With just one full day in Yosemite National Park, we’re up and out of our accommodation early. Yesterday’s introduction to the park via Tioga Road was spectacular, but today we are spending the day in the Valley.
We re-enter the park via the Arch Rock Entrance and our first stop is Bridalveil Fall. We take the short path from the parking to the base of the waterfall. It’s September – not a great month for roaring waterfalls. Bridalveil Fall certainly wasn’t in full flow, but had a good trickle going.
This is the first time since Pahrump that I’ve managed to get a mobile phone signal, so I give Ma and Pa Lee a quick call. “I’M STANDING BY A WATERFALL! YES, A WATERFALL!…”
We continue on our way. We park at the Day Use Parking Lot; there are a few spaces left but this car park is likely to be full up by about 10am. Despite making a firm plan of what to do and what to see today, we decide to just wander around and soak up the morning sunshine. Finally we head towards Yosemite Falls past the Village and the Visitor Center. I’m assuming we were at Yosemite Falls, although all we were faced with was a dry monolith of rock. I’m sure this is beautiful in the springtime, and we vow to return one day when the falls are in full flow.
We find ourselves on the Valley Floor Trail, and follow this until we emerge at a picnic area and a beautiful meadow. There’s a sign pointing us towards Happy Isles Nature Center, but we soon lose the trail and carry on towards Curry Village. Curry Village in one of the accommodation options actually in Yosemite National Park.
With only a Whoa Nellie Deli sandwich for dinner last night, our tummies are growling loud enough to catch the attention of any passing bears. We hop on a shuttle at Curry Village back to Yosemite Village. Quick word on the Valley Shuttle buses – they’re frequent, well-run and a fantastic way of getting around the park when your feet will carry you no more.
We head to the Village Grill. It’s a standard burger joint, although we don’t often get squirrels running around our feet at the burger joints back home. A burger, fries and soda later, we head to El Capitan Meadow on the El Capitan shuttle. This shuttle only runs in the summer months but we were happy to find it still running late September. It does run a lot less frequent than the Valley Shuttle so check the timetable.
The driver drops us off at El Capitan Meadow with a promise to be back to pick us up in 30 minutes. This is a fantastic place to just sit and relax, in the meadow or by the river, and watch the tiny little ants climbing up El Capitan. We are assured that these are not ants, but brave and intrepid climbers. As this is a 3,000 foot vertical rock face, I am extremely glad that my feet are firmly planted on the ground. At the shuttle stop, there is an “Ask a Climber” programme set up – the only question I’m tempted to ask is “Are you all completely mad?”
We’re shuttled back to the Village, from where we climb onto another shuttle for a complete circuit of the Valley. Much of my deliberation when making plans for this particular day was whether to include a hike. We’re not particularly “unfit” but we hadn’t done anything to prepare for extended walking sessions, and – well, our lungs aren’t what they used to be.
We decide to do the hike to Vernal Falls Footbridge; it’s less than a mile after all. So it can’t be that challenging. Can it? It’s not like we’re deciding to hike Half Dome or anything. And we can’t come to Yosemite National Park without at least attempting a hike. We start the trail. So far, so good. And for the first 10 minutes we’re fine. There are lots of people coming down; they all look happy enough, no-one looks in too much pain.
And then the incline gets just a tad steeper, and the air seems to get just a tad thinner. Suddenly, the energy and enthusiasm of 10 minutes before have started to wear off a little. It takes longer to reach each corner, with extended “photo breaks” in order to catch our breath…
At the point where my legs have ceased to function anymore (largely because they are now made of jelly), someone coming down the trail tells us there’s only a couple of minutes to go. “It’s just round that corner”. How can we give up now? We’re so close! There’s a couple behind us who look even more unfit than we are, and have been matching our “photo breaks” stop for stop. I’m determined we’re going to get there before they do.
Spurred on by the thought of beating the other couple, we’re full steam ahead for our destination. And – yes, there it is!! Except, what with the falls being quite puny, and the view being mainly concealed by trees, it’s not particularly the spectacular reward we deserved for all that effort. However, we are very proud of ourselves for pushing ourselves that far, and not giving up – even with blancmange legs. In fact… I’m feeling OK now… shall we carry on to the top of Vernal Falls? Or even Nevada Falls – it can’t be that difficult? Mr Fletche thinks that just maybe I’m getting a little ahead of myself, particularly as I was considering calling mountain rescue five minutes ago.
So, we start our descent. And guess what? It’s no wonder all the people we saw coming down were happy. It’s a hell of a lot easier coming down than going up.
We sink into the comfortable seats of a shuttle bus, all smug and happy with ourselves. Then we’re humbled by a lady on the shuttle – who probably had a good twenty or thirty years on us – who had hiked the John Muir Trail to the top of Nevada Fall and the Mist Trail down, and was then talking about the hikes she’d be doing tomorrow. There are some amazing people hiking here in Yosemite National Park. One day we’ll return and tackle a much more challenging hike.
We’re glad to see the Fletchemobile after a day on our feet (give or take the time spent on the shuttle). It’s late afternoon so we decide to head towards Glacier Point for sunset. If Mr Fletche thought the Tioga Road drive was challenging, this one beats it hands down. The road is incredibly twisty and narrow, with a sheer drop on the passenger side. My side.
We finally get to Glacier Point. The car park is packed and the viewpoint is 1-mile hike away. We retrace our steps back to Washburn Point. The views from here are also spectacular and there are far less people. As the sun goes down we watch the changing colours on the mountains, but we decide to retreat back down Glacier Point Road before the sun sets and we’re left in complete darkness. This does mean that Mr Fletche has to battle the setting sun in his eyes as we slowly – blindly – make our way back.
We catch the sunset at Tunnel View and then head back to Yosemite View Lodge. We head down to the main complex at the Lodge to suss out food options for the evening. We’re on a budget, and the restaurant seems a little expensive, so we decide to stock up at the General Store on sandwiches, potato chips, chocolate and other disgustingly unhealthy goods. For the second night in a row, dinner is a picnic in our hotel room.