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  1. #1

    • Joe Flowers
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    Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    A few weeks ago, Theresa was getting the itch to go somewhere and we've wanted to see Yosemite for a while. The last time we went a few years ago was in August, and all the waterfalls had slowed to a trickle. We're hoping for big waterfalls this time!

    Even better, we're taking the week off work! Us and the grandparents pile in the car after getting packed up on Monday morning.

    It's your first big trip buddy! I hope you're excited!

    We only make it a mile down the road before we stop for breakfast. Chick-fil-A chicken biscuits and Chick-n-minis are delicious!

    Get back in the car! We're losing time!

    If I stretch I can allllmost reach the peddles.

    Three hours into the trip, we're stopping by Burger King for lunch. Theresa and I were happy for the $1 Icees!

    Ian got the full service experience. An hour later we're back on the road.

    Just let me drive around the parking lot Dad?

    Leading up to the trip, T and I were really wondering how Ian was going to do on the super long car trip. The longest trip we'd taken to this point was a 35 minute drive to Disneyland. We were worried for nothing though. Ian was about the best we could have hoped for. He slept a whole bunch, kept himself entertained with his toys, and wasn't fussy at all. It was great!

    Just one more quick (not really, 1 hour) stop at McDonalds before we headed into the park.

    After 26 miles of twisty and windy roads, which Theresa just hates, we emerged from the Wawona Tunnel and see the vista that has inspired so many artists and photographers.

    Officially called Tunnel View, this viewpoint shows off Yosemite Valley, Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, and Half Dome.


    I'm with you buddy. That sun is too bright to be looking at the camera right now.

    As far as accommodations during our visit, we had two thoughts on it. Yosemite Lodge is in the middle of the valley in a great location, but the rooms are small and dated. It's also not cheap, costing $250/night, we'd have to eat out for dinner each night and we'd need two rooms for us and the grandparents.

    Instead Theresa started looking at other options and found a fantastic vacation rental home in nearby Foresta. Still located inside Yosemite National Park, Foresta is a short 10 minute drive out of the valley. The place we chose is called Owl Moon cabin and what it lacks in location, it more than makes up for in amenities. This cute little cabin has 1200 sq ft of space, sleeps up to 6 adults comfortably and even better, it's just $350/night! I highly recommend it (just not for the nights that I'll be booking it next time).

    The inside is beautiful and there's a large living room.

    And we made great use of the full kitchen, eating here for breakfast and dinner every day.

    Upstairs, the king bedroom had plenty of space for us and Ian's pack-and-play.

    And the queen bedroom was even bigger.

    Add two full bathrooms, a washer/dryer, a fireplace, gas grill in the back, and as one friend put it, we're not camping, we're glamping.

    It didn't take too long for Ian to make it to the living room floor and spread out.

    Wow babies are flexible.

    After dinner, we all relaxed after a long day of driving in the car and then went to bed early. Tomorrow we're going to explore Yosemite a bit more.

    Well, most of us went to sleep early. I headed outside to see what the stars looked like. The sky was amazing! There's no moon tonight and there is hardly any light pollution. This is pretty much how I ended each night up here. You'll see a few more of these kinds of shots as the trip report continues.


  2. #2

    • Joe Flowers
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    It's our first real day to explore Yosemite. We got in late last night, but now we're ready to go check it out!

    Someone was being a good boy while we all got ready. Chi made breakfast and we packed up lunch for later.

    He doesn't look too thrilled, but just watch the video afterwards.

    Grandpa can always make him smile.

    We're just a few minutes outside Yosemite Valley. Unfortunately the Foresta Fire of 2009 cleared out a majority of the trees around here.

    But it's slowly making a comeback.

    I was curious how crazy busy Yosemite was going to be. We're coming during the peak waterfall season, but it's also during the middle of the week. Our tour would start at the lobby of the Yosemite Lodge. Looks like it's not very crowded at all right now! We parked right in front of the lodge.

    Someone is happy to be out of his carseat and being held by Grandpa.

    Theresa had called a few days earlier and made reservations for the 10am Yosemite Valley Tour. For just $25 per person you'll ride around in a bus with a Park Ranger as they describe the park.

    It's always a day-of decision whether you'll get the covered bus or the open air trailer. It depends on the temperature and the forecast that day, but luckily for us it was warm enough that we're going in the open air trailer. Much better for viewing!

