Yosemite…

…or, as i like to call it, “The Bear and the Maiden Fair” (yes, i recently discovered Game of Thrones) —  the maiden fair in this scenario being me, and the bear being, well, actually… nowhere to be seen. Nevertheless, worrying about the bears was a big part of the whole Yosemite experience (at least for me), so there you go. But we’ll get to that in a bit…

We left Kings Canyon at sundown and drove down to Fresno – i wanted to visit this very intriguing underground orange grove, but we had to reach Yosemite that very evening so there was no time (it’s on my list of things to see next time).  From Fresno we drove back up towards the Sierra Nevada and managed to arrive at the Wawona campground at a reasonable hour. But it was already dark – in fact it was pitch black. There were no lights anywhere and the campground was completely deserted. We settled in for another teen-horror-movie-worthy moment, and tried not to think about who or what was lurking in the darkness as we pitched our trusty tent. Which brings us back to the subject of bears….

Let me elaborate: as we got ready for another delicious bbq dinner (i love how every single camping spot in the parks comes with its own firepit!), we noticed a strange big metallic container next to us. The night was really dark, and it was only with the help of a flashlight that we figured out it was a bearproof container:

bear_storage

The instructions were very clear: we’d have to store absolutely everything in there – not just food but also anything with a distinctive smell, like beauty products and toiletries; the bears can’t always tell the difference. Storing it anywhere else is not an option, since the bears can very easily find food in tents and have been known to break into cars. Apparently, the Yosemite bears don’t really care about us humans, but they don’t like it when we get between them and their food.  The problem is that bears that have been fed or have had access to food from human sources become increasingly aggressive towards humans and eventually have to be put down…. Interesting sidenote: my lonely planet guide had some instructions on how to deal with bears, including the following solid piece of advice: “If a bear does get hold of your food, do not try to take it back“. Seriously?!? “Give me back my mars bar, bear!” (said no one ever).

After being told by a ranger that bears might still be roaming around even in the winter (they don’t hibernate because it doesn’t stay cold enough for long enough), we obediently put everything in the container and locked it. While eating, i kept thinking that every little creaking sound was a bear coming out of the surrounding darkness to join(/have) us for dinner!

When it was time to go to bed, i suggested we take our tent and move it to the other side of the campground, just to be safe… We were now as far away as possible from any food items; the problem was that we’d spent the whole evening grilling sausages – which meant that we probably smelt like two oversized sausages ourselves.

fire_pit

So i kept wondering whether a confused bear might come by in the night to see what that delicious-smelling  treat was… I barely slept a wink – no bears showed up, of course (well, none that we saw, that is) but it still felt adventurous and exciting (or at least it does in retrospect. I was much less brave at the time :-)).

The next morning we drove though the Wawona tunnel towards Yosemite Valley – pretty much the heart of the huge and amazing park. The view that awaits when you leave the tunnel is pretty spectacular:

tunnel_view

You can see the legendary El Capitan on the left, the Half Dome far away in the distance, and Bridalveil Fall on the right! We were so excited about  exploring the area, but first we needed bagels (the main obsession i picked up on that trip) and a heavy supply of coffee (to make up for the fact that we bear-ly slept the night before) (excuse the pun. it was right there – i just had to). We headed into Yosemite village, found both bagels and coffee at Degnan’s (apparently a Yosemite institution) and got to work picking the perfect hike for the day.

There are about a gazillion cool hikes in Yosemite Valley – the choice was not an easy one. We finally decided on the Mist trail, so named because of the amount of water particles in the air – the trail takes you past some pretty spectacular waterfalls, and you are likely to get very wet, especially in the spring when all the meltwater is coming down.

So we set off, and patiently hiked up the steep stony trail to the Falls…

IMG_4610 (Large)

Our first stop was Vernal Fall – a mere 96 m high!

Even though it was cold, and the path was steep and icy, it was a lovely sunny day, and we were completely pumped after our three cups of coffee (unlimited coffee refills in the States, we salute you :-) ), so we decided to go all the way to Nevada Fall (a mere 181 m, this one).

After chilling out at the Silver Apron, a granite waterslide between the two waterfalls,

we made our way back down – the views towards the valley were gorgeous:

The Mist trail is a fairly strenuous hike – it’s about a 12km round trip and is steep all the way – a proper knee-killer. It’s amazing though – an incredibly rewarding hike. Plus, it makes you work up such an appetite! So we went down to Curry village (@tikka masala lovers – it’s not what you think) trying to find a nice spot for a well deserved picnic. We strolled around for a bit,

and got to hang around with stags and squirrels (no picture of the squirrels – the stags where more patient with me):

Despite all the bear warning signs we didn’t see any yogis or boo-boos (i was actually starting to feel a bit disappointed).

(And speaking of warning signs, here’s another one from Curry village:)

Now that’s reassuring :-).

We finally decided to have our picnic outside the village, so we made our way to the Half Dome (check out these nutcases):

And of course we could not leave Yosemite without paying tribute to the climbing mecca that is El Capitan:

About 900 m. tall, and once considered impossible to climb, it became the place where rock climbing history was written in the ’60’s and ’70’s. (Check out this book – and these awesome dudes!) And Camp 4, right underneath the big rock, was (and is) the main hangout of all the cool kids at Yosemite:

As we headed towards our next destination, San Francisco, we made a pact to return here some day to explore more of the trails – perhaps even this one, named after the legendary author, adventurer and advocate of the national park movement in the US. Yosemite is an amazing place – no wonder they call it the Valley of the Gods.

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