A trip to Yosemite is never disappointing! Some trips might be disappointing if they don’t go according to plan, but Yosemite is different, it is just too much of a special place to ever be disappointing. We had hoped to hike to Half Dome from the valley as part of this trip, but we didn’t get permits as part of the seasonal lottery or as part of daily lotteries while we were in Yosemite, but this just freed us up to do other things, with everyone in our group. We had also originally planned this as a chance to get our kids all together for a vacation, camping seemed like a good way to be flexible and low-cost. However, that didn’t work out either. When you have a big family it is hard to plan a group vacation. Last year the local beach staycation worked like a charm. All our kids made it to the condo we rented to stay for at least one night. This year college, work, moving, babies, and pending marriages (yeah!) made it hard for our kids to commit and in the end none of them could make it. We’re not giving up on a trip like that, it just didn’t happen this year. However, we had opened the trip up to other family and friends and we had quite a large group (12) squeezed into two of our 3 reserved campsites, and our food and coolers spilled into the bear locker of the 3rd campsite.
We started our drive to Yosemite in a caravan from San Diego with Jenny’s good friend Stacy, her daughter Katie and Katie’s friend Cadence on the 20th of June and stayed in a hotel in Fresno for the night. This made it possible to get to Yosemite fairly early in the day on the 21st. We came into the park from the south, near the Mariposa grove of Sequoia. I’ve never been to this grove of Sequoia, but now that they closed the parking lot and bus people from Wawona, I’m not sure when I will ever see them. It is very inconvenient. Especially when there are so many other things to see and do. Maybe if we visit in the winter when it is less busy we’ll be able to see them.
We made the obligatory stop at Tunnel View. I love seeing Yosemite Valley from here. I’m hoping one day I’ll be here right after a rain when the air is clear and crisp. Even with a little haze this view is inspiring!
We had plenty of time so we decided to drive through the valley and spend a little time there before heading to our campsite in Hodgdon Meadows. Our first stop was at Bridal Veil falls. This falls is visible from tunnel view and we could tell that it was barely flowing. This is one of the first falls to dry up in the summer. With the lack of snow in the mountains we were lucky there was any flow at all in June. The parking lot was completely full with a line of cars waiting for spots, but we managed to get a couple of spots after only waiting about 15 minutes. This was my first time to actually walk up to see Bridal Veil falls closer. The trail is short, not too steep, and shady. The falls were a bit of a disappointment… really more of a mist that a falls at this point. Also the sun was just above the falls from the view-point so it was hard to get a picture. I put my hand over the lens to prevent glare on the lens. I thought I would be able to crop my finger out later, but decided to keep all of the view including my hand in this photo.
I’ll definitely have to revisit these falls later in the evening when the sun is in a better place and at a time of the year when there is more water flowing!
We headed over to Curry Village when we got back to our cars. The traffic was OK, but the valley was very busy. Luckily there is a large parking lot by Curry Village. We found parking with only one loop through the lot. The Curry Village area is in a beautiful part of the park with views of the nearby granite walls and of the Half Dome.
It took a few minutes to find the ice cream parlor. It is kind of tucked in around a corner in the main cafeteria. It was worth the wait! We looked around the gift shop before heading to camp to set up. We had reservations at a campground outside the valley. I stayed in the same campground, Hodgdon Meadows, during my trip to Yosemite in July of 2010. In fact 2 of our 3 campsites were right next to the site we stayed in 2010. Although that campsite, site 22, is on a slope, there is large level area on the lower level of the campsite.
I really enjoyed Hodgdon Meadow in 2010 and it was good again this time, but there were a couple of things. First there was a major fire, the Rim Fire, in the North Part of Yosemite in 2013 that damaged large swaths of the forest on the road between Hodgdon Meadows and the valley. Second, I had not noticed the slope of the campsites as much in 2010. There are some level sites in the middle of the campgrounds, but on the outer edge where we wanted to be, many of the sites are on slopes. On one of our two campsites that we had for the whole week we were barely able to set up one small tent. Even that tent was not on a very level spot. Luckily the other site was closer to the bottom of the slope, so we spread out and were able to set up 3 fairly large tents on this campsite.
A couple of months before this trip the inflatable mattress we normally used sprung a leak. I had repaired it, and it seemed to hold air fairly well, but I decided to bring some backups. As I was going through our combined camping gear, I found that my wife had a double height queen sized mattress. It seemed to be a good quality mattress, so I decided to use that and keep the repaired mattress as the backup. We had a couple of flannel lined sleeping bags zipped together for bedding, but I also like to put a fitted sheet on the mattress for extra comfort when car camping. I was setting up my son’s bed when my wife started laughing. Apparently I had brought a dust ruffle instead of a fitted sheet! On the double height mattress, it made our setup very homey! When Jenny showed it to our sister-in-law Ellen, she had a good laugh too and asked where our chandelier was!
We enjoyed a very easy dinner of sloppy joes on the first night and had a great fire. One of the best parts of camping for me is sitting around the campfire, having a few adult beverages, and sharing the experience with friends and family. At bed time we got a less than happy surprise. The double height mattress was not as firm as when we set it up. We were pretty tired though, so we decided that it must be “because it was colder” than when we set it up. So we climbed in and were asleep in minutes. About 2 hours later we woke up to an even worse situation. The mattress definitely had a slow leak. With a normal air mattress when you have a slow leak you slowly get to the point where you feel the ground. With the double height mattress, we were still well above the ground, but we had both slid toward the middle of the mattress. We were in a deep rut/crevasse in the center of the mattress and completely squished together! It was a very uncomfortable situation – definitely not going to work! It was the middle of the night, but I decided to get out the spare mattress so we could sleep through the rest of the night.
In the morning while getting coffee going I notice a pair of what looked like red-headed woodpeckers on the trees near our campsite. I grabbed my camera and followed them around until I was able to get this shot.
Once we got home I did a little research to try to identify the birds. My best guess is that they are Acorn Woodpeckers, which are found in that area. We decided as a group to float down the Merced on our first full day together. This is the second time I’ve rafted (floated) down the Merced. The views are amazing and I got tons of pictures. I’ll put the Merced float in my next post in this series.