    There were beautiful blue skies. It was actually a little hot in the sunshine and cool in the shade. Perfect weather.

    Hoping to see some bears or something on the valley floor. No such luck though.

    Theresa keeping the wind out of Ian's ears.

    Looking across the valley towards Cathedral Rocks.

    The tour parked at the base of El Capitan where we learned a brief history of the mountain. We learned that most climbers take 3-4 days climbing the face of El Capitan, spending the night on the side of the mountain. Alex Honnold and Hans Florine hold the record for speed climbing the face, making it up in just 2 hours and 24 minutes.

    Most of us were searching for climbers and I happened to spot one.

    Driving past Bridalveil Falls.

    For 10 minutes or so, Ian was "that kid" on the tour. Not being real loud, but being a little fussy and cranky. Guess he's hungry and tired. After getting a bottle, he was great again.

    Our first stop to get out and stretch our legs was at the very west side of the valley by the Merced river. Our ranger guide said this was one of the first places Ansel Adams decided to photograph when he came to Yosemite.

    And I can see why. It's beautiful!

    Next on our stop, was Tunnel View where we again got to get out and walk around a little. They also had a cooler with ice water for those who wanted it.

    Circling the valley, we see El Capitan from another angle.

    I'm so glad we came this time of year. Our last visit was in August and all the waterfalls had slowed to a trickle. Today though, with all the snow melt, there is plenty of water coming off the falls. Nice to be in the open air trailer. We wouldn't get views like this from a bus.

    Getting a good view of Half Dome.

    There's deer here somewhere in this blurry photo. That's what I get for having my camera set up to take photos of the bright sunny spots and not being ready for things to happen in the shadows.

    There, the camera's set up and the deer are well behind us now.

    The trailer pulled up to the banks of the Merced river and you could hear the water crashing on the rapids. The ranger asked the driver to turn off the engine and everyone to be silent for a few moments to just listen to the peaceful sounds of nature. Two seconds later, the person in front of us yelled to the ranger "Can you tell us more about Whitney and Muir?"

    Well I really enjoyed the Valley Floor Tour. Our 10am tour wasn't crowded at all, though the ones we saw later in the day were pretty full. If you do take it, I'll give you the same suggestion that was given to us. Sit as far to the back as possible. One you're not dealing with the noise and smell of the vehicle that's pulling you, and two you don't have the ranger sitting up high and blocking your view.

    Thank you to our tour guide!

    Someone slept through the last half of the tour against Mommy.

    Time to stop by the food court (coffee for Richard) and restrooms before we continue our own tour of the valley.

  3. #3

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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    We live close enough to Yosemite to drive there for a day trip. One of my favorite things to do there is bring a bike and ride the bike paths around the valley. My wife Jimmie doesn't ride, but she doesn't mind hanging out in Yosemite Village or riding the shuttles while I'm out on my bike.
    Name:  2011-05-13 Yosemite.jpg
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    This picture was from May 2011. The Merced River at Happy Isles is in the background.

    Looking forward to reading more of your report.
    Have bicycle, will ride. Finished 2012 with 10,089 miles, 683 hours, and 482,000 feet of elevation gain.
    2013: 201 rides, 8171 miles, 544 hours, 480K feet.
    2014 so far: 5751 miles, 319,000 feet


  4. #4

    • Disneyland Dreamer
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    BEAUTIFUL!!!! We'll have to do that one day when the kids are a bit older.

  5. #5

    • aka 'KiMcHeE'
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Wow, Yosemite is absolutely breathtaking! I don't think I've ever been (if I had, my parents probably took me when I was a young child) but it seems like I'm going to have to change that. Add Yosemite to the list of places I have to go! Thanks for the AMAZING photos, and I can't wait to see the rest!

  6. #6

    • Pilot EdForceOne
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Great TR - thx for sharing!
    Check out my blog - Coreplex: Rambling from inside the Grid


    Am I evil? yes, I am
    Am I evil? I am man, yes, I am

    Quote Originally Posted by sleepyjeff View Post
    Disneyland was meant to be sipped not chug-a-lugged

  7. #7

    • Joe Flowers
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkie Dad View Post
    We live close enough to Yosemite to drive there for a day trip. One of my favorite things to do there is bring a bike and ride the bike paths around the valley. My wife Jimmie doesn't ride, but she doesn't mind hanging out in Yosemite Village or riding the shuttles while I'm out on my bike.

