Yosemite High Country


When I first called the Evergreen Lodge to book our tours, I asked the guide for advice.  I was about to book two Yosemite Valley Tours, which were essentially the same thing.  The voice at the end of the phone said, "If I were you, I would take your second tour into the High Country."

"The High Country?" I repeated.

"Yes!" the guide, Ryan, answered. He continued, "When I first came to Yosemite, I thought I would love it because of the Valley, but I fell in love with the High Country instead. You have to see it if you truly want to experience everything Yosemite has to offer.  Also, you're coming at a good time of year.  The Tioga Road is closed during the winter, but it usually opens sometime in late May or early June.  You should be able to see the High Country without a problem."

A part of me was still a little skeptical about seeing "the High Country" as it wasn't the popular part of the park with the Merced River, the Giant Sequoias, or the famous mountain views.  Still, I let him book us to visit this "less traveled part of the park."  It was a wise decision.  Like Ryan (the guide), I fell in love with the High Country too!

We met our tour guides (one originally from Alaska and the other from Hawaii) bright and early on Thurs. morning.  To our surprise, only our family booked the trip.  So, we had TWO tour guides--one an expert and one a novice in training--to provide us with a full day's worth of sightseeing in the mountains along the Tioga Road.  We learned so much about the park and had interesting conversations about Native Americans, conservation, trees, insects, plants, and animals.  The pictures that follow show the full-day trip we took through the Sierra Mountains to the East side of Yosemite before turning around and driving two hours back to our camp.  (Yosemite is about the size of the state of Rhode Island.)

This first stop was called Lukens Lake.  It was a leisurely mile and half hike from the road with beautiful views of Sequois and wild flowers.  The lake was clean and pristine, feeling untouched by man.

The next stop was Olmsted Point.  Here we came "face to face with massive glacial rocks left behind by 4,000 foot deep glaciers."  The majestic view of granite slopes and rocks were carved millions of years ago by these glaciers. 
This was my favorite view in Yosemite.

The view from Olmsted Point looks as if the mountains are covered in snow,
but instead, we are looking at the color of the granite rock.

The next stop was Tenaya Lake (which is at an elevation of 8,150 feet). 
The lake is fed 100% by snow melt, so it's cold but pristine.

Tenaya Lake is a popular destination for boating, swimming, and getting married.
Here we walked to an elevation of 10,000 feet, so we could get a glimpse of Tuolumne Meadows below. 
Tuolomne Meadows is surrounded by even higher granite domes and peaks.

The Tuolumne River.  (One side has snow covered mountains and the other side is desert.)  This is the "end" of the park.

I LOVED this place.  On the inside, it is nothing more than a simple convenience store with a few souvenirs, but it is one of the few stops along the Pacific Crest Trail.  We soon noticed that the place was a rest stop for real-deal hikers, ones that had been hiking for days, weeks, or even months. (You could tell, without being rude, because they smelled as if they hadn't showered in a while.)  The movie, Wild, is a biography of a woman that hiked 1,100 miles of the 2,663 mile long Pacific Crest Trail.
The High Country became my favorite part of our Yosemite trip. If I was younger, back to the days when I didn't have a career or a family, I would be interested in hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, but...at least I could say I got a tiny glimpse of the experience.  There is just something special and enchanting about hiking through these groves, valleys, and forests.  Unlike the "woods" in Connecticut, which are filled with 70 to 100 year-old trees (because the entire state was deforested and turned into farmland), these forests are thousands upon thousands of years old.  I truly felt like I was living back in history and that was magical!

Yosemite Valley


We woke up bright and early to begin our first day at Yosemite.  A tour guide would be taking us to Yosemite Valley with four other passengers--an older couple and a mother with her son.  Our guide told us that Yosemite Valley is the most popular part of the park with nearly 4 million visitors each year.  Luckily, our early June travels combined with having a tour guide that's familiar with the park, helped us explore the valley without the large crowds or long lines of cars.  In fact, many times, he took us to less explored places, which made us feel as if we had the park all to ourselves.

I'm not sure where to begin except to show pictures.  The Grand Canyon was AMAZING because of  the enormity of the canyon itself with its layers of rock "revealing millions of years of geological history" (Grand Canyon National Park Service Website).  Yosemite was different because of its variety--there were mountains, falls, valleys, rivers, snow-melt lakes, and giant sequoias.  Each site was different and BEAUTIFUL.  We never knew what was next, but they saved, perhaps, the most majestic for last--the giant sequoias or redwoods.

The "Tunnel View" of Yosemite Valley.

Bridalveil Falls

El Capitan - One of the most famous granite rocks in Yosemite (approx. 114 milllion years old).
Many rock climbers come to El Capitan.  From our view, the climbers were little black dots you
could only see with binoculars.

Yosemite Valley Chapel--the oldest building in Yosemite National Park--is listed on the National Register
of Historic Places and is still a popular destination for weekly worship services and weddings.

Yosemite Falls

Hanging out by the Sentinel Meadow, Sentinel Bridge, Yosemite Falls, and the Merced River.

The Merced River

A place for lunch...

Half Dome (about 87 million years old)

The Merced River is so clean and clear (and cold)!

The Ahwahnee Hotel, now called the Majestic Hotel, is on the floor of Yosemite Valley.  It opened in 1927
 and was constructed from steel, stone, concrete, wood, and glass.  It's hosted presidents, kings & queens,
and other nobility in its day. Now it's still a place for the elite, going for $800 per night.     

The "lounge" area inside the hotel.

The dining room...

My favorite part--Giant Sequoias

Lewie walking inside a giant sequoia that fell.

Tree Hugger!

These trees have been around for thousands of years.  (The oldest one known is 3,500 years old.)
There is definitely something magical about these ancient forests.  I want to live here!
Our tour lasted about nine hours.  Lew and Little Lewie went back to the cabin to put on their bathing suites.  I went back to nap.  It was an extraordinary day, and there would still be much more to see!