Yosemite. The king. What I consider to be the true birthplace of it all, the place that inspired such wonder first in John Muir and then in Theodore Roosevelt, that our country decided to take a huge leap and protect these lands for everyone, for ever. It’s probably ironic to visit Yosemite in the height of busy season (I heard many “you’re going to Yosemite the week after the 4th of July? Are you nuts??” questions leading up to this trip) when Muir spent so much time there in near-complete solitude, but I think that’s the thing about Yosemite- it’s so incredible that it almost doesn’t matter how crowded it is (though I am admittedly very averse to heavy crowds).
We started off Yosemite with a jaunt through the Mariposa Grove. It had recently been completely redone, and I was excited to see all of the improvements. It certainly did not disappoint! The shuttle system was a great update and super easy to use. The Grizzly Giant is probably my favorite giant sequoia in the park system – something about having huge branches makes it more awe-inspiring for me personally for some reason! After Mariposa Grove, we headed into the Valley for the rest of our time in the park.
Full disclosure, we got off to a bit of a rocky start with Yosemite (heh, pun intended). For a variety of reasons, some within our control and some not, our Yeti was dying (and therefore, we were about to lose our fridge- the one downside of going “iceless”) and when we pulled up to our campsite, we saw with a bit of dismay that the entire thing was very shady. In most conditions this would have been a huge boon, especially with how blazing hot it was the entire trip, but when you’re reliant on solar power to keep things going, shade is not your favorite thing. I know, I know, this is the part where I hear “well, that’s what you get for trying to be all fancy and new-school!” and while that’s valid, I still maintain that the Dometic is far superior to buying ice all the time and dealing with soggy food. We definitely could have done a few things differently to avoid our little food fiasco, but I digress. The point is, getting into camp and realizing we were hours away from a dead Yeti (and therefore, a dead Dometic) was kind of a downer.
Nevertheless, the next morning we set off on our bikes to visit several spots in the Valley, which is definitely the best way to get around (forget driving, parking in the Valley is a joke), though you do have to be willing to use your stage voice to call out “coming up on your left!” fairly often.
People are trashy. I picked up this whole bag just in the viewing area of Yosemite Falls.
Later that evening, we headed up to Glacier Point for a ranger talk and to watch the sunset. The ranger gave an amazing talk about some of the earliest inhabitants of the Valley, which was amazing to listen to as the sun sank and washed Half Dome in beautiful sunset colors.
The next morning we headed out from our campsite to hike to Vernal Falls. I won’t lie, y’all, that hike was a lot harder than I anticipated – but I’m also really out of shape. If you do it, be prepared for it to be pretty steep and tiring!
That night we attended “An Evening with a Tramp,” which is a performance put on by Lee Stetson, a John Muir reenactor. We were familiar with Lee and his work after he was included in Ken Burns’ National Parks documentary (we’re biiiig Ken Burns fans in this family), so we wanted to make sure we caught a performance, and I’m so glad we did! Lee does an absolutely amazing job of capturing the spirit of John Muir, and he is an excellent and entertaining performer.
The next morning we headed out to head home through Tuolomne Meadows, which in my opinion is the best part of the park (sorry, Valley, you just have way too many human beings for my taste). It rained a bit on our drive, which made the Sierras really pop with the storm clouds and mist. And we got to see a BEAR! And I got better pictures of it than I did of the one in Sequoia, which made me happy. It was a fantastic way to cap off our trip before heading home!
Our Yosemite National Park “Must Do”: See a performance of Lee Stetson as John Muir! He is fantastic, and we had a great time at the show.