I feel so recharged by nature, and our vacation earlier this summer was full of nature. I can't believe we have already been back home for a month! Today, I want to share a little bit about some of the amazing National Park System locations we enjoyed while in California.
Muir Woods: This was my first time around Redwoods and they were humbling to say the least. I always feel short but these trees took it to a whole new level. Hiking here felt like I was transported back to another time. If I had stumbled across a dinosaur I wouldn't have been surprised. I don't know how to describe the experience other than that it was like I could feel time and history as we walked through these trees.
Yosemite: This was my first visit to Yosemite National Park, and we couldn't have picked a better year or time of the season to be there. Yosemite had record snowfall this winter, and as such the waterfalls and rivers were raging with all of the snowmelt while we were there. My words and photographs do not do justice to the beauty we experienced. If you can, I suggest making at least one trip to the park in your lifetime. We were there for 3 days, and as novice hikers we saw and hiked quite a bit in just that time (30 miles). We chose not to stay in the valley and instead stayed just south, but still in the park, at Big Trees Lodge in Wawona. In those three days, we hiked the entire Valley Floor Trail loop, from Glacier Point lookout up to Sentinel Dome, and part of the Mist Trail (my fear of heights won out as we approached the top of Vernal Falls as it started getting crowded and the granite trail was dangerously wet from spray off the raging waterfall). We saw: El Capitan, Cathedral Rocks, Half Dome, Mirror Lake, Vernal & Nevada Falls, Bridalveil Falls, Yosemite Falls, Royal Arch Cascade, Ribbon Falls, Illilouette Falls (basically ALL THE FALLS), Glacier Point (be sure to stop at Washburn Point before the Glacier Point lookout as well. In fact, if you can, park here and hike to Glacier Point to avoid the traffic congestion), and likely other points of interest that I am missing.
Here are my favorite shots from Yosemite.
A few tips when planning a visit to the park:
1) Understand that you are entering NATURE and be prepared for natural disruptions in your plans (e.g., weather- it snowed a few days after we were there and Glacier Point road was closed, rock slides closing roads and limiting access to parts of the park, flooding cutting off trails, etc).
2) Learn about how to be a good park visitor. Don't feed the animals (even the squirrels!), it is important that they don't rely on humans for their survival. This is not a petting zoo, it is nature. Pack out what you take in with you. My husband was shocked and disgusted at the amount of litter he saw when he leaned over the barrier at Tunnel View lookout point. Heed park warnings about exerting caution. Because of the high and roaring waters there were lots of notices about staying on paths and out of the water. Regardless, we saw so many people climbing rocks near the water or even wading in at the edges in places. Sadly, it was reported that while we were in the park a man who went off trail was swept into the Merced River and as of yet has not been recovered to my knowledge.
3) Make your plans early for accommodations. I know planning far in advance can be difficult but the lodges in the park fill up early as do campsite reservations. Also, take time to do research about your options. Give yourself time to find what will suit you best.
4) Be sure to have appropriate gear. I found the walking poles a friend lent us to be particularly helpful on a few trails. We also made sure to have plenty of water and snacks with us- a camelbak plus a couple of large bottles, trail mix, beef sticks, crackers, fruit, etc. This isn't an amusement park, so don't plan on finding concessions or amenities along the trail! Wear fast drying fabrics (UPF rated is even better) if you plan to go near waterfalls. We got DRENCHED at Bridalveil and Lower Yosemite. Make sure the shoes you are wearing are well broken in. I didn't give myself enough time to break in some new hiking boots and I paid for it around 20 miles, luckily I had a backup pair.
Don't be intimidated about getting around the park. We saw people driving from one attraction to the next, walking, bicycling, and hiking. And while driving isn't our preferred method, for some people that is the only way they can get around. So do the park how ever you need to.
Here is a short compilation of some water-themed video I took so you can see what we experienced.
Even my husband, who is not outdoorsy, was awestruck by the beauty of this park. I already miss it and can't wait for another trip in the future. Have you been to Yosemite? What was your favorite sight while there? Any other national parks you recommend everyone should see at least once?