Due to the popularity of Yosemite in the warmer months we were unable to bag a camping spot in the valley itself so we were half an hour drive away. After the freezing nights in Arizona and the sunsoaked sauna morning in Death Valley it was lovely to wake up in a shaded spot by the river. Figuring we would be awoken by some weather extreme we ended up sleeping in when it remained perfectly temperate.
After our breakfast we sauntered in to Yosemite Valley, arriving just before lunchtime. It was already packed and we found ourselves driving around the whole valley to get to a parking spot.
Once parked we loaded up our bags with all of our food to stop the bears tearing open our little Nissan (it happens, there were pictures) and set off.
Our first stop was Yosemite Falls. They’re big and super pretty and they claim (well they don’t but the literature does) to be the tallest waterfall in the USA. However, as the name suggests, there’s more than one and they count all the parts together! So don’t believe the height hype. But the prettiness hype is justified.
Next up was a loop trail around the valley that took us past viewpoints of Half Dome, El Capitan and a bunch of waterfalls.
We had a snack under a bridge looking up at El Capitan and we heard a chap telling a bunch of tourists about the climbers on the face of El Capitan. Apparently they were on day 2 of 3 and had stopped for the night. (We discovered afterwards that this epic 1000m+ high vertical rockface was to be conquered in a matter of hours, with no ropes or safety equipment, by Alex Honnold, this absolute nutcase)
What turned out to be a relatively sane climber having a kip on a vertical rockface
At this point our exciting adventures took a turn. We had planned to get a bus from one end of the loop trail to the other side of the valley to see a beautiful reflective pond called mirror lake. We had seen a bus stop at our snackspot near El Capitan and considered it as a bus pulled up but had decided not to get it there in order to see some more falls.
After over an hour of walking through dense wood our feet were weary and our spirits were broken, so the half a mile to the falls seemed too much. We instead headed straight to the bus stop. However, despite the park being full to bursting, it was deemed out of season and this bus stop was not in service. It turned out our nearest stop was the one we had previously considered but thought better of.
So we trudged back the way we’d come and just missed two busses, waited 30 minutes and were delighted to find the bus that turned up could take us 2 and no-one else. So we squeezed our way on and trundled along through the chain of traffic to the other end of the park. We still had another 10 or so stops to our car (we’d abandoned the idea of any more walking at this point) when the driver informed everyone that if you were heading back the way you were better off waiting for the next bus across the road.
So we took him at his word and got off the bus to await one heading the other way. Another 20 minutes later and the same bus turned up. It didn’t stop though, it was full. Having seen no busses heading either direction we decided to suck it up and walk the 30 minutes back to the car park.
As we walked along the gridlocked road we overtook a couple of busses and felt better about our decision but cursing our 4 hour detour due to my ill informed decision to see some falls that we didn’t see.
As we drove out of the park we drove past the falls we’d tried to walk to. They were ok.
We made one small stop before we headed back to the campsite and by George, it eased the frustration a lot. The setting sun over the world famous Tunnel View lit up one side of the valley with a huge shadow cast by the enormous rockfaces on the other. It just looked incredible.
We started up the hill to a second viewpoint at the top of the same hill, but with the sun already setting we decided the 90 minute detour was not worth it, especially considering we had to cook some delicious camp site mac n cheese when we got back. Turns out cooking mac n cheese in tiny pans in the dark is an unpleasurable experience. A couple of beers later the frustrations of the day were eased and our exhaustion took hold, so we curled up in our tent.
The next day, due to the primitive nature of the campsite, I had a freezing cold shower in the river with our foldable camping bucket. It was lovely and refreshing and after I washed my mouth out with soap I felt almost clean. Kate skipped this character building experience. She is wise.
We stayed in the beautifully named Dry Gulch Campground (just a few miles upriver from the even more inspired ??? campground). Despite the images it conjurred it was gorgeous. It has a total of 5 sites and it’s facilities include (and are entirely limited to) bucket toilets and bins. Each site had a picnic table, fire pit and the worryingly necessary bear locker. Our site was at the bottom of the hill, a few steps from the river which lulled us to sleep as it roared doen the creek. Not luxurious but perfect for what it was.