Visiting Yosemite over Memorial Day is no easy feat. First there's the reservations. Made 365 - 4 days in advance for any of the hotels and 6 months for the campsites. Then there's the bus system, which is tolerable at best, yet better than driving on such a busy weekend. But in the end, it was completely worth it.
(Visitors tip: You can book hotels 365 days in advance for your date + 7 days out. So if you really want that hotel on a holiday weekend, here's what you've got to do. For a stay at the Yosemite Valley Lodge, Friday 5/26 - Monday 5/29, I called on 5/23 and booked from 5/23 - 5/29. After a few days I then called to modify my reservation and cancel the early days, leaving only 5/26 - 5/29. This way I was sure to get the room I wanted on the days that I wanted.)
Friday - Fresno Underground Gardens & Bridalveil Falls
Having packed Thursday night we were able to hit the road around 8am on Friday. On the way out to Yosemite we took a detour down to Fresno to visit some underground gardens. Apparently in the early 1900's this guy from Sicily immigrated to the US, initially to Boston and then out to California. Though he wanted to be a citrus farmer, he soon discovered the hard bedrock of Fresno, where he had settled. In an attempt to beat the summer heat, he began digging a series of tunnels and rooms underground. He built excavated over 10 acres of rooms and tunnels complete with skylights, underground citrus trees, a kitchen, multiple bedrooms, a "driveway," a pond which he could view from beneath, and even a system to direct rainwater from the skylights away into his sump system. He was also able to mate and fuse trees in such a way that he could get up to 7 different fruit varietals growing from the same tree.
After a short tour we headed back north to Yosemite. Arriving around 5pm, we stopped at Bridalveil Falls and did the short 0.3 mile hike up to the waterfall. This was our first introduction to exactly how much water Yosemite had gotten over the last few months. The water was RAGING and the base by the falls was WET! Max's first reaction to seeing all the water was "Oh My Gosh. Mommy, Oh My Gosh!" Max braved it out all the way to the falls and we all walked back to the car soaking wet but with a great memory and a story to tell.
Saturday - Lower & Upper Yosemite Falls + Swimming!
After a not so great breakfast from the Yosemite Lodge (so bad it's worth noting), we headed out to the lower falls.
Right at the trail start is a large boulder. After years and years of kids playing, a nice slide had formed on one side. Max made quick work of learning to climb up and slide down.
The lower falls trail is about a mile loop and the lower falls were raging, like all the rivers and falls in the valley. Fortunately we had our ponchos now so we could hang out by the falls for a while without getting too wet.
Jeremy and I decided that nap time was a great time to do the upper falls trail. With both boys on our backs we headed up, up, up. We made it a little over a mile past the overlook before deciding to head back down and get out of the heat. On the way up we even saw a baby rattle snake! I didn't feel like getting close enough to take a picture.
After our hike we arrived back at the lodge with just enough time to change into swim suits and take a quick 30 minute dip in the pool before closing. Of course the kids LOVED the swimming. Especially Max.
That night we ate at Curry (Half Dome) Village. The pizza was a long wait but delicious as always. It probably helped that there was no line for the beer and a lot of running around area for the kids.
Sunday - Mist Trail
Sunday we got out early and headed up to the Mist Trail. We got there around 9 am and headed up the trail. Jesse stayed in the pack on Jeremy's back most of the hike but Max did nearly the entire 3+ miles by himself! This even included hiking up Vernal falls where the term "mist" is a bit of a misnomer. When the high Sierras get over 80 feet of snow in a single winter, the water is raging in the valley. We were soaked by the time we got to the top, but Max did amazing. Once at the top we stopped for a lunch on the rocks in the warm sun, then headed back down the long path to the right so we didn't have to go down the slippery steps we'd just come up. What a great hike, I highly recommend this and I would add on Nevada Falls if you have the energy.
Hiking up by Vernal Falls.
Hiking up Vernal Falls
He made it!
Jesse made it too!
Getting the Yosemite bus back to our hotel took over 45 minutes + drive time, so we opted to stay at the hotel for dinner that night as well. Unfortunately because it took so long to wait for the bus, we missed out on swimming. Max was super disappointed. But he did get to "work" in the dirt while we were waiting for the bus.
Monday - Meadows, Bridalviel, & Homebound
Come Monday we opted for a quick breakfast then a walk through the meadows before heading home. Because of all the rain the meadows were quite heavily flooded and you had to stay on the trail. The boys enjoyed throwing rocks and sticks into the water. We watched how quickly the river took away the lighter sticks thrown off the bridge.
As we headed out of the valley we stopped once again at Bridalviel falls and did the short walk one more time. This time with ponchos so we could hang out at the falls and enjoy them for a little longer.
What a great weekend. I realize how much I love Yosemite and although it was crowded over memorial day weekend, I can't wait to come back. Next year I think we will camp (if I can get a site) and stay either in half dome village (old curry village) or near there since we like that area so much.