    Looking forward to reading more of your report.
    I did notice a few people biking around the valley. It did seem like a fun thing to do for a day.


    Quote Originally Posted by whoever View Post
    BEAUTIFUL!!!! We'll have to do that one day when the kids are a bit older.
    Make sure you spend some time there! Yosemite shouldn't be rushed. We spent a few days and it still felt like too little time.


    Quote Originally Posted by KiMcHeEfOrLiFe View Post
    Wow, Yosemite is absolutely breathtaking! I don't think I've ever been (if I had, my parents probably took me when I was a young child) but it seems like I'm going to have to change that. Add Yosemite to the list of places I have to go! Thanks for the AMAZING photos, and I can't wait to see the rest!
    KiMcHeEfOrLiFe, that list keeps growing and growing. Btw, are you going to post a Gumball Rally TR?

  8. #8

    • Joe Flowers
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    After our guided tour of the valley we were all hungry and it was time to eat lunch.

    There's so many beautiful places we could have gone to picnic and today we chose the Swinging Bridge picnic area. On our entire trip, this was the only place we had to wait for a parking spot. It was lunchtime and it's a beautiful location so I totally understand. After 5 minutes, a spot opened up.

    What a beautiful view. The bridge no longer swings, but you can see the upper portion of Yosemite Falls in the background.

    We easily found a picnic table near the water in the shade. Ian always eats first.

    There were various creatures wandering around looking for handouts. Spare some bread?

    The crows were also pretty bold.

    After lunch, we tossed the blanket on the ground and let Ian roll around and stretch out a bit. He's been great in his car seat.

    Family photo in front of the Merced River and Yosemite Falls.

    Aww.

    There it is. Yosemite Falls. The highest measured waterfall in North America and the sixth highest waterfall in the world. A total of 2425 ft consisting of three drops, with the longest being Upper Yosemite Falls at 1430 ft. So glad we came while the waterfalls were flowing.

    After lunch we continued our tour of the park on our own. Stopping by a field to look at Half Dome.

    North Dome is directly opposite Half Dome.

    There's our photographer. I don't think we see him enough in photos.

    Half Dome stretching 4844 feet above Yosemite Valley.

    Last on our list today is Yosemite Falls. Parking was easy again at the Yosemite Lodge and it was just a short 1/4 mile hike to the base. This beautiful view is just a couple hundred yards into the hike.


    Someone peeking out from his carrier.

    Within just a few minutes we had made it. The noise from the waterfall is really loud here as you see all the water from Lower Yosemite Falls crashing down. It throws up a fine mist into the air and the whole area is a little chilly.


    After the Falls, it was time to get head back to the house and eat dinner. We're taking this trip nice and slow with no long days and no rushing around.

    I told T I wanted to run out at least one night at sunset, so after a quick bite, I headed back to Tunnel View.

    I joined the horde of maybe 10 other photographers with the same idea. I'm the only one I saw though taking a selfie.

    Goodbye sunshine. It turns Half Dome a brilliant orange as it sets.

    You might be wondering why this is called "Tunnel View". Wawona Road is one of the three main entrances into the park and as you round a large curve and pass through the Wawona Tunnel you're suddenly looking over Yosemite Valley. Completed in 1933 and bored through solid granite, it's the largest highway tunnel in California at 4233 feet.

    Trying to get a shot with no cars in it took just a little while. It looks a shorter than it actually is and at nearly a mile long, it takes a car almost 2 minutes to go from one end to the other. That's a long time to wait while you're hoping that no other cars enter and you start the whole waiting game again.

    After sunset I headed back to the house and Theresa and I put Ian to bed. Because there's so little light pollution, I wanted to head back into the park to take some shots of the stars. The grandparents agreed to take care of Ian if he woke up, so Theresa and I headed back into Yosemite Valley.

    We hadn't seen much wildlife on the trip so far, just a few deer here and there. Theresa and I were surprised to see a coyote trotting along side the road. We expected him to dart off into the trees, but he didn't seem to mind us much. I slowly followed in the car while T tried to get a picture on her cell phone. We must have followed him for 100 yards or more, but cell phone cameras just can't handle low light conditions. I grabbed my camera, swapped lenses, and just had time to grab this shot before he trotted into the woods.

