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Yosemite Part I: Valley

Paul’s immediate family lives in New Mexico and Orange County, CA. In order to visit each other and see a new destination, we took a group trip to Yosemite the last weekend of September. The family in New Mexico met us in the Bay area. We rented a van in order to drive to Yosemite together. We meet Paul’s sister and husband, Aunt and Uncle E. from Orange County in Mariposa, CA.

We drove into Yosemite National Park early in the morning from our motel in Mariposa with a plan of finding camp spots along Tioga Road. After hours of beautiful vistas on the curvy road with a car sick toddler and a slowly dwindling tank of gas in our rented van, we were fortunate to stop to rest at Tioga Mine Road. Aunt and Uncle E. continued on the search in their car, which had plenty of gas.

Tioga Mine Road

The perfect natural playground for Sam. Beautiful tall trees, sticks to collect, large rocks for jumping and climbing, and time spent exploring with his grandparents and uncle.

Aunt and Uncle E came back with great news – they found a camp site!


After setting up camp at our sites in the Porcupine Flats campground and eating sandwiches, we headed to Yosemite Valley to get gas (we made it before hitting empty!) and see some of the sites.

Along the way, we stopped at an overlook with a view of Bridalveil Falls. The waterfall was not flowing, possibly due to drought, but a nice view anyway.

Bridalveil Falls

We stopped for a brief first look at El Capitan.

El Capitan

Then, headed to Sentinel Beach – one of my favorite stops of the trip. The creek was flowing where Sam skipped rocks with his grandparents. A fallen log provided a perfect seating area for viewing El Capitan in the afternoon light. Best of all, this spot was absent of any crowds. So quiet.

Sentinel Beach

Curry Village and Happy Isles trail was our next destination. We started towards the trail, which mostly hugged the road, for a while. As we approached a split in the path and were deciding which to take, a Yosemite shuttle bus came along. Some of us must have been eyeing the driver, because she slowed down with a look of questioning if we’d like to jump on (we were not by a bus stop). We probably could have figured out the trail direction without problems, but not sure of how much daylight we had mixed with a bit of tiredness, we made the quick decision to accept her offer and rode back to the parking lot.

I did not previously know Yosemite had free shuttle service to some of the trail heads. Very cool! They are mostly available in the Valley, but a great way to check out the trails in that area and alleviate some of the traffic and parking in the national park.

Half Dome

Dusk set as we watched a deer and it’s fawn in a meadow. Then, we headed on the long, over an hour, drive back to camp watching the gorgeous sunset over Yosemite along the way.

Camp Fire

Dinner of chicken sausages, baked beans, and potato salad was prepared by the campfire in the dark. Sam was mesmerized by the camp fire. Camping books by flashlight was Sam’s choice of activity. After dinner, we were all cold and ready to be in our sleeping bags. S’mores were skipped and we headed to our tents.

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