Feeling sleepy, I stop in the town of Oakhurst and get a crappy coffee and clean the multitude of bugs off the windshield – it’s good to have a clean canvas for the day’s art. Then I see a Jamba Juice and make a U-turn. I have to wait a few minutes for them to open, but it’s worth it. I get a green smoothie for $4 and a new shirt for $7.52. I also have to wait in a short line to get into Yosemite National Park this morning.
This park is known for having a weather pattern all its own. In the middle of Tioga Pass rain and snow can be frequent, but they are less so today than when I was here three weeks ago. I wish I could say the same for the amount of people in the park – it has more than tripled. Summer is here and people want to see the flowers blooming and the ice melt (waterfalls) from the mountain top. There are people playing on rocks where water usually is – the snow was light this year.
My main goal of today’s visit is to drive up to Glacier Point. When I was here with my dad a guy suggested that we see it – it being the highlight of the park – besides the overrated Half Dome. It’s located 16 miles down a dead-end road. Coming around a turn I notice a coyote in the trees and park in the road to photograph him. I was going to wave the car behind me around, but noticed a car coming from the other direction so I moved on.
Luckily, finishing the turn there is a large parking lot that I pulled in to – Washburn Point. I got out to approach the one in the trees and ended up having to get out of the way of another that strode past me and through the parking lot past a couple in awe with their camera aimed at him too. Also in view are three waterfalls, Half Dome, a snow plant, some beautiful lupine, and some guys sunbathing on the rocks.
I continue down another set of turns before parking at Glacier Point and then walking over a quarter-mile to the viewing platform. There I will meet a father and son, with sore thighs, that won the lottery (not money, but the chance to hike Half Dome) and claimed their prize yesterday. They told me the view was better from here. I think they were a bit bummed, but they had a well spent 11 hours to brag about.
The father asked if I could take their picture with the dome in the background and then let me use his binoculars to see the tiny people who had made it to the top this morning. It was neat to see them all crawling around the size of ants. At the geology hut are binoculars you can use and I pointed out the people on the dome to two different groups – they were glad I did as they felt it hard to imagine anyone on such a ledge.
I’ve heard of people falling and dying – it happens more than we might like to think on steep climbs involving cables, but what I didn’t know was that some people have jumped from Half Dome. It might seem like a beautiful idea, but I think it’s a bit rude to the other hikers and the crew that has to collect their broken body at the bottom. With that news, I make my way back to Wawona Road to head into the Valley.
I stop at Bridalveil Falls and they look familiar – this is where my dad and I would get the advice from a fellow traveler to see Glacier Point. These falls are better seen closer to sunset than sunrise. Right now the sun is blinding instead of giving the falls a rainbow to add to the splendor. I take a picture and continue to my own personal oasis near the Merced River – or so I thought until I got attacked by mosquitoes.
I went back to the car for DEET, sprayed my arms and feet, and then went back to the river. I was going to get a picture of my feet in the water with a shadow and reflection. It was going to be awesome, but my camera battery died. I gave up on the moment and warned others as they were arriving of the blood-sucking locals before making my way to the packed parking lot (which would be full upon my return) near Yosemite Village.
There is a nice bike path that would take me where I want to go, but I feel like going slower so I set out on foot. There is also a shuttle that takes people to some of the villages, campgrounds, and trailheads. Into the museum to learn some history and I get a personal moment with Julia Parker – a woman who has been with the park service for over 30 years. She used to work for them and now she volunteers her time weaving baskets and sharing her family’s story.
She is sitting in her corner office, but kindly gets up to explain in greater detail the artifacts in the next room to me and a guy that has shown a great interest when he realized she is the woman in the video on the wall, the one shown in pictures at a younger age, and the one with her name next to a lot of the weaved baskets for storing food and children. A lady takes our picture as she enjoys overhearing the conversation and learning a little more about an oversized basket that we were debating the weight of.
Back to the car to drive it to the parking lot near the lodge and across the street from Lower Yosemite Fall. I would’ve hiked to the Upper Fall, but with an estimated hike time of 6-8 hours I didn’t feel like returning in the dark. After passing a cluster of children, some of them with ice cream, I decided I wanted some too – the dessert, not the overly loud students taking up the sidewalk.
