Wow, wow, wow!!!

Trip Start Dec 14, 2007
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Trip End Mar 16, 2009


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Flag of United States  , California
Sunday, October 26, 2008

After the bright lights of Vegas we needed to slow things down a little and reacquaint ourselves with nature and there was no better place to do this than the Yosemite (pronounced Yos-sem-itee) National Park. We left Vegas early since this would be our longest stretch of the road trip. Before we knew we were at the city limits and it became clear how isolated a city Vegas was the trees and houses fell away. The desert outside Vegas was beautiful with ever changing landscape from long flat valleys with nothing but dry scrub to lost sand dunes slowly creeping across the desert and blinding white salt flats. We even drove past Area 51, the most secretive place in the world where conspiracy theorists believe UFO's were found.

We'd chosen to take the back route into Yosemite which is often closed due to heavy snowfall but was still open. Once we'd passed Death Valley National Park we started getting into mountainous territory where wild horses roamed free and the road started steadily climbing towards the Tioga Pass. The roads leading to the pass were incredible in the way that it looked as if they were instantly rolled on over rolling hills as they would do in cartoons. It was up and down for miles and parts of the road over little hills was so suddenly steep it looked as if you were driving into a wall rather than a steep little hill. On route we also passed the alkaline and hypersaline lake Mono Lake which looked more like an alien landscape than a beautiful lake and would have spent more time exploring if we weren't pressed for time.

Travelling through the Tioga Pass we could still see patches of snow along the road and it reminded us that winter was on its way and we felt the sting of the cold air as we arrived at Yosemite Park. From the eastern entrance of the park it's still more than an hour to the campsites as the roads are extremely winding and the speed limit is low to prevent animals being hit by speeding cars. Despite the slow going the drive was incredibly beautiful as we passed beautiful lakes and massive granite mountains covered in pine trees. We arrived in Curry Village where we'd be staying just before dark which was slightly after 4pm which seemed very early but as we were at the bottom of a deep valley the light faded quickly. In the last light of the day the view of famous half dome mountain, which has become Yosemite's symbol, was incredible and our cosy little cabin was situated among some beautiful trees at the base of the mountain.

We had two full days to explore the park and spent the first day driving out to some of the more well know viewing points like Glacier Point which allows views of the entire valley. From the view point you can clearly see how the valleys were created millions of years ago when glaciers still crept across the land. The view was breathtaking and we spend almost an hour taking photos and enjoying a picnic with a view to die for.

The afternoon was spent warming up with a leisurely hike around the picturesque Tenaya Lake before we tackled the 'strenuous' hike up to Vernal and Nevada Falls. It was great being out in nature again and we were excited and a little nervous of the prospect of perhaps seeing a bear which are abundant in the park. Later back at camp we settled in our porch with a few drinks and enjoyed dinner as the sun set and than a quick movie before bed.

Next morning we got an early-ish start to ensure we could take the walk at a leisurely pace. The hike is described in the guide as a strenuous walk with is both steep and long so we dint want to be caught short. The hike starts in the valley and winds its way up to two beautiful waterfalls namely the Vernal and Nevada falls. We started at a steady pace and started climbing very soon but our efforts we often rewarded with breathtaking views which forced us to stop and rest. The climb was steep at times and left us out of breath but considering we climbed from 4000ft to almost 6000ft that was not surprising. We had a lovely little lunch at the top of the falls before leisurely strolling back down to complete the 11.2 km walk that was well worth the effort.

After dinner to reward ourselves for the completing the walk without too much effort we took a good bottle of wine and drove to a clearing in the valley where we dropped the top and admired the sight of a million stars. It was incredible how clear the sky was and how many stars you could see with out light pollution. Every few minutes a shooting star would streak across the sky and we all had enough wishes for a year.

We could easily have spent much more time in the beautiful Yosemite National Park but there were other important things to discover, like the Californian wine country.
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