miles to the top of the falls. You begin ascending stone steps that are right next to the falls…hence the name the “Mist Trail.” Here’s the thing though. This year, Yosemite got way more snow than usual. The waterfalls are typically drying up by this point in the summer. However, thanks to the snow, it’s more like the “Shower Trail” as the snow is still melting and the waterfalls are all raging. It was awesome and I am so thankful that we were fortunate to get to go this year!!

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As you can see, I came prepared with a poncho! That’s the falls right behind me!

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Now THAT’s a waterfall! It was spectacular! And the view from the top was pretty nice also.

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We hung out at the top for a bit drinking water and eating some snacks. Even though the hike up wasn’t too far, it was really hot and we wanted to practice smart hiking.

Once at the top, we decided to continue to Nevada Falls so that we could then connect in with the John Muir Trail for the descent.

Nevada Falls is also incredible. The hike thinned out people-wise at this point too, so we actually felt like we were in nature and not on a field trip. This hike had some shade, but it was mostly in the sun as you traversed rocky switchbacks. Fear not though. Mostly anyone can do this hike. Just take it slow and make sure to take breaks. You’ll be fine.

We made it to the top of Nevada Falls and again took some time to drink water and eat some snacks. The top was incredible, but I think I enjoyed it too much. I didn’t take nearly as many photos. No regrets.

We decided then that we should start trekking back down to the trailhead. We connected in with the John Muir Trail which actually makes this hike longer, but the benefit is different scenery and you don’t have to traverse the wet steps of Vernal Falls again as lines of people continue to clamber up. You also get this spectacular view of Nevada Falls and Liberty Cap on the way down.

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Man. I love nature!

The only downside of our day at Yosemite was waiting for the shuttle bus once we got back to the trailhead. There were a ton of people waiting for the bus so we had to watch a few go by before there was space for us. Once on, it was highly crowded and we got stuck in Valley traffic on our way back to the Visitor’s Center. All in all though, we didn’t mind too much. It was nice just to be out of the heat. Plus, it was nice to see so many people enjoying nature.

Once we made it off the bus we decided to eat at Degnan’s Deli for lunch. By this point it was already 4pm so the plus side was no lines! We both ordered pizza at the kiosk and then bought Gatorade to accompany it. The pizza wasn’t too unreasonably priced and it was really good! We both ate our whole pizzas.

We then headed back to the car so we could drive out to Glacier Point. It’s an hour from the valley and you pass by Tunnel View on the way. The roads are once again super curvy and narrow so I didn’t enjoy that, but I knew it would be worth it.

We had originally planned to hike out to Taft Point which is really close to Glacier Point, but then Nevada Falls happened. We had planned to turn around at the top of Vernal but decided that Nevada would also be cool to see. So unfortunately we didn’t have time to hike to Taft. I’ll certainly do it next time I’m there though.

We got to Glacier Point around 6:15pm or so. I know I’ve said this a lot, but the view was incredible!

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This was Andrew’s favorite part of the day and that made me happy because by this point, his ear was screaming at him and he was tired of driving. We both really enjoyed Glacier Point and I’m glad we made the trek out to see it.

As we were leaving we were stopped by two guys from NY who asked if we could give them a ride back to their car. They had parked at McGurk Meadow which was 8 miles down the Glacier Point Road and had spent the day hiking their way to Glacier Point. We told them to hop in and had a nice chat about life, hiking, and Germany (random, I know). They were nice dudes and it made for a nice Yosemite memory too.

Once we dropped them off we headed back to our AirBnB. We got there around 9pm and chatted with Chris for a bit and listened to her tales of backcountry camping and snowshoeing Yosemite in the winter. Seriously, please stay at her house if you go to Yosemite. You can find a link to her listing in my previous day’s post.

Then, it was time for the big finale to our day: we each had a nice soak in Chris’ old-school bathtub AND IT WAS GLORIOUS. I could feel my body aching by the bath was so soothing. Then, it was off to bed.

Our big day in Yosemite had gone far too quickly, but we left feeling that we had made the most of it.

Have you been to Yosemite? What was your favorite part?

 

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San Francisco to Sequoia – Day 5

On Day 5 we said goodbye to San Francisco and hello to the start of a journey to 2 National Parks.

We checked out of our hotel and headed over to City Rent a Car. Their location was a couple miles from our hotel so we got over the pretty quickly. We definitely recommend using them for your car rental needs. The guys at the front desk were super nice and another bonus is that you can return your car after hours. That was a major selling point for us considering that places like Enterprise did not offer that option.

So, we headed out in our Nissan Sentra and were able to easily navigate ourselves across the Oakland Bridge. Since it was around 8:30am we thought we might hit morning traffic, but nope. It was quick and easy!

And so began our long drive to Sequoia National Park! We skipped breakfast this morning (oops) so we decided lunch at 11:30am wasn’t too early. Andrew had never been to In-N-Out so that’s where we decided to eat.

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We both got the double-double with Animal Style fries. This was my second time eating there and I still don’t fully understand the hype? Don’t get me wrong. I definitely enjoyed my meal, but west coast people always talk about In-N-Out like it’s the best food EVER. Perhaps their love for this place is similar to east coast people’s love for Shake Shack? Anyways, I did enjoy my lunch. Promise!

From there we kept trekking to Sequoia. We made it to the entrance gate around 1:30pm or so. Unfortunately, nobody told us it would still be another 1 hour drive to the parking lot in the Giant Forest. You ascend something like 3,000 feet and it’s switchbacks the whole time. So needless to say, the speed limit was low and slow.

BUT, we eventually rounded a corner and then the big trees began:

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At this point, my excitement level started to grow! You may not think seeing big trees is something to get excited about, BUT IT IS! These trees were magnificent, and things were only just getting started!

We eventually parked the car and hopped a shuttle bus to see General Sherman – the largest tree by volume in the WORLD. Seriously, it was incredible.

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How can I describe the wonder of this tree with words when I can’t even fit the whole thing in a photo?!

We spent a couple hours just hanging out and wandering around through the trees. I had hoped to also do the Moro Rock hike because it is also incredible I’ve heard, but we just didn’t have the time. We still had a 2.5 hour drive to our AirBnB for our trip to Yosemite the next day, so our time was crunched.

In hindsight, we should’ve probably skipped Sequoia. We didn’t give it the appropriate amount of time it deserved and it made for a lot of car time while on vacation. On the other hand though, I am still thankful for even a small amount of time to gaze at these skyscrapers called trees.

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Like I said, once we left Sequoia we still had a long drive ahead of us. We didn’t make it to our AirBnB until around 8pm. At that point we still needed to go back out for gas and dinner.

Our AirBnB was absolutely incredible though. We stayed with Christine who is 73 years old. She is climbing a 14,000 foot mountain in September, but it”s casual. WHO AM I KIDDING?! It’s incredible. She’s incredible. What am I doing with my life?!

Well anyways, if you plan on going to Yosemite, stay with her. I cannot recommend her home enough. Click HERE for her AirBnB listing. She makes you breakfast each day of your stay and it is legit. Pancakes. Waffles. Eggs. Hashbrowns. Bagels. The list goes on and on. Plus, she also stocks your room with drinks and snacks galore! It was heaven.

I digress though. Once we settled in, Christine gave us directions to the gas station and the town of Mariposa. We ended up eating at Burger King because we wanted something fast and simple. The town was quaint, but it was a 30 minute drive from where we were staying.

We got back around 9pm and were in bed by 9:30pm or so. Our next day would involve conquering the Yosemite Valley and we had an early start to the day to get ready for!