(September 6 – written by Nancy)
Wow, what a difference a day (and elevation) makes! Last night the temps got down to 36F – at least that was what it was when I was finally forced to get out of the tent around 6:30. It was a pretty cold night – we even got out the sleeping bag liners that we have not used since Alaska. Quite a change from the last couple months of hot weather!
We took our time packing up this morning, and to give credit where credit is due, Pete actually had his bike packed up before we did! Who knows what could have happened if we’d just had a bit more time to get him in cycle touring shape?!?! We said goodbye to Frederik, who was staying another day at Tuolumne Meadows, and rolled back out to the road with Pete to say goodbye. He was headed back up to Tioga Pass and the sweet downhill back down to Lee Vining to meet Inge, and we were headed the opposite direction toward Yosemite Valley. It was sad to see him go – we had lots of fun riding with him – at least it provided another person to be the recipient of Dave’s terrible jokes. Dave says he was tearing up because of the smoke, not because Pete was leaving but I’ll leave it for the readers to draw their own conclusions.
The ride was not too hard today, though it wasn’t all downhill. We had another 2500+ feet of climbing through rollers to make our way down to the valley floor. It didn’t seem too hard though, because of the stunning views that kept us distracted. Today was when we got our first glimpses of the iconic Yosemite monuments – Half Dome, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, to name a few. While the road was pretty narrow with not much shoulder, I think doing this on a bike is the way to see all the scenery – there were multiple pullouts that provided great views and we stopped at almost all of them!
We started off in all of our warm clothing but quickly started shedding coats, gloves, and leg and arm warmers as the temperature started rising the lower we got. We had heard that Yosemite Valley was very smokey because of the fires (I think there are 4 in the park right now) and our first views seemed to confirm that. From Olmsted Point the views across to Half Dome were fairly smokey but it was still an impressive sight. As we got lower the smoke actually seemed to reduce quite a bit, so much so that we weren’t really bothered by it.
We made our way down the mountains, getting down to the valley floor proper by about 2pm after stopping for lunch on the way down. Not surprisingly the traffic is a lot thicker down on this side. It never fails to amaze me why people come to a national park and then drive too fast and too aggressively – jeez, just slow down and enjoy the scenery and let others do the same!
We stopped in Yosemite Village to check out the store and then made our way to our campsite in the Upper Pines campground. It seems like a nice campground, with bear food lockers and picnic tables at every site. I rode back to the little Half Dome Village area to take a shower (at the pool, no less!) while Dave set up camp, and then he went to take his when I got back. It’s now almost 8pm and it’s pretty quiet – let’s hope it stays that way! It is certainly warmer, which should make for a more pleasant night sleeping.
We are staying here two nights and tomorrow will go for a short hike or two, and try to figure out the plan for the next week. The route we had intended to take out of the park (Hwy 41) is still closed due to the Railroad wildfire and looks unlikely to open soon. So we have to adjust our route and we need to do some planning to figure out what services are available on the alternative road out of the park, Hwy 140 out through El Portal.
But, we’ll worry about that tomorrow and just try to enjoy the stars from Yosemite tonight.