Saturday 3 December 2016
We woke up obscenely early at 5:00am and being winter the sky was still pitch black. I am excited to be going on a two day trip to Yosemite National Park with the possibility of seeing snow. For the first time. Ever.
I booked the tour through Extranomical Tours opting for the two day tour only trip. Looking at the numbers it was actually cheaper to book the accommodation at Yosemite Valley Lodge separately – only paying once for the room whereas if I booked the tour for two which includes the accommodation I would have paid for the room twice.
We left the hotel about 5:45am and went to Starbucks for coffee and food. We walked with it the block-and-a-half to the pickup point for the tour. Luckily we were the last to be picked up and the front seat non-driver’s side was free – a seat with a view! We drove on the Bay Bridge in the dark so didn’t get to see anything in the way of a view. Going from San Francisco across the bridge to Oakland the traffic is on the lower deck of the bridge until after Yerba Buena Island. It was still dark while we were driving by Oakland.
This photo was taken at 7:30am somewhere on the highway not long after sunrise
Somewhere down that highway we had an early morning break about 8:00am. There was a Walmart’s with a Starbuck’s inside so I had another coffee. I am not sure what town this was in but it was just off the highway and looking at Google maps I think it may have been Manteca though I could be wrong.
More views along the highway, these were between Merced and Mariposa
Driving through the pretty and historic town of Mariposa
From Mariposa it was still about 50km along the Central Yosemite Highway to the Arch Rock Entrance of Yosemite. By about 20km of that we were joined by the Merced River which stayed with us all the way to Yosemite Valley.
The closer we got to Yosemite the cooler the temperature got – here you can see the ground is a getting a little frosty
The Merced River
Seeing this I am getting excited for the prospect of being able to see and touch snow
We entered Yosemite through the Arch Rock Entrance which is the bottom left marker on this map. From here the road changes the name to El Portal Road.
The first stop after the entrance was Cascade falls about 10:30am. The bus pulled up at the picnic area across from the falls and there was white stuff nearly everywhere. There wasn’t any snow falling but I was pretty sure the stuff on the ground was snow but I had to make sure. I asked the driver if it was snow, or ice or something else. He looked at me funny and said it was snow. I felt like an idiot so I had to tell him that it was the first time either of us had ever seen snow and by the time I finished talking I had a huge grin on my face.
We continued on El Portal until it split into Northside Drive and Southside Drive. We turned onto Southside Drive and then turned right and back on Wawona Road to go to Tunnel View lookout. Tunnel View must have the most stunning and iconic view of Yosemite valley area.
At the lookout it was very slippery where the snow had melted and then iced over
El Capitan and even Half Dome in the distance. Though it was cold it was such a beautiful crisp and clear day.
Zoomed in for a better view of Half Dome
We went back down Wawona Road and on to Southside Drive to Bridal Veil Falls
K was taking selfies of her first time in the snow
I’m not one for photos much less selfies, but hey, this is SNOW
Continuing down Southside Drive, then a left turn on Sentinel Drive and a quick stop at the Sentinel Bridge for an amazing view from both sides of the bridge
Across the field to Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls
From Sentinel Bridge looking towards Half Dome
From Sentinel Bridge looking in the other direction towards Yosemite Falls
Next and last stop was the Yosemite Valley Lodge arriving about midday. Here people taking the one day tour had until 2:30pm until they had to be back on the bus for the journey back to San Francisco. The lodge has a dining hall food court area for meals and there are a couple of short walks from here to Yosemite Upper and Lower falls and also to Swinging Bridge. There is also a free shuttle to take people to other locations in the Yosemite Valley village area.
As we were staying overnight we left the tour at this point and would rejoin for the trip back to San Francisco at 2:30pm tomorrow. We grabbed our bags and headed to the reception building to check in and in short time we were in our room on the ground floor of a nearby block.
The room was quite spacious with two double beds and a big bathroom. There was also a back patio area with a lot of snow out there.
After settling in we went to the food court area to get some lunch which was quite close to our room. On the way there K had to walk through some snow to feel the crunch of it under her feet. She also managed to slide on some ice and fall on her backside. I couldn’t help it, I laughed, it was hilarious.
The dining hall food court
After lunch we went back to the reception building. Earlier when checking in I asked about the Yosemite Valley Floor Tour I had booked for us tomorrow morning. The guy I spoke to suggested we take the tour this afternoon instead as the tour wasn’t booked out. I thought about it and it made sense as we wouldn’t have to rush from our morning walk to get back in time for the tour. The afternoon tour was due to leave at 2:00pm so we were there in plenty of time.
We drove along Northside Drive to a clearing with a view of El Capitan. The idea was that this was a good area to get a view of anybody climbing El Capitan but we didn’t see any today.
Continuing on Northside Drive towards where it becomes El Portal Drive we stopped at a picturesque and cold little spot.
You can see the icy mist coming off the snow
Up next was Tunnel View and Bridal View Falls both of which we had seen earlier in the day. I did enjoy seeing the view again and I still took a couple of more photos.
Yosemite Chapel which is on Southside Drive between Bridal Veil Falls and Sentinel Drive. It was here as I was getting off the bus that I aggravated the knee that I injured earlier in the year.
We then drove through more of the Yosemite Valley area, past the Yosemite Majestic Hotel, Yosemite Village and some of the camp grounds and other areas.
After the tour ended we went back to our room and both of us ended up having a bit of a Nanna nap. Must have been that early start this morning. Later on we went to dinner in the food hall and then back to our room for an early night.
Still excited that I got to see snow today!