Orlando Bingles’ Western Adventure: Day 13

by Bingle on Jun.13, 2008, under Richard Bingle Family

When we were first planning our trip, we made our reservations in the same order as when we would be visiting that particular location, so it wasn’t until much too late that we realized we would be visiting Yosemite National Park on one of its busiest days, the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. Oh, well…

We had stayed in Selma the night before, so we had a bit of a drive ahead of us before we would get to Yosemite Valley. Karen had called while we were driving from Lake Mead to Selma to book the Valley Floor Tour (2 hour round trip) and the Glacier Point Tour (4 hour round trip). On her first attempt, we were disappointed to hear that they were all (understandably) booked up as it was a holiday weekend. A couple of hours later I had Karen call again just to check, and were pleasantly surprised to book the 10:00 a.m. Valley Floor Tour and the 1:30 p.m. Glacier Point Tour. We decided on only booking the trip up to Glacier Point and walking down Four-Mile Trail on the advice of a friend.

As we entered the park, we discovered that Glacier Point Road was closed (due to snow), so we figured we probably wouldn’t be taking the Glacier Point Tour after-all. We pulled into the valley with plenty of time to make our 10:00 Valley Tour, but I had some difficulty locating where the tour would be departing from. We were supposed to leave from Yosemite Lodge, but when we eventually found a sign for Yosemite Lodge, the parking lot it put us into had signs all over reading “Lodge Guest Parking Only” and there was no sign of the registration desk. We pulled back out of the lot and I apparently missed the sign at the next drive that indicated the tours were that direction. Seconds later the street we were on turned into a one-way and before I knew it we were past the lodge and were heading around the valley floor loop with no chance to turn around. By the time we made it back around, traffic was starting to pick up and we were getting close to 10:00. We decided to park in the day use parking lot and figured we could get directions to the lodge from one of the people directing traffic in the lot. The first girl we asked suggested taking the shuttle as it should get us to the lodge in about 5 minutes. The second girl we asked suggested walking as it was “not far” and would be “much faster than the shuttle”. Turned out she was dead wrong about the “not far” (it was more than a mile) and kinda right about the “faster than the shuttle” (the shuttle we were directed to was an express shuttle that only would have gotten us half-way after which we would have needed to wait for a different shuttle), but we didn’t know any of that at the time. So, we head off on a trot down the bike path in the direction we’d been given. After a .4 mile trot, we found ourselves at the shuttle stop for the other end of the express shuttle (having been passed by at least one bus) and with a sign indicating it was another .6 miles to Yosemite Lodge.

At this point Karen decided to run ahead and left me and the girls following at a walk. Karen managed to actually get to the tour desk at about 10:01 with the shuttle out front and quickly told the clerk that we were supposed to be on the 10:00 bus and that the rest of us were just a few minutes behind. She told Karen to tell the girl out by the bus to have the bus wait. Unfortunately, it was the girl outside’s second day on the job. As Karen told her we were supposed to be on the bus she waved goodbye to the driver (who pulled away) and then seemed to grasp what Karen was saying. She assured Karen that it wasn’t a problem as there was still room on the 11:00 bus. We walked up a few minutes later and got the news from Karen. So, while Karen and the girls hit the restroom I went to the counter to deal with changing our reservation. At this point, I was informed that the 11:00 had filled in the last 10 minutes, but that they still had some seats on the 12:00. When Karen and the girls found that out, Karen was not real happy that we were getting bumped back an additional hour especially since she had asked them to hold the bus and Ashley was really unhappy and instantly declared (a bit loudly) that she hated Yosemite, that the folks behind the counter were stupid and mean, and that she wanted to leave.

Lower Yosemite

We eventually booked the 12:00 Valley Floor Tour and got the Glacier Point Tour refunded and now had about 1.5 hours to kill. We decided to try to have some fun and walked the .6 miles (retracing some of our steps from earlier) to the bottom of Lower Yosemite Falls and played tourist. As we left the falls and headed back to the tour desk for our 12:00 tour, we noticed that the park was getting more and more crowded. Little did we realize how crowded it would eventually become – after all, it was a holiday weekend.

Tunnel View

Our tour of the valley floor was enjoyable and we got to stop for pictures at several spots, including a stop at “Tunnel View” which is right at the mouth of a tunnel which provides access into the valley. It had a nice (but cloudy) view of El Capitan, Bridal Veil Falls, and the Yosemite Valley. By the time we got back to the lodge around 2:00 p.m. the traffic had gotten very heavy and folks were parking on pretty much every reasonably flat shoulder they could find.

We decided not to try to use our van for traveling about the park the rest of the day and took a walk instead. We ended up going for a stroll through some trees and into one of the meadows on the valley floor (Sentinel Meadow maybe?). We found a path through the grass (whether it was human or deer, I’m not entirely sure), and eventually found our way to a foot bridge across the Merced River and the bike/pedestrian trail running around the valley floor. We walked for a while more along the trail (probably a total of about 2 miles) before deciding to catch a shuttle as it was starting to drizzle. We also wanted to go visit the 81 year old Ahwahnee Lodge near the Visitor’s Center. We got on the shuttle at stop 12 with intentions of taking it to stop 3 (the lodge). The ride to stop 13 took much longer than usual due to the traffic, so when we got to stop 13 I asked the driver if it would be faster if we got off and walked across the street to stop 21 (of 21) and waited for the next bus to come out of the Happy Isle loop. He figured it would save us at least an hour as traffic was very backed up ahead, so we got off and walked across the street. We ended up waiting for almost an hour in the drizzle and saw several buses go into the loop but none come back out. Finally one of the shuttle drivers going the other way took pity on us and convinced her passengers to all get out at the next stop and she turned around and came back and picked us up. We were saved! Or so we thought. Traffic was so bad it took almost 20 minutes for the bus to pull back out into the bumper-to-bumper traffic and make it through the next intersection where all the traffic problems were (about 150 feet from where we had been picked up). Once we made it through the intersection though, the next 2 miles took about 3 minutes as the bus then had a dedicated bus lane to use.

After visiting the lodge and gift shop, we decided to hit the Visitor’s Center and then call it a day. Unfortunately, the lodge is about a mile from anything, so we were forced to wait about 45 minutes for the next shuttle (at least this time we had a bench to sit on and a roof over our heads while we waited). We arrived at the doors to the Visitor’s Center promptly at 6:05 p.m. to see them lock the doors (it closes at 6:00), so we figured that was our clue to leave the park. We managed to time the next shuttle just right and were soon back in our van and headed for the park exit. Apparently everyone else had decided to leave around 5:30 as the park was definitely less crowded (and the traffic much lighter) than it head been earlier. We soon arrived at our new “base camp” in the town of Oakhurst, about 15 miles south of the park entrance.

Next stop, Yosemite on Memorial Day!

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