California Dreaming: Yosemite National Park

One of the most important things my parents taught me was to love, respect and enjoy nature. My childhood was filled with being outside and I enjoyed every minute of it.
My parents lived near Sacramento, CA for a few years prior to moving to Frederick and have always ranted and raved about Yosemite National Park. So when I was planning our California Vacation Trip I knew Yosemite had to be on the list.  I expected it to be my favorite leg of the trip and boy was I right!
It only took about 3 hours to get to Yosemite from Carmel (recap of Carmel here and of Los Angeles, here). We were sad to be leaving the beach but had heard amazing things about Yosemite such as visiting the giant Sequoia grove to witnessing the famous tunnel view in the Valley.
Our first stop was Mariposa Grove; home to the endangered and magnificent giant sequoia trees. We had a wonderful drive in through Sierra National Forest. With views like that we didn’t mind the last hour of our drive one bit.
Once we entered Mariposa Grove we were instantly in awe of the giant trees. We grabbed a map and walked the trails and loved stopping at the various named trees; such as the Giant Grizzly,  the Bachelor & The 3 Graces and the Faithful Couple. There were information signs along the trails telling facts about the Giant Sequoias, needless to say the Hubs and I learned a ton. Some of the Giant Sequoias in the grove are said to be over 2,000 years old and can grow 30 feet wide/250 feet tall!  Another fun fact about Giant Sequoias is that they need light to survive and grow. To help with the prosperity of new Giant Sequoias, park official set controlled forest fires to get rid of any underbrush that exists that would the little sequoias from getting light.  Don’t fret, the Giant Sequoias have a super thick spongy bark that helps protect them from fire damage.(PSA Mariposa Grove is closed until 2017 for special restoration projects)
Next it was off to Yosemite Valley. There were a ton of places to stop along the way to view the famous tunnel view (which was beautiful) each stop being better than the last.  The tunnel view includes picturesque views of Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls and Yosemite Valley. That view is really something else folks!  Who would have thought rocks could be so beautiful and memorizing? We had scheduled a star gazing tour for that night so  we headed to the ticket booth at Yosemite Lodge at the Fall to grab our Starry Skies tickets and put our name in to eat dinner at the Mountain Room Restaurant. There was a little bit of a wait (first come first served basis) so we walked around to all the gift shops to pick out mementos and gifts for our family.
Soon our table was ready with a perfect view of Yosemite Falls. I ordered a delicious flat iron steak topped with blue cheese butter with a side of roasted potatoes w/ veggies. Soon it was time to head to the meeting point for our the tour. We were a little worried if the tour would be cancelled since the clouds had seemed to take over but low and behold it cleared up as our tour began.
Our tour guide took us to a remote location with tarps laid out. We laid back, relaxed and listened to facts and old stories about the stars and constellations. I highly recommend this is you find yourself in Yosemite!
By the time we got to our hotel, Cedar Lodge outside of the park in El Portal, it was late and we were exhausted.  Needless to say we slept like babies.
The next day we were excited for a full day of nothing to do except explore! The whole day was filled with wandering around aimlessly in Yosemite Valley. We saw Yosemite Falls, Mirror Lake and walked various trails all day. We saw tons of wildlife including foxes and deer; and kept our eyes out for any mountain lions (and bears) when we found ourselves completely alone.  
Around lunch time we headed towards the village area to grab some grub. We sat outside resting and people watching when the skies opened up and it back to down pour; thank goodness we were under cover. We passed the time chatting and buying cheap canned beer from the little convenience store. Finally we decided we couldn’t there any longer and we walked in the rain about 30 minutes to our car.  Along the way we saw a couple (only accompanied by a Minister) in the middle of a field in the rain (dress and all!) getting hitched. What better backdrop to get married to!?  
Cars were caught in dead stop traffic from everyone trying to leave at one time. Luckily by the time we got to our car, the traffic had started to move. The rain had stopped by the time we got back to the hotel so we showered and explored the Cedar Lodge grounds. We grabbed some drinks and sat along the river and relaxed the rest of the night with a beautiful view. Even though our time in Yosemite was short, it was beyond memorable. I cannot wait to go back! (and spend more time there!) Although the pictures does not do Yosemite justice, here are some shots from around the park.

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