Yosemite National Park offers quiet solitude after summer crowds depart!

Half Dome towers in distance as small crowd at Glacier Point gazes in awe.

With summer crowds long gone, Yosemite National Park offers quiet solitude in November…

El Capitan towers over our '64 Stotty Sportsman trailer.

We are spending three days and nights in Yosemite Valley in our reconstructed ‘64 Scotty camping trailer. With forecasted sunny weather predicted for our three days, and no rain or snow descending on the afternoon until the day of our departure, the trip is the maiden voyage of our rebuilt 1964 Scotty Sportsman classic travel trailer and we’re curious how it will perform.

Our plan is to luxuriate in this scenic park and check out its wonders after the summer crowds have departed. Then, we’ll head down to Pinnacles National Park and the coastal mountains on Friday to avoid snow and real cold. In the meantime, we’ll test out our rebuilt little trailer and savor the wonders of this, our second national park.

At the park entrance, we talk with Ranger Rick, who notes Tioga Pass remains open, campgrounds are beginning to close down (though one will remain open throughout the winter) and weather is predicted to roll in Friday – when a  number of campsites should open up.

We pass El Capitan, framed by the changing colors of aspens in the Yosemite Valley, then on to Yosemite Falls, bone dry but for the water shadow caused by the falls’ cascading down over eons of time. All through the valley, yellows and oranges paint the lower-level landscape, with granite monoliths like Cathedral Spires, El Cap, Glacier Point and Half Dome rising at each turn.

Yosemite Falls, bone dry, awaits winter rain and snow, beyond our Scotty trailer.

Earlier, we take Highway 120 heading up towards Tioga Pass, to the idyllic Tenaya Lake, still capturing snowmelt from the remaining snows high in the surrounding Sierra. Stop at Olmsted Point for striking views of both Half Dome to the south and the lake ahead.

Further up 120, Tuolumne Meadows is wildly touted as the area that convinced John Muir to petition for the establishment of the nation’s second national park in 1890. It’s stunning views, verdant greenery and dramatic granite horizons make it a memorable experience.

Mt. Hoffman towers over May Lake, a spirited hike off Hwy. 120 in the park.

Walk along the meandering Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, running adjacent to the campground. Other options include easy flat hikes through the Tuolumne Valley and a four-mile hike over or around Lembert Dome, a dramatic granite obelisk rising vertically from the meadow.

Heading back down Highway 120, you’ll find Tuolumne Grove, featuring 25 giant sequoias on a one mile downhill hike on the old Big Oak Flat Road. This is one of some 65 Sequoia groves in the central Sierra, several located in Yosemite.

Tenaya Lake is just off Hwy. 120; it eventually flows into Yosemite Valley.

Another favorite day hike is the trail up to May Lake. Take the scenic 2 mile drive off of Tioga Road to the trailhead where several sets of trails head off towards the river canyon and another trail heads southeast up to May Lake.

A 1.5 mile hike takes you over spectacular granite outcroppings to the scenic lake at 9300 feet. With Mt. Hoffman towering as a backdrop, rising to 10,850 feet, you’ll long remember the view!

Tioga Road features more hiking options than any other part of the park. They include myriad trailheads to Cathedral Lakes, hikes to Clouds Rest, to Dog Lake, to Elizabeth Lake and Gaylor Lake.

Hetch Hetchy Valley is sister to Yosemite Valley; John Muir fought 100 years ago to prevent its damming for water for San Francisco.

Hetch Hetchy Valley also begs a side trip. It’s the sister valley to Yosemite, which in the early 1900s John Muir and the Sierra Club fought to keep pristine. San Francisco had planned to dam the valley to capture water for the growing city. To Muir, this was anathema to his values of protecting wilderness. Despite a long fight, San Francisco won the battle and O’Shaughnessy Dam was constructed, creating the lake flooding much of the valley. It’s still a marvelous side trip, and a hike along the north shore of the lake yields views almost equal to Yosemite Valley.

Our little Scotty trailer yields cozy and comfortable accommodations and we awake each morning to clean air and world-class scenery!

How to get there: From Stockton, 115 miles, 2.5 hours. Take Hwy. 4 east to Copperopolis, go right on O’Byrnes Ferry Road and follow Hwy. 120 past Chinese camp and Groveland (two great Gold Rush towns) into Yosemite. To reach Hetch Hetchy Valley Valley from Hwy. 120, turn north on Evergreen Road to O’Shaunessy Dam.

Our Scotty at the old Chinese Camp ghost-town, just off Hwy. 120, returning from Yosemite NP.

For more info: For Yosemite National Park, www.nps.gov/yose.  The park headquarters is at PO Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389-0577; phone: 209.372.0200.  Camping can be booked through www.recreation.gov, or 877.444.6777.

Need a speaker on western travels? Contact Tim. Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the West!

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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