Laura and Lee's Yosemite Vacation

June 11-17, 2003

It's June - time for me to wax poetic about Yosemite like I do every year. :-)

This year we were able to stay in the Valley a day longer than we usually do, and that was wonderful - we still found plenty of things to keep us occupied, and I didn't feel *quite* so bad when we had to go home...though I still wasn't ready to leave. :-)

Walt and Barb blew us off this year (SHE had a "work trip" to Cancun (yeah, right!) and Walt went with her). :-) But my parents were quite happy to take advantage of the second cabin that we had reserved - Mom and Dad stayed the first two nights and then Dad left for Monterey for the NCGA State Amateur Match Play tournament, and our friends Jim and Sherry came over from Bishop for the rest of our stay, and Mom went home with them. We stayed in the cabins with bath at Curry Village again - that's a very nice area, and fairly quiet. As usual, I made the reservations a year and a day in advance...and before leaving already had reservations for 2004! :-) (And next year the reservation is for 6 nights!)

Wednesday, June 11

We got everything loaded into the Xterra (and the bikes on the back!) and were on the road about 9:00 and arrived at Lee's family's place around 2:00. We were trying to get there early because they had a PROJECT for Lee - they'd bought a new black ceramic sink for Lee's grandmother's kitchen, but it needed to be installed.

Lee's younger brother Ross had come over to help, too, and had already gotten started on trying to pull the old sink out before Lee got there. Unfortunately the person who installed the old sink had evidently used construction adhesive rather than caulk to hold it in place, and they had quite a job getting it out, but they were eventually successful. Then Lee and his dad (Tom) made a trip to Home Depot, to get a new garbage disposal and faucet and all the pieces they would need to plumb the new sink.

But when they got back it was already about 5:30, and we all wanted to go to dinner at Marie Callender's before it got too late, so the work crew cleaned up and we went there for dinner. There were 10 of us - Ross, Dee Dee, and Chloe and Chaney (our niece and nephew), Tom and Gram, and Lee's mom (Carol) and her husband Donn. We had a nice dinner but the service was VERY slow...Carol had warned us that slow service is often a problem at this particular Marie Callender's.

After dinner we drove to see the new house that Donn and Carol were was pretty close to finished but not quite. (They moved in the middle of July). It was starting to get dark but we could still get a good idea of what the outside was like, and of course there were lights inside. It's a very nice house - not that that is really a surprise, because they have very good taste!

After we got back to Gram's Ross and his family drove home and Lee and Tom got to work on the plumbing problem. They ALMOST had everything they needed to get it put together, but were short about 2" of pipe. That was pretty good, though - those kinds of projects *always* seem to require multiple trips to Home Depot! :-)

Thursday, June 12

Lee made an early trip to Home Depot and was able to get what he needed so that he and Tom could get the sink and disposal working. Yay!!! Gram was VERY happy with her new black sink - it matches her new black stove. (Last year's PROJECT. :-) )

Despite the plumbing project, Gram still managed to make us our traditional pancakes and sausage breakfast - and I was able to do most of the cleanup in the new sink. :-)

We left about 10:40 and had an uneventful drive to Yosemite...we got to the viewpoint at the Wawona Tunnel (aka Discovery Point) at about 1:30. Unfortunately the valley was hazy and the view wasn't as good as it can be. Though we were very happy to see that Yosemite must have gotten enough funding that it could pay its water bill this year - there was lots of water coming over the falls. :-) Unlike last year, when the falls were pretty disappointing.

From here we did a hike we'd never done before - up to Old Inspiration Point. Evidently this is where the road used to dead end before they put in the Wawona Tunnel. The views from the trail were VERY nice - better than from the tunnel viewpoint, and there were lots and lots of beautiful wildflowers - a better display with more variety than I have seen in a long time! I was constantly stopping to take pictures. The trail is pretty steep, though.

"Inspiration Point" (pictured here) itself was actually very *un*inspiring...I don't know if it's because the trees have grown in the years since there was a road there or what, but there was not much of a view from there at all. We did see a deer there, though - she was pretty unconcerned by our presence.

And we had the trail almost entirely to ourselves...we saw a trail crew working on the trail, one person coming down as we were going up, and another couple who reached Inspiration Point just as we were leaving. So you CAN find places in Yosemite where you can get away from the crowds - you just have to know where to go.

