What a magnificent two weeks we have just spent in Yosemite!! We left Southern California on March 1st
and headed north on Hwy 99 skirting around LA with a quick one-night stop at the Bakersfield River Run RV Park in Bakersfield, CA. We then turned onto the treacherous route of switchbacks on Hwy 120 through the mountain passes to get to the gold rush town of Groveland, CA and the Yosemite Pines RV Campground. We chose Yosemite Pines as our rig is too big to fit in the campgrounds in the National Park (that was the tradeoff we made when we bought the larger coach) and it was the perfect spot to explore the Serra Nevada Mountains. It was about a half hour to Yosemite’s western gate and about another hour to get to the Yosemite Valley.
The campground brought back memories of Barberville as they have the cutest animals! Plus, we found an abandoned goal mine on their nature trail. In the 1800’s they found a gold nugget weighing in at over 70 pounds in the stream bordering the campground! Unfortunately, we didn’t find any gold!
On our first day exploring the national park we drove down to the Valley stopping at the Groveland Stanislaus National Forest Office to get trail maps and then stopped at lots of overlooks as we took Hwy 120 into the park. We stopped at viewpoints to see Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome & El Capitan. We drove on to The Ahwahnee Hotel where we had a lovely lunch before we hiked around the hotel to the Valley Loop trail heading over to the Lower Yosemite Falls trail. (We took soooo many photos it was hard to chose so forgive the photo dump!)
As we came around the corner the couple in from of us yelled at us to STOP! There was a bobcat on the trail right in front of us! It had climbed down the rocks and gone out to the road to scavenge a bit of roadkill for lunch. The picture isn’t as clear as we would have hoped as it took us a moment to remember to snap a photo!!
After viewing the falls from the valley floor, we walked back to The Ahwahnee Hotel and our car through the Yosemite Village.
The next couple of days we got rain and about 4” of snow so we stayed at home doing our chores. It felt so good to have all that moisture coming down after 4 months in the desert! While we waited for the snow to melt on the roads on the mountains passes leading into Yosemite, we took a day and drove into Groveland and explored the small village, doing our grocery shopping and finding the fantastic Kevin ‘n Randi’s meat market, definitely worth a stop if you go through Groveland (they had the best gluten free bread too!!)
We knew we had some pretty intense hiking coming up in the next week, so to prepare we went over to the Stanislaus National Forest and hiked the Golden Book Trail. This trail was co-sponsored by Little Golden Children’s Books and the National Arbor Day Foundation. I loved those books as a kid!! We took our day packs to get used to wearing them again and to make the correct adjustments so we would be ready for our next adventure.
While investigating possible activities at Yosemite we found the Yosemite Conservancy website which detailed various custom hikes and tours they sponsored. We chose a full day, private, guided tour so that we could see some of the hidden places tourist don’t usually venture. On the day of our tour, we met our tour guide, Dick Ewart, at The Ahwahnee Hotel. Dick is a fantastic guide with over 35 years as a park ranger at Yosemite. His Native stories, expert knowledge, and bad dad jokes were fantastic. Dick gave us a history lesson on the valley, the hotel, and the national park then we went on an amazing 8-mile hike through the valley seeing some of the out of the way sites and he took us to his favorite views of the Yosemite & Bridalveil Falls, Half Dome, & El Capitan. After a picnic lunch we took a hike up an old stagecoach road that most people never find to the most fantastic view of the valley. We were almost eye level with the Bridalveil Falls! It was a challenging trail with lots of trees down and rockslides but we survived the climb!
Dick gave us lots of suggestions about other trails to try during the rest of our stay so the next day we loaded up our bikes and headed back to the Valley. What an amazing day!! We drove to Curry Village then got on the bikes and road out to Mirror Lake. There is a very nice bike trail, though near the end it, it did get pretty steep, but it was so worth it! Beautiful views of Half Dome reflecting in Mirror Lake and along the Merced River. We glided back down the hill and road on to Yosemite Village where we walked around the Ansel Adams Gallery & shopped in the Village Store. We had a delicious lunch at the Degnan’s Deli then road back to Curry Village. This was a perfect way to see the Valley!
After a day or so of recovery we were off to Hetch Hetchy Reservoir for another spectacular 6.72 mile hike. After crossing the O’Shaughnessy Dam you walk through a tunnel to reach the trail that runs alongside of the lake. We passed the Tueeulala Falls and Kolana Rock then came to Wapama Falls. Today the 8 mile, 117-billion-gallon reservoir supplies pristine drinking water to 2.4 million Bay Area residents as well as hydroelectric power.
Our last hike was our biggest. We went back to Yosemite to climb to the Upper Yosemite Falls. We hiked virtually straight up going back and forth on switchbacks till we got to the base of the Upper Falls right across from the snow cone which has built up at the midpoint of the falls. Another 6.52 miles with a 1239 climb up!!
A trip to Northern California truly shows the devastation of the forest fires that have ravaged the area over the past few years. We constantly passed burned out areas and while on the hike to the Upper Yosemite Falls the Park was going a controlled burn on the valley floor. On our way out of the park we had to drive past the managed burn area and it really gave you the feeling of what it would be like to try and escape a forest fire!
Our two weeks there went by so fast and we were sad to leave Yosemite, but it was time to keep heading north. It was another crazy drive taking a 40 ft RV + towing our Jeep down the switchbacks back to civilization and the intense traffic on I5!! We spent one night at the Heritage RV Park in Corning, CA. This campground is nice and close to the Interstate but it is quite small with tight spaces in which we barely fit.
From the mountains to the sea! We took a longer route coming farther north on I5 to cross the coastal range following the Smith River Valley, so it was not quite so treacherous!! It was still quite twisty and turny just not with a 1000 ft drop!!
It felt more like fall the entire time we were in Santee then we got two weeks of winter in Yosemite. In many ways I think early spring is the best time to visit Yosemite. Yes, there were part of the Park we could not access because it was still snow covered like Glacier Point and you can’t drive across Tioga Pass but the weather is nearly perfect. Plus, the park is virtually empty compared to the deluge of tourist that flock to the park in the summer.
Now we are following spring up the coast. We are in Crescent City, CA at the Lighthouse Cove RV Park with a site right on Crescent Bay which leads directly to the Pacific Ocean for the next two weeks. We are here to explore the Redwoods National Park but more on that in the next post.