big trees, Glacier Point, and more crowds, alas

Our first full day in Yosemite it was so cool and lovely first thing in the morning that we got an early start.  This had the advantage of allowing us to beat the crowds slightly as well.  The parking lot at Bridalveil Falls, completely full when we’d arrived the afternoon before, was all but empty at eight a.m.

Bridalveil Falls from the parking lot

And from the end of the short trail leading up to its base

 Next we headed out of the Valley altogether, to go visit the Mariposa Grove of Big Trees at the southern end of the park.  A viewpoint on the way called Tunnel View brought back some good memories for me — it was there, as a high school student, that I got the idea to write an essay for my English class comparing Yosemite Valley to a cathedral.  Yeah, me and all the other John Muir imitators, although I didn’t know who he was at the time [wry g].  The paper got me an A, at any rate.

The view from Tunnel View, El Capitan on the left, Bridalveil Falls on the right, Half Dome in the distance.

 From Tunnel View, the road traverses a tunnel (obviously) and then heads south towards Wawona, which is a hotel/visitor center/historic area complex in the south end of the park.  It was here that we had to catch the tram going to the grove of sequoias.  First, however, we strolled through the village of historic buildings from throughout the park that have been gathered here, and watched a stagecoach go past.

 Then we boarded the shuttle bus, which was, of course, very crowded.  The trees, what we saw of them, were worth it, though:

The main trail from the shuttle stop, with a Very Large Tree or three

 The problem with the Mariposa Grove was that my friend Mary was having a hard time walking for very far due to a pulled muscle in her leg, and so we didn’t get to see as much as either of us would have liked to.  But the trees were still impressive.

This is a very famous fallen giant, made so by this image, which gives you a much better idea of exactly how big that puppy is

 After our abbreviated stroll through the giant sequoias, we rode the tram back down to Wawona, and ate lunch at the Wawona Hotel.  It was a very elegant lunch at a very reasonable price, once again proving that if they can do nothing else right, at least the concessioner at Yosemite does do food well.

On our way back to the Valley that afternoon, we drove up to Glacier Point.  The controlled burn was near the Glacier Point road, and we could see flames right alongside it.  I was surprised that they hadn’t closed the road altogether, but they hadn’t. 

We stopped first at Washburn Point, with its lovely view of Half Dome and Vernal and Nevada Falls:

The upper fall is Nevada, and the lower fall is Vernal.  Half Dome, of course, is to their left.

 Then we drove on to Glacier Point, where it took me two circuits through the parking area and almost half an hour to find us a parking space (there is no shuttle to Glacier Point, which I’d have taken in a heartbeat).  If I hadn’t let Mary out at the walkway to the point to save her from having to walk so far, I’d probably have given up altogether.  But I did eventually find a spot, and walked back up to the point to take these pictures, among many others.

Half Dome, of course, and the upper valley

The actual point, made famous by this image, and Yosemite Falls across the valley

3200 feet straight down into the valley.  That’s Camp, er, Curry Village down there with the swimming pool.

 It took us a while to make our way back down to the valley after that, and we were both pretty tired, Mary with her poor leg, and me from fighting traffic most of the day.

So we picnicked at our tent cabin and called it an early night, especially since I had some serious hiking plans for the crack of dawn the next morning.

I did say at one point that I would talk a bit more about the kind of people who visit Yosemite.  Yosemite, in my humble opinion, suffers from being too close to too many major population centers.  I ran up against the same issue in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on my long trip twelve years ago.  At the time I chalked it up to the fact that GSM is one of the few large parks in the national park system which doesn’t charge admission, the theory being that people value what they pay for more than what they get for free, and I’m still quite convinced that’s part of the issue there.  But Yosemite costs $20 per car to get in, and so I am forced to revise my assumptions.

With Yosemite I think it’s a combination of too many rats in the maze, and too many people thinking of the Valley as their backyard as opposed to somewhere they should cherish (call me an old curmudgeon, but the kind of people who visit Yosemite on a summer weekend don’t seem to know how to appreciate a national park), and the confining aspect of the Valley itself, which is only seven square miles with no place to go out but up.  All of which is exacerbated by being within a weekend trip of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Reno, Sacramento, Stockton, San Jose, and probably half a dozen other cities I’ve forgotten to list here.  

At any rate, it was saddening to see people treating the place, as someone on the shuttle bus said, like “Disneyland National Park.”  I have wonderful memories of Yosemite from my childhood and early adulthood.  It’s just too bad they were tainted by my experiences on this trip.