Yosemite in a new light

Yosemite National Park Travel Blog

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Last time I went to Yosemite it was the beginning of winter.  We were roughing it and doing an overnight backpacking trip in the bitter cold.  What an experience and no doubt a place I would never forget.

I got invited back this spring to do a stay at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel.  I was disapointed at first and felt like it wouldn't be the outdoor experience I was looking for.  I felt the urge to be one with nature and sacrifice comfort for experience.  After the 5 day trip I couldn't have been happier.  I felt like I didn't miss out on anything, and really experienced the park the way people did when the hotel was brand new.

We got settled in our room right when we arrived, and I was instantly taken back by the majestic view we had out the panoramic windows.  The park immediately became our playground. 

The first day we rented bikes to tour the Valley floor.  It's really a great way to get acquainted with the layout and see a lot of things in a short amount of time.  After biking, we hiked to the bottom of Yosemite Falls, which flow like crazy in the spring compared to the next to nothing trickle that fell when I was there before.  When it's flowing you can still get way up onto the rocks and feel the water soaking you.  By this time the day was ending and we headed back to eat dinner in the bar at the hotel and talk about our plans.

The next day we got a late start but decided to take a car up Tioga Road to Tuolumne Meadows.  We got a good hike in and ended it with an off trail boulder climb to a high point.  The 360 view of the surrounding snow capped mountains was completely worth it.  This was also our warm up hike to get us ready for the big one up to Half Dome.  We got well rested that night as we were getting up early to start the 12 hr journey.

We woke up after getting really good sleep in our room and started the day.  The hotel packs you a lunch at your request and brings it to your room.  We packed these up and grabbed what water we had.  The first portion of the hike is a relatively steady incline to the top of Nevada Falls.  The waterfalls are the real wonders of this park, and when I was there in the winter most of them were non-existent.  So I really suggest going in the spring because they are everyone, and each one has distinct characteristics that make it awesome again and again.  After Nevada Falls the crowds die down a little.  The trek to Half Dome isn't even halfway done.

After following the trail for a while we decided to veer off and blaze our own.  This is not generally encouraged or safe in these massive parks as it is easy to get lost, but we were confident and in good company.  We eventually got back to the trail at the base of Half Dome.  A long stone carved stair gets you over the first hump of the rock formation.  Then comes the fun part.  The cable climb.  This is a roughly 45 degree walk up a sheer rock face with nothing but cables to hold on to.  What a rush.  And coming down was really fun 'cause you can almost repell off the rock face with the cables.

We reached the top hot and winded, but every second was worth it.  The view is that 'top of the world' feeling that only so many places can offer.  You are looking down at the entire valley and can see everything.  Waterfalls on the left and right.  The river flowing below.  Amazing.  There were patches of snow still on Half Dome and rubbing it on my face was the best feeling.  There are Marmots running around and they would try to get into your pack if you left it on the ground.  So funny and not afraid of us.  The hike down went quick and putting your swollen feet in the ice cold creek feels amazing.  We got back at dusk and just wanted to eat and sit around.  And that's exactly what we did.

With sore calves and weary ambitions we decided that our next and last day would be the river float.  We tied a net of beers to the raft and hopped in.  The water was COLD, but the weather was beautiful and warm so it all balanced out.  This was our relaxing afternoon and we were so tired that night.  Once the moon went down we headed outside for some star gazing.  Stars never cease to amaze when you live in LA and don't see them much.  The only place I have seen more is northern Minnesota.

Staying at the historic Ahwahnee with all it's history, eating in the Grand Dining Room, getting to know the staff and hearing their stories put Yosemite in a whole different light to me.  I was so opposed to the idea of staying in a hotel room, but in the end it worked out really well for a group of us.  Not necessarily the most affordable way to experience the park, but a unique and noteworthy one no doubt.

Notes:      We still got lots of great outdoor experiences and pushed ourselves hard despite staying in the lodge.  I would recommend going in the Spring to see all the absolutely amazing waterfalls and to get nice weather.  The Half Dome hike is an entire days commitment but damn worth it.  The Yosemite Falls hike that I did last time was not as long, but more vertical and difficult.  Also amazing though to stand at the top of the falls looking down.  Backpacking is accomodated well and you can rent bear canisters for cheap at the visitors center at Yosemite Village.  Yosemite is a beautiful and unique trip that I would recommend to anyone thinking about a national park trip.

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