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Trip Report Trip Report - Yosemite National Park, June 2011

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I decided to take my daughter and 4 ½ year-old granddaughter on a short trip to Yosemite. Since I wanted to see the waterfalls at their best, this trip was squeezed between two others and I didn’t realize I had selected Fathers’ Day weekend.

I hadn’t started to plan until early 2011 so I immediately made reservations outside the park in El Portal and began the very long process of building a four-night reservation inside the park at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls.

Eventually I got cancellations for all four nights (the last only two weeks before the trip).

The plan was to fly to San Francisco arriving late in the afternoon and either stretch our legs there and leave for Yosemite the next morning or drive the first hour and stop for the night. We were concerned about the granddaughter being cooped up.

We never planned on the “flight from hell”. See The Flight from Hell at the end of the report.

While Yosemite is beautiful, I found enough negatives to make me think twice about returning. See Yosemite Negatives at the end of the report.

Rather than give a blow-by-blow chronological account I’ll list what we did and comment.

Yosemite Falls. These falls are visible from various locations in the park. I found it looked best around noon when the sun glistened off the water. The approach to the Falls is very scenic and obviously very popular. One evening we walked under the falls. My granddaughter was quite pleased that she “convinced” me to run thru the light spray. The falls were also visible from the area of the Swinging Bridge (a great reflection off the water) and at Glacier Point. You just cannot miss this spectacular sight.

The Mist Trail. This was one of two hikes I really wanted to do. The smartest thing we could have done was take with a stroller. I expected the hike to the bridge would be easy and that I would possibly leave my daughter and granddaughter there while I went on to Vernal Falls. Nobody told me it’s almost all uphill to the bridge. We took turns pushing the stroller and got a good workout.

I went on to the Falls myself and while I had little interest in climbing to the top I went about halfway up to take photos. That was a challenge due to the spray/mist. At one point I saw a rainbow down below. Although I had a rain jacket on I still got drenched. On the way back I found a little turnoff onto a large rock that gave great, dry views of the falls.

In my opinion Vernal Falls was the nicest of the waterfalls. This might have be due to the fact that for most of the waterfalls you have a choice of being right up under the falls in the spray or quite a distance away where they all have the same basic look.

Sentinel Dome. My plan was to hike to Sentinel Dome and cut over to Taft Point. Although there is no sign along Glacier Road indicating either trail, the number of parked cars gave it away. There was enough snow along the trail and on parts of the Dome to make things interesting.

This was a fun hike with excellent 360 degree views from the top.

Unfortunateley, I got lost trying to hike to Taft Point and never got there. Eventually I met up with a family from Germany that had a GPS and we were soon joined by another lost couple. While the GPS helped, crossing the same stream twice had us wondering.

Wildlife. Actually we saw very little. A bear ran across the road at Happy Isles but it was too quick. We saw another bear on the Glacier Road near Washburn Point.

There were a few small deer near Happy Isles and at the Mariposa Grove. One larger deer was taking a nap beside the north Valley loop road.

Camera Walk. This morning walk was led by one of the Ansel Adams Gallery staff. Although he spent too much time trying to get point-and-shoot cameras to operate in manual mode, he still managed to give us some good tips. Interesting and worth the time.

Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. Amazing trees but for some reason I expected to see more of them.

Two shuttle buses out of service on Fathers’ Day didn’t help. It was interesting to see the giant trees. Walking thru the Tunnel Tree was fun and we saw several deer just on the other side. My granddaughter got more interested when a ranger came by with a group of people. Although she told me that she didn’t understand what he was talking about, she insisted on walking along with the group and listening to his talk.

Tunnel View. Amazing late in the afternoon/evening when the sun is shining from behind.
Swinging Bridge. Great early morning reflections of Yosemite Falls in the calm water just to the side of the bridge.
Sentinel Bridge. Sunset views of Half Dome.
Sentinel Dome. Unbeatable 360-degrees views around the Valley.
Washburn Point. Excellent views of Half Dome and Vernal and Nevada Falls.
Glacier Point. Similar to Washburn Point except a slightly different angle and the addition of the Yosemite Falls side of the Valley.
Anywhere along the Valley loop between 7 and 9AM. Just too many places to stop.

Childrens Activites
Junior Ranger Walk. My granddaughter enjoyed these more than anything else in the park. The rangers were very intune to children and spoke at their level. Getting a ranger badge at the end of each walk didn’t hurt.

Starry Skies Over Yosemite Valley. This is billed as a children’s activity. Most of what was said was well over my granddaughter’s head. She enjoyed being out in the dark and seeing the stars but at one point told me she didn’t understand what he was saying.

Nocturnal Walk to Yosemite Falls. I list this separately as it was a highlight for my granddaughter. We went while it was still light out but getting dark quickly. She enjoyed the walk there and the return loop. She still tells people about running across the viewing deck under the waterfall’s spray.

Yosemite has to be one of the most scenic places anywhere. There are spectacular views almost anywhere in the Valley at any time of day. Also, locations such as Sentinel Dome, Washburn Point and Glacier Point provide stunning views of the Valley below.

In spite of some of the negatives, this ended up being another excellent visit to a National Park.

Photos of the trip can be seen at:


= = = = = = = = = = = =
The Flight from Hell

We arrived in Atlanta ontime, and not long after saw that our flight to SFO that was supposed to leave at 3:30PM was now delayed.

6:00 PM. We taxied toward the runway following repairs.
6:30 PM. Returned to the gate for further repairs.
9:00 PM. Taxied toward the runway.
11:00 PM. Returned to the gate following a weather delay as the pilot reached his maximum daily work limit.
Midnight. Flight cancelled due to lack of a pilot.
12:30 AM. My daughter found a “hotel” and took my granddaughter to get some sleep.
2:30 AM. I rebooked our flight and actually got a very good 11:15AM non-stop flight to SFO.
3:00 AM. Taxi to the “hotel” where my daughter got a room.
8:00 AM. Back to the airport.

To give you an idea about the quality of the hotel, there was a sign at the registration desk that informed guests that cancellations were not permitted more than 5 minutes after registration.

= = = = = = = = = = =
Yosemite Negatives

Yosemite Lodge is in a great location and while basic was adequate though quite over-priced. The price you pay for location. The cafeteria prices were more like a full-service upper-level restaurant. The amount of guest parking is grossly inadequate since a complete parking lot is reserved for tour buses. Spending 15 minutes looking for a parking space and then another 10 minutes walking to the room was quite annoying.

Every evening traffic was backed up for an hour to leave the park. I realize we were there on Fathers’ Day weekend but being in a two hour traffic jam entering the Valley was a bit much. If other parks can reduce/eliminate traffic issues I don’t see why Yosemite can’t as well.

The day we went to the Mariposa Grove we parked in the lot and took the free shuttle bus. Free means that if there are any issues service will be reduced. I’ll bet those who paid for Glacier Point tours wouldn’t have had an issue if their bus broke down.

Since two of the Mariposa Grove shuttle buses were out of service, the shuttle was running every 45 minutes instead of every 20 minutes. When we took the bus not everybody at the stop was able to fit on that bus. Can you imagine waiting about 25 minutes (average between buses) for the bus and then having to wait another 45 minutes for the next one?
At $25 per person I’m glad most of the tour trams passed us almost empty.

Yosemite has to be the most commercial National Park. There’s a ticket desk at every turn for the various events.

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