Our campground for two weeks was Yosemite Lakes Thousand Trails and, obviously, our purpose in coming to this area was to visit Yosemite National Park. We went into the park for day visits three different days. For our first visit we drove in to look around and get our bearings. One lesson learned right off is that Yosemite National Park is huge! The park entrance is only five miles from our campground, but once in the park it’s another 30 miles of winding, steep mountain roads to the valley floor and the visitor’s center. As we continued down the mountain we came around a steep curve and were amazed with the view of Half Dome and El Capitan below us. Once we arrived in the valley we found a place to park and then used the free shuttles to get around. We went to the visitor’s center and then to the Ansel Adams Gallery where prints of some of his major works and several books of his photography are on sale. We then took a short hike down the paved path to the Lower falls viewing area. Since it is late summer and the area is in severe drought there were no falls but we enjoyed the majestic views around us. After that bit of exercise we were in the mood for a treat so we bought a couple of large chocolate cones. Everything costs more in Yosemite and surrounding areas and the ice cream was no exception. Our bill for two cones was almost $10.00! Before finishing our day we drove up to the famous “Tunnel View” for a panoramic view of the valley. The view of El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridal Falls (even without water) is stunning.
We decided to take advantage of the Yosemite Regional Transportation System (YARTS) bus for our remaining two trips into the park. The stop is right next to our campground so it is very convenient. The drivers are very friendly and helpful. Really, the fare was about what we would have paid for fuel, so it’s a great deal. They even offer multi-day tickets that include a free third day. We were dropped off at the visitor’s center and hopped on the park’s El Capitan shuttle. At one place a ranger had telescopes trained on climbers going up the sheer face of that famous mountain. He helped us see them on our own and answered questions about climbing. We then took the shuttle to the Nature Center at Happy Isles. The nature center has as a small bookstore/gift shop. It is geared to children but interesting to all comers. We decided to check out the park’s store where I enjoyed looking at all the clothes, hats, etc. for sale. There is a fully stocked grocery store there as well. I couldn’t help but see that we could have bought a quart of ice cream for less than we paid for our cones. We headed back to the park’s theatre and watched two history films of Yosemite. Then it was time for our bus back to the campground concluding a pleasant day at the park.
We rode the YARTS bus again for our third day in Yosemite. We enjoyed the short hike to Mirror Lake even though, again, this is a dry time of the year during a drought. There was no water but we were practically at the base of Half Dome. We ate lunch sitting on a rock, enjoying the majestic scenery all around us. After the hike back we refilled our water bottles and walked to the Museum. It has a room of memorabilia from the early days of the park and a room filled with Native American baskets, clothing and dioramas. There is an informative self-tour of a Native American village behind the Museum. It was another great day in the park.
One of the lessons we learned is that if you want to see the famous waterfalls it is better to come in the early spring when they are in full flow. However, another lesson is that Yosemite is beautiful even without the signature waterfalls.
Interestingly enough, we did see one very nice waterfall, but it wasn’t in the National Park. Several had mentioned Rainbow Pool which is near our campground. The falls was flowing nicely and several people were enjoying swimming in the pool at the base of the falls. A few daring fellows were climbing up to a rocky point and jumping in. It’s easy to see why this is a popular place with the locals.