We had some fun money left over from our New Zealand vacation and I’ve always wanted to see U2 in concert. Their website said that they’d be in New York City for several days and we know that airfare to NYC is regularly very cheap so…
We got up early, ate breakfast in the room (banana, yogurt, nuts, oatmeal), and headed south to the farming community of Matamata and Hobbiton! We had been warned to allow extra travel time on all roads but our 30 minute buffer turned out to not be enough. With all the road construction, we just missed the first-of-the-day tour we had reserved but luckily they had space on the next one. Just after lunchtime, when we left, the place was completely filled up. This place is super cool and popular. If you are planning to visit, I highly recommend booking ahead.
The next day we drove to the park. About half the drive was on a small two-lane road out in the middle of nowhere. This surprised me considering all the traffic it must get from Sacramento and San Francisco. I can only imagine it packed with cars and RV’s because it was almost empty when we drove it. We stopped to get some cherries and strawberries from a farmer’s fruit stand. The strawberries were just average but the cherries were delicious.
As we worked our way into the park things just kept getting more and more beautiful. I knew that our hotel was near Yosemite Falls but I didn’t really understand just how close it was. The views just from the hotel parking lot were amazing. Melanie and I were stunned at the beauty of it all. Really stunned – like stopped walking and just stood and looked. I was now officially jazzed about this place and wanted to get out in it as quick as possible.
We arrived at the lodge too early to check in so we left the car in the lot and took the valley shuttle over to the Mirror Lake trail. This was a relatively short, flat and easy stroll. Unfortunately I’d never seen pictures of Mirror Lake beforehand or I would not have been expecting an alpine lake experience. What we got was a small marshy overgrown slow spot in the Merced River. In Florida this would be referred to as a drainage ditch or retention pond. Luckily the guidebook told us that the best part of the hike was the Mirror Lake Loop that goes past the lake. This was actually very nice. We got to cross the river two times on footbridges and it was a good time. It was nothing spectacular to see but a pleasant stroll without many people once we got past the “lake.” I was happy to be hiking and it was helping us adjust to the dry air and higher elevation.
After that we hopped on the shuttle and went to the Ahwanee hotel. This is the really expensive hotel that was built early on in the park’s life to attract big bucks big city folk from the coast so that they would support the park with their money. Guess what? It worked. It is still a nice hotel some 80 or 90 years later but I can’t see spending the money to stay there. We had free reign of the lower floor so we strolled around and checked out the cool architecture.
To finish the day off we walked from the lodge where we were staying to the Lower Yosemite Falls. What a spectacular sight! I am so glad that we stopped at REI before this trip and picked up some good rain jackets. In the following pictures you can’t really tell but the water coming off the falls is like a fine wind-driven downpour. I imagine it would take less than a minute to be soaked to the skin standing in front of this fall without something waterproof. The wind generated by the falling water was amazing. The only place it was windy was right at the base of the falls.