Last Saturday, Chrystie and I drove to Yosemite for a 4-day camping trip. Reservations for camping spots in Yosemite start in January and go quickly with it being the third most visited national park, surprisingly beating out Yellowstone.
We stayed in the Hodgdon Meadow campground, less than a mile from the Highway-120 entrance to Yosemite, and were told we were getting one of the best sites in the campground as it was closest to the meadow from which the campground gets its name. Much to our surprise, as we got to our site and began setting up the tent it began lightly snowing on us. Preferring snow to rain while setting up, we quickly made up the tent, got settled, and decided to take a walk to see the meadow. We walked along a small path and enjoyed the peace and quiet of the meadow as the snow fell.
On our way back to camp I spotted what turned out to be a bear across the meadow – a mere 200 yards from us.
The trail back to camp took us closer to the bear, who took notice of us as it grazed nearby. We slowly walked the path keeping a watchful eye, and made it back to camp uneaten.
Snow continued to fall softly as I started the fire and we ate burgers and s’mores, and then retired to bed. Neither of us got a good night sleep – the temperature dropped to below freezing and our sleeping bags were not rated for sub-freezing temperatures, then our tent site was on a hill which made our air mattress and sleeping bags slide to the low end of the tent, causing us to wake up cramped, cold and tired.
Despite a poor night’s sleep, we were excited to get into Yosemite Valley and explore, and even before we got into the valley we had our second bear sighting. In a little clearing right off the side of the road a bear was walking around, and about 20 people had stopped their cars and were taking photos. This bear was much closer than our encounter the previous day but didn’t seem to care about the bear-parazzi.
Once we got into the valley, we were saddened by the charred remains of the Foresta area, 90% of which was destroyed in the 1997 fire.
But amidst the destruction you can see a patch of grass and two barns that survived the fire, which I found very beautiful – an oasis in the destruction.
Along the drive to Yosemite Valley there are many vista points and we stopped at a few of them. One such point had this beautiful view of Half Dome.
After the 45-minute drive from camp, we reached the valley floor, and made a stop at Bridalveil Fall. About a tenth of a mile walk from the parking lot takes you to the base of the falls, where, on this blustery day, the spray from the fall drenched those who got close, and I dared not take out my camera.
Normally calm, the melting snow and recent rainfall made the creek below the fall gush with water.
Our next stop was at the Yosemite chapel, the oldest structure in Yosemite, and to our surprise, very much still in use.
We then walked a mile across the valley and up to the base of Yosemite Falls.
On the way back to the car we saw a group of deer grazing behind the chapel. To my disappointment, these deer seemed almost too comfortable around people, other tourists walked right up to them and took pictures and they barely took notice. It takes a little something out of the beauty of nature when the animals don’t act natural and it seems more like you’re in a zoo.
After I had my fill of photographing the deer, we headed to Yosemite Village where after trying a while to find a parking spot within the completely packed parking lot, we decided to continue on the loop. We tried finding the trailhead for the Mirror Lake trail, but were unsuccessful and we became disgruntled by the congestion in Yosemite Valley, so we decided to head back to camp. On our way out, I couldn’t resist driving over to Foresta to see the patch of land that survived the fire.
As we approached, I realized that Foresta was a town with perhaps 20 houses and people actually living there, although I think most homes were vacation homes. Afterwards, I learned that the inhabitants of Foresta became grandfathered in when Yosemite became a national park and were allowed to keep their land.
We walked around on what may or may not have been private property for a bit, and then continued on our way back to camp where we had another freezing and uncomfortable sleep.