So with my summer vacation from teaching well underway and Greg working reduced hours at his job, we looked into availability at the lodge. Only one night was available in June, on a Thursday. Well, if we drove up late on Wednesday and stayed just outside of the valley and Greg packed the first part of the week with working hours, we figured we should be able to be in the valley all day Thursday and a good portion of Friday before driving back. Greg had an event to work on Saturday morning and I’m teaching a kids yoga class. Sure it was last minute, but we decided to go for it.
We ended up heading out of town after dinner on Wednesday and arriving in the town of Oakhurst just outside of Fresno a little after midnight. I had arranged an Airbnb stay for us in a studio apartment, which we could access late at night with a key box, so there would be no need to disturb our hosts who lived nearby. We got a solid six hours sleep and awoke refreshed. Fueled by coffee and cereal, which we prepared in our little kitchenette, we were on the road to the Yosemite Park Gates just a short 30-minute drive away.
A beautiful drive in past Fish Camp, Tenaya, and Wawona with deer hurdling the road was our morning entertainment. We arrived at Sentinel Dome around for a short but rewarding 2-mile hike and spent some time at the top snapping photos and enjoying the views.
Back in the valley, we stopped at the Ahwanee Hotel for one of their classic Belvedere Martinis and light lunch. Relaxed and refreshed we wandered the grounds and ended up retracing our steps to the site of our engagement in 2004. It is hard to believe we have been married for 9 years, it seems just like yesterday Greg proposed as we sat chatting along side the path on this very rock.
We headed over to the lodge to see if our room was ready, it was not but we got pool passes and enjoyed a dip before settling in and cleaning up for dinner. After dinner with a view of Yosemite Falls in the Mountain Room, we still wanted to see more of the valley, so we got on our bikes and road to Curry Village to explore the ruins of the cabins, which have been out of use for several years since a rockslide. Many years ago we used to stay in these cabins on our visits to the valley. We took a loop through the campgrounds, densely packed with tents and swimming in campfire smoke as the light in the valley began to fade. As we biked back alongside the meadow, six young deer munched grasses and playfully nudged one another cavorting about. Back at the lodge, we rewarded ourselves with an ice cream and a ranger talk about bears.
Friday morning, I was up at the squawk of the Steller’s Jay before the sun crested the high peaks. I enjoyed a short two-mile run of the valley floor. I practically had the trail to myself, aside from one park ranger who was walking to work all smiles and a pair of valley visitors on bikes, no one had clued into the fact that the most magical time to stroll past the meadows and wander the trails is predawn. Note that predawn is maybe not the most accurate term. There was a dim light in the valley because the sun is up, but it hadn’t quite peaked over the tops of the mountains yet, so there was a sort of ambient lighting scheme going on during that magic hour. My run wasn’t much of a work out though because every .2 miles or so I had to stop to take a photo. Who could blame me with views like these?
Back at the lodge, I grabbed Greg out of bed to come experience the empty valley with me. Hardly any people were up so early; with just the birds to keep us company the valley was so peaceful. We strolled to Yosemite falls, with the tourists still in bed, the thundering noise of the water was revealed. Minus the people sounds, nature revealed a whole new morning song. So delighted by this alone time in nature, we hurried back to our room a quick fuel up of cereal and coffee before pedaling our bikes toward mirror falls. As we raced down the tree lined paths, we screeched to a halt when we spotted a very large and healthy looking coyote blocking the trail. Greg inquired if we should turn around but being that we were at least 20 yards away from the handsome canine, I suggested we let him make the first move. After remaining frozen for a few moments and contemplating us with a lowered head and suspicious eyes, the grey furred fellow decided we were neither predator nor prey and lost interest in us, bounding into the vegetation disturbing a covey of mountain quail. We have many coyotes in our neighborhood at home and most are very skinny, brown to golden in color, and pretty small. I was delighted to note the differences in the mountain coyote. Wolf-like in appearance, his grey coat was peppered with patches of rust and his coat was full and bushy, as was his tail. His physique was much more muscled and his size much larger than his cousins who live in Claremont. Anyhow, as we continued on our way, we saw another coyote friend who scurried off into the bushes at the sound of our approaching bikes, this guy was more tan with black splotches, and slimmer, giving him a hyena like appearance. Though the trail had been active with animals, when we arrived at Mirror Lake, only one other family was there enjoying the sunlight peeking over Half Dome.
After such an active morning, we enjoyed taking our time to get showered up back in the room before checking out and grabbing some lunch prior to leaving the valley. A long drive home awaited; we made it home just before 10pm, a bit tired from our adventures but with lovely memories as fodder for sweet dreams.