We arrived at Curry Village about 4:15 and went to check in - saw my parents' car in the lot, but didn't see them. When we checked in we discovered that they had us down for *four* cabins and not two...this "year and a day" thing seems to throw them every year, since I have two reservations "active" at the same time, even though one of them is for the next year! We got that straightened out and got the keys - this time instead of having two units that were side-by-side we were on opposite sides of the cabin complex - but that meant we were just further away from the riff-raff. :-)

About the time we finished unpacking my parents tracked us down and we helped them unload their car. We all decided to relax for a while and meet up for dinner around 6:00. We took the shuttle bus over to Yosemite Lodge and had dinner at the "Food Court" - it's set up with different stations where you can get burgers, pasta, pizza, hot entrees, pre-made salads, etc., and then you pay for whatever you got when you check out. The food is pretty decent - Mom especially enjoyed her chicken caesar salad.

We did some shopping in the store at the Lodge and then took the shuttle bus back to Curry Village and our respective cabins.

Oh, and there was a very nice evening view of Half Dome. :-)

Friday, June 13

I was up fairly early and went and took a walk around the meadow near Curry Village. It was a nice morning and I didn't see too many other people out and about. It's always peaceful and so quiet in the mornings - that's my favorite time in Yosemite if I can manage to drag myself out of bed!

We had breakfast at the Curry Pavilion, which is a buffet - $9.00 for "all-you-care-to-eat". They had a pretty good selection of breakfast food. Everything from hot and cold cereals to eggs/bacon/sausage/hashed browns, fruit, pancakes, toast and pastries.

We had brought stuff for trail lunches - crackers, cheese, fruit, cookies, and things like that, so we packed lunches and caught the shuttle bus to Happy Isles. It was about 9:30 when we started up the John Muir trail. At the beginning of the trail we talked to a guy who was starting his journey over the entire John Muir trail - he was planning to complete it in only two weeks!

Where the John Muir trail and the Mist Trail split, so did we...Mom went up the John Muir trail and Dad, Lee and I went up the Mist Trail. (Both eventually end up at the top of Nevada Falls - the Muir trail is longer but not as steep.) Thanks to that paid up water bill there was a lot more water coming over Vernal Falls than in recent years, but we were wearing rain gear and didn't get too wet. And I discovered that there are about 660 steps from the bottom of the Mist Trail to the top. :-)

We hung out at the top of the Falls for a while before continuing on the Upper Mist Trail to Nevada Falls. There were a couple of nice views of the side of Nevada Falls, and we stopped a lot to take pictures. I found lots of wildflowers in bloom. And that always makes me happy. :-)

About the time we got to the top of the falls (12:30) Mom did, too, so our timing was good! We stayed at the top for a while having lunch, enjoying the sun, taking pictures, and even napping a little bit.

On the trip down we all went down the Muir trail...but partway down we ran into the back end of a pack of mules and their riders. Normally horses/mules move much *faster* than humans so they have right-of-way, but this group was nothing but a slow-moving roadblock. It was very frustrating - they wouldn't let us pass them even though we (and by this time there were probably 15-20 of us behind them) were moving faster than they were. And we had to navigate around all the fresh pools of horse pee and piles of horse poop. Ewwwww. We were probably behind them for at least half a mile before they took the horse trail towards the stables and we continued back down to the Vernal Falls bridge.

It was close to 5:00 by the time we caught the shuttle bus back to Curry Village. By then I wasn't feeling too well, and I had somehow injured the bottom of my foot a couple days before (evidently a bruise on my heel) and it was really hurting. It had bothered me on the Inspiration Point hike but was much worse after the six mile Nevada Falls hike. I stayed in the cabin while the others had dinner over at the Pavilion. We all had a quiet evening reading and went to bed early.

A note about the weather - it was just beautiful, though a little warmer than it has been in recent years. The days were sunny with highs close to 90, and at night it was in the low 60s - warmer than usual. It was a little chilly in the morning until the sun got high enough to get over the walls of the valley, but then it warmed up very quickly.

