Making Family Traditions at a Colorful and Dry Yosemite

Ever since living here in California, I had only visited Yosemite in the springtime.  There’s something so fresh and clean about springtime there, with the falls gushing with water, crisp cold air, and sometimes a bit of snow on the ground.  We usually book a yurt with Yosemite Lakes Campground, just outside the park, so we’ve been a little spoiled by heated structures to relax in white we are there.  Going in the off-season also offers us a pretty open park, away from crowds and traffic, where we can really feel like we’ve escaped.

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This year, the campground was pretty booked and had availability in October.  With all the other things we had planned this month, it was a little inconvenient, but we booked it anyway and had hoped we could make it work.  The group of friends we go with changes slightly most years, and this time was no different.  We had our regular friends, Jessie and Grizz (with Baby G), and some newcomers this year…  Rigel whom we’ve known from back in Chicago and  Sabs, Jansen, and their girls N and L who have known us since we’ve moved to Oakland.

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Jessie and I had gone to Costco the morning before leaving and picked up a lot of food for the weekend, we knew we wanted to grill outside and just enjoy being out there together.  It has become sort of a yearly event, and we’ve been lucky enough to have some pretty great meals out there including one year of grilled venison and another when we had our asador friend, Javi come out to cook on the open fire.  Yosemite had their first winter storm coming that weekend, but we didn’t want it to stop us from having a nice cookout night with friends.  Friday night was a little quiet as it did start to rain and we were just getting settled into the yurt and catching up with our friend Rigel.  Saturday morning started off with some sun.  We were glad the rain let up for a bit and open up into a beautiful day.

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Photos from previous years, she’s grown so much.

We drove into the valley and loved all the fall colors that lit up the park.  It was a beautiful drive in, but we had noticed that one of the usual falls that we see on the road to the valley was not running.  It was something that we noticed, but quickly passes off as maybe it doesn’t run in the fall season.  There was some road construction going on and it threw us on a detoured route that basically had us turned around in the park for a bit.  We were walking around and finding ourselves in areas that we had never been to before, it really was like being in a new park.

As I was walking, I caught another view that seemed unfamiliar at first.  Then the more I looked at it, I realized where I was.  I was at Yosemite Falls, and the falls was completely dry.  It was pretty sad at first to realize that maybe the dry falls on the way in was just a sign of things to come.  Again, we usually go to Yosemite in the spring, so the water melting from the higher elevations make for lively waterfalls at that time.  I had never seen the grand Yosemite Falls like this before.

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We picnicked in the park with some chicken salad sandwiches and chips.  The day was still beautiful and we weren’t about to let it go to waste.  We stopped in the visitor’s center to get Evie’s National Park passport book stamped.  She’s got a couple of park stamps now and a few for just Yosemite.  In the center we got the chance to ask the rangers for some advice on hikes that she would be able to do with us.  They advised us on the hike around Mirror Lake, which was perfect.

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We originally brushed it off as the short hike that you take your kid who doesn’t want to hike on or one that I would take if I had broken a leg and didn’t move much faster than a shuffle.  It had the reputation of being the easy hike on the map, but we were pleasantly surprised.  I was not difficult or long, or even have much for elevation changes.  What it did have were these gigantic granite boulders that the girls had a blast climbing all over.  There was definitely moments of panic as I tried not to “helicopter parent” over her as she climbed.  They were serious rocks, beautifully covered with thick moss, and surrounded by a forest of fall colors.  It was a gorgeous hike.

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We made our way all the way to the base of Half Dome and got this view that we don’t normally get of the majestic point.  We actually caught that view from inside the lake too!  Yeah, the lake was bone dry and we were able to walk right into the lake to enjoy the view.  I was a little alarming how the park had very little water, but I kept thinking that once the storm came through it would look a little closer to normal.

All of us hung out at the bottom of Mirror Lake, playing with the sand and climbing the large rocks that remain in the middle.

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We left the park just before the storm and spent the rest of the night and the next day at the yurt.  In typical fashion, we cooked up a feast and didn’t let the rain stop us.  Evie was enamored by having the older girls hanging out with her and they played in the yurt until they were tired.  We celebrated Oktoberfest with a baby keg and spent the night laughing over grilled meats and pumpkin pie.

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It was another great celebration and I am looking forward to finding that yurt deal again for next year.


View of Half Dome from the bottom of a dry Mirror Lake.

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