    Our first stop was Tunnel View. Even with no moon, if your exposure is long enough, you can still see some features of the valley. Looks like someone forgot to turn off the water on Bridalveil Falls overnight.
    Remember how I said it takes 3-4 days to climb El Capitan. Climbers have no other choice but to camp overnight on the side of the mountain. You can see some of their headlamps in the photo below. I see at least 3 people there tonight.

    Setting up my camera to take a photo every 30 seconds, I put them all together so you can see the moment of the stars. While we were waiting, we were treated to the tail end of the Lyrid Meteor shower that peaked a week earlier. I saw a few really good ones, including one that I saw streak across the sky then split into 2-3 pieces as it got to the end.

    There's so many stars you can see when there's no light pollution. While the camera was clicking away, we struck up a conversation with the only other photographer out there with the same idea. Tommy and his wife were taking a 2 month honeymoon across North America visiting a lot of National Parks. While my shots cover 20 minutes or so of star trails, he's setting up for 3 hours of shooting. It might take a while for him to finish them, but when he's done, I'll look for them on his website at tbes.se

    Last stop of the night was bank of the Merced River. I set up my camera and let that click off some shots while T and I stayed warm in the car.

    It was simply too dark to get any of the valley to show up, so we only see the silhouette of El Capitan and Cathedral Rock in front of a sky full of stars.

    Playing around with what I can do with the shots.

    Tomorrow we'll explore the valley a little more on our own at a relaxed pace.

  9. #9

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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Years ago while on a ranger walk in Yosemite Valley, the ranger related this story: "A first time visitor who had only four hours to spend in Yosemite asked for a recommendation on how to spend the time. I replied, 'If I had only four hours to spend here, I would sit here and cry.' "

    I love that you were taking the time to really experience the valley, but I hope you also got out to some of the other parts of the park. Was Tioga Pass open? Glacier Point?

    The starlight pictures are breathtaking.
    Have bicycle, will ride. Finished 2012 with 10,089 miles, 683 hours, and 482,000 feet of elevation gain.
    2013: 201 rides, 8171 miles, 544 hours, 480K feet.
    2014 so far: 5751 miles, 319,000 feet


  10. #10

    • Joe Flowers
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by Trekkie Dad View Post
    Years ago while on a ranger walk in Yosemite Valley, the ranger related this story: "A first time visitor who had only four hours to spend in Yosemite asked for a recommendation on how to spend the time. I replied, 'If I had only four hours to spend here, I would sit here and cry.' "

    I love that you were taking the time to really experience the valley, but I hope you also got out to some of the other parts of the park. Was Tioga Pass open? Glacier Point?

    The starlight pictures are breathtaking.
    That's a good story. I would have loved to spend more time there.
    Glacier Point had opened just a few days earlier, but sadly the valley was all we really saw. The grandparents didn't want to do much hiking and a couple of our party gets car sick on the windy mountain roads.

    Time to finish the report!

  11. #11

    • Joe Flowers
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Only one more day to explore Yosemite Valley. Let's jump into it, shall we?

    The day started with breakfast at the house. Someone is happy and ready to attack the day.

    We left Foresta and drove down highway 120 into Yosemite Valley.

    Well unfortunately Cascade Falls didn't photograph very well from far away. That's too bad too. Theresa said out of all the waterfalls here in the park, this one was her favorite. It has "character" and isn't just falling straight down.

    Taking a closer look as some of the "character".

    Cascade Falls

    Driving just a little further, there is a small pull-off where you can get a little closer to the falls.




    The difference between a shot with a 1 millisecond shutter and a 1.5 second shutter.

    We actually spent a little bit of time getting ready and looking at Cascade Falls. By the time we reached the valley, it was time for lunch. Today we chose the Sentinel Beach picnic area. It has a nice shaded spot with tables to eat at.

    And close by is a pebble beach by the Merced River.

    The Merced River is very cold because it's coming from snow melt. Hmm. Let's see how Ian likes to dip his toes in it.

    Not surprisingly, he didn't really care for it.

    Standing in front of El Capitan.

    Grandpa and Ian are taking a stroll along the beach.

    He loves his Grandpa.







    Just a quick family photo in front of El Capitan.




