California part 5
Yosemite National Park
On Saturday we drove from San Fransisco to Yosemite - about a 5 hour drive if you include the time it takes to get from the entrance station to Yosemite Valley and our campsite. We used our America the Beautiful park pass here for the first time (well, we technically used it in Death Valley too but DVNP is all based on the honor system so we just hung it on the rearview) and made our way into the valley. Logan got me a gropro for Christmas and with that a suction cup mount so I recorded our entire drive into our campsite, but that's for a later time.
We were only going to be in the park for 17 hours, and I had a long list of the things I wanted to do and see. The first thing we did was go to Tunnel View because it was furthest away from our campsite. If you casually know what Yosemite looks like, chances are the pictures you have in your head are of Tunnel View. Its a great location and it lets you see Bridal Veil Fall, El Capitan, Half Dome, and the valley itself.
From Tunnel View we headed towards our campsite - Upper Pines. We had to battle traffic and crazy tourists stopping their cars in the middle of the road the whole way there, which was frustrating since I was watching the clock count down the time we had left. The weekend we went happened to be the first week that you could stay at sites you reserved online (we had to reserve ours in November), so it was pretty crowded - all the valley campgrounds were full. We made it to our site and set up our tent so we wouldn't have to do it in the dark. As soon as it was set up, we hopped back in the car and headed towards the visitors center and Yosemite Falls. When we moved to Colorado I got a "Passport to the National Parks" that I get stamped at each park (except Death Valley because the visitors center was closed!), so I stamped that and then we went on a mission to find the Lower Yosemite Falls trailhead.
Yosemite Falls has two parts - Upper and Lower. The Upper Yosemite Falls trail is like 4 miles long whereas the Lower Falls trail is only 1 mile. We picked Lower because there was another trail we wanted to do, and we wouldn't be able to if we spent all our time hiking to upper falls (plus you can see upper falls pretty decently, I didn't feel the need to get much closer to it). The waterfall itself is amazing - its fed by snowmelt which means it was huge while we were there.
After Yosemite Falls, we found the grocery store in the valley and bought beer + s'mores supplies + trail mix + firewood. We carried this all back to the car and drove back to the campsite where we unloaded all the food and scented items (deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo, etc) into our food locker. Our campsite was really close to the trailhead for Vernal Falls (and also the John Muir Trail!) so we walked from the tent to the trail. Vernal Falls is only a 3 mile hike, but it's rated as strenuous because the elevation gain is so drastic. It definitely earned that strenuous rating, but the views were so incredible it was easy to ignore the burning in my legs. We started this hike around 5 pm, so most everyone else was headed down instead of up with us. The light at that time of day was perfect for seeing rainbows in the mist from the fall, though, and made everything seem dream-like.
When we got back from our hike it was dark, so we set up our camp kitchen and made dinner! We had backpacker's pantry meals and Logan's was super delicious but mine was super mediocre. We had some beers and then I decided I was ready to go try and take some star pictures. These long exposure shots were much different here than in Montaña, so it took me awhile to get them the way I wanted (none of my big dipper ones came out right).
I included that last picture even though there's car headlights in it because of the story behind it. Right after we took that one, I got us set up for another one. Halfway through the exposure (about 25 seconds), we start hearing weird noises and Logan goes "WHAT IS THAT" and I turn and there's a coyote on the bridge with us. Then we look at the other side of the bridge, and there's another one. So we're trapped on a bridge, surrounded by coyotes, smelling like beer and food. Thankfully, a car drove across the bridge and scared the coyotes off long enough for us to grab the camera and the tripod and start heading towards our campsite. They followed us (read: stalked us) back to our campsite, where we were suddenly very comfortable being in the middle loop with people on either side of us. It was so crazy! Definitely one of the coolest experiences of my life.
That night was one of the best nights of sleep I've ever gotten - 8.5 hours and woke up completely rested. We made breakfast - more backpacker's pantry - and started packing up camp. Driving out of Yosemite was super bittersweet, and I'll definitely have to go back and spend more than just 17 hours there. Besides, Half Dome is calling my name - 2017 permit lottery?