In the midst of the sound of crashing water, the birds are faintly singing in the background. It’s morning. The morning light reveals the surrounding areas of our camp and the forest takes on a different form. Last night, the forest was dark and terrifying. So much unknown, so much mystery. But in the light, the forest is benign and placid. The air is brisk and the sense of adventure is overwhelming. I’ve dreamed of camping out in the woods, and here we are. We did it! Hooray!
With Phillip and James still sleeping, I wander around to take it all in. I check out the river nearby and explore the woods. Nature is amazing, it has this effect of slowing everything down. I’m not thinking about anything, I’m not anxious about anything; I’m just here. River roaring, birds chirping, trees rustling, and I’m in the middle of it all. I need to do this more often.
We pack up camp and hit the road. Our brunch stop is in Sacramento. Tower Cafe is decorated with cultural artifacts from all over the world, scattered out amongst the green plants all over the restaurant. But it isn’t the decor that brought us here, Madame Cristo did. The Tower Cafe menu describes Madame Cristo as follows.
Our Famous French Toast stuffed with sliced ham and swiss cheese then topped with two over-medium eggs with creamy bechamel and chipotle-raspberry jam
James has the Carnitas de Mariachi and Phillip has the Thai Steak and Eggs. We share because we care.
Once off the Interstate, Highway 120 takes us east towards Yosemite and up into the Sierra Nevada mountain range. It’s at this point that we start driving away from the civilized world of LTE, 4G, and all the other letters from the cell signal alphabet soup. I don’t know how we’re going to survive without Facechat and Snapagram.
The steep twisty road takes us up into the clouds as the sun goes down behind us. Being in the clouds isn’t like how the cartoons portray it. Clouds aren’t soft or fluffy. Rather, it’s like driving through a thick wet fog. It’s dark, visibility is limited, and the going is slow.
As we start descending into the valley, the fog occasionally gives way to reveal the valley down below. The steep rock faces seen through the fog creates a mystical atmosphere.
“This feels like Jurassic Park.” says Phillip while James searches the fog for man-eating pterodactyls.
After eating cold $10 sandwiches at the only restaurant serving food past 9:00, we quietly roll into Upper Pines #229 and set up camp; home sweet home.
None but those who have visited this most wonderful valley, can even imagine the feelings with which I looked upon the view that was there presented. The grandeur of the scene was but softened by the haze that hung over the valley,—light as gossamer—and by the clouds which partially dimmed the higher cliffs and mountains. This obscurity of vision but increased the awe with which I beheld it, and as I looked, a peculiar exalted sensation seemed to fill my whole being, and I found my eyes in tears with emotion. -Lafayette H. Bunnell
The geographic features of Yosemite were formed over time by glacial movement carving away at the granite rock. The glacier then melted into a lake and the sediment settled to create the lakebed which would eventually become the Yosemite Valley. The Merced River winds through the valley floor surrounded by awesome granite faces towering thousands of feet above it. It’s hard to understand the scale of this place without having been here. The granite rocks are 3000-4000 feet tall relative to the valley, with the Half Dome standing approximately 4800 feet above the valley. As reference, the Empire State Building is 1454 feet tall to the tip of its antenna. The Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world (the one that Ethan Hunt climbed to save the world from certain destruction) is 2717 feet tall. Nature has a way of making me realize how small I really am.
First thing’s first, we have to set up the tarp to protect us from the rain that the forecast has promised us. I have a general idea of how I want this to turn out, but I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s around noon by the time we finish setting up the tarp. I’m frustrated, Phillip is frustrated, James is frustrated, and we’re all hungry. We boil a pot of water and prepare our Mountain House breakfasts. If you don’t know what Mountain House meals are, they are pouches of freeze dried food that turns into a quick tasty meal. Simply add hot water and stir.
Today, we will be exploring the valley by car.
The great thing about being in Yosemite in the spring is that all the water falls are running at full force. Of the many waterfalls, the one that stands out is the Upper Yosemite Fall, mostly because we can see it from nearly everywhere we go in the valley. The Yosemite Falls, dropping an impressive 2425 feet, is the tallest waterfall in North America. It’s so tall in fact that much of the water coming over the fall comes down as mist towards the bottom. It looks as if the clouds are pouring down over the edge of the cliff.
After a short hike, we reach the bridge at the base of the Lower Yosemite Fall. Here, the wind is blowing down from the waterfall along with a shower of mist. Literal tons of water thunder down the waterfall, relentlessly pounding down on the unyielding rocks. The force of the coursing water can be felt vibrating through the air. It’s amazing.
As the sun begins to set, its rays cast a golden light across the entire valley. The Half Dome has finally come out from hiding in the clouds to show its face. The best views of Half Dome can be seen from the meadows that open up a clearing in the trees. The clearing also gives us a 360 degree view of the granite peaks dwarfing the tall pine trees all around us.
Back at camp, James (a.k.a. the Fire Master) gets the campfire going while Phillip and I prepare dinner. Though it has gotten dark, our lantern and our super cool headlamps allow us to be active into the night. It’s taking us over an hour to set up our camp kitchen and to cook our food, but it’ll be worth all the effort.
Ribeye, potato, grilled onion, and beer. The perfect ending to our first day in Yosemite.