Yosemite National Park August 2014 Trip Report
© September 2014 Adam Helman

Note: Mouse-click nearly all images for detail.


This is the third trip in just one month with my mother Blossom as she revisits some of the sights enjoyed decades earlier when her husband Norman was both alive and well.

Ours is a two day journey lasting from Sunday through Tuesday morning, with Yosemite Park visited on the middle day. A hurricane south of Mexico has residual moisture and instability forecast to visit California on the very day we have nonrefundable reservations. We are stuck, and hope that the 40% rain forecast will not ruin our time.

Then too there was a fire on the hilly slopes just outside our motel two days before traveling there - and an ongoing fire several miles northwest that is 60% contained the morning I leave town.

Half Dome
Iconic Half Dome as viewed from Washburn Point.

Sunday, September 7 - Drive to Oakhurst

I arise at 6 and drive north from San Diego to retrieve mother at her home in the San Fernando Valley. We leave at 9:20 and relieve the driving monotony with a Denny's stop just north of Bakersfield after maybe 115 miles.

There's good service and food quality because it's embedded inside a Flying J truck stop - specifically, Exit-39 (Merced Avenue) ... on Route 99's east side. I have a hot fudge brownie with vanilla ice cream - totally decadent.

We pass through Fresno and switch to Route 41 for the remaining 40-ish miles to Oakhurst and our waiting motel room. The Mountain Trail Lodge proves disappointing, especially to mother, since the advertised Wi-Fi is NOT in our room - only at the front office. There is no telephone.

Much more pleasing is eating at Di Cicco's in central Oakhurst. It's a moderately priced Italian restaurant with a wide assortment of entrées. I have the chicken parmigiana. The spumoni for dessert is both ample and delicious.

We sleep early.

Half Dome Yosemite Valley
Half Dome again - from Washburn Point Built-up portion of Yosemite Valley
from Glacier Point 3,000 feet above.

Monday, September 8 - Yosemite Park

We arise at about 5 a.m. to use daylight and drive without squandering it. I have planned a full day of sightseeing, taking our own vehicle because the alternative was going on any of several guided tours. As that would constrain our timings and cost money we travel alone.

Wawona Road Tunnel just prior
to entering Yosemite Valley.

Highway 41 enters the park after about 13 miles (15 from central Oakhurst) and is renamed the "Wawona Road". It is remarkably free of potholes for a paved access road, and suspect it's been most recently resurfaced.

Eighteen miles after the park entrance (no rangers at 6:30 a.m.) is our turn right (east) for Glacier Point. Again, the road, a 16 miles, is in excellent condition. About 1 mile before Glacier Point we park at Washburn Point with jaw-dropping views of Half Dome. It's unforgettable.

El Capitan
El Capitan and mother

At Glacier Point it's about a third mile walk on asphalt from parking lot to the overlook. Down below (way down below!) is Yosemite Valley with recognizable structures - such as the famous Ahwahnee Hotel ($600/night). More Half Dome views. It begins raining as we return, the pace quickening to avoid getting wetter than needed.

These vistas will be unmatched for the balance of our day.

Returning to the Glacier Point road junction we continue north on Wawona Road as it enters Yosemite Valley via a tunnel. Upon exiting we park and are treated to El Capitan and a view generally up-valley to Half Dome and other sights.

Bridleveil Fall disappoints because it's summer's end and only the merest hint of water trickles down the cliff face. Indeed, we learn that yesterday there was no water whatsoever - the current rain event providing today's sorry spectacle.

An underwhelming
Bridleveil Falls

We enter the built-up area and, rather than park and take the free shuttle service decide to drive and park at each venue due to intermittent rain. We visit the Ahwahnee Hotel where we once stayed as a family a long time ago. This time our stay is limited to shopping in the gift store. I now own a small, six-inch pillow stuffed with balsam fir that scents its surroundings as it sits on my living room floor.

Mother is an avid, lifetime collector of Native American jewelry. Finding many such items in the store, none are novel enough in her experience to merit a purchase. She buys a purse.

We visit the Yosemite gift store for a "Yosemite" sweatshirt. The museum is not visited - there is no parking there, and rain diminishes our enthusiasm for walking there. One cannot even drive there and drop off somebody.

So ends our time in the valley, close to the high noon originally predicted.

giant beaver
A gigantic beaver eagerly plans
his feast on the sequoia's bark.

We return the same way, stopping briefly at the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias. Even though it's after Labor Day, and during the work week, the crowds continue to disappoint. In fact, there's almost no room for parking even though there's a huge lot for tourists and hikers.

Rain effectively precludes our desire to hike any paved trail. I just visit two nearby trees and call it good. Here, recall that we visited Sequoia National Park just last month!

It rains in-earnest as we return on Route 41 to our hotel room, whence the weather clears with remarkable speed after a final downpour.

The hotel staff threw out food we were saving in the refrigerator even though we are staying a second night (such that the food and their containers are not simply "forgotten").

Worse still, there are tiny ants in a food bag - ants that simply were not there when we came yesterday. I hide this from mother so that she won't "freak out".

I cannot recommend this establishment to anyone, no matter how tight their budget.

We enjoy dinner at Di Cicco's for a second time, having been most pleased with its menu. I have a sirloin steak with fettuccine Alfredo and string beans. Balsamic vinegar greatly enhances the steak and pasta combination.

There is some reading and minor future trip planning after returning to our room.

dinner plate dessert
Dinner plate at Di Cicco's A $2 dessert at Denny's

Tuesday, September 9 - Return Drive

Our drive home is perfectly timed to begin soon after dawn, aided by my usual "breakfast of champions" consisting of a large cookie and hot mocha as I drive. It's all I want at the moment.

After 140 miles we stop at the same Denny's (not a coincidence) for more substantial food. Mother is home around 11:45, and I reach San Diego about 2:20 in the afternoon.


Mother had a wonderful time! We will visit Grand Canyon National Park in early November.

The trip odometer read 896.3 miles upon returning home - corresponding to roughly 905 miles since my truck's instrument reads about 1% low.

This small pillow will remind me of this journey.
The colored rocks are from August's Hearst Castle trip.