Almost immediately we began to go “wow. WOW!” The Sierra Nevadas loomed over us, and the road was a terrifyingly beautiful zig-zag. I was so grateful that we were on the inside against the mountains, and Joe did a great job driving. I’m just not so sure how we will get out of here—oh my gosh, we will be on the outside of the curves, with steep drop-offs everywhere you look. But Mo did a fantastic job also, and all of a sudden we were at the entrance gate to Yosemite. As we entered the park and saw Tioga Lake before us, I actually got tears in my eyes—it was so absolutely beautiful and I was so overwhelmed that we had gotten here at last.
We continued along the Tioga Road, and it was even more beautiful than we remembered. We passed the Tuolumne Meadows, one of my very favorite spots in the park, but we didn’t stop—we will be back up there on Saturday, and camp there Saturday night. Joe pulled over at Tenaya Lake, however, and we spent some time enjoying the view of the deep blue glacial water. Roxy got out, too, and thought the water (which lapped continuously on the shore in little waves) was playing with her. She had quite a good drink of it, too! We had a snack as we looked out at the vista, and then continued on.
Joe and Roxy at Tenaya Lake
The drive through the high country actually takes about an hour before the descent begins toward Yosemite Valley. Joe pulled off the road again so I could take a photo of our first sight of Half Dome and El Capitan in the distance, through the mid-day haze. Our altitude changed from the 9,000 ft of the high country down to the 4,000 ft of the valley in a series of precipitous curves, but soon we were driving along the Merced River and into Yosemite Valley itself. We followed the signs to the campground, and I crossed my fingers as we approached our campsite. BINGO!!! I did it!!!
Our first view of El Capitan and Half Dome
Many of you know that I spent weeks obsessing over our valley campsite. Because of the crazy reservation system here, it is necessary to know precisely which site you prefer, and then be ready to “grab it” via the computer on the precise day—5 months ahead of time, on the 15th of the month—when it becomes available for reservation. I spent hours looking at the campground maps and the photos of the sites online. I had a list of preferred sites from 1-20, in case we couldn’t log on quickly enough and the first few sites we tried for were already taken. Joe humored me in the entire process, and the two of us were sitting at our computers at 8:5 a.m. EST on April 15, ready to pounce on the site(s) I had picked out on the stroke of 9 a.m. when the website opened up the dates for September.
Well, crazy as it was, it all paid off. We got my first-choice spot, and man, did I pick a fabulous campsite! Upper Pines Campground is quite large—there are 240 sites. We are in #238. It is in the farthest corner of the entire campground, on the outer edge of the road. And as I type this, Joe and I are sitting in our lounge chairs, looking not at some other person’s tent, but into a thick pine forest. Immediately in front of us is a trickling stream. And visible through the pines is a looming granite wall—it is, in fact, the shoulder of Half Dome! And the late afternoon light is shining brightly off it, between the trees. The two sites on either side of us are farther away than normal, because of the curve of the road in this corner of the campground. It is hard to believe that the campground is entirely booked up, and that the park is crowded. We are sharing our site with nothing and no one other than some large, bright blue Stellar’s jays, some little squirrels that are teasing Roxy, some Brewer’s blackbirds (you can tell Joe has had the Audubon book out), and even a coyote which wandered past on the other side of the stream! There are not even any bugs!! We are convinced that we are in the best campsite in Yosemite National Park. I did good.