The day before Thanksgiving we headed out at 4:30am, hoping to beat the holiday traffic and the storm that was coming to Yosemite, stopping only for a potty break and Starbucks, then lunch. We arrived at Upper Pines (site 228) around 1:30 PM, the earliest we’ve ever made it! We also beat the storm. As it turned out, it didn’t snow at all that night. The forecast was for 5-8” but we later learned that must’ve been only in higher elevations. We explored the area around our site, including a small creek with lots of fallen logs, great for climbing. It rained ALL night but we were cozy in our Indy (Read about Indy here). This was our 5th time in Yosemite but our first time staying in the valley, and being in the valley for the first time was really nice and convenient. We even had decent cell service most of the time.
On Thanksgiving morning Scott started our turkey on the open fire pit about 9:00am. It cooked all day, and rained most of the day on & off, but we enjoyed the fire under the Easy-Up we had brought along. They guys went for a walk to find the Merced River, while I watched the turkey. We couldn’t leave the turkey unattended, of course, because of bears or even deer. Later Scott & I went for a walk & found the river, bridge, & the shuttle stop.
We didn’t get any snow in the valley, but the upper elevations were left with a dusting and it was magnificent!
On Friday we walked to the shuttle stop, very close to Upper Pines at stop 16. You can find valley shuttle info here. If you’ve never been to the valley off-season, know that some of the shuttle stops/buses are not available like they are during peak season, but they keep the website updated, and you can always get more info upon arrival.
We went to the village store & the little shops like the Ansel Adams gallery and the post office. We also got coffee, & later had lunch at Degnan’s deli (which we affectionately called Deadman’s Deli because it was easier to remember! Haha!) The other deli/restaurant by the Village Store is closed for the season, and the only other place I know of to get coffee is the Starbuck’s next to Yosemite Lodge but we weren’t in that area. It rained a lot but we didn’t care.
When we got back to camp we saw that our trailer battery was dead. Scott charged it up with the car, then we watched an old movie, The Long, Long Trailer. Great movie for camping and a rainy day! I had a hard time finding it in stores but Amazon had it (Amazon link). The battery died again near the end of the movie & he charged it again. Went to bed and battery died about 9:50, so we had no heat for the rest of the night…BRRR!…but I had pulled out extra blankets & we stayed warm enough. It rained all night long for the 3rd night in a row.
Saturday we went to Mariposa Grove. We had tried to visit in June but couldn’t get in because it was full, having reopened the day before after being closed for 3 years. Before the Grove we stopped at Tunnel View – GORGEOUS with snow above and clouds over the valley!
Then another stop at Wawona campground where we had stayed in June (link)…We were hoping to visit the spot where we’d had Mickey’s memorial & see how different the Merced looked in the Fall, but the B & C loops were closed for the season so we just walked down to the river by loop A. It was still really beautiful. All the colors of the trees & brush! The river still had a strong flow, more so than in the Valley, just not loud like in the summer.
Finally, Mariposa Grove. It was so beautiful and the weather was perfect with blue skies and mild temps in the 50’s. Link to info about the restoration of Mariposa Grove.
The Giant Sequoias don’t burn down during fires – they actually require heat from fires to regenerate – but they do get scarred as you can see in the picture below. The bark from a Sequoia can be as thick as 2 feet at the base! You can learn more about fires and the Sequoias by watching this short video here. Really fascinating.
We did the 2 mile loop & saw the Grizzly Giant & the California Tunnel Trees. The Grizzly Giant is over 200 feet tall and 96 feet in circumference at its base.
Years ago when they started carving through these big trees they didn’t know how badly this would damage them. Many have fallen since, and they no longer do this.
A few more pics from the Grove:
Afterwards we went back to camp for a late lunch and guess what? The battery was dead once AGAIN! Obviously we knew had a problem, but at this point Scott hadn’t diagnosed what was going on. We had a light dinner of turkey leftovers & played Alan’s new S’mores card game. No heat again overnight and it was colder this night. So thankful we were at least in the Minnie instead of the pop up!
