A noise outside startles me from my sleep. It's a bear. I'm going to die. I'm going to die. I sit up and look around the tent cabin. Everyone else is asleep- You're making this up. It's all in your head. I'm sitting cross legged on the tiny cot by the door for the large tent cabin. My parents are in their bed in the far corner and my sister is in her bed that is residing in the opposite corner.
There's a noise outside again. Metal being clashed against something- something hard. I turn my head slowly so I am facing the window at the tent door. Of course my head is the one near the bear locker.
I hear feet. They are soft and light- it's not a bear. Phew.
Then I realize: Someone is trying to open our bear locker (not that there's anything valuable in it).
I stand up slowly - scared to who might be out there and scared maybe it is a bear.
My feet hit the cold, and dirty, hard wood floor on the tent cabin. Slowly, I take small steps towards the locked door. Thankfully it's locked. My hand inches towards the window screen so I can see out. Horror films of girls dying in the woods flash through my brain. I move the curtain to the side....
As I sit in the backseat of the car, excitement pulses through my body. We are almost there! Every year we do a family vacation together. Sometimes it's three weeks, and sometimes it's three days. This year I picked where our vacation would be. And guess where I picked??
You guessed it: Yosemite.
Yosemite is one of my absolute favorite places in the entire world. The memories of biking along the valley floor- hoping, praying, to see a bear but not get eaten. Or climbing the boulders near the tent cabins because our imaginations allow us to be the Queen of the Rock. Or maybe, I love Yosemite because of all the beautiful, incredible hikes with views that simply take your breath away. Or it's my incredible family. It doesn't matter which one, because without any of these Yosemite wouldn't mean the same to me.
I have so many incredible memories as a child climbing the Yosemite rocks and mountains. For almost five summers in a row my family and I would would trek up to Yosemite with our bikes in tow and hike for a whole week. (We really like hiking).
Our car zooms up the mountain road, twisting and turning through the trees.
This is the first time we have been here in five years during the summer. We came here for winter a few years back, but summer, summer is my favorite time in Yosemite.
Let me back up a little. For the last few summers, I have been pushing for Yosemite. And finally, finally it is here! I was so excited when we climbed into the back of our car Thursday night and headed up to Fresno.
To make sure we had three days in the Park, we left on Thursday and stayed at a hotel. Friday morning when the alarm went off at 7 am, I jumped out of bed and was ready to go. I could not contain my excitement.
Up and up the tree surrounded road we went until we reached Glacier Point.
Instead of going down to the valley floor first thing in the morning, we started at Glacier Point. This particular point has an incredible panorama view of the entire Yosemite Valley Park.
(I couldn't even get the whole valley in this)
We walked around Glacier Point, taking candid and necessary photos of the beautiful scenery around us.
Finally, my dad suggested we hike to Sentinel Dome- a place we had never hiked before. I was exhilarated.
The sign at the trailhead says 1.5 miles- but what is doesn't tell you, ha, what it doesn't tell you is that it's a .5 upward climb to even get to the trailhead. It really wasn't that bad though. We just hadn't adjusted to the elevation yet. Nor had we been drinking enough water.
The next mile and a half was steep upward climb. But it was sure worth it.
The hike from Glacier Point to Sentinel Dome is over a 1,000 foot elevation climb and gives spectacular views of the entire valley. On the left you can witness Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome, and Nevada & Vernal Falls. You are nearly parallel with the height of Half Dome and are standing on what basically looks like a large, over sized boulder.
Sitting on Sentinel Dome and overlooking the valley below us was peaceful.
Well, unless they came.
They are the squirrels. The Yosemite Squirrels. They are fearless. They are fat. And they will eat all of your food the second you place it down.
We fought brilliantly against an army of five squirrels as we munched on snacks.
Finally, victory came to us and the squirrels ventured off to fight a battle against others who had joined us on the Dome.
Later that afternoon, we checked into Curry Village. It's my favorite place to stay in Yosemite because you are in tent cabins, animals are walking around, and yet you are a few steps away from a shower house and bathrooms. It's brilliant and perfect way to visit Yosemite.
We settled into our tent cabin and I was elected the honor of sleeping with the bed closest to the door and the bear locker just outside- yay me.
Reading a book outside of the tent cabin listening to nature is a necessary aspect of a successful trip to Yosemite- well at least for me. It is essential really, especially after a hike.
Another essential aspect is "bear hunting".
Now, when I say “bear hunting” I don't mean shooting bears. Our idea of "bear hunting" is sitting on the Yosemite Shuttle and scanning the trees as we drive by in hopes of spotting a bear as the shuttle drives by.
We didn't see any bears.
