Hiking Yosemite for the First Time

For Christmas, my mom gave us a pass to all the national parks. I believe her idea was that we’d use it a lot since we live about 1 hour from Yosemite (2 hours to the Valley Floor) and her wedding is at the Grand Canyon.

I wanted to go back in January or February when there was a lot of snow! Bret (and obviously Amelia) has never seen snow and I really wanted him to experience it. He, on the other hand, was not too keen on driving on icy and slippery roads on the side of a mountain with large falls off the road side. Clearly, he won that round.

Well, we finally made it up to Yosemite in April. Bret had a rare Saturday off (he typically has Thursday and Friday off) so we decided it was finally time to go.

We live right near the freeway so we went to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast and then hoped on the 41 to head up to Yosemite. About 5 minutes up the road I realized I forgot the pass to get in. Bret thought I was joking, naturally, but then realized I wasn’t when I kept telling him to pull over and turn around.

After getting the pass and getting back on the freeway, we were finally on our way.

One thing I wasn’t totally expecting was how windy the road was. By the time we reached the entrance of Yosemite, I thought I was going to throw up. Next time, I am definitely taking Dramaine. After we arrived at the South Entrance, it was about a 30-45 minute drive to the Valley Floor.

One of my favorite parts of the whole trip was Tunnel View. As you approach the descent down to the Valley Floor, you enter a tunnel that is part concrete and rock, it’s really cool. As you exit the tunnel, you get to experience this amazing view, called Tunnel View. It’s where, in one shot, you get to see some of the most famous Yosemite landmarks: El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and Half Dome.

The exit to the tunnel was very crowded since there is a designated parking lot and lookout area so you can capture the view. We decided not to stop and started our descent.

Earlier this year, a documentary came out about Alex Honnold and his amazing feat of free soloing El Capitan (“El Cap”), called Free Solo. Free soloing means climbing without any protective gear, such as ropes or helmets, literally nothing, just the clothes on your back, shoes, and a chalk bag. Alex Honnold is currently one of the most well-known (still living) free soloists in the world, and just a few years ago he free soloed El Cap.

The reason this is so amazing is that El Cap is completely vertical and made entirely of granite. If it rains, it’s very slippery; there are spots where there are no footholds or finger-holds; and it’s 7,569 feet tall. And Alex climbed it with no gear in just under 4 hours when it takes most climbers days to climb. If he had fallen, he would’ve died. But he didn’t and the crew that shot the documentary captured the whole thing on film. (Oh, and this documentary won the Oscar!)

Well, we watched this a few weeks prior to going to Yosemite. So after we drove through the tunnel and came upon this amazing view of El Cap, Bret and I just looked at it in disbelief thinking, “I can’t believe he climbed that.” Throughout the day I found myself saying that whenever we passed El Cap.

We had decided earlier that we would hike the iconic Lower Yosemite Fall trail. It’s categorized as “easy” and we figured this would be a good way to familiarize Amelia with being in a carrier for an extended period of time on our backs. We also wanted to explore the museums on the Valley Floor so we figured this trail isn’t strenuous so we wouldn’t feel exhausted afterwards.

The hike to Lower Yosemite Fall was really lovely. It was pretty easy, with no steep climbs at all. When we reached the lower fall, it was really windy and wet. This time of year the Fall is gushing with water because the snow is melting into the creek that feeds the Fall. It truly was beautiful!

After our little hike, we ate at Degnan’s, which is a small cafe on the Valley Floor. They mostly sell pizza and sandwiches, with lots of snacks and drinks. It was nice sitting outside eating lunch, because it was a great place to people watch, and the food wasn’t half bad either.

After lunch, we toured the Ansel Adams Galley and the gift shops, before finally heading out. On our way out we drove around the Valley Floor so we could get a closer look at Half Dome. My pictures of Half Dome were actually taken as I was hanging out the passenger window of our car. Anything for the shot, right?

On our way home and in the following days, we found ourselves reflecting on our brief time at Yosemite. We kept coming back to the sentiment that we really enjoyed it and the peacefulness and clarity it brought us.

Neither Bret nor I are new to hiking. I loved to hike in college and law school whenever I could. Over the years, I have found that hiking has been one of the best mental health healers for me. When I finally explained it to Bret how hiking helps me feel…well, normal, he got on board with my plan to hike more. We live two hours from Yosemite Valley and one hour from the Sequoias and Kings Canyon. We really have no excuse not to utilize the national parks pass. But I think this will also be a great way to exercise and take a timeout from life. Bret and I get caught up in the hustle and bustle of daily life. I believe hiking will be a great way to relieve a lot of that stress.

We also ended up buying a baby carrier backpack that’s made for hiking because the carrier we used for this hike was not really designed for hiking, but more for carrying a baby around the grocery store for short periods of time. We love the carrier we picked and Amelia loved sitting in it as we walked around REI testing it out. She is a trooper and actually loved hiking, so I’m excited for her to grow up doing these activities.

I’m excited to continue sharing our hiking adventures here! If you enjoy hiking, comment below what some of your favorite national parks are!

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