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INDULGENT ADVENTURES - Travel, adventure and windswept dreams.

The Two Sides of Yosemite


Gorgeous Waterfalls,  Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Ever upwards, the hike to Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

If you were in Silicon Valley, California and had two nights free before catching a plane home to Australia, what would you do?

Having already spent one night in San Francisco, and one night wine tasting in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys, we chose another must-do from our California bucket list – Yosemite National Park!  Yosemite achieved a certain mystique and a confirmed bucket list spot when my sister, traveling for work, managed to cram in a Yosemite bus tour and she came back with utterly gorgeous photos.

Where to stay?  For a two night visit, bringing a tent was too much like hard work , so our accommodation options ranged from motels outside the park (a long way out…), fixed tents (with shared bathrooms), cabins with en suite, motels, and the Anwahnee Hotel.

Get ready for it – Yosemite is expensive.  The cabin option cost as much as a a five-star hotel in Sydney, and it is at the lower end of the options…

In the end, we hedged, with one night in a cabin at Curry Village and one night in luxury at the Anwahnee…

The drive from Silicon Valley was long, but lovely, with some startling contrasts.  A long stretch of freeway through a rather monotone surburbia, then country California (including extensive orchards), some beautiful green ranch country, the red tones of the arid Sierra Nevada high country, followed by the stunning Yosemite region.

Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Yosemite is granite country, with the main valley glacier-carved and green with Ponderosa Pines, Incense-Cedar and California Black Oak.  As we drove in we struggled not to pull over for more photos every few hundred metres.

Majestic Trees, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Majestic Trees, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

While Australia has plenty of scary fauna, crocodiles aside, we do not have any large land animals that snack on adult tourists, so the scare-the-tourist bear awareness video at Curry Village check-in elicited a yelp from a tired traveller :-).    I think that’s how they identify the Aussies, before we even open our mouths…

Our Curry Village cabin was…  quaint, rather than Indulgent.  We were hoping for a nice verandah and table to indulge in our lovely Napa Pinot Noir with some cheese and biscuits, but no…  There’s not even a fridge in the cabins… I’am assuming the lack of facilities is to discourage too much food around the cabins attracting those big hungry Bears. The Cabin is small and basic. A double bed with side tables and  a small functional bathroom.

Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Curry Village, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Curry Village dinner choices were pizza on the deck or cafeteria (school-camp style).  We chose pizza.

The deck was a lovely place as the setting sun pinked the granite walls towering above us, and a perfect setting for our Napa Valley wine (corkage was reasonable).

While the cabin was basic, it was at least bear-proof, and my partner swears there was one checking out the proof-ness in the middle of the night (I slept through it.)  I don’t know how much sleep we would have managed with canvas walls…

Curry Village Cabin, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Curry Village Cabin, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

We had booked our accommodation in Yosemite ahead of time.  We hadn’t researched what to do there, and we chose our walk over coffee and something we were told were pancakes at breakfast in the cafeteria.

The good news – we chose a great walk!

The bad news – we misunderstood the length and were inadequately prepared.  (Later research tells us the Yosemite Falls trail is 6-8 hours, moderate to strenuous, an 11.6 km round trip and 825 m elevation gain.)

Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

The path is reasonably rough, reasonably exposed in places, and it goes up.  And up.  And up.  And still more up!

But it is gorgeous too.  The start of the walk is through lovely oak woodland.  Once you climb above the woodland the views of Yosemite Valley, the iconic Half Dome and Sentinel Rock are stunning.  A little further on you reach the base of Yosemite Falls – at 739 m, the tallest in the US.  And spectacular – even in a drought year.  They must be truly amazing in a wet year!

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Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Around every corner was another view and we had to stop and take yet another photo…

Gorgeous Waterfalls,  National Park, California, USA.

Gorgeous Waterfalls, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

And of course the cute blue birdies and the cute squirrels teased us….  (Yes, I know, Americans don’t find squirrels cute, but us Aussies do…)

Eventually the trail took us away from the Falls again and as we ran out of food, water and energy, we decided to turn around and come back down.

It seemed even longer down….

We had the promise of a beer at the Anwahnee to keep those tired leggies lifting as we turned each corner.

The Anwahnee is the most expensive night we have ever spent anywhere, which sets very high expectations – but it met them!

The Anwahnee, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

The Anwahnee, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Our room had views of the falls that had been our constant companion that day.  We had arranged for cold beers to be waiting for us in the room (how’s that for organisation!).  A long hot bath, ditch the dusty walking clothes, then dinner in the Grand Dining Hall. I have never eaten in such a massive space. Grand indeed!

The Grand Dining Room, The Anwahnee, Tosemite, California, USA.

The Grand Dining Room, The Anwahnee, Tosemite, California, USA.

Dinner itself matched the beautiful surroundings – superb.

The Anwahnee is a fantastic place to stay.  It is a beautiful historic building with fabulous big open fireplaces, the grand dining hall (how do they heat that in winter?), and all set in a gorgeous location.

The bed was soft, and being on the second floor, there was no risk of waking in the middle of the night to the sound of bears rattling the windows.

Guest Room, The Anwahnee, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Guest Room, The Anwahnee, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

In the morning it was with heavy hearts that we finished a delicious breakfast, packed our bags, bounced our credit card in the souvenir store (sigh…) and took our last farewell photos…

The Anwahnee, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

The Anwahnee, Yosemite National Park, California, USA.

Yosemite is a deservedly popular destination, and while expensive, has a range of accommodation.  The contrast between the school camp feel of Curry Village and the Indulgence of the Anwahnee is slightly surreal, but both have real charm.

Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park,, California, USA.

Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park,,
California, USA.

Some of the camping areas looked very pleasant, although the mix of tiny hiking tents and massive RVs was a bit startling.

Yosemite is now on our must-go-back-to bucket list.  I would love to do a multi-day hike and finish with a few nights relaxing at the Anwahnee – I just have to save a while…

Yosemite National Park Must do Rating: *****
Curry Village Cabin: ***
Anwhanee: *****

Final Words of Wisdom: Plan your activities before you go!

Essential Links

Yosemite National Park

 


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