Surprise surprise, another early start for us! The shuttle buses in Yosemite National Park start running at 7am and we wanted to make sure we were on the first one, so as to make the most of the day.
In the morning, the bar of the The Ahwanhee hotel operates as a cafe. We grabbed a coffee, juice and two pastries and headed outside to the bus stop.
We got off the bus at stop 6, the stop for lower Yosemite falls. This is an easy walk to the bottom of the falls. From a distance it looks like there is no water at all, but once you get closer you can see small trickle.
We then walked to the start of the upper yosemite falls trail. The return time for the this hike is 6-8 hours, but we only planned to go as far as Columbia rock which we were told had a good view of the vilage. This was said to be a two hour return hike.
On the way to the trail we saw a stag having his breakfast.
The trail is a series of 60 switchbacks, winding up through the forest until you emerge out onto the cliff face. I took it slow and steady, partly due to the altitude and also due to my fear of heights, which I discovered on this trip is worse than I thought.
This was our first view of the valley.
During the climb up through the forest, we had only seen one other person, but quite a few more caught up with us while we stopped to take in the view. While J was setting up his camera I watched the other people as they come out of the forest and onto the path. What totally astounded me was no-one even glanced at the view, it was all heads down, keep moving, gotta get to our destination as quick as possible. It was a bit sad, they were really missing out. And it’s not a race!
The next section of path had some sheer drops and some slippery parts but I managed to stay away from the side as much as possible!
We made it to the view point, I went on Columbia rock for a bit but then freaked out so sat back.
We had a snack and water and started back down again.
It took us exactly two hours at our pace, and with stops, to get up and back down again.
We got the bus to the village and had a quick look at the Ansell Adams gallery and then walked back to the hotel and had a dip in the pool.
Lunch in the bar starts at 11:30, and we ready on one of high tables outside next to the pool. Had to admire the oldies, one old duck was having a scotch and the two in front of us were on the martinis! (and they were only eating salads, I think I would need a bit more food than that to be able to stomach martinis at 11:30!)
We stuck with the soft stuff and each had the old fashioned chili dog (natural casing frank, French roll, Ahwahnee chili and ‘the fixins’, potato chips and pickle wedge.
Yum, the cilli was really good and I loved the potato chips. I couldn’t figure out how to pick it up and eat it without making a huge mess so used a knife and fork. J expressed surprise when he discovered the hot dog under the chilli! He thought it was just chilli in a bun. I did point out that he had ordered a chill DOG.
Lunch done, we got changed, packed and checked out on the dot of 12pm. I had requested a later check-out the night before but we didn’t need it.
Before heading out of the valley, we had a look at Bridalveil falls, another easy paved walk.
It was then up and out of the valley, on more windy roads with great views. We came in from the north and were now heading south. We wanted to go to Glacier Point as it has fantastic views over the valley and beyond, but J wanted to wait until later in the afternoon so the light was better, plus there was the not so small issue of petrol. We weren’t sure how much we would use getting to Glacier Point and back down to Wawona. So we decided to go to Wawona first and fill the tank up and also visit Mariposa Grove.
A few points about Yosemite Village before I move on. There is no petrol (gas) station in the village, so fill up before you head in. If you can, book accommodation early. You really want to stay in the valley. Otherwise you are going to have to drive in and out of the valley every day.
Anyway, we made it to Wawona, got petrol and then caught the shuttle bus to Mariposa Grove. You can drive yourself but if the car park is full you are just going to have to turn around and drive the 20-30 minutes back to Wawona and the shuttle stop. We could have driven but didn’t want to risk it, plus it was a good break for J and saved us doing even more doubling back in our car.
Mariposa grove is a sequia forest, and is famous for its huge tree. To be honest, I wasn’t that impressed. It was pretty but there were only a couple of massive trees. I wouldn’t put it on the must do list unless you are really into trees, or like us, have time to fill in.
After looking at trees, we caught the shuttle back to Wawona, picked up a few things at the general store and headed back up the mountain, this time taking the turn off to Glacier Point. Lots of pretty scenery and if we had time there would have been more walks I would have liked to have done.
I was worried about the drive to Glacier Point, as I thought it would be on another windy narrow road with steep drop offs. Thankfully, for the most part, it wasn’t. The worse part was the very last turn before the car park. It was a hair pin turn, no guardrails and the view was amazing, which I am sure has distracted a few drivers over time.
We made it into the busy car park, and saw a coyote! Didn’t get a photo of him though.
We walked over the lookout points. It was pretty stunning.
This is looking down into the the valley at The Ahwahnee Hotel. The rest of the village is to the left.
This is half dome on the right, and you could see the sand of Meadow Lake below it.
After taking some shots, I got a bit freaked out by the height and decided to sit back a bit. I leant up against a rock and people watched.
I also did some chipmunk watching!
I had clearly been sitting down too long as a chipmunk scurried up to me, put his front paws on my leg, and then climbed over me!
We moved along to another vista point and had an afternoon tea of potato chips and piccolos.
Some more shots of the view and it was back to the car and down the mountain again.
We went back through Wawona and to the park exit, which we had already seen as we drove past it on the way to Mariposa Grove. Good-bye beautiful Yosemite!
As we couldn’t get accommodation in the valley for a second night we ended up booking a room at Tenaya Lodge; just south of Fish Camp.
Tenaya is a huge complex, it has two pools, a hot tub, pool bar, bikes to hire and who knows what else, we were there less than 12 hours so didn’t do too much investigation.
We got there at 7pm, and upon check-in were told we had been upgraded to a junior suite, pity it was only for one night!
This was the only hotel we stayed at that didn’t have free wi-fi (except for North Rim where there was no wi-fi). J had pre-paid for access and I just had to get a second log in code from reception.
After checking out the room, we went straight back to the main building to get dinner. There were three restaurants to choose from, as well as a deli. Embers is the fine dining restaurant, which we definitely did not feel like. The other two, Sierra and Jackalopes Bar and Grill have identical menus, so presumably share a kitchen.
There is a central hostess desk and everyone in front of us opted for Sierra so we decided Jackalopes might be quicker. We were told there would be a 20 minute wait for a table but when we said we would sit at the bar, it was straight through and no wait. Bar seating wins again!
There was heaps of empty tables, so we presume the 20 minute wait was due to yield management.
Drinks were ordered, a margarita for me and a beer for J.
For dinner J had the schnitzel (breaded pork cutlet served with a zesty lemon caper butter sauce).
He loved it, it was simple, cooked perfectly and just what he felt like.
I had the Philly cheese-steak (grilled certified Angus beef, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, Provolone cheese, ciabatta roll).
It was good, but the best part was the salad, I don’t think I have ever eaten a salad so quickly, clearly I needed some greens!
The service by the staff behind the bar was fine and we were kept updated on how long our food would be. It probably would have come out quicker if one of the chefs didn’t keep popping out to check the baseball scores and have a chat to the bartenders.
After dinner we went back to the room and got ourselves packed and sorted for our flight the next day.