One of the things I was really looking forward to when I was planning my trip to the USA last year, was visiting Yosemite National Park. I had planned to stay in San Francisco for nearly a week and a trip to nature sounded like a welcome break from the bustling city. Besides, I had heard so much about the beauty of Yosemity National Park that I simply HAD to see it for myself! The only problem was: I don’t have a drivers license and it’s a looooong way from San Francisco. Every problem has a solution so I simply booked a daytrip on Viator.
It was a very, VERY early start that morning but I was looking forward to getting out of town for a day. No matter how much I loved San Francisco, who can say no to a day in nature? So off I went on a looooong ride to Yosemite Park. Lucky for me, I slept like a baby for the first 2 hours of the trip, about 2,5 hours to go… Mostly through mist so I will spare you the details.
When we finally got close to the park, I started to notice snow all around us. We had gained altitude and the world seemed so different from the sunny San Francisco Bay just hours away! We had a short stop and the first thing I noticed were the bear warnings. Bears? Really? I don’t think I have ever before been in an area where wild bears live! Bears turn out to be excellent dumpster divers so therefore:
As we drove on, the landscape got prettier and prettier. One thing I love about traveling by bus is just watching the landscape slide by my window. The snowy trees made way for gorgeous views on green valleys. Our guide explained that the valleys were first used as hunting grounds by Homo Sapiens about 8.000 to 10.000 years ago. Indians built the first settlements much later, some 3.000 years ago. I tried to imagine what their lives would have been like.
As the bus took a final bend, we stopped to admire the view. I forced myself not to look until I was out of the van… When I finally looked up, I was lost for words.
It took me a moment before I remembered to breath, it was THAT beautiful. It looks so much smaller on a photo but you have to take my word for it, this tunnel-like valley is huge. The unique landscape exists because glaciers carved out the valley millions of years ago. The granite rock formations were better able to stand up against the grounding glaciers, creating the almost surreal landscape we can admire today.
After I catched my breath and took a few pictures, it was time to move on to the visitor centre. From there, we would have the rest of the day to discover the park by ourselves. I’m not a toury kind of person so I was happy to have found one that doesn’t require me to “follow the guide” all day long. I couldn’t wait to get out there! With 5 hours on the clock I couldn’t really do any of the big hikes, but it was plenty of time to explore the beautiful valley.
Ofcourse, there is a story behind every thing you see. My favorite one is the Indian legend behind Hald Dome; The legend of Tis-sa-ack:
A husband and wife were passing through the valley. They got thirsty so the woman started drinking from the lake. She was so thirsty that she drank all the water, leaving nothing for her husband and causing a draught in the valley. The husband got so mad at his wife that he struck her with his walking stick. The woman ran away, turned around and angrily threw her basket at her husband. As they faced eachother, the great spirits turned them into massive stone structures because of their wickedness.
It isn’t just the immense rock formations that add to the beauty of Yosemite National Park. What also made a big impression on me was the immense trees. The pine trees grow incredibly tall! It made me feel so small and insignificant to stand beneath them. I have once read that pine trees can grow to up to 80 meters (260 ft) high… Can you even imagine that?
Talking about height… Let’s not forget to mention the immense waterfalls. Yosemite falls is one of the main attractions of the park. Even in winter, when the waterflow is a mere shadow of what it’s like in spring, they are quite impressive! The fall consists of three sections. Together, they measure an impressive 739 meters (2425 ft), making them the tallest waterfalls in America, and number 5 in the world.
There is a certain magic about the many waterfalls you come across while exploring the valley. I love folklore tales and it didn’t take me long to find some amazing Indian legends concerning the waterfalls. One of the most impressive waterfalls, Bridalveil Fall, is constantly haunted by wind. The water doesn’t seem to touch the ground because of it. The Ahwahneechee Indians called this waterfall Po-Ho-No, meaning “evil wind.”
A young Ahwahneechee woman was gathering berries near the top of the waterfall. The women who were with her saw her walking towards the edge, enchanted by the water. When she reached the edge of the waterfall, a strong wind came out of nowhere and pushed her over. The women were scared to death and ran back to the village to tell everyone what they had seen. The men ofcourse set out to look for the young woman’s body but it was never found. Legend has it that the waterfall trapped her spirit, and continues to take the life of anyone who wanders too close.
Another sight that’s hard to miss is El Capitain; a 900 meter high granite monolith towering above the valley. Standing in the valley, it almost felt like it would fall on top of me if I kept staring at the top. El capitain is heaven to rock climbers and I can see why. Too bad I gave up on rock climbing years ago.. I would have loved to have given it a try. Not that I would have gotten far…
After a few hours of exploring the valley, I was sad to return to the van. Time to go back to San Francisco. Yes, I would have loved to stay longer to do some trekking but if I did, I would never have made it to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras… I would probably have stayed there for weeks!
Man I feel so lucky to have been able to see all this beauty. If you ever get the chance, do yourself a favor and visit the beautiful Yosemite National Park in Californa!
Are you up for a trip to Yosemite National Park?
Yosemite park was a one day getaway in my tight schedule to travel over land from San Francisco to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. If you, like me, don’t have a divers licence, you can still easily get to the park from San Francisco. Here’s how I did it!
1: I checked for available tours on Viator.com. There are SO many tours to choose from, it was only a matter of finding the one that appealed to me.
2: After some research, I decided to go for a one day trip with a company called Incredible Adventures. They offered the longest time in the park, and most importantly to me: Free time. The guide was a great guy, the transport was comfortable and it was an amazing experience. I would definitely recommend them!
And that’s all there is to it to set you up for your trip. Let me know if there’s anything you need help with and I’ll be happy to answer your questions!