Day 46 – Last Of The National Parks

Thursday, October 7, 2010
Miles To Date: 
6 731

The day began driving from Mariposa to the entrance of Yosemite. This took us on US Route 140 through the Sierra Nevada mountains. The road ran mostly along the Merced river and it was a nice scenic drive. At one stage we had to take a detour down a single track road since part of the main road has been blocked since 2006 by a rock slide. We saw the aftermath and we were glad it wasn’t when we were driving there! Eventually we reached the park boundary and carried on into Yosemite Valley. The valley is an impressive sight, with the famous Half-Dome and El Capitan dominating the skyline. On the way in we also saw some waterfalls – most notably the Bridal Veil Falls, which is supposed to look like its namesake. Apparently the falls are much more powerful in the spring when the ice melts, so we didn’t get to see them at their best.

After some lunch at the valley’s local grill we went to the visitor’s centre to see the exhibits. The valley was first formed by a river into a ‘V’ shape, and then by glaciers into a ‘U’ shape over millions of years. We also watched an orientation film about some of the park’s history, including how it was the first land ever protected by the US government for conservation in around 1860. By the end of the film the clouds that seem to be following us around were back, and we had to return to the car in the rain.

Our next stop was the main viewpoint of the park called Glacier Point. Its a 30 mile drive which first goes around the valley and then up one of the walls to come out at a point over 7,000ft up (and around 3,500ft above the valley floor). The quick change in altitude had a noticeable effect on us for the first time, with us becoming very short of breath on the gentle walk to the valley overlook (a drop to 40 degree air temperature also didn’t help). When we reached it we were right in the centre of a huge cloud, and we could barely see each other let alone the view! Luckily the clouds were constantly moving across the valley and after some waiting we got to see parts of the view. While we didn’t get the panoramic shots we would have liked, the clouds created an unusual effect and it was quite amazing seeing them move around and over the mountains.

On the way down from Glacier Point we stopped by a couple of other viewpoints to see the sunset, and then started the drive back to the motel. Yosemite was probably our last national park of the trip. Its strange to think we won’t be driving mountain passes again, and we have definitely got good use from our park passes. Tomorrow we reach San Francisco and the Pacific coast for the first time!

Photo(s) of the day: Glacier Point before the clouds cleared and then as they moved around Half-Dome.