If you ask a local San Franciscan what they recommend you see on your travels, it is likely they will tell you to visit Yosemite National Park and Lake Tahoe. After hearing this several times, we took heed and decided to a hire a car and embark on yet another road trip adventure.
Our original plan was to drive from San Francisco through Sonoma Valley, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite and down to Los Angeles however every car rental company we looked at added a ludicrous charge for a one way rental. Instead we drove a loop, San Francisco – Yosemite – Bodie – Carson City – Virginia City – Fairfield and back to San Francisco. This is Part One of the adventure!
As we were travelling to Yosemite last minute – during school holidays and an American summer break - accommodation options inside the park were few. With camping sites booked up to 6 months in advance, the cheapest available accommodation we found was a canvas tent cabin at White Wolf Lodge, located off Tioga Road. At $121 per night, it was by no means within our budget but we loved it!
Our cabin (see pictures below) was very cosy, especially with the fire roaring to keep us warm and plenty of blankets supplied to snuggle into. The nights here are literally freezing so it's best to rug up!! The bathrooms are communal and an on-site restaurant provides guests with meal options for dinner and breakfast for an additional fee (there is no communal kitchen). There is no electricity, no WiFi and each cabin is equipped with a BEAR BOX. What is a bear box? It’s a big steel container with a myriad of locking devices to keep the Californian Black Bears out of your food and essentially out of the camp - much to Justin's dismay given all he wanted was to see a bear or a mountain lion.
Open mid-June to mid-September, weather permitting, White Wolf Lodge also provides a schedule of activities such as nature walks and ranger discussions suitable for everyone. We joined one of the Ranger discussions and found it very informative and definitely suitable for all ages, especially the instructions on what to do in the event of a bear sighting.
From the lodge, we explored Yosemite Valley and some of the many hiking trails and waterfalls this area plays host too.
Yosemite National Park consists of four major geographic areas; high sierra, granite cliffs, sequoia groves and the valley. For an easy hike, checkout Lower Yosemite Falls, Sentinel Beach and the picnic area in front of El Capitan. We also hiked the Upper Yosemite Falls trail as far as the view point to the waterfall, a hike that made me realise my fitness levels were awful when a couple of kids over took us at a look out! Cheeky buggers!
Keep an eye open for wildlife, there are plenty of opportunities for bird watching and squirrel spotting on all the trails. If you’re planning longer hikes or an overnighter, make sure you take a bear proof container to keep your snacks safe. (I believe these are available for hire/purchase at the Ranger stations where you purchase your hiking permit).
Yosemite is by far one of the most beautiful places we have visited so far and while Justin missed seeing a Mountain Lion, he did get to see a bear as we exited the lodge on our last day – a bear that just so happened to be taking a shit in the woods!! So if you have ever been asked the question, the answer is yes...
Note: Driving into Yosemite on the Big Oak Flat Road the landscape was thick with tall pines and green grass. Leaving Yosemite on the Tioga Pass Entrance, the landscape had done a 360. Small shrubs hung desperately from craggy rock faces and snow still capped some mountains in the east. A vast contrast to its entrance in the west. We recommend making sure you checkout both sides when visiting the park.
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