A day in Yosemite
Over Labor Day weekend we decided on a Saturday at 10pm to head to Yosemite for the day, the next morning. Both Bryan and I had never been and it just seemed like a good idea to do something exciting and new. We left around 7:30am for the 2 hour 45min drive from our house. I packed a cooler with whatever I could find in the fridge that morning; a package of smoked turkey deli meat, half loaf of sliced bread, cheese slices, apples, strawberries, an avocado, 4 la Croix, a few different dry goods from the pantry and some paper plates and plastic cutlery. I filled up everyones water bottles and packed the kids jammies for the late night on the road back home. Bryan packed up all the camera gear and made sure things were charged up or could be charged on the road on the way up. We had no plan and very little expectations of what we would be able to see in a day.
We arrived a little before 11am to a long line at the park entrance. It took about 15-20 mins to get to the ranger box because it was already busy. As we pulled into the park though, we immediatley saw why it’s a favorite among writers, photographers and enviromentalists. The mountains are massive and look unreal. We were all glued to our windows and couldn't wait to start exploring. We drove directly in to find a parking spot near the visitor center because we always hit the visitors center on any new park visit. All the parking lots were already full when we got there, so we pulled to the side to ask the ranger where we should park. He was grumpy at first, but we explained how it was our first time there and he ended up letting us through, telling us that there may be a couple open spots. His advice was to park the car and not move the car until we were ready to leave for the day and to use the park shuttles to get around. We found a spot in the lot and decided to eat lunch there so we wouldn’t have to lug it around with us. I did take a few dry snacks and waters for everyone.
We walked toward the visitor center and popped into the Ansel Adams gallery shop on the same trail. It’s a great stop if you have time to look around and read, but because we wanted to the make the most of the day, we rushed out and found our way to the visitor center. Next time we’ll plan more time for it! Bryan has always been inspired by Ansel Adams photography and there was so much good stuff to see there. The ranger at the visitor center gave us some suggestions for hikes and view points and circled everything on the map for us. I love that they really took their time to help us plan our visit. We decided to stick around the lower valley and use the shuttle that loops around to take us to a few spots that were suggested.
First stop was the trail start to Mirror Lake. The hike to Mirror lake was 2 miles roundtrip and was an easy hike with kids. The lake is dry in the summer so we were able to walk right into the middle of it and see a great view of half dome. We spent some time here reflecting on the surroundings, climbing trees and rocks and taking some photos.
Next, we went to the Half Dome village to cool down with a drink and and some ice cream. Bryan and I bought a couple bottles of beer at the little market there.They sell them by the bottle or the 6 pack. Only $1.50 a bottle. Beats getting a pint at the bar around the corner for much more. The kids got a scoop of ice cream at the parlor inside the coffee shop and we found a table to hang out and plan out next step. We walked around and took note of all the little shops and amenities in this area for future visits and stays. There is a pizza place, coffee and ice cream shop, a general market with anything and everything you could need while camping and nice bathrooms.
The shuttles were not the funnest way to travel around the park, but because of the traffic, it was the only way. We had to wait 30 mins to get a shuttle to take us back to the lot where the car was parked. We wanted to drive to Glaceir Point as the sun was going down but had to change our plans last minute because it got too late. When we got back to the car, we drove to El Capitan meadow which happened to be on the way out of the park. We found the meadow just as the sun was starting to go down and the light was this spectacular soft pink that drifted all over the mountains and through the trees. The kids enjoyed running around and exploring the big open space, staring up at El Capitan. On the other side of the meadow you can see Cathedral rocks, taft point and sentinel dome. We ended up spending so much more time than we had planned here and left as the sun set completely. It was the highlight of our day and some of the best pictures ever. Although we didn’t get around the park a bunch, we did spend about 6 hours exploring the areas we could make it to. We felt like we got a better sense of what is where and how to plan for our next trip. We also all agreed that a campout at Yosemite would be on our list for next year!