Yosemite and LA

This first day of being married begins after catching up on much-needed rest. The wedding ceremony yesterday and the reception last night went exceptionally well, and just about everything went as planned. This morning is beautiful. We stand on the balcony to take in the crisp morning air.

After a lazy breakfast buffet and getting the rental car, we drive out and join the congested freeway toward LA. Parts of the sections around downtown remain a parking lot for quite some time, and all this reminds us of how nice it is not to have to commute long to work. But before long, we’re out of the gridlock and well along the way to Yosemite.

Along the 99 to Fresno, we pass along acre after acre of almonds, pistachios, and walnuts interspersed with vineyards. We talk about the California drought and how the almond and alfalfa crops are sucking the state dry, effectively exporting our much needed water to countries like China. After Fresno, the scenery transforms to golden rolling knolls dotted with spreading oak trees.

Tenaya Lodge is a beautiful resort nestled at the forests’ edge just outside the south entrance to Yosemite. The concierge gives us some things we can do today and tomorrow. The drive to Glacier Point is nice for sunset views, she suggests, and the Mariposa Grove is on the way there. For touring the valley tomorrow, there is the Mist Trail. She tells us to skip Mirror Lake if we are short for time; Mirror Lake should actually be Mirror Meadow to reflect the effects of the statewide drought.

We decide to take up her suggestion. At Mariposa Grove, we are greeted by two mosquitoes. This isn’t bad, considering that there often is a lot more. It’s probably still early in the season. After taking pictures of some giant sequoias at the entrance to the parking lot, we speed hike to the Bachelor and the Three Graces.

Glacier Point is cold, windy, and exposed, but the views are stunning. The setting sun doesn’t turn anything red as we had hoped, but it is all so spectacular and breathtaking. We fight the swarms of tourists who vie for photo spots, and after scouting around, we situate ourselves on a giant boulder. The soft light from the cloud-covered sun diffuses the harshness of the landscape. This would make one of our favorite photos from this section of the trip.

Morning of the second day arrives. We hadn’t noticed that it was already getting late, and by the time we’re ready, it’s time for brunch. The Wawona Hotel makes giant breakfast portions, and we pack our leftover toast for later in the day. From there, we wind our way to Yosemite Valley.

Although the shuttle system looks confusing on the map, it turns out to be pretty easy to use. We hop on at stop 11 and ride to the trailhead at stop 16. The Mist Trail is crowded. Squirrels along the way are fearless. Rather than beggars, they act like models posing for tourists pictures. Across the main bridge, there is the last water stop. We fill up and find a secluded corner, away from the crowds, where the waterfall and boulders make a nice photo opportunity.

After a lot of climbing along slippery steps, we finally make it to the top of Vernal Falls. Everyone is wanting a picture at the corner of the railing, just to the side of where the water cascades down the granite lip. We get our one and only chance. All around, there are signs that warn of dangers: falling, drowning. Today, it seems that everyone is heeding those warnings.

Instead of going back down those slick rock steps, we decide to take the long route around, cutting across to the John Muir Trail and going down along dry swtichbacks to reach that same bridge. Again, we fill with water for the rest of the journey down this trail.

We get the rest of the afternoon to explore parts of the valley, from the store to the Visitors’ Center and theater. Exiting the park, we do a short hike to Bridalveil Falls. We’re not sure how this waterfall is more bridalveil-like than other ones, but we take a picture to illustrate what we think the name is supposed to refer to.

Back at the Tenaya Lodge, we order cedar-plank salmon with quinoa from the Sierra Restaurant. Then, a soak in the Ascent Spa closes our quick but beautiful Yosemite experience.

The third day is filled with driving, first through the same scenery of oak-dotted hills and expanses of crops, then through the traffic gridlock of LA. We make it to Terranea Resort and Spa later than had hoped for, but it is still before sunset.

The peninsula is a high bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There is a secluded beach just below the swimming pool where our balcony overlooks. From the many crashing waves and tidal ebbs, the boulders are polished smooth like giant smooth lopsided eggs. We then stroll along the trail to the west side, hoping to catch some glimpses of the sunset. The sun, however, is covered by a thick layer of clouds along the horizon. In the distant, there is a picturesque backlit lighthouse.

Dinner at Mar’sel is fabulous. We enjoy some of the signature dishes there. We both agree that the roasted eggplant and ricotta drizzled with saba is one of their best creations, but the steamed black seabass with melted leeks is phenomenal as well.

Day four marks our last before leaving the States. The eighteen miles to the airport takes nearly an hour of stop and go traffic along Highway 1. We arrive with plenty of time. This is the first of twenty passes through nine airports. The newly renovated Tom Bradley terminal is buzzing with commercial activity, and this is quite different from the old sterile boarding area of previous years. After having vegetable udon noodles for lunch, we board our flight to Shanghai and close this first chapter of our honeymoon.

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