As we were planning our route through California, we had multiple obstacles to contend with. First, we knew the price of gas was going to be sky high (we were right). Second, the wildfires were only growing in intensity and were making their way toward Sequoia National Park. And third, there is so much we really wanted to see in California, but we were up against some strict timelines and were forced to make some tough decisions.
While we wanted to venture across the state to see all the parks, cities, and friends, we settled on a weekend in and around Yosemite. We were able to get reservations at the Thousand Trails campground less than 5 miles from the park entrance, and we were able to secure advance tickets to enter Yosemite on the days we wanted. It was also a much needed quiet few days to regroup from our West Coast adventures and prepare for a fast-paced 2 weeks leading up to October when we needed to be in Utah.
Yosemite Lakes campground is unlike most Thousand Trails campgrounds we have visited, and we have certainly made our rounds. It had a vibe between state park and resort, which was really quite comfortable. It is incredibly remote from any towns and had poor cell reception (and only halfway decent Wi-Fi for purchase), but it had an amazing creek running through the campground that we frequented on several occasions and was very walkable overall. We also managed to not have neighbors for the entire weekend, so our very small site did not seem all that bad once we commandeered the one next door as well.
Because of the campground’s proximity to Yosemite, we were able to get an early start in the park on the day of our reservation. We made our way directly to Yosemite Valley, where we enjoyed quiet meadows and views of El Capitan before the crowds started to arrive. On our first pass through, there was hardly another car on the road, but as we drove around again a short time later (due to construction, road closures, and poor signage), there were people everywhere.
Pretty much every aspect of the park was under construction, which greatly impacted our visit. We attempted to stop at 2 Visitors Centers. One we could not locate, the other was closed for construction. We attempted to go on the 2 hikes where dogs are allowed, and both trailheads were closed with nonexistent alternate parking or signage.
Needless to say, we spent a lot of time in the truck, but we were able to scope out the road we needed to take the following day as we towed Cate through her first National Park and across Tioga Pass.
Even though we did not see and do everything we wanted in Yosemite, Bird and I did hike out to Olmstead Point and enjoyed an incredible view of Half Dome (sorry, Daisy, no dogs allowed). While the hike was not difficult, there were lots of rocks to navigate, and Bird truly never ceases to amaze me. She has an eye for finding the best route and is sure-footed in ways that make me proud and oh-so nervous (she may not remember a mere year ago when she refused to let go of our hands and walk on her own, but we sure do!). However, her love for “rockos” is big, and there is no way we were going to miss an opportunity to get a little exploring in on an otherwise truck-heavy day.
Leaving California so quickly after our arrival felt like a betrayal to our adventure in some regards, but it was simply not feasible for us to go any further west or south. However, even though we were not able to see any more National Parks in California, our visit to Yosemite kicked off a week where we managed to visit 4 different parks in 3 states. Plus, it never hurts to have a reason to go back to a place, and we have so many reasons to return to California.