Waking up in Yosemite Valley is a surreal experience. To be able to call this amazing place home, though temporary, is unreal. Stepping out of the tent, I’m greeted by the chill of the air and giant rock faces lit up by the morning sun. How is it that I get to wake up in a place like this? Though this may sound cheesy, it’s like waking up into a dream.
James gets the fire going and Phillip and I start preparing breakfast. I didn’t expect this at first, but the aspect of the trip that took the most planning and preparation were the meals. During our time in Yosemite, we will be cooking five breakfasts and three dinners. It was a challenge to come up with meal ideas that all three of us would like while minimizing the use of ingredients that require refrigeration. Exceptions are items such as meats and cheeses, which we will buy at inflated prices at the valley supermarket. For example, the ribeye steaks we had last night cost $16.99 per pound at the Yosemite Village Store. Convenience is not cheap, but it’s not too bad considering we don’t have to lug around an icebox while hoping that the meat isn’t going bad on us.
Only a fantastic breakfast would appropriately complement the fantastic scenery for the most fantastic camping experience. On the menu this morning is grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup, and not just any old grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. What we have before us, waiting to be devoured, are provolone and cheddar grilled cheese sandwiches, toasted in butter until golden brown, accompanied by a pot of mouthwatering tomato basil bisque. I am indeed a happy camper. Our wonderful meal satisfies our tastebuds and gives us energy for the day ahead; for today, we explore the valley by bicycle.
Of all the different ways of seeing the valley, my opinion is that the valley is best experienced on a bicycle. The valley is too big to walk around in, and scenery passes by too quickly when driving around in a car. But on a bicycle, we can stop and look at whatever scenery we come across, and we can cover a lot of ground in just one day at the moderate speeds that the single-speed rental bikes would allow. We follow the network of bike trails laid out throughout the valley and are treated with breathtaking views unobstructed by dirty windows, and tranquil sounds of nature untainted by noisy engines.
From the end of the bike trail, in the northeast corner of the valley, it’s about a half mile hike up to Mirror Lake. Mirror Lake is a seasonal lake, meaning it’s a lake during winter and spring and a meadow during summer and fall. The source of the water are glaciers melting down from the mountain tops and the water is collected by a natural dam that limits the flow of water without completely blocking it off. When there’s no more snow to melt and water is no longer being added to the lake, before all the water drains out to uncover the grassy meadow, the lake surface calms down to a mirror-like finish and perfectly reflects the scenery behind it. At least that’s how it is in the pictures. Right now, the lake is all ripples and there’s nothing mirror-like about it. Might as well call it the Sometimes Mirror Lake.
One of the best views of the Half Dome can be seen from a meadow directly west from it. Unfortunately, the Half Dome is hiding in the clouds today. This meadow is also a good place to spot some deer. Late afternoon, as the day cools down, deer come out to graze in front of an audience of iPhone wielding tourists. But remember, these are wild animals, please leave them alone!
Tonight, we attend a presentation by a Yosemite Search and Rescue (SAR) ranger at the Yosemite Theater. There are so many different ways to get killed in nature. Falling off a cliff will kill you, obviously. Fast flowing water will kill you. Getting lost will kill you. So here are some helpful tips to avoid such death. Don’t try climbing down a cliff. Don’t cross fast flowing water. Don’t get lost, and if you do get lost, don’t panic. With that, we wrap up an activity filled day in the valley.
I am really enjoying the mornings at camp. While Phillip and James are sleeping in, tired from riding bicycles all day, I’ve got the camp all to myself. A warm fire, a good book, and a thermos full of coffee. I can’t ask for a more perfect way to spend a morning. I’m reading a book called We Will Be Free. It’s about a South African family that sold their house and are traveling around South America in their Land Rover Defender. What a way to live! Reading books like this make the traveling lifestyle seem both accessible and impossible at the same time. I can dream.
El Capitan stands 3500 feet above the valley, featuring a 3000-foot vertical face most famously known to rock climbers and MacBook users. The view is even more impressive from the base of the renowned monolith. Looking carefully, we can see little specks of people climbing their way up to the top. Inspired by the intrepid climbers, we climb the first couple feet of the massive rock wall to join the ranks of world class climbers. Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s how that works.
We pay another visit to the Tunnel View at sundown and find ourselves amongst an army of photographers. Everybody is focused on getting the perfect shot, all that can be heard are the clicking of the cameras. But the thing is, you really can’t take a bad picture from here.
We round out the day with fajitas back at camp. Phillip fires up our trusty Coleman stove to sauté some bell peppers and onion and James starts the campfire to grill the carne asada we picked up from the grocery store. We enjoy our delicious meal in anticipation of what’s next. Tomorrow, we hike the Mist Trail.