What better fuel for our adventure into Yosemite National Park? A McBreakfast. That’s how we started our day in Oakdale, California, after rolling out of the Best Western parking lot we had slept in the night before. On our way to one of the most famous US National Parks, we passed through communities such as Moccasin, Chinese Camp, and Groveland. The highway was as twisty, treacherous, and beautiful as the PCH, but much higher at 6000 feet above sea level. As we entered the National Park, the landscape changed drastically. In the drizzle and fog, we passed tunnels, waterfalls, and notable peaks and rock walls such as El Capitan, Half Dome, and Yosemite Peak.
Immediately upon reaching the Yosemite Village area, we parked the van and took a quick walk into Lower Yosemite Falls to stretch our legs and get our bearings. The weather was a balmy eight degrees celsius but we didn’t care. The falls were striking and the redwood trees reminded me of an enchanted forest. I kept commenting on how unreal the trees look– they literally look fake, like a movie set! After a quick warm-up and some souvenir shopping at the visitor’s centre, we made our way to Upper Pines Campground where we had scored a last-minute two-night stay that had opened up that day. The Recreation.Gov app is the best way to book anything within the national parks.
It was still cold and rainy when we pulled into our designated campsite, so I hunkered down in the back of the van with my park pamphlets and information guides to decide on a hike for the following day. Completing a hike was number one on our must-do list while in Yosemite. I had desperately wanted to hike the Half Dome Cables, but we arrived too early in the year as the cables don’t get set up until late May. After picking our trail (which I will get to in a bit) we dozed off for a rainy-day nap. When we awoke, the sky had cleared and the air was a little warmer. Box of wine in hand, we set off for a stroll around Upper Pines to scope out all the cool camping set-ups– we spotted lots of sweet Airstreams and Sprinters, a few A-Frame pop-up trailers, and a couple of Westfalias. We talked about our plans for our own tent trailer renovation and how excited we are to get our new puppy, Archie, just a week later.
It was an early rise for our big hike: Upper Yosemite Falls. We picked this trail after learning that Yosemite Falls is the 5th highest waterfall in the world and the tallest in North America. That sounded like a pretty remarkable accomplishment to have on our imaginary hiking resume, so we decided to go for it. And we did it! We were so proud of ourselves. The trail is the oldest in the park at almost 150 years old, having been constructed from 1873 to 1877. It was a challenging hike, especially the last third. Here are the stats: 15 kilometres, 850 feet of elevation gain, and over 135 switchbacks. The trek down was much easier on the heart and lungs but just as hard on the body. The views were simply spectacular, looking out over Yosemite Valley and Half Dome. The trail gets you up close and personal with the waterfall itself and the mist is so refreshing on a hot day, which it was, at about 25 degrees celsius. From the falls overlook, the sudden drop at the top of the waterfall made my heart leap. This was the highest elevation either of us had ever hiked, but not the highest elevation we’ve ever been at as Sulfur Mountain in Banff is higher.
We were tired and sore after the hike, but our hearts and bellies were full after a yummy supper, cold drink, and hot shower (showers are in Curry Village and are super clean!). The following morning was another early rise as we didn’t want to spare one second getting ourselves out of the mountains and into the desert.