It is said that when a visitor asked a Yosemite ranger what he would do if he had only a day to visit the park, the ranger replied, "I’d sit by the river and weep." Like much of what we’ve seen in this area, with four million visitors each year much has been documented in far greater detail and in better prose than I could possibly write about Yosemite Valley itself.
This seven mile long, mile wide canyon cut by a river then widened and carved by a glacier is truly a wonder to behold.
We got an early start to the day and were in Yosemite Valley “the valley” just after 8 a.m. after about an hour drive from our boondocking spot high in the mountains. We’ve heard accounts of long lines at the gate and heavy congestion and even though we’re early in the season, family vacations are in full swing with kids out of school. Our reward for an early start: we had our choice of parking spots in the Curry Village area (and held onto it the entire day) and started out on our bikes to get the lay of the land. If you are able to bike through the valley, it’s definitely the way to go. Not only is it very user friendly with bike paths everywhere, but it gave us a good overview so we knew where we wanted to go back and spend more time.
Right out of the parking lot we saw five young deer grazing within several feet of people, paying no attention to us or the other gawkers. People don’t realize how dangerous they are with their sharp hooves though, and the majority of the wildlife injuries in Yosemite every year are caused by deer.
The road to our first must-see, Mirror Lake, wasn’t long but had a healthy incline. Thank goodness for the oatmeal we fueled up with earlier. As we enjoyed the morning sun on the lake a group of horse back riders clip-clopped by heading back to the stable. They sure got an early start! We saw another deer as we walked back to our bikes and more people rolled into this popular site as we biked out. The valley is waking up.
Highlights included visiting the Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Village, the Vernal Fall footbridge, Bridalveil Fall – all with a combination of biking, hiking, and catching the convenient shuttles as needed. We also watched in amazement as the Search & Rescue helicopter took off from a meadow by the medical center with a rescue line in tow, then returned a few minutes later with a hiker and two EMT’s at the end of that rope and lowered them gently to the meadow. What precision!
Another gorgeous California day of pure sunshine and temperatures in the low 80’s. Overall the crowds were better than we expected, and we finished the day with our tolerance levels pretty high. A quick drive up Highway 41 from Bridalveil Fall for the “quintessential valley photo op” at the Tunnel View turnout before pulling off in front of El Capitan on the return loop. This 3,593 foot vertical wall is THE climb to do if you’re a serious climber, and we were not to be disappointed. As we stood along the road with our necks craned back looking up we could see the tiny specs moving up the wall, so tiny that we were barely able to capture them with the telephoto lens. We both agreed that climbing something of this magnitude is simply something we have absolutely no desire to even attempt.
A long day under our belt, we joined the parade of cars heading up Highway 120 out of the park about 6 p.m, the others off to their campgrounds and hotels outside of the park, and us to our home high in the mountains. Tired, dusty, and hungry, it was certainly a good first brush in our day at Yosemite Valley and we look forward to our return.