One of the most extraordinary aspects of American Far West is its huge diversity: this is the only place where you can leave the desert at lunch time with countless alerts related to extreme heat dangers, and be in the mountains after a 3 hours drive, where alerts are about the dangers associated to the bears! In few hours everything changes, the climate, the people, the landscape… We feel as if we left one world to step into a new one, completely different, and at the same time equally beautiful and inspiring.
Arriving Sierra Nevada (first stay at Mammoth Lakes) felt primarily as a relief because of the temperature, here at fantastic and very pleasant 86ºF (30ºC)… The first walk on the mountains was really nice and refreshing, although we had to deal with new kinds of issues here, as for example mosquitoes, for which we weren’t prepared… there are no completely perfect places!… Devils Postpile and Mono Lake were both very interesting visits, and felt as a prelude to Yosemite National Park, another enthusiastically expected highlight of our trip. I have to share with our (fantastic) blog’s readers that the great excuse to this trip (if excuses are needed) was my birthday, to be celebrated the next day in this great park, quite an emotion 🙂
Nature is grandiose, starting with the giant sequoias – impossible to photograph because of their dimensions, these giants can be thousands years old – they have witnessed very distinct phases of our history and evolution, they saw human kind progress and change habits, traditions… if only they could talk!
Everything around is spectacular – lakes, waterfalls, awesome views… nature at its best. Such magnificence invite to some meditation and contemplation moments, as being surrounded by such beauty is almost a mystical experience. The silence and the huge spaces give us a sense of how small we are. These are intense moments filled with happiness, realizing how lucky we are to have the chance be here, admiring such wonders, with the most important people in the world for us, especially on a b-day. It can’t get any better than this!
Most visitors enjoy the park from their cars, but there is a lot more to see, with many trails for great hikes to really appreciate the scenery (more information here).
The descent from Glacier Point to the valley is unique. It is possible to make the round trip – up and down – in one day (24 km – 15 miles), but after reading lots of comments in forums, we thought this would be too much and decided to make only one way – down, obviously 🙂
Those were great 12 km (7,5 miles), descending most of the time – at the end my knees were complaining a little. The first half was quite easy and we were by ourselves most of the time, the second half after the falls was much harder. We were initially worried about the kids, but in the end it was much harder to me – they ended up easily and both very happy to have made the descent with no problems at all! The trail passes by three gorgeous waterfalls and the views all the way are fabulous, this is a great way to visit a small part of this magnificent park.
There are a lot more trails, with well identified and marked itineraries. We met and talk with brave hikers heading to the Half Dome: Yosemite’s icon and an impossible challenge to most, it looks completely vertical (93% gradient actually)… The roundtrip is 16 miles long, and the last part of the ascent to reach the summit involves climbing with the help of cables. It is quite dangerous, there are injuries and even deaths every year, especially in wet weather conditions, because the rocks get extremely slippery. A permit is required to hike to the top, safety rules must be followed (details here), and as you may have guessed by now from this description, we didn’t even think of attempting it. Hearing from those who have done it was exciting enough, they all say that getting to the top is overwhelming, a once in a lifetime moment, and we definitely take their word for it… and that’s all, too much adrenaline for us 🙂 But for those who are looking for a real adventure, this is a top one!
This was a great birthday, we were all very happy, arriving late at the hotel, the four of us dirty and exhausted, longing for a bath, a good dinner and our comfortable beds… The following days our leg muscles made themselves noted, but apart from that it was a memorable hike for all of us. Time for a last visit to Mariposa Grove, where a significant number of giant sequoias are concentrated (around 500), and where we once again marvelled at these giant old wonders, and off we went to our last stop of this road trip: San Francisco. This great city deserves its own post, so I’ll write about it in a few days…