Hard to believe it was time to leave the Tuolumne Meadow area, but our next destination wasn’t too shabby either! The Tioga Road was a truly remarkable part of the world that deserved much more time than we were able to devote to it on this trip, but now we were off to experience the wonder of Yosemite Valley and join the hordes tourists who flock there every year. The drive along the Tioga Road was as beautiful as ever, and even though it was the middle of the day with pretty harsh light, we stopped at Olmstead Point, an overlook and short trail that offers spectacular views looking back down the Tenaya Canyon toward the “other” side of Half Dome.
The further we got away from the Tioga Pass and Tuolumne Meadow, the more people we saw. This was not unexpected, but Sam and I had become spoiled by the relative solitude we had experienced while hiking higher up. As we made the left turn off the Tioga Road at Crane Flat, the traffic had stopped, and things didn’t look too good for getting to our Curry Village tent any time soon. This was no ordinary traffic jam though… a bear was doing his thing in the meadow off to the right, and people were milling all around, jockeying for position to grab a long distance and probably fuzzy snapshot to take back home with them as proof that they saw a bear. We skipped the opportunity to add to the melee, excited though that we could now say that we too had seen a bear. Speaking of bears, we took the warnings about respecting their desire for human food seriously, with Sam being especially fastidious about clearing out the car and making sure everything food related or scented was stored in our bear locker.
Our first experience of the Curry Village tent community was great, and we woke bright and early to explore the valley floor. Even in the height of summer, there are still a couple of hours to be had when the masses have yet to stir. The early morning light was impressive indeed, and the valley absolutely sparkled. I’m not so sure the owners of the van in the image above would have been so enthralled with the place though after seeing the damage a bear did trying to get to some water bottles they had carelessly left inside. I wonder just how much the ticket left on the windshield was going to sting?
Without opining too much, Sam and I were both quite dismayed, not only by the sheer volume of people in the park, but also by how careless, unaware, and downright rude some of them were. However, all the boorish behavior, sloppy driving, and littering of trails could never diminish the experience of seeing the magnificent Yosemite Valley… we just wouldn’t want to do it again in the summer.