April 9, 2012

Exploring Yosemite

Ever since arriving in Yosemite National Park, Kitty has been very busy.  She has taken it upon herself to be the watch cat for bears.  Bear safety is a huge concern in the park, and proper food storage is strongly enforced here, particularly around the campgrounds.  Kitty has been on high alert and can’t seem to settle down for her usual naps.  Alas, Tim and I haven’t seen any bears yet, only a few deer.  Wildlife sightings have been scarce, at least to the folks we’ve spoken to.

I Really Need a Nap
We took the shuttle to the visitor center this morning to check out the exhibits and get my passport stamp.  To reduce traffic and pollution in Yosemite Valley, the National Park Service operates a free shuttle that runs every ten to twenty minutes.  Most of the buses are electric/diesel hybrids.  How nice to just park the RV and leave the driving to someone else.

Following our exceptional dinner at the Ahwahnee last night, we made reservations to return for lunch today.  We had another memorable meal, with both of us enjoying the chicken and pasta entrees.  Then there was dessert (there always seems to be dessert!).  The pistachio gelato was some of the best I’ve ever had.

Pistachio Gelato with a Marble Cookie Tuile
We had time to explore the public spaces at the Ahwahnee today and wander around the grounds.  The Ahwahnee opened its doors in 1927 and was built at the urging of Stephen T. Mather, the first director of the National Park Service.  Mather aggressively promoted the national parks and felt that a world-class hotel would attract people of influence and money.  Mather believed that if these people could appreciate Yosemite in its natural state they would be moved to obtain support and funding for his new agency. 

The hotel, designed by Gilbert Stanley Underwood, is an outstanding example of National Park Service rustic architecture and harmonizes beautifully with its setting.  Grand public spaces include the dining room and a lounge that features walk-in fireplaces at each end. 

The Ahwahnee Is a National Historic Landmark

The Grand Lounge
The Mural Room
My only disappointment in traveling with Kitty is that we cannot spend the night at national park lodges.  I love the history and architecture of these lodges and have stayed at many of them in the past.  It would have been nice to share old favorites with Tim and to experience new ones.  But I can’t have everything and have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed camping in the parks.

We continued our exploration of the park after lunch and visited the Yosemite Museum, which is devoted to the park’s Native American heritage.  The design and size of some of the woven baskets on display was remarkable.  We met with the park’s museum registrar, and she and Tim compared notes.  Tim also ran into one of his former interns, who now works at Yosemite.  It’s a small world in the National Park Service.

We ended our day with a hike to Yosemite Falls, one of the iconic waterfalls in the park and the tallest waterfall in North America.  There is an upper and lower fall, and both were flowing furiously today.  Spring is the perfect time of year to view the falls, as most will be dry by summer.  People can’t seem to resist crawling around the boulders at the base of the falls, and in the snow that is still on the ground.  Let’s hope there won’t be any accidents today.

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls
Sarah and Tim at Lower Yosemite Falls

Lower Yosemite Fall
Upper Yosemite Fall

Half Dome


  1. I didn't realize how big the falls were until I saw the itty bitty people at the bottom of the picture! :-) Thanks for the explanation of the hotel. That's on my bucket list now. LV

    1. LV, Yes, the falls are really tall! You can see them from almost every place in the valley. I hope you get to visit Yosemite and the Ahwahnee in the near future. If you have a choice, early to mid-May is a great time to come. Sarah

  2. I am glad Kitty was on the look out for you. How beautiful the falls are. Also the food looks good too. Love A

    1. A, Kitty takes her job very seriously! And yes, the food was almost as beautiful as the falls. Sarah