Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Yosemite – San Francisco 8-Day Itinerary: Day One & Two

Read Day 1 here - Flying into San Francisco!
Read Day 2 here - Yosemite National Park, Surprise off-grid adventure
Read Day 3 here - Rainy day in
Read Day 4 here - Sacramento, San Rafael
Read Day 5 here - Mountain View
Read Day 6 here - Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard St, Chinatown
Read Day 7 here - Golden Gate Bridge, Japanese Tea Garden, Painted Ladies
Read Day 8 here - Berkeley, Flying home

This is our 8-day trip to Northern California beginning with two days in Yosemite National Park followed by six days in the San Francisco area. We took this trip in late March, so please read on if you would like to know what travelling to Yosemite in the spring is like!


Yosemite National Park

Day 1

The first day of our trip began smoothly and leisurely. Our flight was in the late afternoon, so we had time in the morning to eat a hearty breakfast at home before heading to the airport. When we landed in San Francisco in the early evening, we took the shuttle bus to the rental car company to get the SUV we had reserved for the trip. It was highly recommended on the websites to drive an SUV in Yosemite National Park and it was a good thing we did due to an expected off-road segment in the trip on Day 2!


Our rental car for the week
After getting our car, we drove east about 1.5 hours and stayed in an accommodation in Westfield for the night. There wasn’t any particular reason why we chose that location but it got us part of the way to Yosemite without needing to drive late into the night after a flight.

Day 2

After a refreshing sleep from a day of travel, we were greeted with blue skies and rolling green hills in the morning! It sure looked a lot more like spring in Northern California than it did back home in the Pacific Northwest. The first order of business after checking out of our hotel was to go to a grocery store. Food options are not that convenient in Yosemite and especially when it is not the summer season, some places are closed. We bought some fruits, bread and other snacks to take with us on the road.


Gorgeous start to Day 2
We set off for Mariposa which was a town outside of Yosemite’s west gate. It was a busy little town in the afternoon when we arrived because this was the place people would fill up on gas and supplies before heading into the national park. I had read on Yosemite’s website that we must carry snow chains as March was still considered part of the icy winter season. We went to Stage Stop Mini Mart to rent our snow chains for our tires. The process went like this: We arrived at the shop, looked for the tire measurements on our tires, told the shop keeper the size and she looked up the correct chain size in a booklet. We rented the chains for USD27 per week with a USD27 deposit, making the payment USD54 in total.
Leaving from Mariposa, we drove to Yosemite’s west gate and paid our admission. It cost USD30 for unlimited entry for a week for our vehicle. Nobody checked if we carried snow chains in the car. The majority of people visit Yosemite in the summertime because they get access to all the trails and roads such as the famous Glacier Point. We decided to visit in spring anyways because the weather seemed good enough and we wanted to enjoy the park without the crowds. There are pros and cons which I will discuss later but we definitely did not regret visiting in spring because it was still beautiful and the waterfalls were amazing! Spring is actually when the waterfalls have the most water because of the great meltdown from winter!


Bridal Veil Falls
It was about another hour drive from west gate before we arrived at our first stop in Yosemite at Bridal Veil Falls. The best view of the falls was actually in its parking lot because we got a broader view of it. There is a short trail towards the falls but be prepared to get wet! The spray of the falls came down and soaked those who walked higher and higher up the trail. It can be a fun experience, especially if the sun is out!


Rapid stream by Bridal Veil Falls
We were hoping to visit Yosemite Village and along the road following our GPS, there were detour signs with flashing messages saying: "Your GPS is wrong! Follow the signs!" So we did and we ended up taking a huge loop around and missing the village. Instead we kept going and went to Half Dome Village. It was about 3PM at that time but it was pretty chilly despite being sunny! There were rental tents there and camp grounds for your own tents. From the parking lot, there was a superb view of Half Dome looming above the trees. With Glacier Point closed, this was another place to see Half Dome.


Half Dome

Half Dome Village accomodation
It turns out that Yosemite Village was closed until spring/summer season. We marked the GPS to walk the Lower Yosemite Falls trail but we were able to get a beautiful view of both the Upper and Lower Falls on the way there. Walking toward the trail, the falls were featured right in the middle with trees lined on both sides. The water from Upper Falls looked like it was coming down in slow motion which was brilliant. In nature videos, they often edit the waterfall footage in slow motion to show the movement and strength of the water. In this case, we didn’t need the filter of an edited video to admire the waterfall.


Yosemite Upper and Lower Falls
What was surprising about the Lower Falls trail was the amount of snow. In the previous stops at Yosemite, we hadn’t seen snow yet but here, we had to walk on a few feet of accumulated snow that had frozen over the trail. The surface was slushy and brown from the mud and spring melting so it was pretty slippery on the steeper parts. At the base of Lower Falls, the mist spotted our camera lenses with water and the wind was strong.


Accumulated snow on the walk to Lower Falls

Lower Falls
By this time, it was about early evening and we planned to head to our accommodation and leave other Yosemite sights for the next day. To get to our accommodation, it would have only been about an hour drive on Highway 120 but when we reached the fork in the road, there was a large sign saying DETOUR that blocked the entrance to HIghway 120. Puzzled, we headed to Yosemite’s west entrance and the park ranger told us that route 120 was flooded from the storm. Our one hour drive turned into a long three hour detour, including extremely windy mountain roads with no barriers and off road for miles in the dark forest driving on mud. It would have been pitch black in the forest without our car beams. The worst part was we couldn’t be sure if the GPS would accurately bring us to our accommodation and we had no way to communicate with zero service signals reaching our phones. It was a pretty scary experience to go off-grid without any preparation!


Long windy mountain drive
Finally, we saw the light at the end of the path (literally) as our wheels hit concrete road again going back on the west section of Highway 120 that was not flooded. It was an adventurous and tiring night going through the forest at 20km/h avoiding dips in the mud but we finally made to our accommodation!

 Stage Stop Mini Mart

(209) 742-6634
5099 California Hwy 140, Mariposa, CA 95338

Read Day 1 here - Flying into San Francisco!
Read Day 2 here - Yosemite National Park, Surprise off-grid adventure
Read Day 3 here - Rainy day in
Read Day 4 here - Sacramento, San Rafael
Read Day 5 here - Mountain View
Read Day 6 here - Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard St, Chinatown
Read Day 7 here - Golden Gate Bridge, Japanese Tea Garden, Painted Ladies
Read Day 8 here - Berkeley, Flying home
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