Our itinerary for day five looked like this:
— drive to Yosemite (about 3.5 hours)
— explore Yosemite
— stay overnight in Yosemite
As you can see, things for this portion of our trip weren’t planned out as intensely as other legs! John visited Yosemite in high school, so we figured we’d rely on his experience and play our days by ear, especially since activities in the great outdoors don’t require reservations.
Our first stop once we reached the park was Mariposa Grove, which is just inside the park boundaries. Mariposa Grove contains about 500 mature giant sequoias, thought to be the largest living things on Earth. The oldest may exceed 3,000 years in age!!
Since we arrived later in the day, we decided to do a shorter hike of just the lower grove, past the Fallen Monarch, the Bachelor & Three Graces, Faithful Couple, Clothespin, Tunnel Tree, and the Grizzly Giant. They were all very impressive, and we had fun amusing ourselves :)
After we completed the circuit, we hopped back into the car and drove about an hour and a half into the park proper. (I was surprised it took so long, but obviously Yosemite is massive!) Of course we stopped at Tunnel View to take in the awe-inspiring look at the valley floor:
Since we flew to California, we opted to stay in the tent cabins at Curry Village instead of camping in our own tent. Tent cabins consist of a wooden frame, floor, and door with canvas sides and roof. Ours had two cot-style beds that came with sheets, wool blankets, pillows, and towels. Each tent has a light, but no electrical outlets, telephones, televisions, or plumbing (there are five common bathrooms). Needless to stay, Camp Curry was not as luxurious as some of our other stops along the way, but we were prepared and ready to rough it! Besides, the natural grandeur of Half Dome and Glacier Point looming directly over the camp are luxury enough.
The dining options in Camp Curry are pretty basic – we chose pizza the first night. It was chilly on the valley floor, and we both had a tough time sleeping because we were so cold. Apparently we weren’t the only ones, because when we tried to buy hand warmers the next day, they were sold out! The bathrooms were heated and the water was warm, so I may have stayed a bit longer than necessary in the shower :)
We did make it through the night, though, and woke up bright and early for a day of exploring! First, we took the free shuttle to the base of the Mist Trail, one of Yosemite’s signature hikes. The Mist Trail consists of a few segments. Many folks hike up to the bridge below Vernal Falls – about 1.5 miles – and then turn around. Others choose to hike to the top of Vernal Falls, which adds another mile. Finally, some choose to hike to the top of Nevada Falls, which adds another 3 miles, plus 5 miles back down via the John Muir Trail. When John previously visited with his family, he hiked to the top of Vernal but not Nevada, and so he was really hoping to complete the whole loop. I was a bit nervous, so we decided to play it by ear.
Happily, the views are spectacular no matter how far up you go!
We made it to the base of Vernal Falls without too much difficulty, so then it was on to the section of the Mist Trail that gives it its name. You really do get soaked, and the trail is pretty slippery and precarious at times! No hand rails for most of it.
We still felt good after we reached the top of Vernal, so we decided to go all the way! The last three miles up to the top of Nevada actually were pleasantly doable – the trail dips in and out of the sun, so we didn’t get too hot, and we took lots of water and scenery-viewing breaks along the way. It was definitely worth it.
This guy. Trying to give me a heart attack.
This is as close as I wanted to get to the edge – and only flat on my stomach. I was still whimpering. In fact, just looking at this photo makes my palms sweaty.
After a snack break, it was back down to the parking lot via the John Muir Trail, which afforded beautiful views of Nevada Falls looking back.
Our hike back down was otherwise pretty uneventful. After a quick lunch at Curry Village we headed back out to take a peek at Mirror Lake.
Sick of camp food, we opted for dinner in the bar at the Ahwahanee, the luxury hotel in the park. On the drive over from camp, we saw one of the sweetest and most beautiful sights – deer bedding down for the night in an open, grassy field. All we could see was their little heads poking up above the tall grass!
We then drove the hour up to Glacier Point to catch the sunset. It might sound kind of silly to drive an hour just for a view, but trust me, this one was worth it. I’ve never seen such a majestic panorama. Our world is such a beautiful place! Pictures absolutely cannot do it justice.
After a warmer second’s night sleep, our last view on the drive out of the park was the beautiful Yosemite Falls. Someone commented on my instagram that it was “such an American view,” and I completely agree. Visiting Yosemite made me even more proud of our amazing country!
With that, we were on to our last stop: San Francisco!