Majestic Yosemite

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!

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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!

Walking Through Woods and Meadows

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Yosemite National Park

For the first time in weeks, we slept in because we had no place to be at any particular time and we didn’t need to be moving on.  It’s probably a good thing we didn’t have AC, because we might have slept until noon!  Kim was feeling pretty nervous about the forest fires in the area, and it didn’t help that it was very smoky outside – it was not going to be a great day for photos, that much was certain!  As it was, by the time we were ready to head out, we had pretty much missed breakfast, so we wandered over to Yosemite Village and got some lunch at the Yosemite Grill.  We had burgers and split an allegedly unbelievably good milkshake – neither were anything to write home about, but they hit the spot.

We had already decided that some pool time was going to be in order later in the afternoon, so we did the short hike back to see the beautiful Yosemite Falls.  This was a very easy, very flat trail, but we still got a kick out of some of the hiking attire sported, mostly by women.  Heels, flip flops, fancy jewelry, and my favorite, designer backpack/pocketbooks.  Seriously?  When we arrived at the base of the falls, lots of people (and many, many young children) were playing on the huge rocks, despite constant warnings of falls, swift water, slick rocks, etc.  So many people forget to pack their common sense when they go out into nature!   We learned that at Yosemite, if a waterfall is one single cataract, it is called a fall, like Bridal Veil Fall, but if it is made up of multiple parts, like Yosemite Falls, it is called falls.  Important distinction, evidently!

We walked on back to our room in the Willow building of Yosemite Lodge and got our suits on and headed for the pool, which was right next door.  We practically had the whole pool to ourselves, and yes, we not only got in, but we stayed in for a while and swam.  And impressed the lifeguards with our stellar floating abilities.  Until we heard them discussing body fat and its relationship to good floating…. Once we were fully refreshed and had maybe had a short nap in the sun, we geared up for more afternoon activities, starting with happy hour outside the Mountain Room Lounge.  We each had a Peach Mule and shared some popcorn.  A little squirrel may have been the recipient of some wayward kernels.

After our libations, we took a photo walk through Cook’s Meadow.  The light was great, but it was still too hazy and smoky to get really good rock/waterfall photos.  Thankfully, there were plenty of other great photo ops!  After our walk, we had a lovely dinner at the Mountain Room.  Kim had a smoked salmon flatbread and I had grilled salmon with sweet corn polenta and asparagus.  We split a decadently rich chocolate cake – so good!  It was dark by the time we walked back to our room, and the moon was gorgeous!  It was a fun day – restful and full of nature!

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So Long, Long Hike, Longer than Expected Drive

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Lake Tahoe, California to Yosemite National Park, California, 245 miles

0901 Lake Tahoe to Yosemite Valley 245

Map credit: Google Maps 2017, courtesy AAA

Since it was our last morning in paradise, Kim and I wanted to take Laura and Don out for breakfast and one of their favorite places called Bert’s, which happens to be right across the street from Ernie’s.  Too funny!  Bert’s  would have been one of my go-to joints as well – my sausage Benedict was incredible, and Kim’s eggs, bacon, and blueberry pancake looked yummy.  We went back to the cabin and loaded our car, and then Kim and I headed up the lake toward Emerald Bay for a hike and a tour of Vikingsholm.  We parked the car at Eagle Point Campground and made our way to the trailhead of the Rubicon trail, which was about 1.5 miles from Vikingsholm, which was a private home built by Mrs. Lora Knight in 1929.

Rex and I had been to Vikingsholm before, but we had hiked down the driveway, which is a VERY STEEP 1 mile hike – killer on the knees going down and aerobically exhausting getting back up.  The Rubicon trail is longer, but on a much easier grade.  It was a fun hike, as we could see the tea house on Fannette Island and then even Vikingsholm on the way down the mountain.  Just before reaching the house, we crossed a bridge over a pretty running creek.  We got there just in time for the noon tour, which we thoroughly enjoyed.  Be sure to read more about Vikingsholm HERE, and visit it when you go to Lake Tahoe.

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The hike back up was not bad at all, although it was a good bit warmer by the time we started up the hill.  Just as we reached the end of the trail, we met a couple and a Tahoe photography tour guide who were on their way to the Point, so we extended our hike long enough to see the view from there.  We were rewarded with panoramic views of the lake and of Emerald Bay, and we could even see Don and Laura’s place from there.  We saw a huge eagle’s nest on the way back, but no eagles – bummer!

Since we were going to Yosemite, we knew we needed to get on the road soon, so we didn’t delay any more, nor did we stop for a cold drink.  It was just as well, since the route we had decided to take proved to be impassable due to a forest fire.  Thankfully, we did not have to backtrack too far to get on a different path (thanks to a friendly sheriff who was in the right place at the right time for us – getting his mail from a rural mailbox where we just happened to be turning around!) and we made it to the Yosemite Valley Lodge just as darkness fell.  Turns out it was really good we talked to the sheriff, because the alternate route we would have taken was also closed due to a different fire!  Yosemite is one of those places that you have to wanna be – it was not an easy drive, but it was beautiful!  At least I was able to enjoy it – I had to keep telling Kim not to look, as it was a steep, curvy mountain road with very few guardrails.  We were very thankful to have gotten as far as we did before the sun started setting!

We got checked in, found our room (not without incident!), unloaded the car, and headed to the Mountain Room Lounge for a late dinner and a well-deserved adult beverage.  We opted to share a big appetizer platter of ceviche, a charcuterie, and chips and salsa while sipping on cocktails.  We had enough food for about six people and we did not eat it all!

After our long and tiring day (all 17,000 steps of it), we sort of collapsed into our beds and were asleep right away.  If only we’d had some air conditioning, we may have slept really well!  And if Kim hadn’t waked up worrying about forest fires!  Anyway, it was a fantastic day and we were thrilled to be in the park!