August 19, 2021


Like anyone would imagine, Yosemite was a dream come true. It was such a unique experience to visit during both covid and wildfire season. Because of the reservation system, we had no wait to get in, barely any lines for food and souvies. The biggest problem we faced was my ignorance to the landscape – I accidentally booked a campsite an hour and a half from Yosemite’s west entrance. Oops.

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Day 01 –

My mistake, again, for booking a flight to San Francisco and not Sacramento. We got off the flight, tracked down our rental car and headed to the park. We had plans to do a sunset shoot at Taft Point and realized we’d be cutting it pretty close. It was a dream driving through the empty park – windows down, 70 degrees, good music. We arrived a little bit late, but Kristen made all of our dreams come true (take a peek here). We made the drive back down to our campsite, myself wearing a dress and Zach in jeans and Vans. After the three-hour drive (yeah, three…), we arrive and pitch our tent in the 30º pitch black. The day ends on that unfortunate note.

Day 02 –

Because we had such a late night, the next morning we woke up and decided to explore the area around the campsite (hey, Lee Vining). There were hot springs, kayaking and paddle boarding, Mono Lake and some shops. Mono Lake was so different than anything I’d seen (and smelled) before. It has large tufa towers, a collection of gnats guarding the waterline and lots of judegemental-looking birds. We kept on to the hot springs and relaxed until it got too hot to enjoy. We ended up back at our campsite to paddle board and took the rest of the evening to enjoy sunset and tacos. Feel free to ask Zach about his drone pilot skills.


Day 03 –

We had really enjoyed our time at the campsite during the second day but regret sunk in when we realized our next adventure, sunrise at Half Dome, would be another one of those three-hour commutes. But we did it. We woke up at 3 a.m. At one point, we stopped and ate cereal in some resale bowls from REI. It was the best Cinnamon Toast Crunch I’ve ever had (I might even go as far as saying the best CEREAL I’ve ever had, but I was pretty delirious). We arrived just in time, empty as can be accept for an elopement happening at one of the lookout points. There are no words and no pictures that can adequately explain how beautiful it was, even more-so with the haze. After taking our photos and climbing on some dangerous rocks, we headed back down to the valley for a more nutritious breakfast.

Little did we know, the third day would be our most extensive yet. After we scarfed down our coffee and breakfast sandwiches, we decided to do the Vernal Falls hike via Mist Trail. This is the first third of the Half Dome hike. My. Oh. My. The first half wasn’t too bad. On the trail, you stop at a water station preceding the 600-stair ascent (not like… normal stairs. Big stairs). A man claiming to be a guide, but likely not a guide at all told us it was easier and less crowded to return to the checkpoint using the winter route (John Muir trail) as opposed to back down the stairs. We listened and again regretted. It was uphill, longer and hotter than the initial climb, but we did it. We celebrated with some drinks and pizza in the valley before heading back to the tent.


Day 04 –

Our last day in around Yosemite, we went back to the hot springs to recover from our previous 7-mile hike. We wanted to see more of the park, but not with all of the driving. A sweet park ranger recommended the Cathedral Falls hike, so we tried it. The first mile had quite a bit of elevation gain, but bearable compared to the former. Zach used his Life Straw for funsies and we hiked on back to the road. On our way home, we saw the most beautiful sunset either of us had seen. There was a break in the smoke that aided the sky in turning every color of the rainbow. To our left was red, orange and yellow as the sun struggled above the horizon. To our left was blue and faint purple and a grayish yellow as the sun had already faded but the smoke kept it alive. We agreed that it was a moment we’d keep to ourselves and kept our cameras hidden. We got home and packed up for the end of the trip.

Day five wasn’t enough for an entire heading, just a traitorous road trip back to San Francisco where we had intended to see the Golden Gate Bridge, but didn’t have the time. We made it back just in time after driving through the extreme smoke on winding roads.

If you’re looking for a trip to Yosemite, the west side is far less crowded with more activities, but fly into Reno to avoid that Cali traffic. Our hikes and campsite are linked below.

Vernal Falls
Cathedral Lakes
Half Dome from Glacier Point
Campsite: Paradise Shores

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/Alice Marie ROose