I had the good fortune to be ‘stuck’ in San Jose this weekend for a convention, and with nothing to do, flew my wife out to join me to visit Yosemite. Let me say that no matter what you read, how many pictures you see, and how many stories you hear – nothing comes close to the sheer overwhelming immensity of the scenery.
On the Saturday we drove in early from San Jose, and arrived around 1030…our first hike was up the closed, and iced, road to the Mariposa Grove of the Sequoias. We had brought our snowshoes with us, and did not need or use them, but really regretted not bringing our Stabilicers, which would have been perfect. The hike up is easy – two miles in and about 900′ of elevation – and the trees are surreal. To see trees that may well be over a thousand years old, that are 15′ in diameter, and are everywhere you look is breathtaking. We could have hiked a loop or two thru the grove, but since we only had two short days, we went back down and drove to the Valley.
Coming thru the Tunnel along Wawona Highway, there is an overlook immediately after the end (be prepared because it is right there!) – this is the first look at El Capitan, Half Dome, Sentinel and the whole Valley floor. Unbelievable is all that can be said. We spent a few hours in the Valley – hiked up to see Bridalveil Falls (very very icy – folks were sliding down rather than walk it was so bad), more pictures of Half Dome from the famous Sentinal Bridge, and drove back to out hotel in the park, the Wawona. Along the highway we noticed the cars ahead slowing, and upon reaching the area of interest, saw two coyotes looking for their dinner. As we slowed to take a picture, one popped up about five feet from the car!
The Wawona Hotel was built in the 1850’s, and is a great little place to stay, and an even better place to eat – the dining room was cheery, and the pot roast was to die for. One thing to note – when they say the rooms are without a bath, they mean it – it’s not like a B&B with shared bath down the hall, but it’s out back on the porch…
The next morning we decided to drive up to Badger Pass to see the ski area, and to break out the snowshoes…Badger Pass sits at about 7400′, and is a small ski area that looks like a lot of fun. We strapped on the shoes and hiked up a groomed cross country ski trail to the top of the former Badger Pass Ski Area – about a mile with a 200′ gain. We then followed the cat trails over to the top of the ski area, and hit our elevation high for the weekend of 7892′ – I was surprised I wasn’t more out of breath from the elevation, but we both did fine. On the return, we noticed some skiers had left the trail and skied through the trees back to the bottom, so we decided to head the same way – finally hitting some good knee deep powder, we had a lot of fun glissading thru the Sequoias to the top of the cross country run, and then hiked back to the lodge – about a 3 mile loop, with close to 500′ gain. The views of the Sierras from the top were – to overuse the word – breathtaking as well.
Unfortunately as we descended back to the Valley, the clouds rolled in and it started to rain, but we also knew it was time to head back to reality –
We left the Park by the Arch Rock Entrance, along Route 140 – do NOT do this if you come to Yosemite. I had heard about rock slides along the road, but had no idea the magnitude until we saw it – 300′ of the highway is simply missing, and has been for about a year and half…while they have a short re-route around it, they still have no idea how to clean it up without making it worse. The fear now is that to disturb it will cause a bigger slide, damming the Merced River, and flooding the Valley –
I absolutely hated to leave, and can’t wait to go back with the kids. I also would very much like to do the hike up the cables to the top of Half Dome, which is only open from May to about November.