California Dreaming: Saying Goodbye to Yosemite

This is the fourth post in a series about our recent vacation/adventure to California. Feel free to read the first post about Calaveras Big Trees State Park, or the second and third posts about our first 2 days in Yosemite National Park.

Hiiii friends!  Sorry I went MIA on you here.  Same story as usual: work.  We released a new product (click that link if you’d like to see some of my design handywork) which caused a restructuring of our product line & lots of changes on the website.  Oof.

So – if there were ever a time I wanted to do nothing but talk about & look at pictures from vacation – it’s now!  So let’s pick up right where we left off: day 4, our last day in Yosemite.

We knew we had a LOT to see on this day, before leaving the park and heading down to Three Rivers, California, which is about 130 miles south.  So, the agenda…

1. Soak up every last bit of Camp Curry:

Goodbye tent cabin 478

Goodbye tent cabin 478! And goodbye bear bin – thank you for protecting us & being the perfect lunch-making-surface!

Half  Dome from Camp Curry

Goodbye amazing view of Half Dome [from the parking lot]

2. Find the U.S. post office in Yosemite, to mail some more postcards:

Yosemite National Park, 95389

3. Get over to the meadow across from El Capitan to see the crazies climbers scaling the side:

Looking for climbers scaling El Capitan

Found some!  You could barely see them with your naked eye, and even through the binoculars & camera’s zoom lens, they looked like ants:

Climbers scaling El Capitan

4. Check out Bridal Veil Falls:

Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite NP

It was pretty breezy by the top of the falls, so we got to see the Falls in all their “bridal veil” glory.

Closeup: Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite NP

5. Finally see the most well-known view of Yosemite Valley, Tunnel View:

Tunnel View, Yosemite NPIf you’ve known anyone who’s been to Yosemite, and they showed you any pictures – I bet this was one of them.  It’s the quintessential view of Yosemite Valley, with spectacular views of Yosemite’s most famous landmarks: El Capitan (left), Half Dome (back, middle) and Bridal Veil Falls to the right.

To be honest – my brain could barely process the magnificence before me. Everything was just SO massive…and so still.  A lot of parts of this trip (the big trees, the massive granite walls) kept reminding me how tiny, and in turn insignificant, we humans really are.  This beauty would be here with or without us.  Although, I guess our contribution is to appreciate and find awe in it?  I don’t know… Alright – back to the agenda!

6. Drive Glacier Point Road to…Glacier Point!

But first we stopped at Washburn Point:

The view from Washburn Point

Wow – I’m so glad we stopped here.  First of all – this was the 5th perspective we got to see of Half Dome.  Secondly – see the waterfalls to the right?  Those are Vernal (bottom) and Nevada Falls – the same ones we hiked up to on our first day!  Ha – we thought we were up high when we were looking down at Vernal Falls on our way up to Clark Point – but this vantage point was spectacular!  And not too crowded either.

Then it was another couple of minutes through some windy roads to Glacier Point.  This (crowded) area had about 3 different spots connected by easy trails to take in different views.  The actual Glacier Point had great views of the lush Yosemite Valley floor.  We got to see another set of waterfalls from way up high: Yosemite Upper and Lower Falls (below, left) and yet another vantage point of Half Dome (below, right).

Upper & Lower Falls from Glacier Point Half Dome from Glacier Point

Glacier Point is directly above Curry Village, so it was really neat to look down and get a bird’s’ eye view of where we had just spent the last 2 days/3 nights:

Yosemite Valley from Glacier PointIt was neat to see how the Merced River snakes through the valley.

We snapped a couple more pics, and then hopped back in the car to go to a small pull out we had passed that is in between Washburn & Glacier Points.  We had the whole spot to ourselves, so we decided to have our standard lunch of PB&J and trail mix.  We set up the tripod and snapped a couple of shots:

Lunch with a view :)

Lunch with a view :)

We enjoyed our lunch & the spectacular view while watching the occasional hiker appear below us, emerging from the Panorama Trail.  It was perfect.  But, we had “more to see” and an over an hour of driving, so I had to do everything short of physically dragging Paul away from this spot so that we would have time for the last stop on our agenda:

7. See more giant sequoias in Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove:

Mariposa Grove

While we definitely saw some magnificent trees, I was a little underwhelmed by Mariposa Grove.  I’m sure there were a lot of causes for this, the biggest one being that we were too spoiled by Calaveras Big Trees State Park.  There were a lot of trees here that you couldn’t get close to like you could in Calaveras.  We also saw a lot less sequoias then we did in Calaveras – but that could be because we only had enough time to do the Lower Grove – and the Upper Grove has MUCH more trees.  Plus, the weather quickly became overcast after we got there. Lastly, there was a LOT of fire damage.  And although forest fires are essential to the reproduction of Sequoias, we just found that there were large stretches of trail where you wouldn’t see any sequoias or any sequoias without fire scars.

BUT – they are closing Mariposa Grove for 2 years to move the parking lot (which is currently right next to the large trees in the picture above).  So, I’m glad we got to see it before it closes, and I hope that the 2 year hiatus will be a healthy break for the forest.

And again, despite everything I just said, we DID see some cool things:

Roots of a giant sequioa

Giant Sequoia, Mariposa Grove

Giant Sequoia, Mariposa Grove

Peek-a-boo! Can you see me?

This trip was very educational for us.  I mentioned above that forest fires are [surprisingly] essential for Sequoia reproduction.  This is because the heat helps open up Sequoia pinecone, which lets the seeds out so new Sequoias can grow.  Plus, they clear smaller trees and brush so Sequoias have the space & soil nutrients to grow.  Unfortunately, early settlers didn’t know any of this, so when lightening would strike and a fire would start, they would immediately try to put the fire out to save the forest.  Although well intentioned, this was detrimental to the Sequoia groves.  It wasn’t until the 1950s that scientists started to see the necessity of forest fires.

Many Sequoias live to be hundreds of years old, surviving numerous fires in their lifetime because they have special, fire-resistant tannins in their bark:

The magical bark of a SequoiaAnother thing we learned is that as the trunk of a fallen Sequoia breaks down, it becomes a sort of “planter box” for new plants to grow:

A natural planter boxI love that!

The highlight of Mariposa Grove was getting to see The Grizzly Giant, one of the world’s largest giant Sequoias:

The Grizzly Giant, Mariposa Grove

You had to stand this far back to fit it into the picture!  And – can you see me?  I’m the tiny green & black figure to the left of the picture.  To say this tree is massive feels like an understatement.  Also, note the large fire scar in the front of the tree, yet this giant still lives.  One thing that blew our minds was to realize that the limbs of a sequoia have the diameter of a regular tree trunk!  Incredible.

It was getting dark by the time we made it back to our car and left Mariposa Grove and, in turn, Yosemite.  Unfortunately, we had 134 mile trip to our lodge in Three Rivers California.  After stopping for dinner, we didn’t get there until midnight.  And, once again, all food and scented toiletries had to be removed from the car and brought into our room.  But at least this room had real walls and a real door.

By the time we found our room, unloaded the car, took showers (in our private bathroom!) and eagerly plugged in all of our electronics, it was about 2 AM.  That was rough – but worth it considering all of the amazing things we managed to squeeze in, in one day!

Next post: Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks (SeKi for those in the know :P)!  I hope you stay tuned :)


One thought on “California Dreaming: Saying Goodbye to Yosemite

  1. The Grizzly Giant! I also loved you peeking out of one of the trees. That’s so Amy!

    Us humans can have a huge impact on the environment, both positive and negative. It’s nice to know that this exceptionally beautiful area of our country has survived and (I hope) thrived.

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