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Yosemite Trip Compilation Part 2

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

Leave there and follow the signs to exit the Valley and head towards Wawona (Hwy 41).

Valley View a.k.a. Gates of the Valley One of my faves! On the way out of the valley, you'll be heading towards Wawona (while you're heading out of valley). You will pass a large rock-slide to your right, then a little while further, as you're approaching the Wawona Turnoff, all of a sudden to your left when you come around a curve, you will see a little clearing and a small parking lot with about 10 spaces at an angle to the road. There is no sign or warning, so drive slowly. Turn left into it and get out and look! You'll see a gorgeous view of Bridalveil Falls and Cathedral Rocks on one side of the valley and El Capitan on the other side, with the Merced River running by you in the foreground. This area is especially grand at sunset (the alpenglow lights up El Capitan in an orange/yellow glow, which then reflects in the river.) If you look at this as the sun is setting, you will still barely have time to get back to the cabin before it's totally dark. Don't put your sunglasses away, though. The setting sun will suddenly peak out here and there at weird spots during the curvy road and blind you!

At this point you can either head back to your cabin, choose the Wawona Hwy 41 turnoff, or you can go see Cascade Falls for a 45 minute detour (if sunlight time allows): (See below for Cascade Falls.)

Fern Spring
World's Smallest Waterfall -- Just beyond Valley View, you will approach a fork in the road where you will turn left to head back to Wawona -- Hwy 41. You'll immediately drive over a bridge and the Merced, then about 5 seconds later is the "World's Smallest Waterfall" to your right. Look down near the road, about three or four feet back from it. You can pull over right there and look -- not necessarily a big thrill, but it's cute. It's called Fern Spring.

Then it's back on the curvy road again to Wawona Hwy 41. Watch for animals -- they like the sunset hours. When you get home, light the fireplace, bake some cookies for dessert, and barbeque something wonderful to eat! Have the men clean up dinner while the ladies play Crazy 8s. Then play games with everyone. Have a good night's quiet, restful sleep in the mountains.

Side Trip to Big Oak Flat Road and Cascade Falls
Instead of taking the road to Wawona as you leave the valley, you can take the Big Oak Flat Road (which heads west out of the valley) for about a 20 minute ride that winds up through a couple of short tunnels and a spectacular waterfall (Cascade Falls) just off the right side of the road. There's a parking lot on the left side of the road as you're approaching. But you don't know that the waterfall's coming up. The parking lot is before you see the waterfall. So park in the small parking lot to your left, and then walk a minute and cross the street to view the falls. There's a sidewalk there with a guard rail for you to view the falls safely.

Two other neat places to go in the Valley:

Happy Isles
If you have more time, go to Happy Isles. It's at the very end of the valley, and can only be reached by shuttle bus. You need to park your car in the Camp Curry Day Use Parking Lot (follow the signs), then on the road right next to the parking lot, the shuttle bus will pick you up (every 10 minutes or so). Take the bus to the Happy Isles stop (maybe a 10 minute ride, if that). Get out and walk around. The scenery is gorgeous. The river rushes through there and they have pretty bridges to walk over and a nature center. And lots of Dogwood trees. This is also the beginning of the trail up to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. (About 2 miles to Vernal, practically straight up to heaven, then another 2 miles to Nevada. Not for the faint of heart!) I went to Vernal Falls twice; it took me about two hours to get up there. I stopped a lot to rest!) Towards the back of the Happy Isles area, there was a massive rock slide in 1996. It's amazing to see how it snapped off trees like toothpicks. Just a reminder of the serious side of Mother Nature! Always be aware!

Mirror Lake
You can also take the shuttle bus to Mirror Lake. (It's the only way to get there.) Unfortunately, it doesn't drop you off at the lake. You still have to walk (I think it's one mile) on a paved road with a slight incline. If you've never seen Mirror Lake, I think it's definitely worth going to see at least once in your life, especially in the spring time. They say that it's not really much of a lake anymore; more of a meadow, but the last time I went during the spring (about 2 years ago), it was beautiful. I was surprised how much water was there and how gorgeous the surrounding scenery was.

