Saturday, June 23, 2018

Yosemite National Park

Ever since I had seen some intriguing pictures of the 'Tunnel view' point, I always wanted to visit this amazing wonderland called Yosemite. 

Yosemite had been in my wish list ever since I was a kid, and always wished to see it  live someday. The reason being, it is truly a world of it's own. 

Luckily, I got a chance to visit the United States of America during Feb 2017 due to some official work. I made plans to visit Yosemite then, but unfortunately I could not visit  that time. With heavy heart, I came back to India hoping to visit it some other time.

You may call it second time lucky, as I got another chance to visit the United States of America again during March-April 2018. This time too it was an official trip, but I ensured to visit Yosemite no matter what.

The Journey :

Day 1 : March 31st, 2018

On March 31st, 2018, we hired a Nissan car from 'Hertz' rental company in San Jose, California for around $800 for 5 days. This included an option to drop the car at different city, as we had plans to drive the car till Grand Canyon.

The hiring procedure costed us a lot of time, and we finally hit the highway by around 11.30 AM.

It was our first time driving in the highway of a different country, and we were extra cautious on our driving, and made sure we don't break any traffic rules :)

The winding roads took us through different vegetations from plains to grasslands to mountains. 

There were a lot of garlic plantations enroute, and me being a garlic-oholic (a new word coined by me :)) stopped the car in a restaurant nearby and had a taste of the delicious Garlic Ice-cream. I never even thought in the wildest of my dreams that such a delicacy existed. But yes, it tasted awesome. Atleast for me though !! :)

In no time we were out of the city limits, and could see only hills and green meadows approaching.

Our destination for the day was a place called "Mariposa" where we had booked the homestay through Airbnb.

Mariposa, “the Mother of Counties”, initially encompassed one fifth of the state of California. As the land filled with settlers, boundaries were redrawn until twelve present day counties emerged from the vast area. Today, Mariposa County’s legacy from these origins includes an incredible range of landscapes and a heritage of historic sites and towns.
This range of scenery, outdoor attractions, rich history, combined with a generally sunny, moderate climate, make Mariposa County one of California’s most popular year-round vacation destinations.

Yosemite’s grandeur always looms as a major attraction, but we encourage you to enjoy the many other faces of Mariposa County. You can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities or see one hundred fifty years of California history, without crowds and without traffic.

As soon as we entered this land, I got a sense of accomplishment. Driving in a new country with new rules and new terrain totally changed my perception of viewing things.

The town of Mariposa made me feel like I was in heaven. This place is covered by pine forests , rivers and streams , Flora and Fauna. 

Innumerous meadows and grasslands added to the beauty of this county.

Our homestay was further uphill from the town of Mariposa. We had to drive through forests and winding roads to reach this place. 

Luckily we had saved the map of the area which made it easier for us to find out our home in the jungle.

We reached our homestay by 5 PM which is situated deep inside the woods, and we were really surprised to see the home. It was very nicely decorated and unique. I was also surprised to see the kitchen had many masala items and powders.

We then set out to Mariposa to buy some groceries and vegetables for the next 2 days. 

By the time we reached back home, it was post sunset, and all I could see was the dramatic clouds and beautiful colors of the sky.

I was stargazing in the meadow outside while the others were happily enjoying their drink at home.

Sleep betrayed me for sometime, as I was eagerly waiting to enter the majestic valley. Yosemite valley had totally engulfed in my mind, and I could not think of anything else apart from it. 

We all decided to depart from our home as early as possible, so that we could enjoy the valley for the whole day. With all alarms set and our minds ready, we hit the bed.

Day 2 : April 1st, 2018

I woke up very early as soon as I heard a small bird chirping near my window. I noticed that I woke up much earlier than my alarm's sound. Wasting no time, I started to do watch birds in the estate while others were still happily sleeping.

After a sumptuous breakfast prepared by Abhinav, we departed our home by 8.30AM. We were late by 1 hour than our agreed time of departure

The cool breeze and a beautiful fragrance welcomed us into the much awaited Yosemite Valley.

The entry ticket (per vehicle) was $30 that was valid for 7 days. Once we entered the gate, I could see many cyclists encircling the hairpin curves. The granite mountains were covered with pine forests and small patches of snow here and there.

I could see a majestic waterfalls to my left hand side, and I screamed in excitement. We stopped the car nearby and proceeded towards the waterfalls.

Tueeulala Falls :

This is located on the north side of Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park. At roughly 880 feet it is the smaller of two large waterfalls that spill into Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the other being Wapama Falls.

Tueeulala Fall is probably the first waterfall you'll notice as you approach the parking area for Hetch Hetchy. 

This tall, plunging waterfall together with Wapama Falls complements Kolana Rock and the Hetch Hetchy Valley panorama in much the same way that Bridalveil Fall complements El Capitan and the Yosemite Valley panorama.

After a brief photo session, we headed to the Yosemite village where the main tourist centre is located. From this place, there is a free shuttle bus that takes us to different view points in the valley.

Mirror Lake trek

Having no idea where to go next, we boarded the shuttle bus and alighted at Mirror lake (as the name sounded very catchy). Inorder to visit Mirror lake, one has to trek for almost 2kms from the main road. The gushing Merced river flows towards your left and the emerald forests are towards your right.

This trail begins at shuttle stop #17. The first mile of this trail is a paved service road that leads directly to Mirror Lake. You may access the loop trail from the end of the paved path. The loop follows Tenaya Creek beyond the lake, and crosses two bridges after the Snow Creek Trail junction before returning past Mirror Lake on the south side of Tenaya Canyon. 

Mirror Lake has little water much of the year and, while pleasant at any time of year, it is fullest in spring and early summer, when Tenaya Creek flows freely with fresh snowmelt. When water is calm, the lake offers beautiful reflections of surrounding cliffs. 