I walk towards the lodge and the bike rental office directs me around the corner, towards the pool, to a small building with ice cream. Chase will get me a scoop of cookies ‘n cream and strawberry in a cake cone and keep me in conversation while I enjoy it in the shade of the wooden awning. He’s also in charge of the button that unlocks the pool gate (free for the hotel guests) and we have fun watching people try to push it open.
My next stop is a bridge with a waterfall, or what’s left of it as I can see where the water had been running. The view is still nice and I cross to the other side when traffic allows. There I meet Bob, who has a Muir look about him, sitting on the railing too, staring out into the distance. It is near this bridge that I will spend the next hour talking with him about music, opportunity, work, love of travel, and relationships.
Our conversation is going so well that we don’t let a little rain stop us. I put my camera in the car to keep it dry and he gives me a CD that he made and is trying to get heard. Well I listened to it – a few times. One of my favorite lines is, “For you I would manicure a grizzly bear…” and I plan on sharing the tunes and the good vibe that Bob and his music brought to me and the ambience of what it is to be in Yosemite and its loving mindset.
From the rain, it’s on to play in the snow. Putting the CD in I learn that I have a 6-disc changer in my car – the car that I’ve owned for 16 months. I pass more waterfalls, more large rock faces, more tall trees, more mountains in the distance, and park at Tenaya Lake to get my feet wet and take a family portrait of four with the water reflecting the view in the background. I’m able to enjoy the water here, mosquito free, and take more pictures.
The lake offers multiple views and I stop along the road to get each angle as I walk along the small path. On to Tuolumne Meadows where the view is just as expansive, but covered in grass with watery patches. I’m glad someone thought to preserve this pristine park and though there may be a few paved roads and a museum there is no Wal-Mart in sight. I will see some mule deer, but no bears today, and the sight of the exit is too soon.
I park on the roadside and walk back in. I notice a sign for Gaylor Lakes Trail and what appears to be both ends of this one-mile walk. Soon I’m headed up a muddy trail, over rocks, and past a beautiful juniper tree. I see a new to me purple and yellow plant, some more mule deer, and snowy mountain peaks. Once at the top I catch up to some other hikers – Susan and Mara, mother from Flagstaff and daughter from Olympia.
I share that my Grandma lives in Tempe and her daughter, my aunt, just moved to Everett – how neat, I think. We continue on the hike together. Coming around a corner I point out a yellow-bellied marmot that goes from posing on a fallen tree to a rock to the grass. We make our way down to the cold water and the view is worth it. I share stories of my travels so far, about Couchsurfing experiences, and about my blog where my tales will be retold.
Even though I’m out of the park I think the earth around me is so pretty that I forget to blink, but I am reminded to keep pulling over to get out of the way of angry drivers that have somewhere else to be, something else to see. I’m grateful for this moment of peace, happiness, and relaxation – I am truly on vacation and enjoying every moment of it. To add to my delight, the Mobil Restaurant (gas station cuisine) near Lee Vining is open.
Inside I order the Vegetarian Chili with cornbread – one of two veggie options on the menu, and grab a Tuolumne Meadows IPA from the cooler. When I signed my receipt I thought the cashier might’ve missed something, but I checked and was amazed at the prices. I felt like I was at a resort, but paying for dinner at a family owned restaurant – it definitely had that feel at Whoa Nellie Deli with the friendly customer service.
I grabbed a dish out of the car to take the rest of the chili with me. Through Lee Vining and down a dirt road that leads to Mono Lake where there is salt, limestone, and seagulls covered in the colors of sunset. It’s starting to get dark and I don’t know where I will be staying for the night – I better get back on the road and figure it out. There is camping near Bodie on the way to Bridgeport and this is where I will set up for the night.
Once the sun goes down I put on my headlamp and grab my current read – Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. This book was gifted to me by my dad only a week ago, but it’s part of the reason I’m on this trip and feeling so inspired. Cheryl was my age in 1995 when she made the decision to change her life. She is an amazing author that can write about her mother dying, heroine abuse, and huge blisters on her feet and still motivate me to want to get out and see life one step at a time.