Saturday, May 30, 2009

Three perfect days in Yosemite

Though it was Memorial Day weekend, we were not trampled by the crowds. Carol and the kids picked me up in Sunnyvale about 2pm. We took the southern route (101, 152, 59, 140, 49) and stopped at Oakhurst for dinner at about six. This was not the optimal route, but it did take us through Merced (a big thrill for the teenager since her friend Nick will go there for university this fall). I took this nonoptimal route because everyone else was asleep as I drove through Los Banos. I could have awakened them, but I don't like doing that.

So... dinner was at Oka Japanese Restaurant. The food was tasty if not authentic. Service was punctual and portions were generous. It's easy to spend a lot of money here.

We stayed at the Narrow Gauge Inn outside the south (Highway 41) entrance, a charming inn with friendly staff. Three nights at $160/night per room, plus taxes -- we took two rooms (one queen-sized bed apiece).

Saturday: Illilouette Fall; dinner at Narrow Gauge Inn

Saturday morning we got a late start -- grabbed a few sandwiches at the Fish Camp General Store and headed for the south entrance to Yosemite, arriving at the end of the line around 9:30. By the time we got to the entrance station it was a little after 10:00. "I'll take your most expensive pass, please," I said to the park service agent. $80 covers fees at all national parks and monuments (any place that charges a fee), 'til the end of May 2010. Fortunately they were taking credit cards at that time (they declined them Sunday and Monday mornings). We journeyed up to Glacier Point and hiked the Panorama Trail down to Illilouette Falls, apparently a 1400-foot elevation drop in about two miles. It was quite a workout climbing back up to Glacier Point at 7220 feet. It was gorgeous, as the trail guide says. Lots of water in the falls.

Dinner at the Narrow Gauge Inn was mixed: most of the food was good, but the tossed salad looked like it had been prepped Friday afternoon and left in the refrigerator overnight. Entrees were priced in the $30 range. Our party of nine (three in the under-25 set, and six in the over-45 set) was subject to the 18% enforced gratuity. This 18% was computed on the after-tax bill, which makes me think we should avoid this party-of-nine business next time round. Portions were adequate. Service was uneven but friendly.

Chilnualna Falls, dinner at Tenaya Lodge

Sunday, the ex-teenager wanted to take a strenuous hike: Chilnualna Falls, 2300' elevation gain in a little over 4 miles. This time we got a slightly earlier start and waited less than 10 minutes to get to the gate. These guys say the hike's not worth it, but I disagree; the views are gorgeous. But I knocked the ex-teenager's Nalgene® water bottle over the falls; it was very sad. But we got back without injury -- my knees didn't even hurt, undrugged! (I forgot to eat ibuprofen, before or after.) The lovely Carol had dropped us off (our friends' daughter Melissa, our ex-teenager, and me) at the trailhead, and spent the day with our remaining teen at the Wawona Hotel.

Anyway, we got back to the trailhead, used the outhouse near there, and I led us on a wild goose chase (I thought maybe we could get to the Wawona hotel without having to hike all the way back to the highway; if you look at a map you'll see that we go around the acute angle of a trapezoid. But I led us astray and we had to retrace our steps -- taking more steps than we would have, had we just hiked to the highway). Anyway, the ex-teen and I each downed a 20-oz(?) sports-drink. Melissa wasn't interested. A little while later, I told the girls to just wait for me while I went back and fetched the car.

Dinner was at the Tenaya Lodge, where it is possible to get a burger and fries for about $11 (plus tax and 18% gratuity, enforced on parties of over 8 -- this time it was 18% of the pre-tax price). (It's possible to spend $30 on an entree too, but that's not typical.) The food was fine and service was OK.

Monday: Wawona Point, Lower Yosemite Fall, and home

We woke early Monday morning and the lovely Carol wanted to go for a walk. We drove to Mariposa Grove (no greeters at the entrance station at 6:15am) and headed for Wawona Point. This was about 3½ miles and a 1200' elevation gain. If you look at a map it looks like only 3 miles to Wawona point, but I led us on a non-optimal path. Anyway we did about 7 miles round-trip for a brief morning walk. A three-hour walk that is. We got back just in time for breakfast, though they had run out of hard-boiled eggs by then.

We packed up and headed into the valley. We waited no more than 10-15 minutes at the entrance station, even though it was after ten -- and again, no credit cards allowed today; I guess their connection died Saturday night or something. Parked the car at the day use lot, and made our way to Degnan's Deli. Grabbed some sandwiches and a salad, then walked to the lower Yosemite Falls vista. It was beautiful. Lots of water (way more than in summer). Lots of people. We sat down to eat, then the wind shifted -- it was like a cold rain! After a few minutes we got out of the "rain" and finished our meal. We caught the shuttle bus back to the village and got back into the car.

Exiting the park was easy; lots easier than in the summer. We left via the Highway 140 exit, and took 140 to 165, then 152-101 and home. We shared the driving, starting with the teen-ager.

Dinner was in Los Banos, at one of the first Mexican places we saw after turning west from 165 onto 152: Taqueria El Rodeo. Google maps has a tepid review, but we all enjoyed the food there. Prices were reasonable. Room temperature was not a problem.

I think we got home by 9pm. A great weekend!

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