no images were found
After the Gorge, we arrived back in Seattle to drop off a friend at the airport, shower, and grab food. I had plans to meet a former AmeriCorps*NCCC teammate in Yosemite on that Tuesday, so we decided to jump back in the car, head south to Portland where our friend from Seattle’s brother lived, and knock a few hours off the drive the next day. It turned out to be a very good idea because we ended up arriving in Yosemite late anyway.
We didn’t spend anytime in Portland on this trip, although Brian and I spent some time there on our last trip. Portland is a very cool city, so we were a little sad about this. We were also hoping to get some Stumptown coffee before we hit the road again. Alas, there wasn’t enough time. And we didn’t even make it to Vivace in Seattle. I will venture to say these are my two favorite cafes in the states (keep in mind that I was quite spoiled when I lived in Italy for nine months, and that there are many places I have yet to travel to within the US). Needless to say, they have some good coffee in the Pacific Northwest!
So we hit the road on Monday, around noon (a very late start), facing about 13 hours of driving. We drove down through the Willamette Valley, all the way through Oregon, and into Northern California. The drive was beautiful through valleys, over rivers and lakes, and along winding mountain roads. We stopped for dinner at a Thai restaurant in Redding (thank you iphone). But we didn’t reach Yosemite until 3 am. None of our cell phones picked up reception, as we all had the same provider, and we weren’t sure of exactly where we were meeting my friend. All I knew was that I was supposed to meet her at the lodge around 1 am.
We made it into the park and determined, based on a very general map, that we should drive straight to the center of the park (Yosemite Valley) and hopefully find a pay phone or the lodge. I had no idea what to expect, having done absolutely no research on the park. Yosemite is a huge canyon, with a large valley in the center, so we drove along the mountains, weaving in and out of forest and the sheer cliffs below. All the while, we kept seeing yellow signs reading, SPEEDING KILLS BEARS (we later learned that every yellow sign represents a place that a bear was killed by an automobile). It was dark and we were on edge, paying attention to the road and looking for bears, but we could tell the view was breathtaking.
Miraculously, we found the lodge and my friend was waiting for us in her car (I hadn’t seen her in four years—what a great friend—seriously!) because she was worried. She had reserved a campsite for us that morning, so we followed her over there and set up a time to meet in the morning. Camp Four, the first-come-first-serve campsite that we stayed in, is notoriously crowded and known for bears. The park provides campers with a bear-proof metal lock box, which you are required to store food in, and they fine you, if you don’t. They actually fine you if you leave water bottles of toiletries in your car as well.
Fortunately we didn’t have any bear encounters the first night. My friend arrived in the morning to take us to get some food and then to go for a day-long hike up to little Yosemite Valley. It was great to visit someone who had worked at the park for the past three summers, because she knew her way around, she knew which hikes were the best, and could give us information on the park. We hiked up to two different waterfalls, each tall and beautiful, falling gracefully over the enormous cliffs, and stopped for a picnic lunch on a small river in Little Yosemite Valley at the top. I highly recommend this hike. We didn’t go the last few miles to Half Dome because it was too late in the day, but it was a really beautiful hike nonetheless. You can check out the pictures below.
After the hike we grabbed some pizza and a beer in the valley, picked some wild blackberries, and went back to noisy Camp Four. I was in camp for all of about 30 min., already in bed with the tent zipped, when I heard commotion from the people at a tent across from me. I waited a few minutes and then unzipped the tent to see what was going on, and there were people running everywhere with flashlights, yelling “Bear,” clapping, and the like. Yes, it was highly comical, although, at the time I was a little bit nervous. Apparently, or from what I heard of other campers talking about it later, the bear was in the middle of the main walkway, one tent away from mine.
Throughout the night, we periodically heard people shouting, “Bear,” and the rangers firing paintball guns (both near and far) to keep them away. We woke the next morning to find that a bear had broken into the car next to ours in the parking lot. Apparently the owners had left a couple water bottles in the car and the bear had broken out the passenger-seat window to climb in. The car was covered in big dusty paw prints, as was ours, and we had a written warning stuck to the windshield for having contact solution on the floor of the back seat. My friend at Yosemite told me that the reason they put a clip on the garbage bins at Camp Four is because the bears figured out how to open them, would climb in and get stuck, only to get dumped into the back of a dump truck the next day. Not a good scenario, as you can imagine.
Anyway, we went to see a Sequoia grove on our last day at the park, which was neat, but crowded. I didn’t realize that, although the Sequoias can live to be 1000 years older than the coastal redwoods, they are much shorter. Still they were pretty impressive. We took it easy, picnicked on the lawn of the Wawona Hotel. We brought the blackberries we had picked the night before and mixed them with some vanilla ice cream…so delicious. Our visit to the park was perfect and stunningly beautiful. I highly recommend a visit, but don’t sleep at Camp Four!
no images were found