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Yosemite - Again
January 30 - February 1, 2017Dear Diary, Friends, and Families,
Written January 30+
Another quick visit to the Sierras. Fresno has a few advantages. This time it is a two-night stay in Yosemite with the excuse of taking pictures while the rivers and streams are still flowing.
We left in time to have breakfast on the road in Coarsegold. Not at "Pop's", our regular, but at a similar country cafe. Not fancy, but good pancakes and friendly folks. Could not ask for more and then we were on our way into Yosemite National Park.
An hour later, we stopped at the "Big Trees Lodge" (really the Wawona Hotel) to calibrate the locations for my cameras. And have an excuse to just stop and look around. Never underestimate the power of an excuse. It's a shame this hotel is not open in winter, because it is a favorite for old-time ambiance. Next Spring, perhaps.
Our next detour was to the "Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Place" or some such silly name. Used to be Badger Ski Resort before the copyright fight between concessionaires. We were not skiing or snowboarding, of course, but just stopping to look at people having fun. And they were.
Driving down from the ski resort, we drove past high banks of snow. The locals are certainly grateful for the weather after years of little or no snow. (Anyone know why these slots in the snow are blue? I don't, despite lots of training in physics and such.)
Farther down in the valley, we started to see some of the views the valley is famous for. I swear these black birds were also tourists because they seemed to enjoy the views as much as we did. (These were Ravens, but I call all birds that are black: "black birds". It's easier.)
Of course the classic Yosemite Valley view is the shot from Tunnel View. No matter how many times we pass through the tunnel, we always turn off to take pictures. This time, Bridalveil Fall was putting on an excellent show.
Farther into the valley, we would stop and take a few pictures of Yosemite Falls. I also passed a school class learning about themselves and the outdoors, or at least that's what the little white board seemed to be asking of them. Nice.
We finished this first day with a pleasant dinner at the Mountain Room Restaurant, the fancier dining option here at the Yosemite Valley Lodge where we are staying. It was worth the splurge. This is our second stay here and it already seems like another favorite. We recommend everything around here.
Day 2 started with a pre-dawn excursion to Yosemite Meadow, an easy four-minute drive from the Yosemite Valley Lodge. These early morning shoots are what photographers are supposed to do, but I'll admit I am not always enthusiastic. But, it's Yosemite so I HAVE to go.
I set up with the diffuse pre-dawn light with the sun still hiding behind the mountains to the east. I think the gray lighting just emphasized how cold my hands were getting.
Yosemite Meadow is about half wetlands, so I turned my camera around to get a sense of the early morning. Cold. Gray. But worth standing and watching, believe me.
Of course, once the sun starting coming up and lighting Yosemite Falls, pictures improved. Even the clouds cooperated. I probably took 40 and I'm not sure which were best, but I like these.
After all that cold work, I felt justified at having a nice, leisurely breakfast. Of course, that's not different from what I like with or without work. The early tasks included looking at the prior day's pictures, as well as the morning shots. Always fun to remember the day. Then some have to make it into this diary. Also fun. That's why breakfast on the road takes so long.
We also planned the day, sort of. Without fixed travel goals like museums or shops (or, in Europe: churches, castles, and squares), we need at least some plan or we just lounge from one meal to the next. I decided I wanted to take pictures along the valley floor, in part because that's the easiest place to get this time of year. No big trail walks today.
The first stop was at the foot of El Capitan. We looked to see if any climbers were crazy enough to try winter ascents, but no one was visible. The last time we were here, we did see folks on the side of the rock, making their way up. It is scary to just watch. Today all we saw was a pleasant snow path, a nice up-valley view, and an outdoor class getting their education. We overheard from the guide that group tours like these go about one-mile-per-hour, so they were not going to go far. We walked even slower and less far.
Farther along, at a place called Valley View, we had a view of the valley. Who'da thought. I had originally hoped that the Merced River would be roaring through the valley, as it apparently had been a week ago, but flow seemed pretty normal. A good amount of water, but no flood.
We stopped at Pohono Bridge for more river pictures. Last week we had seen TV news pictures of the water going over the bridge, but it showed no signs of damage.
The last stop was at the foot of Bridalveil Fall. Normally, this is a nice little walk, but today the busy path had been smoothed by too many visitors and was pretty slick. To make up for the inconvenience, the water rushing among rocks was amazing. This slow-exposure technique is one of my favorites and trying it again was a major goal of our two-day trip.
That night we had another nice dinner at the Mountain Room Restaurant. Dining nicely in a place like Yosemite is more special than going out at home and we justify the extra calories with all the walking we did. (Probably not really true, but our story.) While sipping our drinks, a family of raccoons walked by the windows, but they seemed more interested in outdoor dining. To each their own.
Wednesday morning dawned bright and cold. We could hear the noise of Yosemite Falls as we packed up. A nice farewell.
For future reference, we drove over to Half Dome Village (originally known as Curry Village) to see if a future stay might be a bit more rustic. The Village has several hundred rental tents and is a favorite among the cost conscious. There is even a small, 18-room, hotel among the tents, but it all seemed a bit too rough, even when imagining better weather. (Some "tents" do indeed stay open year-round.)
Driving out of Yosemite Valley heading to Fresno, we would pass by the Tunnel View parking are and, yet again, we stopped. I know I have scores of pictures from this vantage point, but it seems disloyal to pass by without a few more.
That's it. We were done and in a couple of hours we were back home. Nice to be there too.
Next trip: Death Valley. Stay tuned.
John and Marianne
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