Into Yosemite Valley

El Capitan Yosemite ValleyI think Yosemite is probably a big hoax. Look at that view, the famous El Capitan with Half Dome peeking out of the background. How can it possibly be real? Clearly some form of painted backdrop.

DSC_0882_editChris getting a closer look for brush strokes.

We stayed in Yosemite Valley for two nights, in a lovely spot called Evergreen Lodge. All the accommodation is little log cabins spread through an area of woodland, with comfy beds piled high with blankets to keep out the chilly Yosemite winter, and a lovely little gas fire that roared away merrily to heat the room. We unpacked the wine we had bought in Monterey, put on our warmest socks and booked ourselves a walking tour through the valley for the next day. That night we spread out a blanket on our little veranda and lay out looking at the stars.

DSC_9219-2

DSC_0869_editThis is not our cabin, fyi, but can you imagine a more idyllic spot?DSC_0039_2-2Our walk started bright an early the next day with a short hike to see the groves of giant sequoia trees. Sequoias are the largest single stem trees by volume and wood mass, so as you can imagine, they are surprisingly big. And very beautiful.
DSC_0863_editIn fact, everything about Yosemite is big and beautiful and wild and open and breathtakingly perfect. For me the only part that was missing were the bears. I desperately wanted to see a bear, from a distance through my binoculars, but with hindsight it’s probably good that we didn’t. Bears are better left alone to do bear things.

From the sequoias we moved on to see the most popular sights in the park, namely the monuments – El Capitan, Half Dome and North Dome – and the waterfalls. Our guide commented dryly that this part of Yosemite can feel like the Disney of the Great American Outdoors, simply because it draws the largest numbers of tourists. While it’s true that the ‘wilderness adventure’ aspect of the experience is somewhat diminished by the presence of so many other people (some of whom were wearing the most hilarious footwear – wedge heels anyone?), I think it’s so important that people are able to see this incredible places for themselves, and so be inspired to care for them and protect them, and by extension the natural world as a whole. I challenge anyone to stand at the foot of the Dawn Wall of El Capitan, all 910 metres of it, and not have their mind well and truly blown.DSC_0883_edit

DSC_9175-2This little guy is a blue jay. He was hanging out at the base of a waterfall stealing crumbs from tourists. Cheeky beggar.

Our guide also mentioned that the most dangerous aspect of the park, far from being the bears or the heights (although both of these are risky) is the water. Yosemite has several very beautiful, very tall and extremely treacherous waterfalls. At the height of summer the water in these falls rarely reaches the ground, but gets blown away in a cloud of mist.DSC_0894_edit

DSC_0886_edit

DSC_9164-2Normally this high meadows would be covered in snow during late March. In fact we swung by a couple of outdoor stores on our way up to the valley to stock up on warm layers, fully anticipating sub zero temperatures and possible snow-shoeing. But the weather ended up being so nice that we abandoned our heavy coats in the back of the minibus. So much for being overprepared!
DSC_9142-2I don’t think either of us will ever work the wilderness out of our systems; we both felt more than a little sad to be leaving the wild woods and heading on to San Francisco and one step closer to getting back to London. I think it’s safe to say that we have well and truly outgrown city life. So this Friday we’re going to start hunting for houses! Watch out Surrey, we’re coming to get you.

What do you think?