When I think of California, beaches and palm trees come to mind. The mountainous interior was a bit of a surprise for me. Yosemite National Park was not really on my radar, but it was on Morgan’s. We towed our trailer from the warm valley into the chilly mountains to witness the grandeur of Yosemite’s peaks. Waking up to snow that morning felt very odd, but familiar at the same time. One of my favorite parts about Yosemite Thousand Trails campground was the bright blue Stellar Jays fluttering from tree to tree in the silent morning air.
First Look into the Valley
Our drive to Yosemite was mostly forested. The forest finally opened up and we got our first glance of the iconic Half Dome peak in the distance. I was surprised at how excited I felt. It was only a mountain but the fascinating cliff face made me more interested in what Yosemite National Park actually looked like. Our truck took us deeper into the valley and now I was staring straight up wide-eyed at the towering cliffs above me. It was gorgeous. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before.
Can’t Pass up a Gift Shop
We started our tour at the visitor center to find out what was even open in the winter. It was disappointing to find out that same of the higher elevation roads were closed, but there were still enough pathways for us to explore. While we were in the area, we checked out the Village Store. I insisted, since I love gift shops. As a minimalist, and someone who lives in a tiny space, I just love to walk around and look at all the beautiful things. It was a delightful treat to enjoy all the Christmas decorations and music too. I couldn’t help but pick up a chocolate bar though. It was huckleberry flavour and I was really intrigued. It tasted fruity and delicious but neither Morgan, nor I could tell you if it actually tasked like huckleberry.
Out on the Trails
It was now time to get onto the trails. We were missing Wookie. He had to be left at home because dogs are mostly not allowed in the US national parks. We hopped onto one of the shuttle buses and headed down to Mirror Lake Trail. After much anticipation of walking through a forested area, we finally got into the open and could look straight up at Half-Dome. Usually, there would have been a lake too, but it was dry in winter. I just couldn’t get over how flat the face of half dome was. It was like someone had taken a giant knife and cut a slice off of it.
Lower Yosemite Falls
As per usual, we were burning precious winter daylight hours so we had to leave half dome, and grab the bus up to the Lower Yosemite Falls hike. Even though the falls didn’t have a lot of water flowing, it was still beautiful. We stood and just watched the mesmerizing mist topple down the cliff and pointed out to each other all the interesting rock formations that went along with it. We had been walking around for a while now and I was excited to get back to the truck with its heat and seat warmers.
Our last hike of the day was more ice than pavement so we slipped and slid along the path towards Bridal Veil Falls. I definitely wish that we could have seen Yosemite in the summer, but going in the winter did provide a unique experience in itself. The final stop of the day was Tunnel View lookout. It was our favorite part because it gave a postcard view of the park. We could really get the sense of the contrast of the flat valley compared to the towering cliffs. Our drive out of the park took us past a massive controlled burn that I could feel scorching from the road, another unique winter experience. I left feeling surprised by the beauty of Yosemite and hopeful that we could explore it further one day.