Saturday, June 14

We were meeting Jim and Sherry for breakfast at the Ahwahnee but that wasn't until 9:00, and Lee and I were up by 7:00. So we took the bikes and went on a lovely bike ride up past Happy Isles and the Mirror Lake junction, then back past some of the old campgrounds across an old stone bridge and returned to Curry Village. It's a very nice loop and it was all on bike paths so we didn't have to contend with any cars - not that there are many that early in the day.

The four of us drove over to the Ahwahnee, where we actually had a *wait* of 20 minutes before we were seated! We didn't understand that, because there were plenty of empty tables and they were not especially busy. But the timing worked out ok - Jim and Sherry arrived several minutes after we were seated. (They'd had to drive over from Bishop that morning.)

The prices had gone up again and like last year, there wasn't any of the delicious coffeecake in the pastry basket. :-( Still we all had a very nice breakfast...the prices may be high but you get a LOT of food!

We all drove back to Curry Village and Jim and Sherry moved their stuff into Mom and Dad's cabin. We decided to take a hike to the base of the waterfall that was right behind Curry Village - it cascades down several (large) steps from the vicinity of Glacier Point. That was rather steep (and there's no real trail, though there's a path because other people have done it), but we all made it.

My foot was still pretty painful so we decided to do something a little more mellow (going uphill didn't bother me but downhill was Not Fun)...we packed lunches and took the shuttle bus over to the Ahwahnee (it was deja vu all over again!) and followed a very nice trail that goes along the edge of the Valley and over to the base of Lower Yosemite Falls. Typically there aren't too many people on this trail, (until you get to the falls) but we saw more people on it this time. There were lots of wildflowers, though!

There were a LOT of people at the falls, but we found a spot where we could have our late lunch - it was 2:30 by then. From there we walked to the Visitor Center...along the way we saw an interesting sight that made us all do a double-take...a young woman on a bicycle rode past us, and over her shoulder we could see the face of a Himalayan cat she was carrying in a backpack! The cat seemed quite unconcerned.

At the Visitor Center we saw the new movie - The Spirit of Yosemite. It was pretty good, but the best part is that it was air-conditioned in there! :-) That felt good because it was a pretty warm day.

While we were checking out t-shirts at the Village Store Dad was off sneaking ice cream at the ice cream place! Hmph. :-) This year we were again disappointed in the t-shirt selection. Some of the designs were nice, but they were on ugly colored shirts...sage green, brick red, things like that. Or black - who wants to wear a black shirt to hike in???

We had to wait a while to catch a shuttle bus back - it was that time of afternoon when all the people who just came into Yosemite for the day are leaving and traffic going out of Yosemite gets very backed up. The shuttle buses get stuck in that, too. Three of them came right in a row, and they were all packed when they left the Village shuttle stop.

Dad loaded his stuff in the car and headed off towards Merced where he was spending the night. The rest of us got cleaned up and had dinner at the Curry Pavilion. It was not crowded, and it was $15.00 "all you care to eat". The food was not bad and they had a large selection - soup and salad bar, Mexican food, fish, chicken, mashed potatoes, burgers and fries, pasta and pizza, so they had something there to appeal to just about everyone. Desserts, too, though they weren't that good.

Time for bed after that!

Sunday, June 15

We kind of all did our own thing for breakfast - some of us at the Curry Village coffee stand (which also sold bagels and muffins and that sort of thing), or at the Pavilion or with stuff we'd brought with us.

We'd decided to do the Four Mile Trail - it had the advantage of being all *uphill* which didn't bother my foot. Mom volunteered to drop us off at the trail head and drive Jim and Sherry's car to Glacier Point and meet us so we could drive back down instead of hiking - which would have made my foot very unhappy. The four of us left the trailhead at 9:27.

The Four Mile trail is really 4.8 miles, and goes from the floor of the Valley to Glacier Point, climbing 3200 feet up. There is almost *no* downhill on this trail, and very little that is flat, either! It goes *up*. :-) But there are some beautiful views of Yosemite Falls and Half Dome from the trail, and we were on it early enough that it was still cool and shady. (I wouldn't want to do it in the afternoon, though!) We didn't see too many other people going up, but we saw quite a few who were coming down - including some who said they were going back *up* later, though from the look of them, I think they were going to have a hard time making it back up.

