Revisiting Yosemite National Park

May 25-27 — Four days, although full ones, simply weren’t enough to really visit Yosemite National Park, so after we spent a lovely weekend visiting friends and connecting more with city life, we routed ourselves back into some more remote areas of Yosemite we hadn’t gotten to see the first time around.

The beautiful Tioga Lake in Yosemite NP
Tioga Lake on the eastern edge of the park; it’s scenery like this that we missed the first time and knew we wanted to come back to see
Lembert Dome
Lembert Dome, a striking granite dome that soars some 800 feet above Tuolumne Meadow
Lovely little lake in wilderness Yosemite NP
Pretty little lake we found off a dirt road off Tioga Road

Our first excursion found us taking an entire day to drive across Tioga Road, the beautiful 60-mile road that crosses the park north of Yosemite Valley and showcases some completely different scenery within the park.  [Due to heavy snowfall in the High Sierras, Tioga Pass is only open from May to November.]  We took our time as we crossed from the east side of Yosemite to the west side.  Stunning remote wilderness scenes took our breaths away, including glacier-created lakes and more snow-capped mountains.  We hiked on some different, far-less-crowded hiking trails including a nice 4-mile one we found around Lembert Dome and out to Dog Lake before making our way onto some of the John Muir Trail where it takes the same footpath as the Pacific Coast Trail… that’s right, the one on which Cheryl Strayed found herself and wrote about in her now-famous memoir, Wild.   

O'Shaughnessy Dam and the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir - built over the course of some 20 years and finally completed in 1938
The O’Shaughnessy Dam and Hetch Hetchy Reservoir – very controversial at the time it was built as the entire wilderness valley was sacrificed to supply the growing city of San Francisco’s increasing water needs

Day two found us out at Hetch Hetchy, the reservoir that was created within Yosemite when the O’Shaughnessy Dam was built back in the early 1900s.  An intense national debate broke out when proponents of the Hetch Hetchy Water and Power Project saw this place as the answer to the reliable water source problem the City of San Francisco leaders were looking for.  John Muir lead opposition to using public lands in this way; he wanted the valley to remain untouched for wilderness preservation.  Ultimately the city’s water needs won out and the dam was built — phase one was completed in 1923, then phase two in 1938 which raised the dam 85 more feet to hold back more water.  

Today the reservoir holds some 117 billion gallons of water and serves some 2.4 million people’s water needs. Interesting to note, no pumps are used to transport the water; tunnels and pipelines built over 20 years transport this snowmelt 167 miles entirely by gravity. While interesting to see yet another incredible engineering marvel, I couldn’t help but wonder what the valley beneath all that water once looked like — we’ll never know….

The Ahwahnee
The stunning Ahwahnee Lodge

We also spent a little more time on the valley floor that wasn’t flooded, and the highlight of this was dining at the famous Ahwahnee Lodge.  The Ahwahnee is Yosemite’s historic Four-Diamond hotel that’s known for its magnificent facade and architecture, gourmet cuisine, and sweeping views of Yosemite.  I was happy for the fine dining experience and didn’t hesitate to declare this the best meal I’ve had since being Out Here!

On the final day, Fred got to do the one hike he hadn’t done but wanted to on our previous visit — hike up to the top of Upper Yosemite Fall. His 9-mile hike was difficult, yet epoch, he reported. I stayed back to relax a bit and to fulfill my duties as Chief Logistics Officer — these travel-across-the-country plans don’t just make themselves, you know…!

Sun setting on Half Dome
Sun setting on Half Dome

Having spent three more days in Yosemite, we are once again in awe of the magnificence and splendor of this place.  Craggy peaks, roomy meadows, smooth granite domes, sheer granite cliffs, fabulous hiking trails… this, to me, is the epitome of what our national park treasures are.  Click here to see more photos from our second visit to Yosemite.  These won’t be our last pictures, for we plan to come back yet again to take in even more of this spectacular place….