adventures of an american housewife in the south of france

Yosemite National Park

If there's one thing I learned on the trip back to California, it's this:  California is really freaking far from France. The bummiest part about the distance was that, because The Hub had booked his flight through work and we booked mine on miles, we weren't able to travel together during any part of the trip to and from France.  Which was fine, I'm obviously capable of traveling alone, it just gets really long and boring.  Door to door, the journey from our apartment in Montpellier to our hotel in Visalia (a town halfway to Yosemite) took nearly 28 hours:
  • 30 mins:  Waiting in train station
  • 4 hours:  Train from Montpellier to Paris
  • 1.5 hours:  Waiting in CDG
  • 8 hours:  Flight from Paris to Newark
  • 4 hours:  Layover in Newark
  • 6 hours:  Flight from Newark to LA
  • 30 minutes:  Waiting for baggage in LA
  • 3 hours:  Drive from LA to Visailia
The trip back to Montpellier was a little shorter, but not much better.  Especially since on the flight from LA to Chicago, I sat in a middle seat next to the World's Largest Man.  I"m talking Human Giant material, exceeding normal standards in height and width.  During all of my travels, I watched 8 movies (best:  Cedar Rapids.  worst:  Beastly), read 6 trashy magazines (gotta get my fix while I can) and read half of Life. All of the travel, and jetlag that followed, was completely worth it because we had a wonderful trip!  We started off by meeting The Hub's parents in Yosemite National Park for a few days of hiking and sightseeing.  I was so happy we were able to fit that into our vacation because it's a place I've always wanted to visit but couldn't quite fit into 6 years of living in California.  The Hub and his parents had been before and they were anxious to show me some of their favorite spots. We started off by doing a 4 mile evening hike through Hetch Hetchy, near our accommodations at The Evergreen Lodge (which I highly recommend if you want to visit Yosemite).  Hetch Hetchy is a controversial valley and reservoir that was completed in 1923 in order to provide drinking water to San Francisco residents.  Environmental activist John Muir (of NorCal fame) was adamantly against damming and flooding the valley (you can read his eye-opening memorandum on the subject here), but the federal government did not agree with him. Today the valley consists of a beautiful walking trail, the O'Shaughnessy dam, the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, lava trails and the Tueeulala Falls.  We had a wonderful time.

The Hub and his parents overlooking the O'Shaughnessy Dam

the valley below

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

hiking through lava trails

Tueeulala Falls

The next day, we headed off in search of a trail that The Hub and The In-Laws had done years ago to the top of the Lower Yosemite Falls.  I had heard a lot about this hike - the trail was treacherous, but the view absolutely worth it.  We set out in search of the trail and walked all along the valley floor.  After a few hours, we realized they must have closed it.  We later found out that it closed about 5 years ago because too many people were getting injured on the risky terrain.  Secretly happy that I wouldn't have risk my life for a view, we took in the view of the falls from the canyon floor.

valley floor

upper and lower yosemite falls

beautiful foliage

Because of this winter's record snowfall, the water was absolutely RAGING on this trip!  I've heard that during some parts of the year, the park is so dry that there's no water at all. It was very hard to imagine that.  The water level of the river was almost to the road and it seemed like everywhere we looked there were tributaries and small ponds being formed from the falls.

small pond

water, water everywhere

near the base of the falls

Next we headed back to the car to take a trip up, up, up to Glacier Point and stop at some lookouts along the way.

even from far away, you can tell how strong the water is!

nice backdrop, huh?

i feel so small

the valley down below. it was hard to believe we had been down there just a short time ago.

we finally made it up to glacier point

view of Half Dome from Glacier Point

Finally we headed over for a short 1-mile hike to Bridal Veil Falls.  I would say we only made it about .8 miles because the water was so crazy strong that we couldn't even get to the very base of the falls.  Even getting as close as we were was like taking a shower - everyone was drenched!!  It was super slippery and hard to walk to because it was so wet and I obviously couldn't bring my camera, but here are some pics from the trail.

base of Bridal Veil

crazy how much water and mist there was!

As if the day was not exciting enough, on our way back to Evergreen Lodge, we had two bear sightings!!  When I told this to my mom, she kind of freaked out.  I had to explain to her that a typical bear sighting in Yosemite does not take place by yourself in the middle of the woods.  Basically if you're driving along the main road in Yosemite (there's only one that's a big loop) and you see a bunch of cars pulled over to the side of the road, that means there's a bear.  When a bear is spotted, a ranger comes to the scene almost immediately.  Not to protect the tourists (although they do that too, they are armed with guns) but mostly to direct traffic and stop rubbernecking.  We were able to find a good spot to pull over and snap some pics of both bear sightings.

this was a mama bear that had her two cubs with her. she sent them up into the trees while she foraged for food

it might seem scary to have a mama bear in front of you who wants to protect her cubs, but she was completely oblivious to us and totally focused on her task of finding food. I think she was hungry - look how skinny she is!

this was a solo bear and was much bigger than the first one.

he was not as keen on having his picutre taken and didn't stick around long. luckily we were some of the first people on the scene.

It felt so wonderful to be away from the city and back out in nature.  I couldn't believe that Yosemite was only the beginning of our trip to California.  I can't wait to tell you all about the Spusta/Wachsmuth wedding, but I have to save that for tomorrow.

À Bientôt!

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