Let today be a Throwback Travel Thursday! 🙂
Not too long ago we went on a summer family vacation with my husband’s brother and their family. I’ve already talked about our first two legs on the Disney Cruise and Chapel Hill. Now we move on to the West Coast part of our travels.
My husband and his brother grew up visiting National Parks and mountains. I never did, so this was all new to me. My husband once took us up to a National Park within North Carolina but I thought it was just for us to get away during Thanksgiving. This trip to Yosemite was actually Sam’s and my second and Jamie’s first. Thankfully, our little family is really okay with nature – and it turned out to be quite the adventure for us.
The first was the drive. It was approximately two hours heading up, maybe three with some stops along the way. I always stress about the long drives because I know that my kids don’t like being stuck in their car seats for very long. Jamie especially gets really antsy and wants to be freed from her seat. Unless of course they fall asleep, and then we’re pretty good for an hour or more out. And then there’s the rest room stops in God-knows-where. Hence I always travel with my Lysol in tow.
Going up wasn’t so much the problem; it was more when we got inside the National Park itself. The roads became twisty and bendy, and even I got a little dizzy.
Once inside though, the sights were totally amazing. Our first stop inside Yosemite was the Mariposa Grove, home of the Giant Sequoias.
Apparently there are two ways to get around, by foot or by tram. We, the uber excited bunch chose to get around by foot. (In hindsight, when traveling with small children AND if you get there in the afternoon — take the tram!)
The initial treks up were fairly easy, and the trees were really A-MAZING. There was the famous Grizzly Giant. The kids loved the idea that the branches of this tree were small trees in themselves.
And then there was the tree that you could walk through.
Everything was giant-sized.
We couldn’t even wrap ourselves around ONE tree!
Eventually the kids got tired and so we never made it up to the big Sequoia museum, where we’re told it’s a forest of all these big chunks of trees one after the other. There weren’t many wild animals, just a few deer and some squirrels and birds.
The other thing about Yosemite, we discovered, that hotels and restaurants close early. So it’s best to carry food and water with you in the car and have your meals there, in case you get stuck on some winding set of roads on the way back to the hotel. In our case, we had gotten back from our 4 mile trek close to sundown, and ended up eating cereal and fruits for dinner.
OH! A must-share: Be prepared to pee (and poop) in holes. HOLES! The toilets inside the National Park are just that — holes with toilet seats over them. There is no flush, no swishing of the water… none of that. I still cringe when I think of the smell! While I understand it is the most natural thing to do while out in the wild, I have to say I know my limits. Especially when I bring the children along! Good heavens! I died with the toilet situation. DIED. My stress levels shot up (as high as them sequoias I tell ya!)
I forgot to take a photo of the lodge we stayed in but it was outside the National Park (my husband says it’s “more affordable” that way). That meant another hour’s drive on winding roads in the dark. Naturally with all the walking and the cold weather, we knocked out in the car, leaving our driver to the clear night sky and the stars. We’d wake up close to midnight when we’d arrive because the cold sub-zero air temperature was like a splash of cold water on the body once you open the car door. If memory serves me right, our place was called the Evergreen Lodge. It’s your typical cozy cabin in the woods, and I quite liked it. No TV, natural air but comfy, clean and spacious. And they had wonderful bathrooms too! 😉
The next day, the kids were excited to explore again and so we headed on over to the more famous sites, like El Capitan. The best view of this (unless you decide to climb it!) is in the valley, or the El Capitan Meadow. Across it are also a great view of Cathedral Rocks. We had the kids climb some fallen trees (well, the reality of it all was we weren’t able to stop them — and of course my heart was in my throat the whole time!), and got some awesome pictures in the process.
There are picnic areas as well where you can stop and grill some food, and the boys did just that.
We had a nice outdoor picnic somewhere in the middle of the forest. A sort of upgrade from the usual camping if you will. The kids had some fun, running about in nature with no iPad in sight. They played knights and princesses and all sorts of things in the trees.
Sam and her cousins also got to see Yosemite falls, but Jamie was asleep in the car and so I stayed with her (and got to nap for an hour too!)
The thing about National Parks, is that you have to be ready to get in and out of the car to stop and enjoy the view. There was this one point called the Tunnel View which gives you a view of El Capitan, the Half Dome and Bridalveil Falls all in one sight. That was just one of the many “pull over!” moments we had.
And then — there was Glacier Point. Now this is literally taking you from one climate change to the next. Suddenly, there was snow!
We were about 6,000 feet above sea level and lucky for us, the pass to Glacier Point had just opened the day before. So we put on the winter gear and trekked up to Glacier Point. The view was spectacular. And even if you’re not fond of nature treks, it’s hard not to appreciate the natural wonders right in front of you. It’s all breathtakingly beautiful.
We let the kids enjoy the snow / slush as we let them play in an area close by after. It was Jamie’s first time to feel actual snow. I don’t think she liked it as much! 😉
One the whole, it’s not such a bad idea going and staying in a National Park. I wish we saw more wildlife though. The experience is more challenging when you have little kids in tow. Jamie couldn’t walk far, and so for most of the time, I had to carry her around. And as it is with Jamie, she only wanted me and no one else. Even Sam would get tired so after a while, she wanted to be carried too. My body ached for most of the trip and I was always exhausted, but I think I lost 5 pounds in the process (Woohoo!).
If I were to go back, I’d do it when the kids were older, and they could appreciate a little bit more of the history behind the place. And by then maybe I’d bring my own clean, disinfected private bathroom with me!!