On Sunday morning Scott repaired the wires of the 7-way trailer cord. It had been kinked previously and apparently the wires were damaged. All the rain we got didn’t help. Even when it stopped raining there was a lot of moisture so it was a challenge keeping things dry. We were hoping this had fixed the battery issue.
We had planned to use the shuttle to visit the Village, but also wanted to go to Bridalveil Falls and that requires a different shuttle that doesn’t run in the fall/winter so we drove in, then parked and walked. It was now mid-late morning so we went & got coffee again at Dengan’s. As we started our walk towards Yosemite Falls, we saw a museum and stopped to check it out. It had neat American Indian artifacts and history. I was impressed that the Indians were (and still are) so ingenious. As we headed up the path to Yosemite Falls, we realized we’d never walked up this trail before; we’d only gone up the one where the trail head starts at the shuttle stop, by the restrooms. Did you know there were two paths? There are pretty little wood bridges along this route.
When we had arrived in the valley 4 days earlier, the Falls were dry, but now after 3 days of almost non-stop rain (and of course, snow, at higher elevations), the Falls were flowing. Still, it was so different to see in the winter. The roaring rapids we had seen under the bridge in the summer was now just a stream, and the rocks at the base of Lower Falls were dry. Scott & Alan climbed onto the big rocks, and Scott made it up to the base of the falls and took some beautiful pics.
After enjoying the falls awhile, we took the other trail back, the one that ends at the restrooms. Just for comparison, here are pics of Alan in almost the exact same spot in June 2017 (left) and this trip, November 2018 (right)
There’s a big boulder at that trailhead that Scott always climbs, and Alan was able to climb it this year. Scott & I also took a pic at the heart shape, as we have in years past.
Then we walked across the meadow, over Sentinel Bridge, and to the Chapel. This had been on on my “to-do” list but we’d never been before. It was so pretty, nestled among the Fall trees. We kind of wished we’d made it to the services that morning. Of all the public structures in use in the valley, the chapel is the oldest, built in 1879. You can read about the history of the chapel here.
On our way back we took some pics on the bridge.
The picture on the right above shows markings of the floods over the years. Not shown is the flood from April of this year, one of the largest.
I also got a few great shots of Half Dome; pics I’d always wanted to take with the dome reflected in the calm water below.
It was about 3:30 at this point and we hadn’t had lunch, so we went back to Degnan’s for sandwiches, then walked back to our car to head to Bridalveil Fall. It was now after 4:00 and Sunset was at 4:40. A coyote who came quite close to the visitors. Always keep your distance!Bridalveil Fall was still pretty full – in fact all of the Falls in the area were flowing when we arrived except Yosemite Falls, which is the first to dry up. The trail is short and fairly easy to walk. It was strange being up there near the base with no other tourists! There were a few people on the trail, but no one else at the base where it’s usually crowded, nice to take pics. The river along the trail was still pretty full and there were lots of great photo ops.
Back at camp, Scott worked on the trailer/battery issue, but every time he would hook up the trailer to the car, again, it would blow a fuse. We were able to heat the trailer a bit before everything was dead again, but the warmth didn’t last long. It was our 3rd night without heat.
On Monday morning it was time to leave. We kept warm enough with our blankets overnight but it was brutal getting out of bed, getting ready & packing up with no heat. We still had challenges with the fuses blowing and now it would really be a problem because we still needed to power the awning in and raise/lower the tongue to hook up, and of course have lights on the trailer while driving. Scott used a bigger, 25 amp fuse and that seemed to work. It was 34 degrees when we pulled out of the campground! The next time we’re in colder weather we will definitely bring our portable propane heater, just in case. Live and Learn. On this morning, 8:00 AM, and the campground was near empty!
Sometimes you don’t want to talk about the problems you have. You kind of feel like you could’ve done something else, something better. But I think the whole point of sharing with one another is so that we can learn from each other. I always appreciate when others share about their mishaps or mistakes. There’s always going to be a learning curve. Would I prefer the trips were without “teachable moments”? Probably. But it’s all still worth it in the end. On to the next adventure! And here are a few more shots from our campsite area that kind of make it all worth it!