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Yosemite National Park

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That's the best sign you get at the East entrance to the park...
A Historian named Richard White once said: "I think a family vacation in the West, is like vacations everywhere. It also can be a pilgrimage. Americans are pilgrims in their own country when they go to places that they really feel in some way, they have to see before they die."

Yosemite might be one of those places. Located in the middle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, in an area the size of Rhode Island, Yosemite showcases some of the most breathtaking views and diverse climates of the Sierra Nevadas.

It's the first place I encountered big trees. The (relatively) narrow Yosemite Valley, with its granite walls and peaceful meadows, is a wonder to visit. And the Yosemite Ale is pretty tasty after a long day...

The problem with places like Yosemite, Yellowstone, Death Valley, and the other major parks, is you don't realize how *big* they are. It's 70 miles from US-395 to the Yosemite Valley, and Wawona is another 35. And that's at speed limits of 45 or less. And then you also have to add in all the stops for pictures, food, souvenirs and just to soak in the grandeur.

We entered the park through Tioga Pass, and headed to Yosemite Valley for lunch. Tioga Road usually opens sometime in may, and closes in November. About a half a year. It's the only entrance that exits to the East side of the Sierra Nevadas, so if you're driving here in the winter, plan ahead. Back to Top

Tioga Road

Tioga Road
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Yosemite National Park Map
Map of Yosemite National Park. Click on the map for a larger view.
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Tioga Road Entrance to Yosemite Valley

Tioga Road
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Yosemite Valley (and Tunnel View)

Yosemite National Park Map
Map of Yosemite Valley. Click on the map for a larger view.
The valley itself has its share of attractions, though I think the valley itself is more scenic from above. Still, you get to see the rock formations you've seen in all those movies and travel channel programs. The Merced river and the peaceful meadows in the valley make this place a marvel. But I wasn't there during the height of the tourist season...

El Capitan is supposedly the largest single block of granite, and stands 3593 feet from base to summit. Half dome, rises to 8842 feet, and is the youngest rock in the park. It's only 87 million years old. Bridalveil fall is 620 feet high, and was the only flowing fall in the valley, since the snowpack were gone by the time we visited and Yosemite Falls was dry...

Yosemite Valley
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Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias

Sometimes you just have to have a human in frame to get the scale...
We got to the Southern end of the park early, so we decided to go to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. There are some 500 sequoias here, the oldest over 3000 years old. The tallest is almost 300 feet. They average about 15 feet in diameter, and weigh in at 2 million pounds. These are massive trees. I've seen tall trees down in the Congaree Swamp, and big trees up in Glacier National Park, but nothing quite as massive as these. They're simply the largest living things on Earth.

This is a pretty famous picture from 1899, showing the US cavalry standing on the Fallen Monarch. 100 years later, the tree is still there, a little bit more worn, but I'd really be happy if *I* survived in that condition for a hundred years.

The reason these giants weren't ravaged by the early settlers of California, is that Sequoia really make for crappy building materials. A high amount of minerals makes the wood brittle, as can be witnessed by the fallen trees scattered though the grove. I'll bet these things made some noise when they fell, no one around, or not.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias
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I tried to get a room at one of the hotels in Yosemite Valley, and the only one available was in the Ahwahnee. Now I know things here are a bit pricy here, but at the bargain price of $379, plus a 9.7% tax, I decided staying in Yosemite Valley wasn't that important.

So I booked a room at the Wawona, a historic mountain resort within the park's boundaries. The particular building we stayed in, was built in 1877. The porches were being replaced, which lead me to the question, when you replace this and install plumbing, replace that and install electricity, replace the other thing and install heat, how much is really left from 125 years ago?

Interestingly, I had to pay extra $55.25 for a room with a bathroom. But the next morning was in the low thirties and it was worth every one of those 5,525 cents.

Here's the interesting part. I had to sign a document that said I would remove all the food, including unopened bottles and cans); all drinks, including all unopened bottles and cans; any ice chests, even if they're empty; any scented items, like toothpaste, soap and sunscreen; and all the trash from the car.

If I didn't, my car could be towed, and could be fined up to $5,000. That's 90 bathrooms at Wawona...

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Glacier Point

It's a 32 mile drive from Yosemite Valley to Glacier Point, but you end up at a place 3200 feet directly above the valley, with Half Dome on one end, and Yosemite Falls on the other. We were there in late fall, so the snow melt was gone, and there were no falls, but if there *were* falls, I could say it's the highest falls in America.

There are several pull offs on Glacier Point Road, some of which provides amazing views of the valley. You hear a distant roar, and it sometimes takes a bit to realize you're seeing several waterfalls far off in the distance.

Glacier point itself, looks over the Yosemite Valley. It's sorta scary, when you look down over the edge, and see a sheer drop for 3000 feet.

Glacier Point
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Trip Report: Sep 2005.

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