Into the Deep Granite Valley: Yosemite

This year our group trip was to Yosemite, the center of which is a glacial valley
with the defining U-shape of the category--a deep box canyon, with a relatively
flat valley floor and very tall vertical side walls.  There are only two roads into
this valley; one at the mouth of the valley to the west, and the other leading up
the south wall near the mouth.  Into this place of great beauty we came, ourselves
and nine others, two of them family, the remaining seven "virtual family"--friends
who we have known and loved for decades.

Making plans "only" six months ahead of time meant our hotel options were limited,
but we managed to reserve a block of rooms at the Wawona Hotel, which is inside the
National Park but about 20 miles from the valley floor (a drive of about 40 minutes)
on the southern exit road.  The Wawona is a hotel of Victorian design, with rooms
opening onto a wide veranda that circles the entire structure.  It was built in 1897
to serve tourists increasingly attracted to Yosemite and to the nearby Mariposa Grove
of ancient redwood trees.  If 1897 seems too old for your tastes, there are a couple
of younger annex buildings, the most recent of which is only 98 years old.  Our four
nights at the Wawona were comfortable and the food in the hotel restaurant was excellent.

The weather was warm, in the eighties during the day, but it cooled down into the forties at night.
There were mild breezes that made hiking comfortable even on the steeper trails (i.e., Vernal Falls).
There were quite a few visitors in the valley, but not an overwhelming number.  All in all, it seems
as if late May was a good choice for a Yosemite visit.

On the way to Yosemite we spent the night in Mojave, California, a town which has seen better days.
The next morning we crossed Tehachapi Pass and headed north up the central valley on State Highway 99.
The only advantages of this route were that it only took two days, and it got us to Yosemite relatively
early on the day we arrived--Sunday, May 25th.  That quick travel experience, however, was a major
reason why we decided to return home by way of Tioga Pass and the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevadas,
a more leisurely and scenic drive that took a full three days.  Of course, in those three days we paused
many times for both photo opportunities and historical information.

      The Wawona Hotel, a National Heritage Landmark.
      Photo from the National Park Service web site.

The pictures of this trip are divided into the daily highlights:

Monday: The Mariposa Grove.

Tuesday: Vernal Falls and Mirror Lake.

Wednesday: Narrow-gauge railroad and Curry Village.

Thursday: Tioga Pass, Mono Lake and Manzanar.

Friday: Death Valley.