We woke up on Thursday morning, still exhausted and groggy from our hike the day before, covered in dirt and sticky sweat. We were hoping that there was somewhere to take a shower in the valley, only to learn that the showers were closed for the 2020 season. Whats another 4 days without showering? At that point it was no big deal.
We were both feeling a little run down and tired, so we decided we would take it easy and not do any strenuous hiking that day. We opted for a valley bike ride to kick off the morning. At the recommendation of our camp neighbors, we checked out the Ansel Adams photography gallery and a historical cemetery in the valley. On our way back to the campground, we ran into a few bears foraging for food in a meadow. At this time of year the bears are getting primed for hibernation and eat up to 20,000 calories per day. Check out this friendly old bear in the photos below:
We stopped back at the campsite to make a quick lunch and then left to drive up to Glacier Point, a lookout area that is situated on a cliff directly above where we were camping, about 3,000 feet up. Although it looked close, it was over an hour drive to get there. We stopped at some lookout points on the way.
We arrived at Glacier Point and were amazed by the incredible scenery. We lucked out that at the time we were up there the air was clear. We are not typically fans of lookouts that you can drive to because often they attract large crowds that make it unenjoyable. During this trip, we frequently acknowledged how lucky we were to be at Yosemite at this time. Although Covid and the wildfires are for the most part, terrible, the silver lining was that there was no crowds or traffic at all in the park. It was relatively empty. Aside from the few groups that trickled in and out of the lookouts, we were able to fully enjoy them in peace and quiet.
Half Dome was in full view, with the trickling Vernal and Nevada waterfalls in the distance. Several granite domes on the other side of the valley and Yosemite Valley below. At this time of the year, unfortunately, Yosemite Falls is usually completely dry and the other waterfalls, which are usually gushing with water are halted to a trickle. This just means we will have to go back again in the future to see the waterfalls!
Once we got out fill of scenery, we drove back down to the valley, looking for sunset photo ops on the drive. As we were leaving, plumes of smoke were moving in and impeding the view. We did get these amazing pictures once we arrived in the valley. This was one of my favorite spots because the vegetation and river provide such a beautiful contrast to the granite walls and sky behind it.
Once we arrived back at the campground, we decided to go for another leisurely bike ride before dinner. We biked over to the historic Ahwahnee Hotel at the recommendation, again of our campground neighbors Tom and Bob. Built in 1926, this Native American themed grand hotel was built to attract wealthy and famous people to the park, and gain support for protection of the National Parks. These rooms nowadays go for over 300 – 400 dollars per night. We walked around for a bit and then sat down in the dining room for a cocktail and an appetizer.
Once we were done, we biked back to camp to enjoy a much more affordable dinner of hotdogs, before settling into the tent for our last night in the valley.
On our last day in Yosemite, we packed up the tent and camping gear for the last time on this road trip. We said goodbye to our camp neighbor, Bob, and he was kind enough to provide us with coffee and cinnamon rolls for the road. He also gifted me a small wooden bear named Bob that now sits on our dashboard.
We opted to spend our last day up on Tioga Pass near the Tuolomne Meadows part of the park. We drove up over the pass and past the Blue Jay wildfire that has been burning in the park for months.
We passed through the smoke and were greeted with blue skies once we got to the trailhead of Cathedral Lakes. Cathedral Lakes is an 8 mile moderate hike to 2 beautiful alpine lakes. Upper lake was where we stopped first, with the backdrop of craggy Cathedral Mountain in the distance.
Lower lake was equally as beautiful but larger with banks of granite surrounding it and views into the distant sierras. We laid on the granite and relaxed a bit before descending back to the car. The trail was lined with big sequoia trees and massive granite boulders.
We drove further down Tioga Pass, taking in the views of the massive, surrounding peaks before turning around to take a few photos at golden hour in Tuolumne Meadows.
The sky put on a show that night for our drive with a fireball sunset, neon pink and orange, and the trees on thew horizon appears purple. The photos do not do it justice!
Bijan and I stayed over at a hotel in Buck Meadows that night, anxious to pick up our dog the following morning, and then make the final 6 hour stretch to Santa Barbara!