Friday, 1 September 2017
Yosemite National Park
Kim and I had big plans for the day today, as it was our last full day at Yosemite. We had to check out of our Yosemite Lodge room before 11 AM and then check into the famous Majestic Hotel, but not until 4 PM, so we planned to pack up, load the car, and do a couple of hikes in the morning and then do a Valley tour in the afternoon before moving to our new not-so-humble abode. I won’t say how much, but let’s just say in all of my travels, I have NEVER paid anywhere near as much money for a hotel room of any kind as we paid for 18 hours (maybe) at the Majestic. We were sure hoping it wouldn’t have been a mistake! (The only reason we were moving was because that was the only place in the park that we could get a room for the first night of Labor Day weekend.)
Anyway, we went to the Lodge’s food court for breakfast, and my mom told me if I couldn’t say anything nice, not to say anything at all.
We caught a shuttle bus right outside the front desk at the Lodge and rode it to stop #16, Happy Isles. The bus was almost empty when we got on, and thirty minutes later, when we got off, it was packed to the gills. Almost everyone got off with us – seemed a hike to Vernal Fall was on lots of people’s agendas this morning. It was a gorgeous day – not nearly as smoky as it had been yesterday – and it was just starting to get hot. The Vernal Falls hike (aka the Mist Trail) had been listed as ‘moderate to strenuous’ on the info sheet, but the info lady we had spoken to yesterday decreed that we would have no trouble with it. The hardest part about it, she said, was that there was a pretty steep elevation change over a short distance, but that if we took it slow and easy, we’d be fine. Right.
It didn’t help that we chose the wrong trail to start off on, but we got to see a stream measuring station and talk to the nice lady at the Happy Isles visitor center, and we weren’t the only ones who had made that mistake. Off we went, back to the bus stop, across the bridge, and up the hill. We were behind a large group of Asians who were about our age or older and who had grasped the idea of ‘slow and steady’. I guess I am more hare than tortoise, and I have no problem stopping to rest and then moving on again. With my long legs, it’s harder to go slowly than to move on a rest when I need to! We had been warned to stay adequately hydrated, so every time we stopped, we had a drink of water. I was loving the cool water ‘bottle’ that I bought at Tahoe and wishing I had purchased more than one. I really wish my photos were a better representation of the elevation change and how strenuous it was. Granted, some young people seemed to be having no trouble with it, but there were LOTS of people having way more difficulty than Kim and I were.
Before too long, we reached the footbridge and were rewarded with a fantastic view of the waterfall. Our original plan was to refill our water bottles here (with the potable water available) and head back down, but the activities guy at the Lodge and implored us to continue up the hill for a better view. So after we rested a bit and took some photos, off we went, looking for the big rock he had told us to climb to. We found the rock, but kept going, always hoping for a better view around each turn. We went until we reached the rocky stairway that led to the very top of the falls and decided we’d had enough – in fact, had we kept going, we wouldn’t have had time for the rest of our day’s agenda! After a few more photos, back down the hill we went. As expected, going down was as hard on the knees as going up was on the lungs, but it went lots faster!
We made it down to the bus stop just before another bus arrived to take us to the next stop, the Mirror Lake trailhead, which was about a mile away. We had been told that there was still water in the lake (usually there was only water in winter and spring) and that it was a nice, easy hike on a paved road. Thankfully, those reports were correct. We had great views of Half Dome and the lake, while not full, did have enough water for people to frolic in and for us to cool off with. We walked back part of the way on a trail instead of the road since it was shady and nice. We didn’t have to wait long for a bus, so it looked like we would make it back to the Lodge in plenty of time for our planned 2:00 Valley Tour.
We not only made it back before the tour started, we had just enough time to grab a beer and make a quick rest stop. Rejuvenated, we hopped on the tour train, sitting in the front row, since all others were taken. That turned out to be great for several reasons – we had the whole row to ourselves, there was no one in our way when taking pictures, and we got to be the ranger’s pets. Our ranger guide was Owain (pronounced Owen) who had been a ranger at our old favorite, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. He did a fabulous job pointing out the sites and telling us a lot of history about the park and filling us in on the flora, fauna, and geography of the park as well. The tour was two hours, and we made two stops – one about 30 minutes in and one 30 minutes later – and even though it was really hot by mid-afternoon, we kept moving just enough to stay cool. It really helped to be able to spread out a bit, too! We got to see all of the most iconic Yosemite landmarks and we saw parts of the park we had not gotten to on our own, so it was a good activity for us.
By the time we got back to the Lodge, it was check in time at the Majestic, and we were hot, tired, thirsty, and pretty stinky. We self-parked, lugged in our bags, checked in, and made our way to our room, only to find out that it was occupied! Ack! At least the couple lounging in there was fully dressed!! I went back down to the desk and after many apologies and no one knowing quite what happened, we got a new room (a corner one!) and a voucher for a free breakfast (no small change there – that was a $45 value!). Kim reported that we should be glad we were the ones to move, as a very large and very loud party had checked in to the room next door to our original room. Thankfully, we were on the same floor, so our move was a short one.
Our room was plenty big and hooray!! It had air conditioning!!! Best of all, the shower was heavenly!!! I think I took a 30 minute shower! Once we were clean and fresh and ready to rejoin civilization, we went down to the Majestic Lounge and got a table on the patio, had a cocktail, and then enjoyed a nice supper. We split a Caprese salad and a Cuban sandwich and then we each had a dessert – Kim had a chocolate chip cookie with ice cream and I had the famous Majestic boysenberry pie, also with ice cream. It was the perfect end to our fun-filled and busy day!
We would be leaving Yosemite on Saturday morning, which also meant we would be heading east for the first time in two weeks….but we still have almost a week to go!