I visit Yosemite.
The second weekend in October (2016) wound up being my one chance to visit Jason on location for work in California. He was working in the Los Angeles area for a few months. But why stay there when we were so close to our favorite place ever?!
I flew into Ontario on a Thursday evening to maximize my short visit. Friday morning, after a quick tour of the facility where Jason was working, we hit the road for the 5+ hour trip north. We drove up along the western side of the Sierra Nevada, going through Bakersfield, Fresno, and Merced. We got to our resort outside of the park just before 5:00 pm.
Unlike every other trip we’ve taken to Yosemite, we stayed outside the park this time. All the park lodging was booked solid, so we tried the brand new Rush Creek Lodge.
We really loved Rush Creek! The property is beautiful, and it’s located only about a half mile from the Big Oak Flat entrance to the park. We checked in and dropped our bags off at our villa, then ventured into Yosemite Valley.
The valley was a bit of a nightmare due to road construction. We’re so used to the loop road by now that it just felt wrong to detour in the “wrong” direction. We wound our way around to Yosemite Village, parked, and jumped on a shuttle over to Curry Village.
Yes, I said Curry Village, not Half Dome Village. This was the one of the saddest parts of our visit — the name changes in place (temporarily, I hope) because of the dispute with former concessionaire, Delaware North.
Our visit to Curry was for one purpose — dinner at the Pizza Deck. We knew we were taking a chance — a change in concessionaire likely meant the pizza that we’ve come to love wouldn’t be the same. But maybe it would be better! Sadly, it wasn’t. Thankfully, the name nonsense and poor pizza were the only disappointments during our stay.
Saturday was our one full day in the park, and there was only one thing I wanted to do — drive up to Tenaya Lake, sit, and absorb all the goodness of my favorite spot in the park. And that’s exactly what we did.
We were surprised by the number of people in the high country at this time of the year. This was our first autumn visit, and I guess I was expecting fewer people. Not the case. We grabbed the first parking spot we could find along the lake and found ourselves a nice little slab of granite. We probably hung out at Tenaya Lake for an hour and a half. It was glorious! It always feels wonderful to reconnect with the place in the park where I fell in love with Yosemite.
Fun fact: We named our dog, Naya, after Tenaya Lake. It’s that special!
From Tenaya Lake, we made the short drive to Tuolumne Meadows, also bustling with people. We didn’t stop, but just took in the scene. We debated making the 2-ish-hour drive to Glacier Point. But by the time we reached Crane Flat, we decided to just go back and enjoy the resort for the rest of the afternoon.
Back at Rush Creek, we grabbed a small bite to eat in their tavern. Then we headed outside to play cornhole. They have games located all over the place, both in their large game room and throughout the grounds — ping pong, foosball, cornhole, horseshoes, and more. We were obsessed with their cornhole boards — and Jason now has a new project. 😉
After a game of cornhole, we headed up to our villa to relax on the balcony. There are no TVs in any of the rooms at Rush Creek, but they stock you up with plenty to do. There’s satellite radio, which I promptly tuned to a 70s and 80s Classic Rock station. Then, I sifted through the bins of books and board games. Jason and I played Yahtzee and quizzed each other from a Trivial Pursuit book.
It was back to the main lodge for dinner. Overall, the food was good, but not amazing. But what was amazing? Free s’mores every night! That’s how you do it! We snagged a couple s’mores and then grabbed a seat by one of the fireplaces before heading up to our villa for the night.
Sunday morning was early. We decided at the last minute to make the return trip to LA along the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada. It added about 2 hours to the trip, but the scenery is so worth it!
Jason’s mentor and former boss just had taken a position with the company in California, and he and his wife had us Wisconsin folk over for the Green Bay Packers game and dinner. It was wonderful being their first guests in their new home … along with hearing what a move to California is like. Not that I’d be interested in that information … 😉
Come Monday morning, I was flying back home. While I wish the trip had been longer, I’m just glad I could get to California and Yosemite last year. Jason and I have now visited Yosemite 5 times since 2010 — you could say we’re kind of obsessed. But this had been the longest stretch since a visit — 2 years, 4 months. But who’s counting?
Yosemite — even just a very little bit — is good for my soul.