The trail was a nice challenge - Lee and I were trying to see how fast we could do it. Of course none of us were in Jim's league and he smoked us - he got to the top in just about 2 hours! I made it in 2:08 (I kept up with Jim for a while but then I stopped to take pictures - that's my story and I'm sticking to it! :-) ), Lee came in at 2:12 and Sherry at 2:20. Pretty impressive times for that hike!

Mom was actually looking forward to having a little bit of time to relax at Glacier Point while she waited for us, but no sooner did she get settled at the top of the trail with her book and her lunch (though she had walked out to the Point itself for a few minutes) than Jim arrived and the rest of us followed soon after, of course. After we'd all rested and had something to eat we went to the viewpoint at Glacier Point itself - we could see where our cabins were from there....Curry Village is right below Glacier Point.

On the drive down we stopped at the Bridalveil Fall viewing area...the parking lot was packed, but we did eventually get a spot. We got misted on at the base of the fall, but it felt pretty good on a warm day.

Back at Curry Village we had a snack at the Taqueria - it was surprisingly tasty. Or maybe we were just hungry. :-) Unfortunately it has very limited hours of operation and isn't open for dinner - it closes at 5:00. But our tostadas and burritos really hit the spot.

That brings up one drawback to Yosemite that we really became aware of on this trip because we stayed for a longer time - the dining choices in the valley are VERY limited. The burger place and deli/ice cream parlor in the Village both close at 5:00, as does the Taqueria in Curry Village. After that all that's left is the Food Court and the Mountain Room at Yosemite Lodge, Degnan's Loft (the pizza place in the Village), and the pizza place and the Pavilion in Curry Village. (Ok, the restaurant at the Ahwahnee is open, but it has a dress code, so it's not a dinner option for most people!) If you stay as long as we did, you're going to end up eating at several of those places twice. And if you don't want pizza, that limits you even more. (We've never actually had pizza at Curry Village because it's always got a huge line - we typically get pizza at the Loft, though we didn't do that this trip.) I really wish they would change the Pavilion to a food court - I think that would fit in a lot better in Curry Village.

For breakfast you have even fewer choices - the Curry Pavilion (also a buffet for breakfast, but $9.00 is a lot to pay if you don't eat much!), the coffee/pastry place (which has limited choices and usually at least a 15-20 minute line!), the Ahwahnee, and the Food Court at the Lodge. It's not too hard to bring breakfast food with you but it *is* nice to have something hot to drink with it - we decided that next year we're going to bring a small coffeemaker or hot pot or something like that - we saw some other people in the cabins that had done that.

But anyway...we spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and napping and reading, before meeting up to catch the shuttle bus over to the Lodge, where we were having dinner at the Mountain Room - the nice restaurant at the Lodge. Our 30 minute wait for a table ended up being more like 45 minutes, but it gave us time to shop - we found some t-shirts in the gift shops that we liked. Finally. :-)

Our dinners were good but the service was *very* slow...we waited 20 minutes from the time we were seated until our waiter even took our *drink* orders! At least the salads and entrees came fairly quickly, though. (And the pecan/spinach salad was *excellent*.) But then we had ANOTHER wait for dessert. We elected to pay with cash rather than credit card because we didn't want to wait another 15 minutes for our waiter to process it! Our waiter didn't do a very good job with any of his tables as far as we could tell.

We had a bit of a wait for a shuttle bus - and the mosquitoes were out in force. Fortunately we'd brought mosquito repellant with us, but others who were waiting weren't so fortunate, and we heard that the valley was completely sold out of repellant! It was kind of a bad year for mosquitoes since there was more water around this year. (Pay your water bill...get more mosquitoes. Hmmm.)

Once we got on the bus we sat in the back. There was a group of about 4 "Goth" girls sitting near us - dressed in black with lots of studs and piercings, and hair streaked in colors that Mother Nature never intended. Sherry and Mom and Lee were being especially rowdy and silly, and one of the girls came over and asked, "So are you guys, like, totally wasted?" Sherry told her no, just having a good night, and she said, "All right", high-fived Sherry, and went back to her seat. Who'd have thought it would be the gray hairs in the back creating all the commotion? ;-)

The girls got off at Sentinel was completely dark by this time, and I'm not really sure where they were going - there's nothing at the bridge itself!

