We’ve spent the better part of the past week in Yosemite National Park. After three weeks in the desert, we were happy to escape to cooler temperatures and a more familiar mountain landscape. I grew up coming to Yosemite, but it was Daniel’s first time in the park.
After a few summertime visits in recent years, I had forgotten how much I love it here. Spring is a great time to visit: late enough that the snow in Yosemite Valley has melted and the daytime temperatures regularly reach 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15 or 20 degrees Celsius), yet early enough to avoid the madness of peak summer tourist season. If the goal of visiting the wilderness is to enjoy peaceful, quiet time with nature, Yosemite in summer is about as far from that as you can get: a steady stream of massive chartered coaches and tour buses; mobs of loud, inappropriately shoed hikers on every trail; and lines of cars waiting for parking spots at every viewpoint. It’s one of the most heavily trafficked National Parks, and it feels like it. Do I sound like an old curmudgeon yet?
Access to much of the park is closed until mid-May, but we still found plenty of great day hiking – from the well-traveled Mist Trail past Vernal and Nevada Falls to the almost-untouched Hetch Hetchy Valley at the park’s northwest entrance. We saw only a handful of backpackers on a scenic 13-mile (21 km) trail past Tueeulala, Wapama, and Rancheria Falls. As soon as you get more than a few minutes from a parking lot, the crowds thin out and you start to feel like you’re in nature again.