Horseback Riding Stables In that same vicinity are horseback riding stables. I have never ridden there. One thing I don't like about it is that they make you wear a helmet. We don't need no stinkin' helmets!!! Ever see John Wayne wear one? Besides, the older I get, the bigger and meaner those horses get! Who needs them anyway?

During the Summer Only

Glacier Point
It's a nice drive to the top, about an hour or so? Beautiful scenery. There's a very nice overlook area, store, cafeteria, and even bathrooms. It is an incredible view. (I think that about a third of the way to Glacier Point is Badger Pass Ski Area.)

Tioga Pass/Olmsted Point/Tenaya Lake
This area is beautiful. Unfortunately, it's up so high (almost 10,000 feet), that the road there (Tioga Pass) is only open during summer. Too much snow the rest of the year. It will take you most of the day to drive up there, look around, and get back to Wawona. My favorite stop along the way is Olmstead Point. There's a parking lot and you just walk out to the "cliff" and look at the view. Breathtaking. You will see the back side of Half Dome, among other cool stuff -- like cute little marmots, too. It is at a very high altitude, so remember when you're walking -- you'll notice it!

Tenaya Lake is very pretty. Get out and walk around. It's a good size and it's turquoise blue.

May Lake
In the Tioga Pass is a small/medium-sized lake called May Lake. It's quite the hike. I let my boyfriend and his son talk me into this adventure once. Not again! We parked on the road at the trailhead marker and started climbing. I'm too old for that stuff! It was gorgeous though. We came upon a meadow that was down a hill. It was so gorgeous, that I just had to go run through it. While I was posing for my boyfriend to take my picture in the meadow, I realized that my sunglasses were filling up with mosquitoes! Yuck! So you may want to resist the urge to do some serious meadow running! Then when I thought I could hike no longer, we came upon a parking lot! Gee, we could have parked in the lot, much closer to the lake, and saved myself all that wear and tear! But then, just past the lot, the terrain got steep and rocky. The lake was very beautiful when we finally got there, but I won't be doing it again! Save it for the young and/or physically fit. Did I really see families with back-packs and sleeping bags passing me like I was standing still??? I need to eat more spinach!

Tuolomne Meadows
Driving through Tuolomne Meadows is beautiful. July is the best time for wildflowers galore, but even without them, the creeks and mountains are spectacular.

Hetch Hetchy
I went there once, and don't quite remember the details. It was pretty neat, but it takes a day to drive out there, hike to the closest (and I use the term loosely) waterfall, and drive back. The waterfall was gorgeous and the dam is interesting to see, but I couldn't help but get depressed that it had been another beautiful valley back when until the 1920s, when it was filled with water and was dammed to serve the San Francisco area. Poor John Muir fought so hard to keep it pristine, and he actually died trying to preserve it.

When you leave Yosemite -- a good place for brunch When the fun is over and it's time to get back to reality, you won't feel like cooking breakfast and cleaning it up before you leave -- you already have enough things to do! Pack up your stuff, clean the cabin, take your trash to a bear-proof can (located throughout the area), load up the car, and don't forget to set up your tripod and your self-timer camera to get a nice shot of you all in front of the cabin. Go check out at the office, and wave good-bye. If you happen to be heading down south when you leave Yosemite, as you go down the winding road, beyond the park entrance after about 10 miles(?) of winding through the woods, just before Oakhurst, you will start to come to an area that's a little inhabited and the trees have thinned out. Just before the Bass Lake turnoff (or maybe it IS the Bass Lake turnoff) (to your left at the intersection) there's a cute little wooden restaurant (The Mountain Grille or something like that?) on the corner up against a hill. It's cute and homey inside and they have pretty good food. And even the rest rooms are very nice. Now get ready for the boring ride back home! Read Part 1

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