valley of awesome
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.
Inevitably, we left San Francisco a lot later than we had planned. It took us a while to do our shopping, in part because the vast array of food and snack choices at Trader Joe’s was disorienting after two years in Kenya. By the time we had breakfast and did our shopping for the first leg of our camping trip, it was almost time to eat lunch. Fortunately, the drive to Yosemite was relatively short, and after a stop at the Tuluomne River to eat a few sandwiches, we arrived at the park entrance around 4:30pm.
It was drizzling, and it was cold. May may technically be the last month of spring, but this high up in the Sierra Nevada, it was definitely still winter. It wasn’t far from the park entrance to our campsite – some 30 miles or so – but it took us quite a while to navigate the road because the views were so amazing that D kept pulling over the car at every other hairpin turn to take photos.
Reading up on the different campsites in Yosemite, many of which were still closed this early in the season, D found a lot of negative reviews for the ones located in Yosemite Valley, the most common complaints being that they were cramped and overcrowded. Even so, because of the Valley’s proximity to most of the top hiking trails, we decided to try to stay there.
By the time we found out our home leave dates, however, it was impossible to find a site that would accommodate us for three straight nights, even mid-week this early in the season. The best D could do was to book two nights at North Pines in the Valley – each night at a different spot in the campsite – and our last night at a different campsite altogether, an hour’s drive away. The sites were small, as advertised, but we did not find this to be a huge drawback. At night, campers respected the 10pm quiet time, so it was irrelevant how many people were packed into the Valley, and during the day we spent our time out on the trails.
We were just wrapping up dinner and getting ready to lock up our food and toilettries in the bear-proof storage locker at our campsite when a woman approached D and asked if she could cook dinner at our table, explaining that it was prohibited to cook at her camping site. We got to talking while she and her husband prepared their meal and were surprised to find that in many ways our lives had taken similar paths.
She had served in the Peace Corps in Costa Rica, and they were both applying to the Peace Corps again. We have both lived in Costa Rica, and D also served in the Peace Corps, while S had been accepted under the Peace Corps’s masters program, but was forced to terminate her application once we got married. The most striking coincidence was that they had spend a year in Moldova – where we are heading for D’s next Foreign Service assignment – building the U.S. embassy there.
By the time we said good night to our dopplegangers it was almost quiet time, so we crawled into our sleeping bags and fell asleep discussing the awesome hikes that awaited us over the next several days. Even the nasty weather had not detracted from the spectacular views of the Yosemite Valley that left us babbling incoherently on the drive in. We were excited to explore the Valley and see its stunning waterfalls up close.