I know I did complain about travelling with my parents was hard work, deep down I was contradicting myself and actually quite enjoyed it no matter how frustrated I was. My dad is already 80 years old, his mobility is slowly deteriorating and with a bladder issue, so is getting difficult for him to travelling far. Few months ago, my parents tagged along with my sister and my niece to come to Australia and spent three weeks here. My dad kept saying that this would be his last overseas trip while he is still able to walk, so he was ready to spend big and enjoy it one last time. It pains me to hear that but that’s reality.
To think back, I am kind of glad that I was able to take my parents to visit my brother in United States a few years back. They were happy to see the grandchildren and we also managed to do a bit of sightseeing in between. We spent a weekend getaway at the Yosemite National Park and they enjoyed it… I think. Well I did.
Yosemite National Park is about 3 hours drive from San Francisco. But since we were in no rush, we took the scenic route and made many stops to explore small country towns. First protected in 1864, Yosemite National Park is best known for its waterfalls, but within its nearly 1,200 square miles, you can find deep valleys, grand meadows, ancient giant sequoias, a vast wilderness area, and much more. So rest assure that there are many outdoor activities you can do at the national park. Since none of us were going to do any hiking, so it was a short trip for us and only stayed for two nights. But we still able to do all the sightseeing in one day.
The Giant Sequoias
One of the major attractions at Yosemite National Park is the massive, ancient Giant Sequoias (pronounce se-koi-aa) trees. These giants live in three groves in the park and The Mariposa Grove is the most easily accessible near the park’s South Entrance. (Note – Unfortunately, the grove is currently closed for restoration until spring 2017).
Here is truly where the wild things are, I felt so insignificantly small standing amongst all the giant sequoias. Giant sequoias are the third longest-lived tree species with the oldest known specimen to have been 3,266 years old in the Converse Basin Grove of Giant Sequoia National Monument.
The Mariposa Grove contains about 500 mature giant sequoias. Yosemite’s famous Grizzly Giant in the park’s Mariposa Grove is estimated to be 1,800 years old plus or minus a few centuries, which is nothing to a giant sequoia. The tree is so tall that I had trouble to take a photo of the whole tree despite I was using a wide angle lens. Photos simply cannot do these trees justice.
We went to the National Park in mid September, so the weather temperature was pleasant and not too hot. My parents seems to love strolling in the grove, breathing in the fresh air, enjoying the tranquility while admiring the giants. Occasionally we saw deers grazing in the woods, and tiny squirrel holding acorn quickly dashed away back to its burrow.
And when you see a giant Sequoia, you pose with it!
“I am groot!”
Glacier Point Viewpoints
There are many viewpoints around Yosemite National Park, but the most spectacular viewpoints would have to be along Glacier Point Road. The Glacier Point Road is usually open late May or early June to sometime in November, close during winter. We first stopped at Washburn Point, here we caught our first glimpse of the iconic Half Dome.
It was an easy 2-minute walk fro the carpark to the viewpoint. Here you will get a more southerly perspective and looking at Half Dome edge-on instead of seeing its face (the view gets better next stop). Nevertheless, the view of the high country is still pretty spectacular and breathtaking.
Next stop is the most popular and also the busiest viewpoint in Yosemite National Park, the Glacier Point. The views from here are unsurpassed anywhere in California and I am not kidding. It’s a short, easy hike with gasp-inducing views as a reward, so be prepared to expect a huge crowd here.
So behold, the Yosemite Valley!
Here you really need to slow down and take it all in, put the camera down and admire the spectacular panoramic view with your own eyes. Hikers can also take the Four Mile Trail from here and all the way down to Yosemite Valley below. This trail will offer you a full monty of the Yosemite Falls, but the falls is only at its best during Spring after the winter snow melt. This hike offers great views of most of the landmarks that Yosemite Valley’s famous for, and all from angles you’re not used to seeing on postcards. Here at Glacier Point, you will get a better view of the Half Dome in its full glory and also three waterfalls (only during spring time), but it was all dried up when we were there.
Another famous landmark here at Glacier Point is the Overhanging Rock. You can find many old photos showing people doing crazy stunts on top of the rock. However, the spot has now been fenced off and visitors can’t get close to it anymore. I wouldn’t want to either because it is as dangerous as it look.
Down at Yosemite Valley Village
We spent the rest of the day down at the Yosemite Valley. There is a village centre here where you can find lodging, food, and information about camping or what to do, where to go. Down here in the valley offers a totally different view of the landscape.
In Yosemite Valley, the area around Sentinel Meadow is a favorite place to stop to look at Yosemite Falls. Sadly it was all dried up.
From the meadow, you will be able to see the Half Dome on the left and El Capitan on the right. It was a nice stroll around the meadow as we also spotted a deer resting in the shrub.
In Yosemite Valley, Sentinel Bridge is famous for its views of both Half Dome reflected in the Merced River.
The Tunnel View is another famous stop which offers a great view of the El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall rising from Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome in the background. Best to stop here on your way out of the national park in the later afternoon when the full view is bathing in sunlight without casting any shadows.
We probably had missed a lot of point of interests in the valley but I think my parents were well satisfied to see amazing landscape and giant trees that they’ve never seen before. I took them to a Smoked BBQ house for dinner (even though they would have preferred Chinese) for a complete true American experience. Sadly I just googled and the restaurant is permanently closed, oh well, it wasn’t that good anyway.