But! We did see a lot of really cool wild life that we were able to get really close to.
Fresh hot pizza. How wonderful does that sound?
That night we went to Degnan's Pizza Loft. And like always it was delicious and hit the spot. YUMM.
We stuffed our faces with the pizza and discussed our evening hike.
By evening hike, I mean walk and we elected Lower Yosemite Falls. Due to the
current drought we are in here in California, Lower Yosemite Falls more like Lower Yosemite Trickles.
That night we watched a video about how Yosemite was made. I’ll say you an hour and half of your life: It was glaciers that carved the valley and the valley has a flat bottom because it use to be a damn where the Merced went through, and when the damn broke the sentiment from the lake created a flat bottom of the valley.
The next morning was an early rise and a quick breakfast in Curry Village before we headed out to tackle the Mist Trail along with 2,000 of our closest friends. It was over 100 degrees and it was the only water source truly flowing, so of course we all decided it was the PERFECT day to go do the Mist Trail.
The Mist Trail starts off with a one mile uphill incline and then around 700 small, stone stairs just to get the to top of the lowest waterfall. We were only around 50 stairs away before we turned around because it was so crowded. There were hundreds of of people on these tiny little stairs next to a pouring waterfall. It was not safe. Over the years we have hiked the Mist Trail from various trailheads and because of that determined it was okay to not go up to the top with a thousand other people waiting to venture on the stairs.
In order to make up for our loss of trail space, we walked 3 extra miles after we ended the trail. (Reminder: it was 100 degrees out). During our heated trek, we were messing around on our walk-e-talke and gave each other some nifty nicknames (Dad = Captain Underpants, Mom = Captain Queen, Sister = Captain Obviously Beautiful, her idea, & me = Captain America).
I mean if you have a walk-e-talke and don't give eachother code names are you really using it correctly?
No, the answer is no. No you are not.
The night ended with a “bear hunting” again by not only busing through the entire park but also walking through the meadows. It's one of the many things on the long list of adventures that you can take in Yosemite that I love. Some of the meadows in the valley have pathways that allow to walk through them and look out into the fields.
We walked along of the meadows, towards the Swinging Bridge, and came across deer. There are lots and lots of deer in Yosemite.
Our last night was filled with Go-Fish and B.S.
Exhausted from the long day, we feel asleep early.
That's when the real story began.
I rub my eyes- my sight deceiving me. This can't be right. I look around the campground that is lightly lit by the rising run.
There's nothing there. That's not possible. I poke my head around the outside of the door.
Maybe I will never know what was banging on the bear locker. Maybe it was my imagination.
Who knows? Because honestly I don't. What could it have been? What happened?
I sat awake for the next hour waiting, waiting for the unseen creature to come back. Waiting to prove I wasn't hearing things. Waiting for something.
But it never came back.
My parents eyes widen, laughter hiding behind their faces as I tell them my story.
"Oh it was probably someone next door"
"Oh you were just hearing"
Or maybe, maybe it was a lighting bear that new I stood up even though I didn't make a sound.
But I will never know.
The thought of what, or who, would be awake at such an hour banging on our bear locker remained my main focus on our drive back up the mountain to the Wawona Hotel on the bright Sunday Morning.
Another essential aspect of a successful trip to Yosemite with my family is lunch at the Wawona Hotel. There's one main reason for this: They have the BEST bbq sauce. Literally THE BEST...
On this particular Sunday afternoon it was over 100 degrees and a “extreme fire danger”, so obviously we went to a Mariposa Grove (it’s where the Mariposa TREES are).
The bus to the Grove runs from the Wawona Hotel for free, and is a great alternative to parking near the Grove because, well, parking sucks there.
Once at the Mariposa Grove we hiked a mile and a half to the Grizzly Giant and the California Tunnel Tree through hot, extreme fire danger trees.
The air was humid and thick, making it difficult to breath. But the view of the trees was worth it. Absolutely worth it.
I was drove back down the mountain it was bittersweet. I was excited to be allowed to drive but we had to leave Yosemite after a wonderful weekend.
Nearly the entire time in the car until we reached Santa Monica it was 105 degrees.
We had stopped at a family friends house in Bakersfield and they made us an amazing bbq dinner (THANK YOU!).
All in all it was an amazing weekend.Yosemite will always hold some of my favorite memories and I am so happy to have gone there this past weekend.
If you asked me to go to Yosemite right now, I would be packed and ready to go within seconds.
Yosemite, my family, and 300,000,000 of our closest hiking friends, was a really enjoyable. I can not wait to go back again soon (although my sister strongly disagrees...)
So take me to Yosemite, because that's where happiness is at it's best.