Yosemite and the Tioga Pass

August 6, 2012

After a great family visit, we left Monday morning for a loop to Yosemite, Mammoth Lakes, Mono Lake, and Lake Tahoe.

We entered Yosemite National Park and reached this popular viewpoint on the way to the valley at about 1pm. The clearly recognizable form of Halfdome lets you know that you have arrived at Yosemite.

From this popular viewpoint we descended steeply through three tunnels on the edge of a rocky gorge with a stream at its bottom. We reached Yosemite Valley and found that we could still drive in, although a free shuttle was provided.

Driving in on the valley road, we were treated to the sight of Bridal Veil Falls.

We drove around the valley loop in Yosemite and enjoyed the meadows with the rock mountain backgrounds.

We drove to a pleasant picnic area at the base of El Capitan and had our lunch.

Several of the Stellar's jays flitted about the picnic area.

The Stellar's jays are not particularly beautiful, but the blue wing color is dramatic if you get the right lighting. I find them fascinating because we don't have them in the east. The most interesting thing we saw was this one who was burying a bit of bread that he had gotten from one of the picnic tables.

Brenda poses by one of the huge Ponderosa pine trees that inhabit Yosemite Valley. We love the big trees, and it is kind of a tradition to take a picture by one. We did it with Jeff in 1982 and with Ashleigh in 2004. We skipped the tradition on the 1994 trip, perhaps because of the snow.

After a loop back through the valley with another look at the beautiful meadows, we headed toward Tioga Pass at about 3pm.

We drove the high, winding Tioga Pass road through the high forest until we came to the dramatic lookout named Olmstead Point. It was named after Frederick Law Olmstead (1822-1903), a landscape architect who chaired the first commission to manage Yosemite Valley and is known for a report written to recommend policy for protecting Yosemite. His son, Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr.(1870-1957), was also a landscape architect and helped not only Yosemite but contributed to the process of establishing the National Park Service in 1916.

Here we got a dramatic view of Halfdome from a different direction. At this lookout you are surrounded by massive expanses of gray granite.

Beside the road was a large, cracked dome of granite with large boulders on it, shown below. The boulders are called "glacial erratics", placed there by the last glacial action and testament to the glacial formation of this area.

These tenacious old juniper trees growing out of the granite rock faces add a lot of character and beauty to the landscape.

Brenda in front of the granite dome across from Olmstead Point. Everything here reminded us of our 2004 trip here with Jeff and family. We climbed this granite dome then for a view of Tenaya Lake and the surrounding Sierras.

It also of course reminds us of Atlanta's Stone Mountain, which we visited just weeks ago with Suzanne and Mary. It is a very similar granite dome.

Heading down from Olmstead Point we get the unforgettable view of Tenaya Lake nestled in the mountains. This blue lake surrounded by these massive granite mountains is view enough to justify the whole trip over the Tioga Pass.

The Tioga Pass road took us right to the shore of Tenaya Lake and we walked around a bit. Lots of folks were there swimming, fishing, sunning and enjoying the beauty of the area. Jeff and the girls had gone swimming there on the 2004 trip.

When we left the above spot, our road took us right around the rocky shore of the lake to the end of the lake.

The road now took us through Tuolumne Meadows, a place very dear to our hearts. We had been delighted to find it on our 1982 trip with the boys. The treasured memory of bringing the boys here made us want to bring the granddaughters here as well, which we did in 2004.

We enjoyed being here, but longed for the family to be with us. Certainly we were not lonely - the campgrounds and lodges were filled to overflowing and it was good to see so many people enjoying the beauty of this place. We didn't tarry because it was after 5pm and we still had to find housing for the night.

We still had to go over the Tioga Pass itself at 9945 feet. Then we started the long winding road downward to the Mono Lake basin.

We reached the junction of CA 395 at Lee Vining at 6:15 pm with a view of Mono Lake out in front of us. We turned south and drove about 25 miles to Mammoth Lakes because we had been told that there were plenty of reasonable motels there which should have vacancies. At the first motel Brenda was almost laughed at and told that this was the busiest weekend of the year since school starts next week. We went to the Ranger Station and Brenda was able to find a reasonable motel, so we were relieved to settle in for the night.

Mammoth Lakes

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