Exhibits along the trail tell the story of Mirror Lake's lake-to-meadow succession, and also highlight some of the cultural history of the area. Mirror Lake is often referred to as Mirror Meadow in late summer due to the lack of water and the influx of grasses and sandy areas.

Myself at the lake

There is no safe access to the north side of Mirror Lake directly from the south side of the loop, except via bridges at the west and east ends of the trail.

By now, it was afternoon and we headed towards the main area (Yosemite village) for lunch. Enroute, the majestic "Half Dome" was standing in all its might.

Half Dome :

Rising nearly 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and a great challenge to many hikers. Despite an 1865 report declaring that it was "perfectly inaccessible, being probably the only one of the prominent points about the Yosemite which never has been, and never will be, trodden by human foot," George Anderson reached the summit in 1875, in the process laying the predecessor to today's cable route.

Much of the hike to Half Dome is an adventure into Wilderness, and, while there is nothing you can do to guarantee your safety, below you will find some tips to reduce your risk and have a safer, more enjoyable hike.

Post lunch, we headed towards the Upper and Lower Yosemite falls viewpoint. This was really a sight to behold.

Upper and Lower Yosemite :

Part of North America's tallest waterfall, Lower Yosemite Fall is the final 320-foot (98-meter) drop. Deafening in spring and early summer when the waterfall peaks in volume, you can expect to get sprayed with water when standing on the footbridge near its base. This short, easy walk rewards with spectacular views of both Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. This paved loop trail offers different vantage points of Yosemite Falls and Yosemite Creek, and you can stop at the many exhibits to learn more about the natural and cultural history of the area.

If walking from the Valley Visitor center, follow the bicycle path to shuttle stop #6 and begin the trail. Consider walking the loop in a clockwise direction for best views of Yosemite Falls. 

 Lower Yosemite

The rumble of this waterfalls was so deafening that we could not hear anything apart from the thunderous roar of this waterfalls. The mist formed by the waterfalls was covering my lens every now and then, and I had to clean it very regularly.

By now, the last curtain was about to be rolled for the day, and we quickly proceeded towards "Tunnel view". I was very much fascinated by this place right from my childhood, where I had seen a glimpse of it in a TV programme.

I was very eager to visit this place, and we made a quick drive towards the place before sunset.

Last rays of sun kissing the granite mountain

First view of Bridalveil waterfalls seen enroute Tunnel View

Tunnel View :

The view that Ansel Adams made famous, Tunnel View is a must stop for any first time visit to Yosemite Valley. Find it just outside the Wawona Tunnel on State Highway 41. No hiking is required, you simply park at one of the lots and make your way to the vista. This spot can be very popular in summer, so try to arrive early.

From this vista you can see El Capitan, Half Dome, and Bridalveil Fall. This vista changes with each season to show something new but the best times to see Tunnel View are early spring (when Bridalveil Fall is at peak flow) and winter, when the beautiful granite domes are draped in snow and mist.

The scene was changing very rapidly, as the sun cast its golden light that kissed the peaks of the Yosemite Valley.

Everybody seems to have an opinion about overrated sights and places to visit. Viewpoints on highways that have amazing vistas are usually there because the view is incredible.  

Every tour bus and tourist and hiker and solo traveler and everybody everywhere always stops there and rightly so.  Tunnel View is jaw dropping. 

Major landmarks of Yosemite such as 'El capitan' , 'Half Dome'  and 'Bridalveil falls' are seen from here.

El Capitan :

El Capitan (Spanish for The CaptainThe Chief) is a vertical rock formation in Yosemite National Park, located on the north side of Yosemite Valley, near its western end. The granitemonolith is about 3,000 feet (900 m) from base to summit along its tallest face, and is a popular location for rock climbers 

Bridalveil falls :

In spring, it thunders; during the rest of the year, look for its characteristic light, swaying flow. A paved trail leads from the parking area to the base of this waterfall, which flows year-round. Although paved, this is trail is not wheelchair accessible due to its grade.

The trail to Bridalveil Fall is open year-round. When the water is at its peak in spring and early summer, you can expect to get wet! In some cases the spray is so strong, you may not even be able to easily access the end of the trail. Expect icy and very slick conditions in winter.

If you are a landscape photographer, then this place is a treat to your eyes and the camera. You get to photograph the majestic valley and vivid vistas using varied compositions.

 Sun light kissing the tree tops

Golden light kissing Half dome and another peak nearby

If you are into astro photography, then this place is tailor made for you. Just be watchful of the car lights that might ruin the image.

I would highly suggest you to visit "Tunnel View" if you are visiting the Yosemite valley. Sunlight in the late afternoon creates the most striking perspective. If you can plan your day to arrive just before sunset, the transfer of light to shadow that plays out across the valley is a enchanting display. If Tunnel View is your first stop in Yosemite National Park, the classic imagination-inspiring viewpoint will make you fall in love and you will surely don’t want to leave.

Important tips : 

1. If you are visiting "Tunnel view" , plan to be there before sunset.
2. The "Fire falls" spectacle happens during February.
3. Entry to the park is $30 for 7 days (Per vehicle)
4. Food and beverages are available near the Valley visitor centre
5. Free shuttle buses are available in the valley
6. There are no hotels / homestays inside the valley, and you have to stay outside the National park. 
7. Camping is allowed at designated places only (you might have to take permission)
8. Best time to visit : 
a. Spring (April to June) - Water in the valley is enormous and you can see the waterfalls plunging in its whole might
b. Fall (September to November) - Less number of visitors , it might snow a bit and some treks would be closed.
c. Winter (December to March) - It will be snowing all round the valley, most of the roads and treks would be closed, but the valley will be covered with white blanket of snow (which is also a visual treat).

Thank you

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