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Amazing landscapes in Yosemite National Park

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Vue la Yosemite Falls, au parc national de Yosemite.

Today, for the first time, we’re heading to Yosemite National Park!

Waking up in Yosemite Paradise

As is our custom by now, the day begins at 6.00 am. We get up and take turns showering in one of the two bathrooms in the main building. Outside, a dog stands guard.

Under the shelter, there are tables for breakfast for those who wish. Alas, it’s still too cold and damp to venture out this morning. On one of the trunks, I notice a recently purchased sign that will soon be installed at a location on the vast property. White writing on a red background reads “Drive like your kids live here”. It seems that even here, deep in the countryside, incivilities persist.

Photo session

Before breakfast, I take advantage of the early hour to take a stroll around the property, in particular near a lake we’d spotted on our arrival yesterday. An old rowboat is left on the shore, while mock swans are placed here and there.

Breakfast… and alcohol

At 7.00 am, Sarah and I head for the breakfast room. Two couples – one young Indian, the other fifty-something Asians – are already eating. Sarah and I serve ourselves a hearty breakfast in preparation for our day in Yosemite National Park. We have avocados, bagels and pancakes.

I’m surprised by one of the guests who uses a mug (bearing the logo of one of my clients, a pharmaceutical French company) to pour in coffee and a nice quantity of Bailey’s Irish Cream, a liqueur made from Irish whiskey and cream that I’m also used to drinking, but more in the evening and without coffee!

Let’s go to Yosemite National Park!

After checking into our room and gathering our belongings, we hit the road for Yosemite National Park. It’s about 30 miles from here.

A photo to immortalize the moment

Even before entering the park, we’re stunned by the beauty of the mountainous landscape beyond the stone security fence. A few kilometers further on, a “YOSEMITE National Park” sign from the U.S. Department of the Interior tells us we’re on the right track. A photo stop makes perfect sense. In fact, another couple stopped here and offered to take a photo of Sarah and me in front of this emblematic sign.

Arrival at Yosemite National Park

A little further on, we arrive in the park. First, we drive to Yosemite Village to park the car. But on the way, we have the opportunity to park on the side of the road, take our first shots of the park, and admire the (rented) Mustangs parked alongside, with this very special landscape in the background.

Yosemite Village and Yosemite Fall

We admire the little lake that stands right beside us, as well as the atypical trees and Yosemite Falls in the distance, perfectly reflected in the calm water before us. Back in the car, we drive to the Village as originally planned and leave the Mitsubishi in the large dedicated parking area. From there, we set off for a walk to get a closer look at Yosemite Fall. Unsurprisingly, we notice a lot of tourists, but the park is so vast and, knowing that we’re not yet in a busy period, we don’t step on each other’s toes. We find ourselves sprayed by the mist from the waterfall, which refreshes us nicely.

Mirror Lake

After this first short and easy walk, we decide to follow another signpost that will take us to Mirror Lake. The hike is longer, about 2.5 miles, and has a steeper gradient. No apprehension on our part, especially as we have a (light) supply in our backpacks.

The trail takes us through very different landscapes, with shady paths through forests and sunny stretches on a slope in the middle of what appears to be a rockslide. In places, it’s possible to admire the view of the park and surrounding mountains.

Lack of respect…

Unfortunately, during our walk, we came across an extravagant Hispanic tourist family. They had decided to share the music from their phone with the other hikers, with the volume turned up to maximum.

When we finally reach Mirror Lake, I consult my watch. It tells me we’ve already taken no less than 13,000 steps. And that’s not all for today!

Paris syndrome

I must confess to a touch of disappointment when I saw the lake. The various photos I consulted before this trip suggested a breathtaking landscape. The feeling that runs through me is that of the spectator who goes to see a movie that everyone says is excellent, who therefore expects to see an exceptional masterpiece but who, faced with the movie itself, finds it only good. Some might call it the Paris syndrome.

Lack of savoir vivre…

And then there’s the lack of savoir vivre of some people in front of such a landscape. A quick snack later, we take care to dispose of our garbage in the site’s clearly visible garbage cans. Unfortunately, the people before us who had changed a child’s diaper didn’t bother to throw it away. It lay exposed on a bench…

The singing driver

We decide to return to the Village. The quickest way down is by road. Alas, this is neither pleasant nor reassuring, given the fast-moving traffic on this road. So we decide to take the bus back down. The driver shares his good mood with us, singing into his microphone the whole way. Time flies.

If it feels a little like cheating to take the bus back down, it’s also because the clock is ticking. If we want to see more of Yosemite, we’d better hurry.

Tunnel View

Back at the car, we make our way to Tunnel View. This panoramic viewpoint is located close to the east entrance of the Wawona Tunnel and offers a breathtaking view of Yosemite Valley. You can marvel at the view and admire Half Dome in the background. We take the time to take a few photos and live in the moment before getting back in the car. We head for Glacier Point, almost 2,200 metres above sea level.

Glacier Point

We have to wait before entering the parking lot and, for the second time, we come across a 1930s hot-rod. Here again, we can see various famous park landmarks such as Half Dome, Liberty Cap, Vernal and Nevada Falls, as well as the High Sierra mountains. At the same spot, there’s a large wooden building where you can have a drink and buy souvenirs. It would have been gratifying if we’d walked all the way up there, but we didn’t. Maybe next time.

