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Visiting Yosemite National Park, First Day

Road trip to Yosemite, Tahoe, San Francisco and Pacific Coastline

By Armando F Sanchez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: September 22, 2014

Visiting Yosemite National Park, First Day

Yosemite is the first national park, in the world, that was created by Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War. It became world famous when President Theodore Roosevelt visited the park in 1903.

We drove for an hour from Merced up to the town of Mariposa, where we lodged while visiting Yosemite for two days. We were unable to reserve rooms inside the national park. There are a few lodges in the park, but it is visited by 4 million persons a year and room reservations have to be made many months in advance. The town of Mariposa is near the western park entrance.

It was an hour drive each way from Mariposa into the park area. It was incredible to see many dry trees along the road for miles. The river flowing from the park toward the valley was practically dry. We saw roadside signs that highlighted that California was in a mega decade-long drought and it was clear that the water problem was real.

There are only two entrances to Yosemite. One from the south coming from Fresno and the other is from the west side where we came through on this trip.

My father brought me to visit this fabulous park when I was attending middle school.

I was remembering when my father brought me to the park for the first time when I was 12-years old during Thanksgiving and we came in from the Fresno side entrance. Just as we entered the main Yosemite Valley area during the night, we entered a long tunnel that upon exiting you can see the entire park valley below. I still recall that it was a clear night with a full moon. Once we came out of the tunnel, I saw the valley I was immediately awestruck. I saw on both sides the massive stone walls. I remember trying to look up into the sky and all I saw was the sides of the valley. We slept that night in a tent. In the morning I quickly got dressed and ran outside and was once again stunned to see the massive stone walls. It was also the first time I saw snow and seeing it at the top of the rocks and on the trees just continued to leave me speechless. The air was crisp and the pine scent from the tress was wonderful. I just didn't have the words to describe how incredibly beautiful it was. That memorable day I played in the little bit of snow that there was on the ground. Unquestionably, it was a memorable life experience for me.

We had a life experience the second time I came to Yosemite. In July 1996, Trini and I brought our kids Adrian and Bianca, and my mother-in-law, in our motor home to visit the park. We had a reserved RV spot in the park. We found our camping space, but instead of setting everything outside, we decided to drive over and go into the valley just a couple of miles down from where we were to let Adrian and Trini float in a little inflatable down the creek. While Bianca and I were stationed and waiting for them to float into the area, we started to see a stream of fire engines racing up the valley. A little while later we started to notice what seemed to be thick brown smoke in the sky.

As the afternoon progressed, it seemed that more emergency service vehicles were racing by. When Adrian and Trini finally arrived to where we were waiting, I informed her that if there was a fire in the valley that it was best to leave the park as a precautionary measure. We couldn't get anyone in the park stop and inform us of what had happened so we finally decided to drive out of the park. It was not until the next day that we read in a local newspaper that a massive piece of rock had broken off from the side of the valley and had crashed into and covered the RV site area with several inches of dust. The huge slab of rock that broke off the side walls had fallen and then skidded sideways, once it hit the bottom it skidded sideways and hit many trees and moved into a concession stand. Our reserved spot was nearby to the concession stand that had just been destroyed. That unique traveling experience clearly did not deter us from wanting to return and visit.

There are three major visiting areas of the park. The first is the main valley. The valley is a result of ancient glacial ice movement and having these monolithic granite rocks pushed upward by tectonic movements. El Capitan is the name where the iconic main waterfall can be seen falling into the valley. Pictures of this water fall are commonly posted in television commercials. On this trip, the falls was completely dry.

In the valley is the historic Ahwahnee Hotel which opened in 1927. As we approached the Hotel we saw a black bear crossing the street. Having seen it reminded us that all vehicles need to drive very slowly for the bears and deer that live in and near the valley.

The hotel area and the valley overall offer many walking and bicycle trails for all ages. Each path offers beautiful settings for taking many photographs. The views of the valley change constantly and dramatically as the sunlight and clouds move across the valley.

We also stopped at the park visitors center to see the displays and a free short documentary film on the history of Yosemite Park.

The park service offers a free in-park bus transit that allows one to park the car and explore the many areas of the park. One can get off and on at any stop. We did take the bus several times and it makes enjoying the park even easier.

Our first day here at the park went quickly. We left the park at 4 pm and started our drive to our room in Mariposa. The hotel has a pool and spa and we were looking to get in. We had not realized how much walking we had done and we wanted to feel relaxed in order to return the next day to see the other wonderful sections of the park.

The following day we plan to visit Glacier Point and Mariposa Grove inside Yosemite.

About Armando F Sanchez, Contributing Writer:
Armando F Sanchez is a speaker, author, educator, traveler and CEO of Armando F Sanchez Production. His organization produces global digital media programming
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