We went back to Curry Village and went to bed. :-)

Monday, June 16

After breakfast Mom and Jim and Sherry rented bikes and we all rode over to Mirror Meadow...err...Mirror Lake. We weren't there really early, but actually the reflections in the lake-turning-meadow were very nice - and the water was high enough that there were still pools to reflect in.

We took the trail that makes a loop around the lake...and got stopped by *another* mule train! This time the problem was that one of the riders had fallen off her mule. She was responsive, but they had her laying down and didn't want her to move. They eventually got the rest of the group turned around and headed back to the stables, and left a couple of people with her until such time as the rescue squad arrived to deal with moving her when she had a potential back/neck injury. Once they headed back we could continue on.

I don't know that I've ever been all the way around the lake, but it was a very nice stroll - mostly flat. There were lots of wildflowers in bloom...but we got into some mosquitoey areas, too. The hike was about 3 miles. Again, we didn't see very many other people - this trail was not the freeway that the Vernal/Nevada Falls and Lower Yosemite Falls trail are.

We didn't ride back to Curry Village the way we came - we took a little more scenic route past the old campgrounds (the same route Lee and I had ridden a couple days before) and went back to the Taqueria for lunch. It was a warm day, but we eventually managed to find a table in the shade.

After lunch we spent a couple hours relaxing (Mom and Sherry were playing "Kings on a Corner"), and at 4:30 we got back together for another bike ride - we went over to Yosemite Lodge, across the bridge over the Merced River, and back to Curry Village past the church, Housekeeping Camp, and the Leconte Memorial. (Oh, that reminds me...on our excursion to the waterfall behind Curry Village two days before we had discovered the *original* site of the Leconte Memorial, which was next to Curry Village. When the Currys wanted to expand and add more cabins they paid to move the Memorial to its present location, though all that was kept of the original building was its rather distictive roof. A pile of rocks - and a plaque - are all that's left of the old site.)

When Jim and Sherry and Mom went to check their bikes in they discovered that the person who had done their paperwork in the morning had not put down the check-out instead of paying an all-day rental they were only charged for an hour!

We all got cleaned up - Lee and I joined the others in their cabin and played a couple hands of "Kings on a Corner" while everyone was finishing getting ready. We eventually took the bus over to Yosemite Lodge for dinner at the Food Court. The people at the grill were *very* inefficent and rather surly. Once we finally got our food and paid we discovered that although there were lots of empty tables they hadn't been bussed - we ended up having to clean one off ourselves so that we'd have someplace to sit.

The mosquitoes at the bus stop were even worse that night! No Goths on the bus this time, though. :-)

After we got back to Curry Village we went to the ice cream shop for dessert - it was surprisingly NOT crowded! And the ice cream was quite good, too. I had a hot fudge sundae...mmmmm.

Tuesday, June 17

Departure day...sigh.

Lee and I did some of our packing and took a bike ride out towards El Capitan and then back. (I wanted to go allllll the way out past El Capitan but Lee wimped out on me.) Once you get past Yosemite Lodge there's no more bike lane, so you have to share the one way road with cars - though at least it's two lanes. That's one reason for doing this ride early in the day, when there isn't so much traffic on the road. It was a beautiful morning and a nice ride - it took us about an hour.

On the road near the church we saw a coyote - in flagrant disregard for the traffic laws it was trotting the wrong way on the one-way road. :-) It wasn't too worried about the humans that were around and eventually we saw it pounce into the meadow in pursuit of breakfast.

We also saw a couple of hang gliders coming down in front of Yosemite Falls...I didn't think that was permitted! Eventually they disappeared in the direction on El Capitan - that meadow at the base of El Cap is probably a good place to land.

After we got back and had breakfast we finished packing and loading everything in the Xterra and said goodbye to Mom and Jim and Sherry - since they hadn't gone biking they were ready to leave before we were, but we were on the road at about 9:40. It was a fairly uneventful drive home...we hit a little bit of traffic in L.A. but we were home by about 6:00.

Random Thoughts

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Yosemite 2003 with Tigger and Stitch

Text and photographs copyright © 2003, by Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath, email: lgil at lgil dot net
Last updated 9/11/2003

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