Monday, October 19, 2009

Yosemite National Park and Curry Village

Update: Seasonal Yosemite Information Below...

I've been to Yosemite National Park 3 times. The most recent visit was towards the end of a Lake Powell Houseboat Roadtrip, which also found its way down the Moki Dugway, to Mexican Hat's San Juan Inn, Monument Valley, a blizzard in a log cabin on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, hiking in Zion National Park, getting a flat tire in Death Valley, overnighting in Mammoth, then crossing Logan Pass the next morning for a side trip into Yosemite.

That last trip to Yosemite was in October, which had Yosemite having the same problem as my first Roadtrip to Yosemite, as in the waterfalls were not falling a lot of water.

My first time to Yosemite I was not as impressed as I had expected to be. But it was towards the end of the longest Roadtrip of my life and I was having scenic wonder overload. This was the Roadtrip that took me up Pikes Peak, across Royal Gorge and down into the Carlsbad Caverns, into Texas for the first time, hiking into the Grand Canyon, swimming in Lake Havasu, going to Los Angeles and Disneyland and Universal Studios and Knotts Berry Farm, the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park and Sea World. And if memory serves me correctly, Tijuana for a little taste of Mexico. Then back across the mountains to Kings Canyon, Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks.

Yosemite was running a bit dry for my first and third visit. Fall is not the time to see Yosemite in all its glory. That would be spring when the snowmelt has the rivers, creeks and waterfalls moving a lot of water.

My springtime visit to Yosemite took place in the 1990s. It was the only time I stayed overnight. Three other guys and myself rented a big gas guzzling Cadillac. The Goober Twins, Big Ed and Wally, Dale and me. The first destination of this Roadtrip was Reno, taking the route through eastern Oregon that has you entering Nevada via Winnemucca. After a day or two in Reno we headed up to Lake Tahoe, then on to Highway 49 with its fun Miner 49 towns like Placerville, Angels Camp, Sonora and Nevada City.

I had made reservations for two nights at Curry Village, also known as Camp Curry. I knew we were staying in something called a tent cabin. I had no idea what it would be til I saw it. I'd tried to move the boys along so we could arrive before dark, but they dawdled. It was not too difficult to find Curry Village. On the way we saw lights at various elevations on El Capitan. Climbers strapped in for the night.

Curry Village has a large parking lot. It was easy to find the office and check in. We were given wool blankets and directions to the tent cabin. I was not being too pleased. When I saw the tent cabins I was less pleased. Found the cabin, unlocked the padlock, opened the door, found the one bare light, turned it on to see 4 cots and not much else. The cabin was wood framed with a wood floor with everything else made of canvas.

I told everyone I thought I'd make it through one night, but I might be in the mood to bail in the morning. It was a noisy night. And there was this constant roar. When the sun lit up the place I opened the door to see what was making the roar. A huge waterfall was crashing down the valley wall a short distance away. My spirits lifted.

With daylight helping, unlike the night before, I could see that Curry Village was quite large. It sits in the shadow of Half Dome and Glacier Point. There are several eateries and one big cafeteria. Huge restroom facilities to handle the large crowd. I found it all a bit too developed. But Yosemite has had a strange mix of private development and preserving nature from its start.

There is plenty of outdoor patio area at Curry Village. This makes for some pleasant beer drinking and snack munching in the evenings. A bar was overfilled with viewers watching the final episode of Cheers.

Yosemite Village is another unnatural thing on the valley floor. It's like a mall. With big parking lots. Traffic at Yosemite is a bit congested. There is a free shuttle bus to zip you to the various attractions that is very easy to use. Since my last visit I believe the park service has implemented multiple methods of cutting down on the traffic. There are paved trails for biking all over the valley floor. The tent campsites look fun. I want to return with a tent and a bike.

Yosemite Valley is only about 1% of the actual park area. It is easy to get away from the valley crowds by taking a hike. The hike to the top of Yosemite Falls was fairly easy. Yosemite Falls is the highest in North America. The famous falls you see from the Wawona Tunnel, that being the classic Yosemite view (picture at the top), is Bridal Veil Falls. So much water was falling over the veil that you could only make it so far up the trail before being overwhelmed by the pounding mist.

You can also walk among the 3 groves of Giant Sequoia in Yosemite.

The springtime trip to Yosemite turned it from one of my least favorite National Parks, to one of my favorites.

Seasonal Yosemite Information
  • Rivers & Waterfalls: Vernal, Nevada, and Bridalveil Falls are flowing with typical autumn (low) flows.
  • Yosemite Falls has water once again.
  • Bears: Bears continue to be very active in campgrounds and parking lots in search of food: be sure to store your food properly!
Lodging & Other Concessions
  • In Yosemite Valley, Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village, and The Ahwahnee are open.
  • The Wawona Hotel is open.
  • Housekeeping Camp, Tuolumne Meadows, and White Wolf Lodges are closed for the season.
Reservations are available up to 366 days in advance. Visit DNC Parks & Resorts' website for more information.

  • Yosemite Valley: Upper Pines and Lower, Pines Campgrounds are open; reservations are required.
  • Camp 4 is open on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • North Pines Campground is closed for the season.

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