Jenny and I returned last night from a weekend trip to Yosemite, where we enjoyed lovely fall foliage, up-close encounters with wildlife, and a memorable hike up Vernal Falls. For various reasons, we'd had to reschedule this trip twice, but this weekend was a perfect getaway, and we enjoyed (nearly) every minute of our visit.
We arrived Saturday afternoon and quickly found that transcendentally beautiful vista from which to gaze over the valley floor. I've seen this perspective plenty of times, taken lots of photos too. But this view never ceases to amaze. Thereafter we started our tour at a favorite site: Lower Falls. The torrent of water usually slows to a trickle this time of year, but recent rains produced a thunderous cascade of roaring power that delighted us with sprays and rainbows.
Darkness came fast, though, as the sun set behind the mountains earlier than we'd expected. So we finished the last of our brisket saved from lunch at Central Texan BBQ and commenced to exploring the long exposure abilities of our new D5000.
We're still working on the technicalities (especially the ability to focus on distant objects in no-light conditions), but the multitude of stars offered a dazzling show. That night we enjoyed a heated tent at Camp Curry, though the skittering of woodland creatures playing on our roof woke us up early.
On Sunday, we rented bikes and toured the park in the absolute best way. The bike-idea was Jenny's, and at first I wasn't excited about the whole thing. But I caught the vision fast. Without concern for traffic, our bikes allowed us to amble from place to place, stopping whenever we wished. So when we'd see something cool, like a majestic deer munching on leaves, we'd simply dismount without a care for a parking spot. And because the bikes are so exquisitely dorky, there was no need to worry about locking up. Who'd steal 'em?
Throughout the afternoon, we rode bike paths as yellow leaves rained on our heads. Another visit to the Lower Falls, this time climbing the rocks to enjoy more splashing water, and then we toured some the prairies, enjoying views we'd missed during previous car-bound visits.
One of my favorite moments from the ride: the chance to enjoy one remarkable tree that sported brilliant orange leaves. More than a dozen other folks had the same idea, hanging from limbs and craning for perfect photos.
Later on, we decided it'd be nice to visit Vernal Falls. Jenny and Mari trekked up to the footbridge a few years back, bringing back only pleasant memories of a mellow hike, and it seemed like a relaxing jaunt at first. But I was winded and cranky soon enough. So much elevation! And while I've lost plenty of weight in the past few months, I was still unprepared for a "mildly strenuous" hike. We made it to the bridge and savored the view of Vernal, satisfied that we'd gotten our workout for the day. Then I saw the mist trail climbing still higher and knew: we had to keep going to the top.
This time it was Jenny's turn to grouse, but we soldiered up those steep stone steps, both of us dazed nearly to the point of unconsciousness when we saw the top of the falls for the first time (my repeated phrase at that point: "We made it... We made it... We made it..."). Looking down on the valley where we started, barely seeing that first footstep that led to this place, I felt proud. Do I want to take the next challenge and try Half Dome? Oh yeah. At night, no less. But only after lots and lots of cardio conditioning (and finding a way to convince Jenny).
Light rain cooled us off on the descent and the evening promised a deep sleep. Problem is, our woodland creature friends returned, determined to keep us up with their nocturnal antics. Early on, we realized that one of our new friends was a tiny mouse with big ears. A few hours later, we discovered a new pal: a wide-eyed ringtail who stared at us with the same amazement as we had for him. Jenny worried that our flashlight would hurt his wee little eyes, but I figured he's tough enough to live in Camp Curry; he can handle a little light.
The next morning brought fog and the promise of rain -- and some forlornness on our parts, given the realty that we'd soon have to head home. But we managed to fit in a gentle hike to Mirror Lake. Jenny loved searching for reflections, while I smiled in gratitude at my choice to wear shorts and flip-flops this time, even in the cold. My flexible attire allowed me to cross one stretch of achingly chilly water in search of a perfect place to enjoy my own place for reflection amid Yosemite's grandeur.
We wrapped up our visit with a decadent lunch at the Ahwahnee Dining Room, both of us bummed that our trip was nearly over. Still, we agreed that the trip was exactly what we needed, especially during this complex and busy time in our lives. We'd come to Yosemite to recharge ourselves, personally and as a couple. And we left the Valley with stories, smiles, and promises that we'd return. This place is a world treasure, and we live less than five hours away!
(Photographs by Andrew and Jenny Wood)