We had the best intentions of getting up early on Tuesday and beating the crowds to Yosemite. However, our time in Vegas had taken its toll and we were both feeling decidedly jaded when the alarm went off in the morning. It didn’t take much convincing to hit ‘snooze’. Turns out we had nothing to worry about – we hit the road about 10 am, Campbell dialled us into a throwback RnB radio station, and we cruised into the park listening to the sweet sounds of Warren G, Puff Daddy and Mariah about an hour later. We were feeling pretty smug when we pulled up to the gate without another car in sight, only to have the Ranger inform us that it was National Park Week and entry was free – we were off to a flier!
Things just kept on improving as we made our way into Yosemite Valley. April is still officially classed as winter in Yosemite and a number of roads and attractions can be shut due to snow. One of the key sights, Glacier Point, is often still closed and we were prepared for the fact that we probably wouldn’t be able to see it. Not so! Tuesday was the first day that Glacier Point was open for the season, and it was absolutely spectacular. We wound our way up the road (which at some points had almost three metres of snow and ice banked up on either side), past the Yosemite ski field, through gorgeous forests (the whole of Yosemite smells like Christmas) to the amazing Glacier Point lookout. This is another one of those things that photos don’t do justice. Go to Yosemite and see it for yourself – do it!
We were both absolutely buzzing as we drove away from Glacier Point. We took our time and meandered down to the Valley floor taking in all the beautiful meadows, rock faces, forests, streams and waterfalls on the way. Yosemite has two of the tallest waterfalls in the world and the snow melt meant that they were really putting on a show.
Our luck ran out as we pulled up to our accommodation – Half Dome Village. To be fair, the accommodation itself was exactly as we expected. Lodging options in Yosemite aren’t all that broad and, with the budget in mind, we had booked a permanent tent with heating in amongst a massive tent village. Campbell said it looked like Guantanamo Bay, but he can be a bit precious about these things. It really wasn’t that bad, but it was a change from some of our recent accommodation.
In reality, the biggest issue with our accommodation was our fellow campers. It seems that National Park Week is also school camp week, and the camp was absolutely overrun. We’re not talking a handful of smiling children sitting round a fire toasting marshmallows and singing Kumbaya; we’re talking hundreds of prepubescent heathens who tore the place apart and all spoke like Fran Drescher from The Nanny. It started off as a bit of joke as we smiled and quoted The Castle (“how’s the serenity”?), but after a few hours the red mist was descending. As bedtime approached, I decided a preemptive strike was required. Campbell was mortified (to be fair it was only 7.30 pm) as I got out of my pjs and got ready to march up to the office to complain. Hell hath no fury like a Sandilands who predicts she’s not going to get a good night sleep!
Off I power-walked, ranting and raving and preparing my extensive list of complaints. It was quite the walk from our tent to the office and, as it transpired, my temper is explosive, but lacking in stamina. By the time I reached the front desk the rage had seeped away and instead of thumping the counter like I had planned, I politely asked if the manager could please ask the children to keep the noise down. She was very obliging – we got a discount on our room for being so “understanding” and the manager came down and yelled at the children, so I didn’t have to. Winning!
The next day we decided to tackle a couple of proper hikes around the park. The most challenging of which was the climb up to Vernall Falls. The official brochure ranked this walk as “moderate”, but whoever wrote that was clearly having a laugh. It was an uphill slog, including clambering up slippery rock steps alongside the falls, but it was well worth it. You get absolutely saturated at the top from all of the spray and the outlook is amazing. Campbell said I did well not to kill myself since I am a “gangly-legged plonker”. We kept our eyes peeled for mountain lions and bears the whole way, but sadly (or maybe not) we didn’t get to see any.
We left the park this morning and are currently holed up in an airport motel in San Fran. After three weeks we are back where we started. We’ve done almost 3000 kms on our California/Nevada voyage and Sally the Sentra pulled through valiantly after reaching heights of almost 9000 feet. Tomorrow we fly out to Texas to stay with Amy and Brice and we cannot wait. It will be nice to stay put for a bit.