Yosemite National Park!

After a nice, prolonged morning in Sonoma/Novato, CA, we set our sights on Yosemite National Park, a name we’d each heard years ago. Unfortunately a few wrong turns and some serious California traffic set us back and what was supposed to be a 5 hour trip quickly stretched to 6+ hours of us wandering through the California countryside in the dark. We filled the time with audio books. First, we finished off “The Martian,” which is a fantastic read for anyone.

Yosemite is a very popular national park, and you can tell by the infrastructure. The first thing we noticed was that the roads are well paved. After driving through the dark for a while, we started to see public, free tour buses making their rounds through the park routinely. We arrived a little after 9:00 PM and saw the last few buses pull into their parking spots for the night. By that point, we’d lost all trace of a cell signal and were relying on my car’s built in navigation to get us to the visitor center, which was, of course, closed. Oh the joys of arriving after dark!

We found a parking lot and went in to the a lit lobby, which turned out to be one of the nicer hotels in the area. We used the land line at the reception desk to call the park rangers, who told us which campsites were still open for winter campers. We’d been planning on Wawona Campground, but after getting a good look at the map and realizing it was another 45 minutes away, we opted for the well-named “Camp 4” instead, conveniently only 2 minutes away by foot! For a mere $6/person/night, we were able to pitch our tent and “enjoy” some sleeping out in the cold. Photo of our tent below:


On Tuesday morning, we both woke up on the ground to under 20 F (-7 C) temperatures. We bought our sleeping pads in Seattle at the REI garage sale, which is when REI re-sells all of their returned items for very low prices, but with a no-return policy. We thought our sleeping pads were a steal, but they clearly weren’t functional. 😦 It wasn’t the best night’s sleep as we were constantly waking up to rearrange and warm up, but we did rest and were thankful to only be spending $6/person.

After lots of jumping jacks and stretching to get the blood pumping again, we swung by the Welcome Center, identified a trail to hike (Mirror Lake Loop) snagged some trail mix and coffee to get us going, and set off. The weather was pretty cold all day (didn’t break 40 F), but the hike kept us warm and we were blown away by the scenery. We did the Mirror Lake Trail and Happy Isles Trail, followed by the Lower Falls, and the Valley Trail. We went for some of the easier trails as we didn’t want to get stuck too far from the shuttles by nightfall. The photos below can’t possibly do it justice, but if I include 3, then I’ll save myself 3,000 words!

Here I’ll take a brief moment to give Google some props for the camera on the Nexus 6P. While I do miss my Lumia 950 XL’s beastly 21 megapixel shooter with full manual controls, I must say that Google has a pretty solid camera as well. Although it only has 12.3 megapixels, apparently the pixels are 1.55 microms instead of the standard 1.4. In any case, the results are pretty solid. I found out that the stock Android camera had built in 360 degree panorama and VR (think IMAX photo) capability built in. Furthermore, all my photos are automatically backed up to Google Photos at full resolution and categorized by object, place, and time. If/when my phone runs out of storage, it can automatically delete older photos, but maintain the online copies. Pretty cool!


The sun set pretty early (around 4:30 PM), so we made it back just before dark and went straight to the Yosemite Valley Lodge for some dinner (Teriyaki burgers in the food court). Hiking all day and fighting off the cold had given us quite an appetite, so I can’t say if the food was good objectively, but I thoroughly enjoyed it! We also used WiFi to post the Seattle blog post.

We hung out at the food court for a little while, savoring the heated air and hot water/tea, and then headed back to Camp 4 for a little shuteye. This time around, we knew what to expect and planned accordingly. I used a sleeping pad I’d bought at REI in Texas back in March, which worked perfectly. Andrea stacked our yoga mats and both of the defective sleeping pads, which elevated her quite nicely! In addition, we had filled our Nalgene water bottles with hot water from the cafe and used those to heat up our sleeping bags from the inside. We slept around 8:00 PM and did NOT spend the whole night tossing, turning, and shivering. 😀

Wednesday morning we woke up before the sun (going to bed at 8:00 PM can do that) and enjoyed the sunrise over the mountains. We packed up the tent, swung by the Yosemite Valley Lodge for Andrea’s morning coffee, and then did a quick 45 minute hike up the Upper Falls Trail, which was much more strenuous than the trails from the previous day. We didn’t make it up the whole way (which takes 6-10 hours), but did warm up and got our hearts pumping before another driving day. Here’s the view from as far as I got up the Upper Falls Trail.

For more photos, see my Instagram page. It’s a lot easier to post photos there. 🙂


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