Whether or not you live in California, visiting Yosemite should be on your bucket list. From San Francisco, it is a 3.5 hour drive. There are tours in large or small buses or you can go on your own. I have gone to Yosemite using both modes of transportation. Both times, they were completely worth it.
Ten years ago, my boyfriend at the time and I took our dog to this magical place. With a fascination with geology from college, the sedimentary layers and the massive monoliths of towering granite is guaranteed to make you gasp. We drove our BMW M5 with Bevo in tow and stayed at an inn near a running river. We took a flat trail on a nice day and enjoyed the peacefulness. See previous blog post HERE.
Now as a Concierge for a hotel at the Fisherman’s Wharf, one of our partners is Grayline. To be able to speak more about what the hotel guests can expect from their tour with Grayline, I was able to go complimentary and bring a friend. For this particular event, I decided to take my new roommate, Kim. My friend, Christy, her boyfriend and my niece and nephew also came along. It was a very long day. As I am fundraising for my first half marathon with Team in Training at Walt Disney World in memory of my Lolo, I asked them dress in their Disney gear. My friends got a few questions about why we were wearing our Mickey/Minnie Mouse ears. Success! Some attention to my cause was received. SPONSOR ME HERE.
As Bart did not start running until after we were supposed to be near Union Square, I reserved a parking spot via SpotHero (Get $7) and we were on the road at 6 AM. We walked a couple blocks to the City Tour office and checked in. The blue bus eventually picked us up across the street. Antonio, our driver, gave us a download of what to expect, our timeline and about the bus. Then we were on our way with commentary along the way.
Our first stop was a Denise’s Market outside of the Bay Area where you can order a breakfast bagel, sandwiches, smoothies and pick up fresh fruit and their delicious and unique flavored corn nuts. We were pretty stocked with snacks for the road from a late night grocery shopping trip the night before but I still ordered a BLTA. And it was pretty tasty.
The next stop was at an almond orchard and Antonio told us about how they were harvested before and after the technology improvements and the history of Cesar Chavez. The unripe almond shells were green and had a bit of fuzz.
I needed to sleep and woke once we got to the gates of Yosemite National Park. Our first stop was overlooking the valley with Bridalveil Falls in the background.
Next, we stopped at a spring with a natural filtration system underground that prov
ided fresh, cold water. It was honestly pretty tasty. The kids were able to fill their water bottles and taste the purity in the water.
Anxious to get off the bus and be able to explore, we had one more stop before we had some free time to explore The next stop was bypassing Bridalveil Falls and going up to the tunnel lookout. I believe my magnet from my first visit was this very view. You had a view of the Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, the valley and Half Dome. It was gorgeous.
Finally, we were dropped off at Stop 7 on the park’s shuttle route. We first got a bathroom break in, did some yoga and recreated the dancing scene on a log from Dirty Dancing and we headed off to eat before we did a little hike.
Walking to the nearby Stop 8, we opened the door to find a very modern cafe area with ordering kiosks, a place for hamburgers, pizza and even Starbucks. The dining room was large but there was some outdoor seating. I had the Asian Chicken Salad which was OK. Kim had the Tomatillo Ranch salad which was lacking some flavor. The kids mac and cheese was very oily on the bottom. I’d say the restaurant options were interesting but not fantastic.
During lunch, I decided on our route as we now had only 2-2.5 hours to explore. As we were close by, we went to get as close as we can to Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls. The kids were having a great time running through the area and jumping rocks and dodging people. Unfortunately, with our time limitations, we couldn’t leave them just to play on rocks in one area. We had to keep going. Kim and I lead the way and eventually the family followed. Near the base, you can feel the spray from the waterfall and you can’t even see the Upper Yosemite Fall anymore.
Then we had to make our move to near the base of Half Dome. I wanted to do a longer trail and even check out the hotels there but there wasn’t enough time. I guess that means I’d have to come back. Once again, I lead the way and raced the kids to keep them going and moving, and even stopped at an ancient form of communication: the payphone! It was fun and it was great practice and get more exercise in for this half marathon I’m training for.
The Half Dome Village location on the map wasn’t really the base of the monolith. It was still at quite the distance. But we stopped here, took photos, waited for our free shuttle as time was winding down and we just made it in time back to the bus. We had to wait 30 minutes more for those tourists that didn’t do a good job of planning accordingly. One guest was even too far to make it back and Antonio had to coordinate the bus coming tomorrow to pick him up and he had to figure out his accommodations for the evening. That will be a pretty steep hotel stay.
We made two more stops. At this point, we were exhausted and didn’t want to stop, get off the bus or do anything else. But we did. We were at the base of El Capitan and being in the grass area between these towering natural monuments was beautiful. Kim said that it was still peaceful with all the people around.True. Then you hear a break in a tree branch. It’s that kid again that stood on railings just to get a photo. Not very bright. Anything can happen and you could fall to your death. Please don’t be this person. You’re not cool.
The next and final stop in Yosemite National Park was a final look at El Capitan and Bridalveil Falls while at the river. I stepped away from the group and took a moment to not talk and take in what I’m looking at. It was a beautiful sight and the sound of the river was calming. I took my Minnie Ears off as they sometimes hurt the sides of my head and placed it on a rock. I thought about my Lolo as I sat at the Gates of Heaven in Yosemite Valley. I also thought about things that were bothering me and it made me sad, disappointed and feeling like I need space. Like THIS kind of space, accompanied with peace. Besides crossing off places to see on your bucket list, coming to places like Yosemite can be enlightening. I recommend scheduling some time for yourself when you go there. You won’t regret it.
We loaded up in the bus, made our way out of Yosemite and I tried to doze off. The next stop was at Oakdale, the Cowboy Capital of the World. I didn’t see a single cowboy, by the way. More eating. I have been craving dessert and something warm so I ordered mashed potatoes and gravy from KFC and a soft serve from A&W. What a treat.
We finally made it back to Union Square and it was about 10:30 PM. We still had to drive home to Hayward. We said our quick goodbyes and delirious discussions until our heads hit the pillow.
What a gorgeous place. I hope to make it back there soon. Contact me to book you on this same tour or reserve a rental car for you to do the drive on your own. It will be worth it. I have never had a hotel guest return to say they didn’t enjoy themselves.