When it comes to birthdays in our family, I am a very lucky woman: The Esquire LOVES to plan big, extravagant road trips for my birthday. But here's the lucky part...he also loves to plan big, extravagant road trips for his own birthday. Basically, when it comes to birthday celebrations all I ever have to do is pack.
This year, for his birthday, the Esquire planned a long, overdue road trip to Yosemite. Neither of us had ever been to Yosemite...which is a crime considering 1) we've both lived in California over 10 years and 2) we have a connection there--one of our favorite 4 year olds, Super Max, has family that live and work in the Yosemite Valley.
I could write for months and post all 842 photos that we took this weekend and yet it would never accurately describe how much fun we had or how incredibly gorgeous it is there. In a nutshell: Yosemite National Park is amazing. There is a reason why 4 million people go there each year. Below is my pathetic attempt to share the wonders of our weekend (please note that I really did try to be brief...I didn't include pictures of the bears we saw, the amazing Ahwanhee dining room, the other hikes we took, or the rest of the 714 photos I took from our balcony):
When planning a road trip, we like to consult Roadfood.com to help point us towards fun, local places to stop. This time we ended up at the Chicken Pie Shop in Fresno (note the chicken holding a ...um...chicken pot pie? on the sign).
Whenever we set out on a road trip we always take along Colin, our little lead tour guide. We got him a the Toy Soldier Museum in Ireland. He helps out by pointing the way when the GPS fails us.
The minute you enter Yosemite National Park you are surrounded by unbelievable beauty. While the park is over 1,200 square miles most people only visit the valley floor which is just 7 sq miles. On the way to our hotel, which was on the far end of the valley, we got to drive past all the famous sites. Here, from our car window, is Bridalveil Falls.
We stayed at the LOVELY Ahwahnee Lodge. Built in 1927 to help encourage visitors to Yosemite, it is an amazing stone lodge full of Native American artifacts and Art Deco touches. It sits right at the end of the valley under Yosemite Falls.
Our friend Super Max's Aunt J works at the Ahawhnee so we received the royal treatment all weekend. The first sign we were Special Guests: A birthday rubber ducky waiting for The Esquire in the bathroom.
In addition to the festive duck there was a Happy Birthday note from the concierge and a lovely fruit and cheese plate which we took on our big hike so we could have a fancy picnic at the top of Vernal Falls.
Fruit and rubber ducks are nice but did I mention the view from our room???? Super Max's Aunt J is now officially SUPER Aunt J!
We shared this balcony with the bridal suite. Needless to say they were busy getting married so we had it to ourselves the whole weekend!
...which was good because I was out there all hours of the day and night. I took this picture at midnight. Now I do not know anything about photography. I am just someone who believes if you take 842 photos odds are you will end up with 3 or 4 really great ones. This is the view from our room, at midnight, without a flash...just using our little 5 inch tall tripod and the light of the moon. Can you even believe the stars? Go ahead, click on the photo so you can see the stars up close. Seriously, it's amazing if I do say so myself.
Here I am (self-portrait style) with one of Yosemite's most famous sites: Half Dome. The granite crest rises more than 4,737 ft from the valley floor and is impressive from every angle. But am I the only one who sees George Washington's profile in the middle of the dome? Or perhaps it's the Quaker Oats man...
For our big hike we took Super Aunt J's advice and went up to the top of Vernal Falls. It's only about 3 miles to the top but the last bit is really wet and slippery from the waterfall's mist and goes straight up. This is the view from the top (that's the edge of the waterfall in the bottom right corner). The start of the hike is in that sunny part where the trees meet the other side of the valley.
The thing the Esquire was most looking forward to was visiting Mariposa Grove so he could see the Giant Sequoias for the first time. But here he is, ignoring the redwood behind him so he can take a picture of the bear proof trash can. Bears are a problem in Yosemite...we were repeatedly warned not to leave any food, water bottles, lotions, coolers--even empty ones, in our car because bears recognize them and will rip your car door off to get to them.
Even the pine trees are bigger in Yosemite. This is a standard pine cone... with the Esquire's foot for scale of course.
I have no idea who these people are but I love that they lined their whole family around the base of this redwood to show how big it is. I really hope this is their Christmas card. I hope they send me one...
Ahhhhh... after a long day of hiking we sat on our (semi) private balcony, rested our calves and watched the sun set while drinking a lovely wine from our Ahwahnee mugs.
Sigh... it was a good weekend. Happy, happy birthday Esquire. xoxo-Kat