Category Archives: Yosemite National Park

Say Yes to Yosemite

Yosemite in February?


My youngest sister had never been to California, so she asked if I could accompany her as a personal “tour guide”. I jumped at the opportunity. (Who wouldn’t?!) We booked flights from Buffalo, NY, used my son’s house in San Jose as a home base, set an itinerary, and off we went!

1Kims breaktime
Taking a break on the trail to Mirror Lake. (Yes, that speck in the middle of the photo is me!)

One of the highlights on our to-do list was to visit Yosemite National Park. Unsure if tire chains would be necessary for our rental vehicle, (it was February and we were driving through the mountains, after all), we parked our rental at Yosemite View Lodge (just outside of the park).  A YARTS bus arrived scant minutes later, as scheduled. We drove into the park and, from first glance, I could tell this was going to be a terrific trip.

Every waterfall in the park was in its full glory–each one more beautiful than the next.

The bus made its way to The Ahwahnee (now known as The Majestic Yosemite Hotel). Although we had arrived very early (11am), the front desk clerk was most accommodating and assigned a room to us. My sister and I took the elevator upstairs, dropped our bags, and inspected the views from our windows. From there, we wasted no time in setting off to hike some of the park’s numerous trails.

As this wasn’t my first trip to the park, I knew what our first destination would be–Mirror Lake. In October/November, this lake is non-existent. It’s only during the snowmelt of spring that this temporary body of water earns its impressive reputation. It’s an easy, but rock-strewn hike, so we donned proper footgear. No flip-flops for us!

Krista trail sign
My sister at one of the “not-so-helpful” markers.

(Now here’s where it gets interesting–don’t trust the trail signs; they aren’t accurate. One sign reads that you’re two miles away from your destination; the next sign further down the trail shows that you still have over two miles to go–to get to the same destination! Knowing this information, we ignored the signs, walked at a leisurely pace, and enjoyed each awe-inspiring view around every corner. After all, in Yosemite, the journey is just as incredible an experience as the destination.) 

DSC03261There were a few other hikers on the trail but we let them pass us, especially if they were loud talkers. It’s no fun trying to outrun them. (You know who I’m talking about–the hikers who decide to have full-fledged conversations loud enough so that EVERYONE can enjoy them.)

If I could, I would post the following at every trailhead:

Dear Loud Talkers, Your fellow trail hikers would prefer if you waited until you got back to your vehicle / room / home / campsite, etc. to air your complaints, talk about your family, or ramble on about the show/movie you watched last night. Remember, voices can travel greater distances when you’re outdoors. Take this opportunity to immerse yourself in the nature enveloping you, and just breathe. But, most of all, please don’t ruin this experience for someone else. Pretty please!?  Sincerely, All Trail Hikers Everywhere

When we arrived at Mirror Lake, the sky was a cornflower blue, the water icy cold, and the air temperature an unseasonable 70°F.

It was a unique experience–wearing a T-shirt, standing barefoot in water that had ice chunks floating past, the warm sun shining so brightly upon my face. Absolutely magical!


1Royal Arch Cascade from below
Looking up (and up) to the top of the cascade

My sister and I retraced our steps. As we neared the Ahwahnee (sorry, old habit–The Majestic Yosemite Hotel–recent trademark issues have forced the hotel to be renamed), we heard a gentle rush of water and went exploring. After a short climb, we ended up at the foot of Royal Arch Cascade, and it was a sight to behold.  At over 1,250′ in height and less than 10′ wide, ‘delicate’ is the only word I can use to describe it. And we had it all to ourselves!

We still had time before our dinner reservation, so my sister and I hiked to Lower Yosemite Fall. We could hear the Fall long before we saw it. When we finally reached the base of the Lower Fall, it’s roar was deafening, a fine mist showered us, and the wind generated from the force of the water crashing to earth whipped my hair into an unruly mess. It was an exhilarating experience!

With the sun setting, we made our way back to the main road in the park, crossed it, and walked through a meadow. Half Dome was bathed in golden sunlight. Half Dome at twilightWe snapped a few quick photos and headed back to The Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

After dressing for dinner, we went downstairs and headed toward the grand dining room. (This building is a National Historic Landmark for a reason!) The host seated us at a table near the middle of the room. A pianist was playing a variety of tunes (some familiar, some less so) opposite where we were sitting. My dinner was delicious; unfortunately, my sister’s dinner was inedible. I brought this dilemma to our waiter’s attention, and my sister’s entree was comped. Management even wanted to give her a free dessert (which she graciously declined).

1 Bridalveil Fall
Bridalveil Fall

The following morning, we checked out of our hotel room and boarded the YARTS bus parked directly outside The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Less than an hour later, we were dropped off near our rental car. Knowing that tire chains would most definitely not be needed, we re-entered the park and drove to the Bridalveil Fall parking lot. A short, uphill walk got us to the base of the Fall. It was a busy morning, and there were already plenty of people admiring this beautiful ribbon of water.

Once again in the car, we stopped at Yosemite Village to purchase souvenirs and snacks. At this point, we had already seen a coyote and two bobcats. We were lucky indeed!

1 bobcat sighting in yosemite
Bobcat sighting #1

For lunch, we chose to eat in the Yosemite Valley Lodge’s food court. There were options aplenty to choose from, and I absolutely loved my stuffed squash. I find myself daydreaming of it on occasion. (Yes, it was that delicious!)

1 Yosemite Lodge lunch
Stuffed squash, veggies and potatoes. Yum!

For the finale of our Yosemite visit, we drove to Tunnel View to take in the view of the valley. As always, it did not disappoint!

And with one more lap of the valley, we headed out of Yosemite National Park. I’m sure that my sister enjoyed this little adventure as much as I did!