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Yosemite Day Two: Yosemite Valley and Tioga Road

{Pictured: Tenaya Lake at late sunset}

Hello my blog followers! I've had a tough time pulling myself away from all the beautiful sights to write daily, but I have managed to pull together day two of Yosemite for you all!

Yosemite Valley

Elevation- 4,000 ft/85°F​ Arrival: appx 10:00am

Getting on bus: appx 12:00 pm

Yosemite Valley has a lot of sights to offer, but it is VERY crowded. We woke up around 7 to recover a little from yesterday's tough hike, but by the time we got to the park around 10, we were already too late for "prime time". Thus began day two of Yosemite adventures and yet ANOTHER 3 very important lessons: There were cars and people everywhere. Parking was the most difficult, even with the acres of dedicated parking they had throughout the valley, it still wasn't enough for the masses. We spent nearly an entire HOUR looking for a parking spot. ANY parking spot. Well, we finally found one, but it was on the complete other side of Yosemite Valley from our first destination, Mirror Lake. Luckily, there are plenty of provided shuttle buses that will pick you up from your parking space and take you on a route every 10 minutes to your preferred location's trail head. Shuttle buses are definitely not the best experience. Imagine about 50 bodies crowded onto one bus with only about 20 of those in seats; the rest standing and clinging onto the safety bars for dear life. They got us where we needed to be and we saw plenty of other hiking opportunities along the way. If we had more time for our trip, we most likely would have also stopped at Happy Isles trail head, which eventually leads to Vernal Falls and some other beautiful sights. Lesson Number One: Nature don't wait for no one.

Mirror Lake

appx 1:00pm

A popular destination sight for its magically reflective waters. When the water in this "lake" is still, it can reflect almost every aspect around it in the valley; beautiful mountains and trees make for an amazing photo op! The hike there required minimal endurance, and was a good change up from yesterday's crazy one. I recommend completing at least one tough hike and one simple hike after it in order to get the beautiful sights and recharge for the rest of your stay. The hike had a beautiful view of the Merced River the entire way down and showed some amazing rapids. There were parts of the trail where you could also feel the mountain air and waterfall mists settling down like a cool fog. It makes for an awesome half-hike, natural air-conditioner! We were a little disappointed by what was left of mirror lake when we finally reached it's officially marked area, but it was also a little expected for the month of July. We were so impressed that the waterfalls still flowed so strongly, but mirror lake has water fed into it by pure melted ice caps from the few mountains above. Those ice caps had already melted about 2 months ago, and the lake was merely a small, but still reflective, pond.

Before heading back out on the road again, we stopped by Half Dome Village, which sits right under a main Yosemite attraction; Half Dome.

The village was surprisingly full of amenities that are not usually common in a "campground" setting: gift shops, pizza parlor, an ice cream/coffee shop, and food court.

My personal favorite was the restroom that was an actually managed facility and not just a hole in the ground. *One of my favorite parts about visiting Yosemite Valley especially was hearing people speak in so many different languages as we passed them by! Lesson number two: Don't stare too hard at the other tourists who are swimming nearby in the river...there are some countries who have different apparel styles for swimming. AKA: Birthday suits.

Tenaya Lake

Elevation- 8,098 ft/ 60°F


We had seen all the necessary checkpoints in Yosemite Valley, so we decided to give the "lesser" road a go; Tioga Road.


Toga road is much more secluded than Glacier Point road and Yosemite Valley. Most people feel like there isn't as much to see and that the extra 1 hour drive isn't worth the views.

I completely disagree.

Tioga Road winds up into the mountains far higher than any point you can drive in other popular Yosemite locations, even competing with the almighty Half Dome in altitude! With the altitude came those cool mountain breezes that were so refreshing after our hot afternoon in the valley. There are also more likely chances of seeing wildlife such as American black bears, or mule deer *shudder* running across the roads or hanging out near campsites.

We stopped for a brief moment to check out Olmstead Point for a sunset picture, and then headed to Tenaya Lake, which is one of the largest lakes in the park; boy were we glad we had a chance to go there before dark!

Tenaya Lake is a beauty that surpasses many that I have seen before. It is considered part of the Yosemite wilderness so there are no docks or commercialized aspects of it nearby. We were able to navigate through very little wood to get right up to the shore of the lake that faces the mountains just in time for the sunset! We were both taken aback by the beauty of the calm waters that reflected the mountains behind it; perfectly with the purples and pinks of the late sunset. Corey wanted to try out some night sky pictures, but once it got dark, we got a little freaked out by the isolated wooded area mule deer lurking nearby (refer to previous post if confused) and we decided to head out to Olmsted Point instead. (But I'm sure if you're an avid camper, it would be a great place to pitch your tent!)

Lesson number three: Don't watch scary movies/play scary video games (AKA Friday the 13th) right before you go out to a national park late at night...especially if you have to use the restroom and the closest one is an unlit outhouse. When it gets dark, and all you have is a flashlight, things get real creepy, real fast. I was sure someone was going to reach out and grab me in the outhouse and drag me into the woods, although Corey disagreed. (If you haven't played Friday the 13th it's your typical camping out in the woods at night-yes, by a lake-and a incredibly scary and huge dude named Jason has a vendetta to kill you so I think I'm justified).

Stargazing at Olmsted Point:

Elevation-8,390 ft/ 57° F

APPX 10:00PM

Once we arrived at Olmsted Point, the sun was pretty far down into the sky, but because we were so far up, it was actually still visible until about 10:30. A million twinkling stars immediately began to light up the night sky in a glittering, jaw-dropping display. I don't think I have encountered many nights with so many visibly beautiful stars and constellations in my life-especially not with a snowy-topped mountain silhouette in the forefront!

Corey tried out his newest obsession: Astrophotography! It's very tricky, but if you get it just right, very rewarding! It's Corey's first time trying it out, but he had a great place to practice. Since Olmsted Point is so high, it even blocked out the position of the moon in his shots, and he was able to actually get pictures of the night sky in all of its starry glory! When he takes the pictures to Photoshop, he can even get some of the hazy Milky Way color faintly in the background of his stars! We stayed out about an hour and Corey took about 200 exposures to get just the right pictures! (he'll only choose maybe about 2-3 pictures to finalize before he let's me post them)

While Corey was taking the pictures, he introduced me to an awesome app that shows you the current positions of ALL of the constellations and labeled stars in the night sky you are looking at. The app follows your movements when you point it in a specific direction in the sky and tells you what constellation, star, or even planet you are currently looking at! (Yes, you can even point it at the ground and it will show you which bodies are on the opposite side of the Earth!)

My favorite clear sites with the eye were bright Jupiter, both Ursa Major and Ursa Minor (big and little dipper), and beautiful Libra!

Overall, VERY worth the 2-hour drive back afterward! *Bonus lesson*

God has stunning ways of showing us that we are part of His creation; it's like our exploration of the world and curiosity about its existence is built into our very nature!

Day Two of Yosemite was our last in the park! Stay tuned for other road trip adventures!

Adventure is out there!

~The gal with a pal

#Yosemite #nationalpark #mountain #lake #summer #vacation #tenayalake #yosemitevalley #travel #mirrorlake #halfdomevillage