Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Day 8: Yosemite Part 1

Yosemite Part 1
Our day in Yosemite is the main reason we pushed our holiday back from last October to now, so we were super-excited about today. If you'll excuse the Americanism.
We picked up some lunch from the lodge general store, a couple of chicken salads in a wonderful poppy seed, honey and cider vinegar mayonnaise, and a cheese and ham roll. I also picked up some drugs for my very annoying cough.
The drive into Yosemite is fairly quick, with only a few miles of the now all too familiar butt clenching. The fee for a week of access to the whole park is $20 which is jolly reasonable if only to pay the rangers to stop the bears stealing your pic-a-nic baskets.
While we were in the queue for the ticket station, we paused so I could get the customary photo of the park sign. This annoyed the person behind us, despite the fact there was still a length queue of cars ahead, so he started to honk his horn. I told Mel to ignore him whilst I got a better shot. He honked again and went to overtake us in the no-overtake zone we were sat in! He lost that one.
Later on we saw another chap get honked, shouted and sworn at for holding up traffic for not more than 5 seconds while he manoeuvred into a parking space. Jeeze. I guess if you only get 2 weeks vacation a year every second counts.
A huge area we passed, several square miles, had been devastated by fire and they were busy replanting.
Our first waterfall treat was quickly followed by a fantastic view of the valley. See the river down there? You drive down to that!
The first major site we attempted to visit was the B falls, but it quickly became apparent that chaos was reigning in the car park for it, so we continued on. A little way down the road a caught it through the trees anyway.
I caught a glimpse of the Yosemite Falls through the trees so we pulled over into a picnic area called Swinging Bridge.
Mel pointed out I've not mentioned the cooler we bought on the first day yet, and I guess this is a good time to slot that in. It has been a godsend. For $18 it's a sturdy plastic affair we grabbed in Walmart and when filled with ice over all the bottles of water etc. it keeps them ice cold for 3 days. We laid our fruit, salads and Mels mint and toffee Oreo cookies on top of that and despite the raging heat we have ice cold drinks on tap without having to pay park prices!
With our salad and drinks in hand I led Mel over to the other side of the bridge where you can clearly see the falls, but there are no picnic tables. I sat down on a tree stump and prepared to chow down until Mel pointed out there may be ants. She was right, and a swear they were a meter long.
Back to the regular area, where rather than waterfalls we got to watch squirrels and kids attempting to drown themselves in dinghies but it was so peaceful and pretty I forgot all about the waterfall for now. I did miss the water when it came to using the restrooms though, because there isn't any - just a hole in the ground with a seat on it.
At this point, whilst wondering where the giant sequoias were I started going through all the guides, maps and paperwork we had been handed at the gate. Then I saw it. They are actually one and a half hours south of the valley we were in, with a two hour trip back to the hotel after that.
It was 2pm, and there was much to do in the valley so we sighed at the oversight and headed onto Yosemite Falls. We parked in the road and cut across a wooded area to the information point, getting our feet wet in the process. We were pointed in the right direction and walked a mile in the now 84f heat to find - better places to park.
So here is my top Yosemite Valley tip: do a loop of the area first. It's not that big, it's basically a one way dual carriageway figure of 8, and you can see the best places to park for any given trail or area you wish to view. There is parking all over the place, and certainly at this time of year we never struggled except for that first location. Peak season you can park at the visitor centre and jump on the free buses if that fails you.
Once up at the lower falls, which doesn't take too long really, you are treated to a bridge over the river and a lovely cooling misty spray. It's very busy here, and you need to be quick to get photographs without other people in them.
We traded couples shots with another, sat for a while in the mist and then headed back to the welcoming blast of air conditioning.

Continued in Part 2

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