    After circling the valley, we came to our last stop of the day. Yes, it was actually a pretty short day. Just a quick 0.5 mile hike on a paved trail is Bridalveil Falls.

    It was an easy hike and once you got to the bottom of the falls, you could really feel the spray.

    There isn't a very large spot to stop near the base. After getting there, we had maybe 2-3 minutes with only a couple other groups there, until a couple buses worth or tourists showed up.

    After that it got crowded. Ian was happy in his carrier though.

    After seeing Bridalveil Falls, we decided that our last day of the trip was going to be a relaxing one. Chi was fixing a roast for dinner and that needed some time to cook, so we headed back to the cabin.

    One of the items the owners of the Owl Moon cabin said shouldn't be missed is nearby Foresta Falls. Still part of Yosemite Valley, Foresta Falls is a rarely visited waterfall only 1.5 miles from the cabin. After traveling there ourselves, we can see why. The dirt road is full of embedded rocks jutting out everywhere. I was concerned a few times that we'd scrape the bottom of the car on a big rock. Also, the road is barely wide enough for one car and there are hardly any turnouts. I'm so glad we didn't encounter any other cars going the opposite way, because one of us would have had to drive in reverse for at least a quarter mile.

    After a bit of a crazy drive, we found the beautiful Foresta Falls.

    Foresta Falls is topped by a 40 foot falls and continues under the bridge with a few smaller falls.

    We came at the perfect time of day. Check out the rainbow at the bottom!

    A short video of the falls.


    It was a great trip to Yosemite! We would have loved to stay longer. Tomorrow we'll be taking the 6 hour drive back to Los Angeles.

    I've only got one more night for taking shots of star trails. The whole time, I've been looking for something interesting I can put in the foreground while facing north. Why north? Well the one star in the sky that is constant is Polaris, the North Star. If you take a time lapse facing that direction, all the other stars appear to circle it. Cool!

    We had a great time in Yosemite. Seeing the waterfalls was amazing. Now Theresa's wondering how beautiful Yosemite is when snow covers the ground... We'll see how soon that happens...

  12. #12

    • I Heart DL!
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Wow! Just beautiful! As always, it was a pleasure reading your trip report!

  13. #13

    • The "zip" in your doo dah
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Great trip report, Joe!

    It brings back great memories. A few years ago my wife and I along with our then 13 year old son hiked to the top of Half Dome - which was nuts ... but a lot of fun and a great memory-maker. It's great to see you and your family making your own memories.Name:  Photo(3).jpg
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  14. #14

    • aka 'KiMcHeE'
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Aww, I'm sad to see this report end already. You really had some absolutely gorgeous photos! I agree with Theresa, you guys should go to Yosemite when there's snow! Imagine how even MORE gorgeous it'll be! I'd read the heck out of that trip report!

    Quote Originally Posted by mre200200 View Post
    KiMcHeEfOrLiFe, that list keeps growing and growing. Btw, are you going to post a Gumball Rally TR?
    I probably won't do a Gumball Rally Trip Report. I didn't take a whole lot of photos and the photos that I do have are mostly just selfies without much of a background. It would be a really boring report lol. Gah, I always forget to take photos during the Rally. I'm going to definitely try to fix that next year though!

  15. #15

    • Joe Flowers
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    Re: Joe's Yosemite Valley Trip Report

    Quote Originally Posted by MonteJ View Post
    Great trip report, Joe!

    It brings back great memories. A few years ago my wife and I along with our then 13 year old son hiked to the top of Half Dome - which was nuts ... but a lot of fun and a great memory-maker. It's great to see you and your family making your own memories.Name:  Photo(3).jpg
Views: 142
Size:  134.5 KB
    That'll be on the list eventually. That's a great photo!


    Quote Originally Posted by KiMcHeEfOrLiFe View Post
    Aww, I'm sad to see this report end already. You really had some absolutely gorgeous photos! I agree with Theresa, you guys should go to Yosemite when there's snow! Imagine how even MORE gorgeous it'll be! I'd read the heck out of that trip report!
    Thanks! My only worry is driving in the snow. T gets a headache on a regular mountain road. Add snow and ice and I think it'd be worse. I bet we get out there some time though. And when we do, you can bet I'll write it up!

    Thanks for following along! Off to the next adventure!

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