Thursday, June 22

June 15, 2017 - Day 4

I woke up just before the alarm. (Yes, we set an alarm today. Wanted an early start to see as much of Yosemite as we could--and get a parking spot.) It took us about 45 minutes to drive from Hodgdon Meadow to the valley. Not too bad. And the views were incredible. Out of nowhere, it seemed, these enormous granite cliffs appeared. River far down below, waterfall in the distance. Gorgeous.

It was easy find parking. Guess that's the case when you arrive by 8:30am. First, we checked out Yosemite Village and got some (more) coffee. Then, on to the Lower Yosemite Falls trail. It was an easy hike, and not too long. Perfect for us. And ohmygosh, it was beautiful. The trail ran alongside the rushing water of the river, and everywhere you looked you saw the sparkling granite and lush woods. When we got to the base of the falls, it was incredibly windy and chilly. The water sprayed off the boulders and the mist was everywhere. So awesome.
Pondering nature with John Muir.

Next, we headed over to Yosemite Lodge, where we could pick up our tickets for our afternoon tram tour. It was still too early for lunch, but we didn't really have time to take the shuttle to another vicinity and explore somewhere else before needing to be back for the tour. We decided to check out a random trail we had seen that ran behind the lodge. It turned out so great. It was a beautiful, flat, easy trail with lots to see. Marshy areas, huge meadows, river, cliffs. Not far to hike to get to the bridge over the Merced River. At the bridge, we turned back toward the food court and lunch.

Mule deer!

Three of us had delish pizza for lunch (and Olive ate a hot dog--or rather, she asked for a hot dog then let it sit on her plate for the next 20 minutes until eventually someone else ate it). Andrew and I got beer! And it was so good.

Next was the tram tour. It was so fun. It was a two-hour tour on an open-air tram through the best of the Yosemite Valley sites. Our guide told us lots of fun stories and info. For instance: did you know that once a piece of granite the size of two football fields just straight-up fell off the side of El Capitan?!? She also got to meet President Obama after carrying a picnic table up a hill, and a secret photographer took her picture and emailed it to her later. Anyway. We saw El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls, Half Dome, Tunnel View (and got our iconic photo op), and lots of other rocks and waterfalls that have names.

Tunnel View selfie

"Hello, do you like my hat?"

After the tour, we took a break in the shade--the tour was mostly in the sun and it was sweaty and hot. Ice cream bars for the kids, drinks for the grown-ups. Running around for the kids, sitting for the grown-ups.

We weren't totally sure where to go next, so after some quick map-studying and research, we grabbed a shuttle to Happy Isles. The nature center there was closed, but we went on the short trail that crossed the raging Merced River to two small islands that had formed in the river. It was really chilly by the water, and kind of terrifying to be that close to such angry waters. But awesome all the same.

The kids were wearing out, so back to the shuttle stop. We planned to eat dinner in the valley before going back to our campsite. We got to the Valley Grill at 5:58pm. They closed at 6:00. I know. We couldn't believe it either. We were literally the last people to order for the day. But we got food, unlike the 20 people we saw arrive after us who were shocked to find a locked restaurant door at 6pm.

As we drove back to Hodgdon Meadow, we saw tons of people pulled over with cameras out. Obviously we stopped too. Yes, a bear! One lone bear in a meadow, far enough away that it wasn't scary at all, and also none of my pictures were any good. Andrew woke Olive up to see it. Not sure she cared, but I guess it beats leaving her alone in a car on the side of a highway.

We started a fire at our campsite and had some s'mores. Got the Jucy set up in record time. This was our warmest evening so far. Still wearing shorts after dark and wasn't even cold. At this point in the trip, I was definitely ready to be done camping, but loved that we were there.  [Forgive my weird tense-switching. Past-blogging is haaaarrrrddd.] I'm dirty, haven't washed my hair since we were in Kansas City, and I'm definitely vaguely smelly. Tomorrow is going to be another long day of travel, but the kids are looking forward to getting to play on tablets. Ahh, the youth of today.

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