When talking about visiting California, our friends mentioned two places. The first one was San Francisco, with both positive and negative experiences. The second place was Yosemite National Park. We had for a long time considered going there and were looking into how to rent a car and drive ourselves. Then it just happened to be so, that we were more than lucky.
Planning a Crazy Day Trip
We were walking around at San Francisco Premium Outlets outside of Livermore on our first full day in California. Shopping eventually switched to planning a day trip for the next day.
Before heading to California we had planned meetings with two distant relatives. An aunt to my great-great-grandmother emigrated to Kansas and a big part of her descendants eventually ended up in California. My research into my family’s ancestors and the building of a family tree has now exceeded 8.000 individuals. In the meantime, I have also gotten in touch with several distant relatives in the United States – all related to that aunt of my great-great-grandmother.
Want to read more? Getting in Contact with Distant Relatives Abroad?
Our first meeting with a distant relative was planned for that very evening. The second meeting was scheduled for the day after, another dinner. What happened during our shopping trip was this: I received a text message asking if we would be interested in replacing the dinner plans with a crazy trip. And not just anywhere, to Yosemite National Park. We were of course not late with accepting the suggestion.
Yosemite National Park
We can both readily admit that we didn’t know how to correctly pronounce the name Yosemite. Our thought was that it was pronounced in the same was as Marmite. We were soon taught that it was “yoh-SEM-i-tee”, meaning “killer” in Miwok.
Yosemite National Park was established already in 1890 and it covers over 3.000 square kilometers. It is a few hours east of San Francisco, close to the border with Nevada. Around 4 million visitors come there each year.
Most visitors usually end up in the Yosemite Valley. This is the valley over which the summits of Half Dome and El Capitan hoover. Half Dome has an elevation of 2695 meters, which is 1444 meters above the valley floor. The height, shape, and challenging climb have made it one of the most distinctive geological features of the Yosemite National Park. The valley is also the home of several waterfalls, including the Yosemite Falls, which is the highest waterfall in North America.
The Yosemite Valley is filled with hiking trails, both down in the valley as well as more challenging trails up the mountainsides. When walking you might encounter not only plants but also the park’s wildlife. It is even illegal to leave food in your cars due to the black bears. The valley is available for a day after paying the entrance fee, 35 USD as of 2019 for a non-commercial car.
Our Crazy Day Trip to Yosemite National Park
We didn’t get on the road as early as planned, but it didn’t matter. Our goal was to get to Yosemite and to have a great time. My distant relative Stephanie picked us up and we were soon on our way east. It takes about three hours to drive to the Yosemite Valley from Livermore and the landscape changed along the route. The closer we got, the more dramatic the landscape.
After arriving in the valley we were soon enjoying our surroundings. Visiting in October turned out to be great. Well, the waterfalls might have been drying up, but there was a limited number of other visitors. In other words, we could really use our time effectively.
Before lunch, we took the opportunity to see the summit of Half Dome and enjoy the valley floor. It wasn’t until after lunch that we finally decided where to go, the mist trail. Well, not the full trail. This was also the trail recommended by the workers in the park, as it had one of the few waterfalls still containing some water. This was also a great way to get to know the free shuttle buses that connect the different parts of the Yosemite Valley.
Yosemite Mist Trail
The mist trail took us towards the Vernal Falls. The trail is about 2.3 kilometers long and it goes slightly uphill until you reach the base of the fall. You have reached about halfway once you reach the Vernal Falls Bridge. It is also here that the trail’s slow incline is replaced with steps for some parts. Even though the trail is challenging from time to time, it is manageable in a slow pace.
We took a slow walk up towards the Vernal Falls, then while Susann and Stephanie were resting I took the opportunity to explore further. The much steeper climb to the top of the 97 meters high fall is mostly done on slippery and steep steps. The reward is the view out over the valley and the Emerald Pool. It is illegal to swim in the Emerald Pool and several deaths have occurred due to people breaking the law and being swept down the Vernal Falls.
This was also our last view for the day and we were soon on our way back down the trail. It was still a long drive back to Livermore, but we had a great day to remember already.
Our trip did not end in Yosemite, read more about our adventure in North America here >>