Thursday morning we had breakfast at our apartment before we left for Yosemite National Park. This was the part of our trip I looked forward to the most, since we wanted to go to Yosemite in October 2004 when my parents and my sister were here, but couldn’t go because there had been early snow and the Tioga Pass had been closed.
We reached the south entrance of Yosemite National Park in the afternoon and we decided to check out “Mariposa Grove – home of the giant trees” which is the largest grove of giant sequoias in the park. They grow to an average height of 50-85 m (150-280 ft) and 5-7 m (16-23 ft) in diameter. We took a short hike to the “Grizzly Giant”, with 1600-2000 years the oldest tree of the grove. I was especially impressed by how wide the bases of these trees can get. They’re HUGE!
Around 7 p.m. we got to our Best Western hotel in Mariposa on the west side of the park. We took a short swim in the pool and then got ready to get some dinner, because most restaurants close their kitchen at 9 p.m. already [very unusual for us Europeans ;)]. We had Mexican Food again – which made Basti really happy :)
The next morning we drove into the park and explored the Yosemite Valley. It’s a very wide glacially formed valley with forests and open meadows that allow breathtaking views of the surrounding 1000 m-high granite walls. The first view was the great granite monolith El Capitan and we also spotted the first of many waterfalls [Yosemite Falls] that tumble down the high granite cliffs.
We stopped at the Visitor Center and then took a 30-minute hike, the CookÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Meadows Loop, and put our hot feet in the cool waters of the Merced River which flows through Yosemite Valley. Then we took the free shuttle bus for a tour through the rest of the Yosemite Valley.
Then we drove to the “Bridalveil Falls” and took a short hike up to the waterfall. It springs from a U-shaped hanging valley that was created by a tributary glacier. Climbing over a couple of big rocks, we were able to get really close to it. It was awesome.
Finally, we enjoyed a breathtaking view from Glacier Point, a viewpoint above Yosemite Valley at 2200 m. It’s hard to believe that the whole wide u-shaped valley was once filled to the rim by a glacier that carried all the big rocks that can be found on the valley floor today. From there we could see all of Yosemite National Park, including Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls and the Valley.
In my opinion, Yosemite National Park is one of the most impressive and beautiful NP’s in the US. Just look at this view!
We got back to the hotel around 7 p.m. and jumped into the pool again [because it had been really hot the whole day]. Then we had the Family Special at the “Pizza Factory” for dinner. Yum!
Saturday morning we had to leave Mariposa again. Damn, time flies! We had breakfast at 8:30 a.m., because we had a long drive ahead of us. We had planned to cross Yosemite NP from west to east which meant that we had to cross the Sierra Nevada with the highest elevation of 3000 m. We stopped at Olmsted Point, a visa point with an exceptional view of Half Dome’s backside. We also walked on large blocks of rocks that were polished by the last glacier and saw many junipers, the only trees that grow in this scarce environment.
We also had a great view of Tenaya lake.
We drove further east through the Tuolumne Meadows, a beautiful wide open space with the meandering Tuolumne river. Finally, we crossed the highest point of the Sierra Nevada, the Tioga Pass.
From there we drove downhill to Mono Lake, an alkaline and hypersaline lake on the east side of the Sierra Nevada.
We stopped at the South Tufa Towers that have formed in the lake. Tufa is a rough, thick, rock-like calcium carbonate deposit that forms by precipitation from bodies of water with a high dissolved calcium content.
Then we drove up north along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada to Lake Tahoe. It is the second-deepest [501 m] and one of the highest lakes in elevation
We finally reached Sacramento after a 9-hour drive, had a quick dinner at “Fresh Choice” [an All-you-can-eat-Saladbar] and just crashed when we got to our hotel.