Thanksgiving Under Yosemite Falls

Ahh, grand Yosemite!  I can tell you one thing–the Sierras confirm over and over for me John Muir’s saying, “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

Also, Yosemite during Thanksgiving was even better than Yosemite during Memorial Day Weekend.  The same awesome and familiar granite friends and snow melt greeted me.  Though less water made for less robust waterfalls, the late season meant less people, and surprisingly, better weather.  On my previous trip I was awed by the valley’s grandeur and charmed by the toxic California newts that crawled about Hetch Hethchy by the thousands, but the snow and rain had put a damper on the camping.

Just a couple days before Thanksgiving this year we spontaneously decided to Amtrak it. Yes, that’s a verb, I just made it up–like BART it, or google it.

Why hadn’t we taking Amtrak before?  I’d taken it across country twice, but not specifically to get to a national park.  If I would have known how cheap and easy it was I would have made it over to Yosemite several times by now.  Since we don’t own a car, we saved money by not having to rent one, and saved the hassle of driving by jumping on the train from Emeryville to Merced.

Only 3 hours. With a table, views, and wine.

From there it is about an hour and half via the timed bus (YARTS) to the park.  Because it was winter and because the lodge rooms (which I don’t have a desire to stay at anyway) and heated cabin tents were all reserved, we got a good deal at Cedar Lodge just outside the park.

From there we could catch the shuttle in and out of the park.  Once we missed the bus and decided to hitch-hike into the park (that is, I cajoled Claudia into it with promises that nothing “SAW-like” would occur). After dozens of regular American citizens (trained to have either a fear of strangers or precious too attachment to personal car space) passed us by, a nice British couple picked us up.  They were sight-seeing around California and Nevada and were on their way back to Las Vegas to catch their flight.

Because the free park shuttle stays in the valley, we weren’t able to get up into other higher elevations this time.  We had been to Hetch Hetchy (San Francisco’s water source) and Tioga Road was closed again due to snow.  It gave us a chance to explore in detail most parts of the valley on moderate hikes with beautiful weather.  We even made time for an afternoon nap along the Merced river.

I’m really chomping at the bit to get to Toulumne. Meadows.  Next time for me though it’s going to be a backpacking trip as part of a John Muir Trail Trek (JMT) next June.

There’s nothing quite so serene as a Thanksgiving dinner of sandwiches, carrots, and hummus under Yosemite Falls with a rainbow for desert.  My boulder-hopping to get to the giant crevice towards the top of lower Yosemite falls was exhilarating, though it exacerbated my rib pain that I had incurred the previous weekend at the Oakland Cafe Tacuba show when I made the unwise decision to join the mosh pit–I got pummelled.

No major animal sightings this Thanksgiving–but plenty of black-tail deer, hawks, grosbeaks, Stellar’s jays, and white-headed woodpeckers.

And I think I might have caught a glimpse of the ghost of John Muir and natives past.

More photos on My Picasa Web.

Visit Yosemite’s Live Web Cam.

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~ by Ryan Van Lenning on December 5, 2009.

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