We have quite a time, sitting on a rock and admiring the expanse before us. A walk of over an hour and a half starts here. Naturally, we contemplate the idea of taking the plunge… but then give up. We’re tired and still have a little way to go. Also, it’s still too early to marvel at a sunset at Glacier Point, and we won’t have time to wait for it. However, the sensation it must provide is certainly worth the detour. Finally, as we stroll around, we find ourselves in the middle of a carpet of snow. We’re wearing t-shirts, so the contrast is striking.

The fires

On our way back down, we see a forest ravaged by flames. The park authorities have allowed some of them to spread, as specialists have shown the benefits of fire for ecosystem regeneration. For a long time, entire areas were protected from fire, so that the accumulated dead branches and trunks constituted dangerous fuel in the event of an uncontrolled blaze.

Redwood trees, of which there are many in the park, are protected from fire by their bark. Just as we had seen a sign reading “Prescribed Fire Do Not Report” at the entrance to the park. We wondered about the fires that seem to be deliberately set in Yosemite. After some research on Sarah’s smartphone, we learn that federal authorities can decide to set a controlled fire in a defined and limited area. This can only be done under certain conditions, such as ensuring that there is no wind, mobilizing a large number of firefighters, and not endangering people (tourists and residents).

These deliberate fires – also known as “ecobuage” – allow us to clear away the dead branches and trunks that have accumulated over the years. We’ll learn a little later that Amerindians already practised this type of burning to renew tree cells and strengthen the most vigorous trees.

Exit from Yosemite National Park

It’s already past 4pm, we haven’t eaten – and won’t until tonight – and we still have an hour and a half’s drive to our next AirBnB. We get back in our car and head off along a series of winding roads, all of them with remarkable scenery. Yosemite National Park is fabulous and deserves more time.

Oakhurst House

Just under two hours later, we arrived in Oakhurst, where our AirBnB is located. We stop the engine and head for this tasteful, typically American house. The owner told us on the booking platform that the bedroom is the first room on the left. He specified that the bathroom is upstairs.

He also asked us not to go into the other rooms where his parents live, notably the right-hand side, which is itself obscured by a curtain. Don’t worry, the sticker of an AK-47 assault rifle on the rear window of the Toyota pickup parked in front of the house has already discouraged us from any curiosity whatsoever. We take a well-deserved shower upstairs, taking care not to get into the wrong room.

Raley’s, a supermarket just the way I like them

Next, we decide to do some errants at a nearby Raley’s supermarket. It’s a store just the way I like them: spacious, glassed-in with a beautiful light that highlights the products. Our room had a fridge, so we took the opportunity to pick up some fresh produce such as avocados and Philadelphia cheese. We’ll use them to make bagels tomorrow.

We then set off on Highway 41, hoping to find a place to eat. We’re starving and spot an Italian restaurant that seems to serve good food, but realize we want a real American meal. A little further on, a meat restaurant catches our eye, but as we approach, it doesn’t inspire confidence.

The South Gate, a restaurant just the way I like them (too)

Dejected, we turn around and find ourselves near Raley’s. The South Gate Brewing Company, a restaurant that brews its own beer and reminds us of the French Ninkasi.

A little waiting

The waitress, dynamic and without lingering, tells us that the room is full. The wait takes about twenty minutes. She makes us wait in a dedicated room with other customers. We’re given a small electronic device that’s supposed to beep when our table is ready. Here again, the resemblance with the restaurant chain we know in France is surprising. The waitress suggests we order a drink, and while Sarah asks for a cocktail, I prefer to wait for the meal.

When the time comes, we sit down in the middle of the small establishment, in the main room, elegant and welcoming, with its industrial chic look. We each order a burger. I add, a little belatedly, a lager to accompany dinner. The Blu-Tang burger chosen by Sarah and the South Gate burger on my plate are served with fries. Everything is divine.

Napoleon, smart man, bad choices!

By the way, before our order arrives, an American customer in his sixties greets us before we leave. He asks us where we’re from. The man goes on to explain that he has read the Napoleon book and enjoyed it immensely. He calls the French emperor a “smart man, but bad choices“. He also tells us that he spent no less than eight months in Germany and that he himself comes from Morro Bay, where we were yesterday.

The man is interesting and probably a little drunk, if the look on the woman’s face is anything to go by. Before leaving, he addresses me and tells me that I have a very beautiful wife. We’ll remember this man and this meal.

The day in review

After all these emotions, we head home and I write a blog entry before heading off to bed for a well-deserved night’s sleep. Today, we walked 19,844 steps (16.5 km, or 10 miles) and took 257 photos.

Our day was full and rich in discoveries, but this wonderful Yosemite National Park deserves a few more days. Alas, our relatively full schedule for this non-extendable trip didn’t allow us to stay any longer. We opted for diversity by including Sequoia National Park and Death Valley in our program. If we get the chance to come back, which I sincerely hope we will, we’ll linger longer here. It would be an opportunity to do additional hikes that are more difficult and longer than what we did today.