Western US Loop: Yosemite

Travel Dates: September 22-23, 2018

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Yosemite! Wow! Even though I grew up in California this was my first visit to this beautiful National Park. Carla has two pairs of friends from high school who have places up in the mountains near the entrance to Yosemite. She has visited the friends and gone to Yosemite a few times but this was my first time to join her.

Kate and Don, and Marie and Brian are great people – it says something about a group of friends that they still visit and talk regularly almost 50 years after high school. It was fantastic seeing them all again. We stayed at Kate and Don’s place which is 15 acres in the woods on the way to Yosemite. They have a main house and three smaller cabins for guests. Linda stayed in one that was built around a travel trailer while Carla and I were down the hill a bit in beautiful cabin that felt like a treehouse. Marie and Brian have their summer home a few miles away – we were delighted they were regular fixtures for the fun.

When Kate and Don bought the place, it was sold with all furnishings, books, art work, well… everything; as the previous owner handed Kate and Don the keys she said “‘everything’ includes the dog and cat.” As a result wandering through the house is a treasure hunt; there are elk horn chandeliers, a cigar store Indian, and more. And napkins, there are so many napkins. A funny detail I guess but really there are a LOT of cloth napkins, just so, so many napkins.

After drinks on the deck and an exquisite dinner we retired so we could be “up and at em” early the next morning. Well, not so early that we’d miss breakfast. I don’t know what time Kate got up but there was a huge breakfast buffet set up when we went up to the main cabin. Then Carla, Linda, and I headed down the road to Yosemite.

Like other National Parks we’ve visited in the west, there is a long drive from the official entrance to the main trails and attractions – in this case the valley floor. Our destination for the first day was Sentinel Dome . It is a 2.2 mile (3.5km) hike that climbs from 7,100 feet (2,345 meters) up to 8,100 feet (2,470 meters). Now, this past summer I walked 4 to 6 miles at least 4 days a week with a maybe a 80-100 foot elevation gain. It was good I did that – and I could have used more. At well above a mile high and I felt every bit of that 2.2 mile hike. Especially the last quarter of a mile which is up, up , up.

We paused on our hike to wander down through a meadow to get some pictures of the sights. I think this view of half dome is from that vantage point before we got to the top.


Just a note on the photos – Yosemite is so grand it’s hard to capture its feel. If you haven’t been to Yosemite and want to see some really beautiful images, look at some of Ansel Adams pictures.

I was  a little concerned that we picked the wrong dates for our visit; even though schools were back in session, our Saturday visit coincided with a “free park day”. We were ready for a horde of other tourists but it wasn’t bad at all.  There were people on top of the dome but it wasn’t crazy busy.

Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park

Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park

I took a couple of series of pictures which I stitched together in LightRoom to try to capture the scope of the view from Sentinel Dome. Click on the images to open a link with bigger versions of the photos.


Panoramic view from Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park

Panoramic view from Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park


Panoramic view from Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park

Panoramic view from Sentinel Dome, Yosemite National Park

I especially liked this valley cutting through the granite mountains.


Driving back to the valley floor we went through at tunnel where the aptly named “Tunnel View” struck us as we came out. This is the same formation from the other side and lower from the one above (I think). [Note: October 16, 2018. Look at the small bump behind the backward “L” shape on the rock formation on the right. I’m pretty sure that is Sentinel Dome]

"Tunnel View" Yosemite National Park

“Tunnel View” Yosemite National Park

After a bit more sight seeing around the main visitors’ center we headed back to Kate and Don’s for beer, wine, hors d’oeuvres, and another great barbecue. Don knows his way around a grilled chicken.

We slept well that night and awakened to another great breakfast before our second day of hiking. Kate and Marie joined us to escort us to one of their favorite spots – Yosemite Falls. Talking with Kate and Marie, the park gets so busy you wait in hour-long traffic jams and jostle with other hikers so much that it’s hard to see everything. But Sunday was not a “free day” and the park seemed almost deserted.

We checked in at the visitors’ center. Wow.

Yosemite Vally Floor

Yosemite Vally Floor

And were guided along a path by Marie and Kate. Although there was no water in the falls, it was majestic just the same.

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

We worked our way back up the valley to the visitors’ center. I was able to coerce the women to pose for a picture.

Marie, Carla, Kate and Linda in Yosemite National Park

Marie, Carla, Kate and Linda in Yosemite National Park

The views abound and astound.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park


Yosemite National Park

Although the hike wasn’t as strenuous as the day before we exercised enough to deserve a meal. So we walked over to the Majestic Yosemite Grand Hotel for their famous brunch. Apparently, this used to be called the Ahwanhee Hotel, but a fight with the previous concessionaires who ran the hotel for the Forest Service claimed naming rights. Most people still call it the Ahwanhee.

While the women ordered from the menu, I decided on the weekend buffet since it was my first visit. It was expensive, but great. The only downside – since we were there after 10:30 the waffle bar was unavailable! I suffered through with the other alternatives.

We got back to Kate and Don’s in the late afternoon and we took naps. Later that evening Marie and Brian brought over some delicious pizzas and we had a great time together. We convinced Brian to break out his guitar and sing us a few songs. Good times.

We needed to be on the road to our next stop but Kate fed us breakfast again. WITH WAFFLES! She told me I could have waffles there anytime. She is so sweet. We had a great stay with members of “T-Group”  and we were sad to have to leave. We invited them all to come up to the Northwest so we could share our sights.



About howardwthompson

I'm a person who likes to travel, read, cook, and eat
This entry was posted in Foliage and Landscape, Friends, National Parks, Travel and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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