Friday, August 9, 2013

Quick Tour of Yosemite


So we’re 75 miles from Yosemite Valley, might as well take a day trip and see what all the hype is about.

Yosemite Valley

We stopped along Tioga Pass Rd couple times to stretch our legs and admire the views. At around 50 miles, we passed by the parking lot for the Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias. There is a one mile trail down to the grove, so we stopped for a short hike. Debbie volunteered to drive, since we weren’t going off road, but she let Jim drive her car since he tends to get car sick when he’s a passenger. As he pulled the keys out of the ignition, we heard a beeping sound. Debbie thought he accidently pushed a button on the remote, which she does frequently, so we got out and locked the doors. Remember this for later…

The natural range of the giant sequoia is a narrow band along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada range. The tree grows at high altitudes between 5,000 to 8,000’, and only occurs naturally in about 65 groves, three of which happen to be in Yosemite. It was cool and green along the old road leading down to the grove, a nice walk down, a steep walk back up.

Tuolomne Grove of Giant Sequoias

There are about 25 giant sequoias scattered around this area and we had never seen one before. They were big, but they just didn’t move us. Might have been all the people that detracted from the experience.

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Actually the fallen ones were more interesting, and you could get a much better sense of how big they really are. Have no idea who any of these people are. There was no way to get a photo without someone else in it.


The Tuolumne Grove contains the “Dead Giant,” the first tree to be tunneled in the park, which is approximately thirty feet in diameter at the base.  In 1878, a tunnel was cut through the already dead sequoia tree stump so that wagons, then later automobiles, could pass through it. 

The road was closed in 1993 to prevent damage to the ecosystem around the grove. Now throngs of people can walk through it. Yes, we did, too.



When we got back to Debbie’s car the remote would not open the doors. Strange. Jim used the key to open the door, then tried the button to automatically unlock the other doors. Nothing. He put the key in the ignition and turned it. Nothing again. And that’s when it dawned on him he had turned the lights on when we were driving through the dense forest. The beeping was trying to tell us the lights were on. Great, a dead battery!

We found some nice people who helped us push the car out into the parking lot, which was quite entertaining with all the traffic coming and going. They thought Jim could get it started by popping the clutch since it has a manual transmission, but that must be something that was only possible on older vehicles. Fortunately another friendly foreign couple had jumper cables and got us going again. They made our day! They were having problems with their car overheating and asked Jim for advice but he was unable to reciprocate with any help.

We then continued on about 20 more miles to the Valley. We wanted to drive through one of the Pines campgrounds I had tried to get reservations at. What a nightmare! It was packed with families, kids on bikes, tents, RVs of every kind, seemingly on top of each other. Driving down two loops was enough to convince us we didn’t want to stay there anyway. Then we parked along the road near the Visitor Center to stop and stretch our legs.

A little farther down the road we stopped at El Capitan Meadow and got to watch some climbers.


Had no idea they were there, but we saw an open air tour bus stop and everyone was looking that direction. It was hard for me to watch them through the binoculars. They were much higher up than the ones we saw on Lembert’s Dome a few days ago.



It was a pleasant drive through the Valley, with the Merced River flowing alongside the road, and the impressive surrounding granite cliffs. BUT, not in the middle of summer! At least for us the crowds spoiled it.

On the way back home we stopped along Tioga Road at Olmsted Point. The views are breathtaking form here, looking east into Tenaya Valley where you can see the lake, and southwest towards Yosemite Valley where you can see the north face of Half Dome in the distance.





We’re glad we made the tour, but like Jim said, if we had a bucket list you could scratch Yosemite Valley off. I still wouldn’t mind hiking some of the waterfall trails in the spring, but we won’t go out of our way to do it. And although it would be convenient to camp in the Valley, we would try to find somewhere else to stay.

The day after we arrived here at our prime spot overlooking Mono Lake, a woman in a truck stopped to ask us when we were leaving. We told her we had only been here one night and would probably stay at least a week or two. She said she had found another spot a few miles down the road, and the next morning we saw her truck pulling a travel trailer heading in that direction. Last night a little past eight, she pulled up and stopped in the road, with the trailer attached. We saw her get out of the truck and head towards our door. Jim went out and she said she had a question about an eye problem she was having.


Okay, so I worked in ophthalmology for 30 years, but in our brief conversation 10 days previously we didn’t discuss our careers. She was afraid she was having a retinal detachment and wondered if any of us knew the symptoms. Guess it was her lucky day! I asked her what was wrong and she said her right eyelid was a little droopy and the eye was a bit red and irritated. I assured her she was not having a retinal detachment, and she was so happy to hear that. She had planned to stop at the coffee shop in Lee Vining to research it on the internet, and now she could just make her way towards home in Hawthorne, NV, without being so worried. I was happy to have been able to help her, but it was such a strange conversation. We do meet some interesting people out here.



  1. Yeah, love - hate relationship with our National Parks! I've seen winter pictures that look amazing...but I don't want to be int he RV in the winter temps either! Spring or fall has got to be the way to go.

    What a weird coincidence with the eye question! So cool you could help!

    Metamorphosis Lisa

  2. Your photo of the climbers reminded me that when I was a kid, every night during the summer people climbed up the huge rock/mountain in the valley of the park. They built a fire and when it was perfect, and it was getting dark, they would push the embers off and everyone watched them fall. I think they called it "The Firefall." I had forgotten about that until now.

    I don't suppose that's done anymore - probably would be too dangerous fire-wise.

    Funny, the conversation with the "eye" lady. LOL You are right, we sure do meet up with some interesting people. :)

  3. So sorry you two did not like Yosemite. You are there are a very busy time. Waaaaay too many people for our liking. We loved the place. Inspiration Point is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.

    How strange that the woman came back to ask a stranger about her eye. Takes all kinds.

  4. We went to see the sequoias in the middle of winter...snowing a blowing...and there were still too many people there.

    I wonder if that lady with the eye problem was one of your blog followers??? They sneak up on you sometimes :)
    Box Canyon Mark

  5. I know it would make John Muir very sad to hear that the beauty of the park is so marred by too many people. I thought the park was restricting the numbers in July and August. A lottery or something. You have definitely convinced me that I want to make sure I come at another time although I do want to go. But I really hate too many people. They always seem so loud and irreverent in such gorgeous places.

  6. The Pines campgrounds are miserably crowded but certainly convenient to the Valley sights. May was delightful there, less crowded and seeing all the waterfalls at full flow was worth the pain. Actually, I was surprised how respectful the crowds in the campground were. That said, parking at the outskirts of the park seems to have worked for you.

    Chris H

  7. The sequioas trees are so magnificent! Looks like a neat park.

    We visited Yosemite last summer right after the discovery of the Handy Virus. We pushed our trip back a week to see what the park was going to do. We stay in Mariposa at the fairgrounds. It was about as close as we could get without staying in the park which we didn't want to do.
    It is a beautiful place! We chose to ride our bikes around much of it which helped tremendously with the crowds. We definitely hope to return someday, off season, to hike. It is not on my top ten list of places to return but we did really enjoy it. Hope you get a chance to give it another opportunity. But then that is what makes this such a great country to visit...there is something for everyone:)