Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Yosemite National Park

Hello blog family,

California has the most national parks out of any state in the US (8), and I have a goal to see them all! So far I've been to Joshua Tree NP and Death Valley NP, but the one I've been most exciting about visiting has been Yosemite NP. Yosemite is the most photographed NP, so I'm sure you'll have seen photos of its incredible natural beauty. It also has the tallest waterfall (Yosemite Falls) and largest granite rock formation (El Capitan) in the US. My boyfriend and I just celebrated our 4 year anniversary, and where better to go than a weekend getaway in Yosemite. 

Since we both worked Friday, we decided to wake up super early on Saturday morning to make the 6 hour drive north. We got up at 4:30AM, packed the car, and were off. It was very romantic driving and watching the sunrise knowing we would be in Yosemite in a few hours. It took a little less than 5 hours before we entered the park from the south entrance. It took another hour driving through the park before we even got to Yosemite Valley which is the most popular part of the park. The drive through the park feels like you have been transported into a magical enchanted forest with huge trees and mountains all around. Just make sure to check the park's website before going, because some of the roads may be closed due to bad weather. Even though we went in March and the snow had cleared there were still some roads blocked off which was disappointing.

Of course I had a detailed timed plan of everything I wanted to do since we would only be in the park for a short 48 hours. Our first stop was to eat lunch and fuel up for the day, so we pulled over at one of the parking areas to eat our packed sandwiches. Yosemite Falls was right in front of us the entire time we were eating which was truly incredible. After lunch we hiked the Lower Yosemite Falls and Cooks Meadow Loop. If you only have a short amount of time in the park, these two hikes will give you the chance to see all the popular highlights in Yosemite. Lower Yosemite Falls trail will bring you face to face with the tallest waterfall in the country. You can even climb out on the slippery rocks and stand in the mist. Cooks Meadow trail loops into Lower Yosemite Falls trail and will bring you around the meadow and river. 
View from lunch
Cooks Meadow Loop trail
Tallest waterfall in the country
Top part of Yosemite Falls
Entire waterfall
Up close and personal
Lower Yosemite Falls
My bae
In front of Lower Yosemite Falls
Half Dome
Enchanted forest
We then went to Tunnel View which is a viewpoint (no hiking necessary) in the park where you look straight into the valley and see El Captain, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Falls. I could have stayed here all day, it was that beautiful. We decided to try and get a better view of Tunnel View, so we hiked the Inspiration Point trail located in the same parking lot. I was expecting there to be an end point with breathtaking views of the valley, but unfortunately the trail ended in the forest with no views whatsoever. It felt like a waste of a few hours. After hiking we decided to go to our hotel, check in, and get ready for our dinner reservations. 
Tunnel View
El Capitan
Bridalveil Falls
Made friends on the Inspiration Point trail
By your side, forever
I love you
We stayed at Yosemite View Lodge which is located right outside the park on the river. I read mixed reviews about the hotel, but my boyfriend and I were both really surprised by how nice it was. There was a fireplace, large jacuzzi tub, and the most amazing views and sounds of the river running right outside our room. We quickly got ready for dinner and headed back into the park. Our anniversary dinner reservations were at the Ahwahnee Hotel dining room. The service and ambiance were awesome. There was a piano playing movie theme songs in the background and the servers were very friendly. The food was good, not great, but we were having such a great time laughing and enjoying the incredible views outside the large windows that it ended up being the best dinner. They brought us a delicious anniversary dessert which really made the night perfect.  
View from the hotel
I love cheese <3
My lobster risotto 
Boo's prime rib
Dessert
Giving me that Red Wedding from Game of Thrones feel
Once we had finished our dessert and drinks we headed back to our hotel where we pulled over to stargaze. Since there is no city producing light anywhere close, the stars light up the night sky. We sat in the car with the sunroof open and took it all in. This park has a way of making you feel really small in the world. We got back to the hotel and crawled into bed. After the long day we had, I got the best nights sleep with the sound of the river rushing outside our window. 

We woke up around 8:30AM Sunday morning to begin our next journey in Yosemite. We packed everything up, checked out, and headed back into the park which was only about a 3 minute drive from our hotel. Our first stop was Mist trail to see Vernal Falls. This hike ended up being much more difficult than I originally expected. I don't care how good of shape you are in, you will struggle. It is only a 3 mile round trip hike, but half of the trail you are taking steep, slippery stairs that you have to share with the people trying to come down. I would take about 30 steps and have to rest. At one point I didn't think I would make it all the way to the top. Finally you come to the last set of stairs, and you'll realize you've made it to the top! You can stand right at the edge to see the water crash down the mountain. We then climbed out to one of the rocks on the river and ate some well deserved snacks. You can see Nevada Falls and Half Dome in the distance and listen to the sound of Vernal Falls right in front of you. 
Going back into the park
I'm an expert rock climber
Vernal Falls
Stairway to heaven or hell?
We're so small
Taking pictures only to take a break from the hike up
Rainbow
Last part of the stairs
At the top finally!
Looking down
Half Dome and Nevada Falls
So beautiful 
After our snacks we hiked back down the trail to where we parked our car. It was funny to see the look of exhaustion on everyone's faces as they tried to make it up the trail knowing we had just looked the same way. We quickly stopped at Curry Village in the park for some pizza. The wait was long and the pizza was expensive,but we would have eaten anything after the hike up to Vernal Falls.

Next we made one last stop at Mariposa Grove to see the Redwood trees. Some of the oldest trees in the country live here. You can get up close and personal with these giants and even give them a hug. I was feeling pretty car sick and we were both tired from two packed days, so we didn't do the entire trail, but we did go far enough to see the Grizzly Giant which is the tallest and oldest Redwood in the park. The Grizzly Giant reminded me of the Tree of Life from Disney's Animal Kingdom. It was magnificent!
Fallen tree
Amazing
Redwoods
Grizzly Giant
So much bigger than it looks
Tree hugger
I could live in this tree
Long way up
So tiny
After Mariposa Grove it was time to drive home. The entire anniversary trip was amazing! For early spring we got really lucky with the weather. It was warm but not too hot both days which made hiking enjoyable. The hotel was romantic and more than we could have asked for. Dinner turned out to be perfect and memorable. Everything we saw was incredibly beautiful. We kept saying we can't wait to go back the entire drive home. If you ever get the chance to spend even just a few hours in Yosemite I highly recommend it!

Flowers delivered to work
XoXo,
Valerie