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Yosemite Trip Compilation Part 1

Author: Judy P. (More Trip Reviews by Judy P.)
Date of Trip: January 2001

Mariposa Grove Of Big Trees Just inside the South Entrance (turn right at the T intersection just inside the gate) and go about 15 or 20 minutes or so. Lots of huge Sequoia trees. There's a tram ride that they charge for, but I don't remember how much ($6?). I'm not sure, but the tram ride may only operate during summer. It's pretty to walk around a bit, but it's hilly and how far do you want to walk to see tree after tree? (The old "bridge" tree that you may be familiar with and hoping to see is no longer standing. It was struck down by lightning in the '60s or '70s, I think.)

The Wawona Hotel
Built in the mid-1850's The hotel is in Wawona, 5 to 10 minutes after you enter through the South Entrance (and turn left). Parking is scarce, and you may have to walk a little bit uphill to get to the hotel. The main lobby is sort of charming, feminine, 1920ish. Imagine your bustle swaying as you sashay along the wooden planks outside the rooms. You can sit and have a drink and listen to a pianist in the lobby or play chess or checkers in front of the fireplace. Or sit on a wicker chair on the veranda while you await the stage coach (just kidding about the stage coach!). The dining room is pretty nice. Expensive. Reservations recommended, maybe required. I've had really good and not-so-great meals there. At night the parking lot is very dark, and much of it is not paved, so take a flashlight with you so you don't trip on your way back to the car -- especially if there's snow or it's raining. The restrooms are outside the back door of the main lobby and to your left, just past the pay phones. (Fun when it's freezing!) They are inside and are flush toilets, are there are even some showers too since some of the rooms don't have bathrooms. There are no restrooms inside the dining area or lobby.

Also, to your left (just across the street from the hotel) is a golf course. There are often deer meandering there to welcome you into the park. Take a glance over that way while you're driving past.

The Chevron Gas Station
STOP THERE AND FILL UP IF YOU DIDN'T ALREADY IN FRESNO OR OAKHURST! It's the ONLY gas station anywhere around in Yosemite! There is not one in the Valley at all.

The Wawona Store And Post Office and the Pioneer Center are located right next door to the Wawona Hotel. This little store has a pretty good (small) selection of groceries and "artsy-craftsy" things. I think it may be open later than The Pine Tree Market that's closer to your cabin. (See below.) The Post Office is also attached.

The Pioneer Center is on the other side of this parking lot, a little farther back off the road. I love to walk around this place. When you first approach the center, there's a covered "barn" that has lots of old farming equipment, etc., on display. It's interesting to read the information plaques. Then go on to walk through the covered bridge. I think it's pretty neat to imagine how they built it and to picture stage coaches riding through it. Then there are about 10 or so old structures to look at/in. Sometimes on weekends there are folks dressed up as Pioneers giving demonstrations, and also stage coach rides (for a nominal charge -- probably only in summer.) As you enter the Pioneer "Village" through the covered bridge, let's imagine that particular spot is 6:00 o'clock on a clock -- there's a cute little old creepy jail cell at 4:00, and at 11:00 is a structure (I don't remember what -- a house I think), that has an old-fashioned water pump outside, just to the right back side of it. It's fun to give it a pump and have water come gushing out and imagine living that way in the past.

At The Redwoods
Walk by the River. It's a nice area for a leisurely stroll. At the intersection where the main lobby is located, Chilnualna Falls Road (chill-nwall'-na)- or also known to me as "the Main Road") and River Road, if you head down River Road (south towards the river), it goes to the end (a few blocks or so) and veers to the left. Go around the "U" a little bit, and off to your right you will see a cabin that's built up on the hillside, overlooking the river. You can park around there somewhere (not really marked), and walk down to the river. It's very pretty and peaceful. Not too difficult to get down there, but I wouldn't do it in high heels. Darn -- you'll have to take them off!

Everywhere you go in Wawona, be on the lookout for deer. You might even see some little Bambis with their moms during springtime. You may see a raccoon at night, or even a bear. I have seen both, but only once -- in 1972!

Trail to Lower Chilnualna Falls
(Chill-nwahl'-nah -- easy for you to say!) The trail to Lower Chilnualna Falls is a little steep. If you feel like walking a bit, it's very pretty along the Chilnualna Creek. The trail to the Upper Falls is way too steep for my liking. As you drive on Chilnualna Road to the falls/creek, there's a bridge that you can drive over. There are quite a few more homes/cabins beyond it. And a trail to something they call the swinging bridge (no, not the same one as in the Valley.) I've never been on that trail.

The Pine Tree Market
This is located to your left on Chilnualna Road (the smaller main road off of Hwy 41, a few blocks before you get to the The Redwoods office). It's a very small market with food, booze, drinks, and touristy stuff. This place is very handy, but it closes very early, so be careful. Don't figure you'll pick up ice or drinks on your way back from the valley ... chances are it'll be closed at 5:00 p.m.

The Valley is a 45-50 minute drive from your cabin.

Along the Way to the Valley
As you leave The Redwoods to head out for the valley, you'll turn right onto the main highway (41). About 1 or 2 minutes onto the highway, there's the Wawona Campgrounds to your left. The Merced River runs through there and it's a pretty place to get out and stroll along the river a bit.

Yosemite West, Glacier Point Intersection/Chinquapin, and Badger Pass Ski Area Along the way into the valley, to your left, you'll pass a turn-out for Yosemite West. That's a pretty fancy rental home/residential area. You're now about 2/3 of the way to the valley.

Very soon after that, you'll pass the "T"-intersection for Glacier Point. There's just a couple of small buildings. This intersection/city(?) is know as Chinquapin (cheenk-a-pin). This road leads to Glacier Point and Badger Pass Ski Area. If you can take that road (it's closed during winter due to snow), it's about an hour's drive up to the top. It's pretty neat, but it takes a while. There's a couple of gift shops and a small food place and a major lookout spot that looks over the valley (to one side) and Half Dome and two large waterfalls (on the other side) -- Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls (those are MAJOR hikes to get to -- see below). For years the rangers did the "Fire Falls" from Glacier Point, down to Camp Curry below. That stopped in 1969. Too many people were trampling the meadows and polluting the air with their cars, camp fires, and trash. L

As you approach The Valley -- Lookout Point a.k.a. Tunnel View a.k.a. Inspiration Point Three-quarters of the way to the valley, you'll drive through a badly burned area (the big fire in '95?). There isn't much space to pull over (I think only one spot on the other side of the road). It is starting to grow back and get green again. Soon (maybe 5 minutes or so) after that area, you'll come around a big sweeping curve to the right, and as you approach it, you'll see a valley below and mountains on the other side, and as you round that curve, ahead you'll see "The Valley" (El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, etc.) It's quite spectacular. If it's safe enough, you can pull over to the other side of the street and park to look. But if not, don't fret -- there's a major overlook spot just ahead with lots of parking. You'll go through the Wawona Tunnel. (It took them 2 years to dynamite through and they were lucky that they met in the middle!) At the very end of this long tunnel, you can turn left into the parking lot to the major overlook area. Everybody stops there, so it's crowded and crazy. People are everywhere and are totally oblivious to cars in the parking lot. Sit on the little wall and have someone take your picture (with your camera!) in front of the magnificent scenery.

It's about another 5 minutes into the valley from there -- maybe 10 minutes to the store.

As you drive around the Valley, notice the "Flood Level" signs from the 1997 flood. (About 7 feet high or so!) Amazing to think that the water was ever that high in the Valley. (Except for during the Ice Age, of course!) Check out Part 2

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