Tucked away in the southwest corner of the park, away from the hustle and bustle of the Valley, Wawona offers a vastly different Yosemite experience. There is a smaller valley near Wawona with a nice waterfall and some good hikes, but the area’s main attraction is Mariposa Grove – a strand of about 500 mature sequoias, the only ones to be seen in this park.
Not wanting to dawdle at the campsite like we had the previous day, we set out for a short hike before breakfast. It was a pleasant 2.5 mile round trip hike from our campsite to Mirror Lake. The lake supposedly reflects Half Dome, but in order to get that view one has to hike next to the road. We decided to walk on the more scenic horse path, so we wound up on the other side of the lake, looking up at North Dome instead.
With only one full day in Yosemite Valley at our disposal, we sought to make the most of it by staying out on the trails all day. The park ranger at our campsite recommended an ascent up the Four Mile Trail to Glacier Point, which promised gorgeous views of the Valley, and a descent down the equally scenic-sounding Panorama Trail.
Neither of us had ever been to Yosemite before, and outside of a few pictures of Half Dome and rave reviews from every person we knew who has ever been there, we did not know what to expect. In researching this trip, D had looked at some photographs and read quite a bit about different hike options, but this barely gave a glimpse into the stunning beauty that awaited us in the forested valleys that had been carved through sheer granite cliffs by millenia of glacier melt.
San Francisco was the start and end point to our three-week California loop. There is no way to do this city justice in just a handful of days, so we did not even try. We had both visited San Francisco before and did not feel like doing any of the typical touristy things. Instead, we treated the city like our base of operations, renting a car, borrowing necessary camping implements, and stocking up on supplies for our road trip.
Seattle was uncharacteristically warm and sunny during our visit. Even someone who had never set foot in Seattle could tell that this is not a city that gets a lot of sun. The parks were carpeted with scantily dressed Seattleites sunning themselves, trying to maximize the surface area to soak in their yearly dose of Vitamin D, and people could not stop talking about the surprisingly beautiful weather.
Few statements elicit a more perplexed look of distaste on the faces of our non-American friends than the avowed desire to sample some American beers. Coors, Budweiser, and Miller have given American beer an undeservedly unsavory reputation. The truth is that there are hundreds of excellent microbreweries throughout the country that make a wide variety of delicious, full-bodied beers. Because most of them have only a limited, local distribution, one of the joys of travelling around the United States is the opportunity to sample these craft beers.