Have you ever seen Half Dome? Been astounded by El Capitan? Breathed in the mist from Yosemite Falls?
Up until last month these names and places were just pictures in a book or dots on the map for me.
I had the opportunity to chaperone a 5 day expedition to Yosemite and it was, in a word, epic!
We started the 9 hour drive on a Monday morning. It was my pleasure to have the company of 4 of the best children ever in my car. I’m not going to lie to you, I was apprehensive about spending so many hours in a small space with 4 kids…however, my anxieties proved unfounded. Believe it or not, we actually had a lot of fun! Stimulating conversation, thought-provoking word games, cats in the cradle competitions (I didn’t participate in that activity since I was the driver!), many singalongs with Pharrell’s “Happy”…We also set some goals for our trip. Amongst the list of things we wanted to see: Caribou, Bald Eagles, Bears, Waterfalls. Something I didn’t want to see: Snakes.
And suddenly we arrived in the park! As we rounded yet another curve in the windy, tree-canopied road, there was Half Dome! “Impressive” “Awe-some” “Amazing”…none of these adequately does that first sight justice. I felt like I could stare at it for hours…challenging since I was driving in a 4 car caravan! We turned the next curve and Half Dome disappeared BUT a huge waterfall was revealed! And then another! Next a lovely meadow, followed
by a burned out area from recent wild fires. The views were varied and non-stop.
Our first full day in Yosemite featured a hike through the Rim Fire burn area. It was our guide’s first time back in the area since the fire. It was sobering to see the devastation, and conversely inspiring to see nature’s regeneration underway. Our destination was the Tuolumne Grove. This area is home to many redwood giants. I used a fish eye lens in an attempt to capture the grandeur of these ancient trees…
We had the opportunity to actually walk through 2 of the deceased redwoods. Dead Fred was [somewhat] hollowed out through years of decomposition, and our guide invited us to
walk bear crawl through it. For the most part, the children relished the chance to tunnel through the tree…I decided to rise above my claustrophobic tendencies and venture in. It was dark, damp, cool, narrow, cramped, echo-y, and slightly unnerving, but I did it and I’m glad I did!
The famous Tunnel Tree is in this area as well. In times past, it was part of a road running through the park–cars actually drove through it! Examining the tunnel we saw carvings (graffiti) that dated way way back. Fascinating!
Spider Cave near Yosemite Falls provided another opportunity for me to confront my aversion to small spaces. With the help of our guides and 3 flashlights, we crawled through a
scary labyrinth small cave. It is believed to have been used by Native Americans for food storage–the inner reaches of the cave are quite cool, like a natural refrigerator.
As you can see, Yosemite Falls was spectacular. Recent snow fall followed by warm sunny days meant that the waterfalls were all flowing well.
One memorable lunch was enjoyed in El Capitan Meadows. Imagine my surprise when I finally sat down after serving the children their food and looked around–there was El Capitan directly behind me! I hadn’t even noticed it! It’s no lie when I say it took my breath away…
El Cap is considered the largest granite monolith in the world, being formed from a single chunk of granite (per climbing.about.com). I felt like I could stare at it for a week and never really fully understand its scope.
Following a relaxing lunch we drove a short distance to another trail where we viewed Bridalveil Fall, Half Dome AND El Cap at the same time. This hike definitely had a good return on investment! Again, the few moments we lingered there really didn’t do the view justice.
Before we knew it the week had slipped away and it was time for the LONG drive back. Despite a few character-building mishaps along the way, we arrived home safe and sound…maybe a titch stir crazy from the many hours in the car…
Circling back to our goals for the week, here’s where we stand: No caribou, no bald eagles, no bears (we did see a bear paw print)…personally I felt challenged and restored–confronted some fears and consumed the beauty of this part of the world. AND we saw many fantastic waterfalls! All in all it was an epic adventure I highly recommend!
Have you been to Yosemite? What’s your favorite spot?