Tuesday, August 10, 2010 : Yosemite National Park


Jet lag is all but a distant memory. After a buffet breakfast where we wait a little too long, we are ready to leave to Yosemite. The road winds along the bends of the Merced River, at the bottom of a narrow forrested valley. The landscape is beautiful. And it goes up ! Mariposa is 2000 ft high, the park entrance 3,300 ft, the deep end of Yosemite Valley 3,900 ft, and Glacier Point 7,200 ft high. Now, that's the mountain !


Yosemite, Arch Rock Entrance

Arch Rock Entrance, Yosemite National Park


After about 30 miles, we reach the park's entrance. It is the first time we use our National Parks pass, it is accepted without a problem, and we are given some documentation about the park and a detailed map. Just after the entrance, we make a short stop, and we take the picture above.


We drive further into Yosemite main valley. The park has four main areas of interest, we will visit two, including Yosemite Valley, where the most famous sites of interest are located.


Park authorities have designed two one-way roads in the main valley : Southside Drive, south of the Merced River, running West to East and, in absolute logic, Northside Drive, north of the river, East to West. Considering the traffic in the high season, that is an absolute necessity.


Yosemite, Bridalveil Fall

Bridalveil Fall


We have our next stop at Bridalveil Fall, the spectacular cascade shown on the picture. With a few minutes' walk, and some moderate climbing for the last few yards, we can reach the very bottom of the cascade ... and get sort of sprayed, just for fun. The heat is already quite intense, in spite of the altitude, so getting a shower sounds a refreshing idea !


Yosemite, El Capitan

El Capitan shows its absolute majesty


On the other side of the Valley is El Capitan, a mighty rock about 3,000 feet high, with an almost vertical face. It is one of the most famous sites in Yosemite. Some experimented climbers occasionally attempt to go all the way up, we will just admire it from the river bank.


Yosemite Point

Yosemite Point, cascade is almost dry


The whole valley is guarded by some very spectacular sites, including Yosemite Point. Unfortunately, in mid-August, snowmelt has been over for a long time and can no longer feed the many cascades. Most of them are almost dry, including the Upper Yosemite Fall, that we can see on the left of the picture. But ... watch the black traces on the sides of the cascade, and get an idea of its width in spring !


Yosemite, anti-bear trash box

Anti-bear trash box. Can you see the step on the left, for small kids ?


During another stop further in the valley, we look for nice pictures to take. I can't help but show you this huge trash can (height : something like 5' !), in strengthened iron, designed to withstand a bear's assault. Here, the bear is the master, and humans are mere guests. We will see many signs reminding people to carefully tie their trash bags, watch their food at all times, store it away from tents when camping, and so forth.


The shape of the opening prevents bears from picking up the trash. And you've certainly noticed the small step on the left that allows little kids to follow their parents' example.


Yosemite, the Half Dome

The Half Dome, from Sentinel Bridge on the Merced River


The roads on both sides of the Merced River are linked by a few bridges. From Sentinel Bridge, we take this picture of the Half Dome, this almost 9,000 feet high peak that watches the deep end of the valley. We will talk about it again later. From here, we can't miss it !


Yosemite, the Three Brothers

The Three Brothers and the Merced River at its lowest


On the same bridge, but on the other side, we can see the Three Brothers, three aligned peaks. The water level in the river is hardly enough to ride a canoe. We can see the bottom of the river and the sand banks pretty well, on the left side.


Yosemite, little gray qquirrel

We made many new friends, at Yosemite


Since it is a national park, wildlife is protected. Yosemite has a huge number of animals, big and small. We won't see any bears here, but we will cross the path of many other living creatures.


The picture above is absolutely unmodified, this little grey squirrel was no more than 2 feet away from our camera.


Yosemite, a deer

A bigger friend, about 50 feet away


We have now reached the far end of the valley, and traffic has grown sort of horrendous, in spite of the two roads. Fortunately, there are many parking lots, and we wisely choose to park the car and go on with the shuttles. We take a last walk and we come back to the main visitor center, where we have our picnic. A little before, we can see this beautiful deer. The most surprising, which the picture does not show, is that it was hardly 50 feet away from a crowded parking lot.


It is now time to leave the valley.


Yosemite, Tunnel View

Yosemite Valley, seen from Tunnel View


The road climbs along the side of the mountain. We have our next stop at Tunnel View, where we can see the perfectly U-shaped Yosemite Valley, typical of what was left after the last glaciers melt. The tip of the Half Dome can be seen at the very end of the valley. It's likely that its very peculiar shape is the result of some large-scale igneous intrusion during the last ice age, and that its other half ... simply never existed.


Yosemite, the Half Dome seen from Glacier Point

Yosemite Valley on the left, Half Dome in the center, from Glacier Point


The next scenic view is just above the valley, but it means driving all around the mountain, which is about 30 miles ... one way ! The trip is really worth it, with both a scenic forrested mountain road and a spectacular view of the valley and the Half Dome.


Yosemite is a beautiful park, but time goes on, and we have another two and a half hour drive to our next hotel in Tulare. We will make it quite late and, just in case, I call the hotel. But no worry, our reservation is late arrival, all night, credit card guaranteed, no problem, sir. So, if we can check in whenever we want, everything is fine !



Grapefruit ? No, onions ... but they're the same size !


After checking in for two nights, we go for some shopping. We see these grapefruit-sized onions, about 4 inches wide. We're impressed !

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