Yosemite National Park, established in 1864 during President Lincoln’s administration, welcomes around 5.2 million visitors each year, including rock climbers, hikers, anglers, campers, birdwatchers and photographers. Many travel from far-flung places to see what naturalist John Muir so aptly described as “by far the grandest of all the special temples of Nature I was ever permitted to enter.” The natural gem covers 1,200 square miles of High Sierra Nevada terrain — known for its outcroppings of granite cliffs (El Capitan, Half Dome, Cathedral Peak and Olmsted Point), Mirror Lake, magical Bridal Veil Falls, towering Sequoia groves, and the Yosemite Valley. Muir vividly described the valley as a place where “everything is flowing, going somewhere, animals and so-called lifeless rocks, as well as water.” Black Bear, Mule Deer, Mountain Lion, and Acorn Woodpecker live in peace and harmony with nature in the park. Spectacular does not come close to describing the grandeur of the park, with its towering summits that reach over 13,000 feet, its clear alpine lakes and delightful wildflowers meadows!
Visitors may enter the park through five gates — four on the western side of the park for people traveling from California and one on the eastern side for Nevada travelers. Hetch Hetchy on the northern side leads to the Hetchy Reservoir area, where there are good hiking trails, beautiful waterfalls and a replica of Mark Twain’s cabin where he wrote “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” in 1865. The Big Oak Flat Entrance goes to Groveville, home of the Iron Door Saloon (1852), California’s oldest. The Southern Entrance leads to the small town town of Fish Camp, home of Tanaya Lodge and other accommodations. Popular with rafters and fishermen, Arch Rock Entrances goes to El Portal, where there is a 24-hour gas station. The Tioga Road Entrance leads to the town of Lee Vining and Mono Lake, known for its volcanic remnants. In addition to its visitor center, Yosemite Village offers the Yosemite Museum and the Ansel Adams Gallery, plus a variety of accommodations, restaurants, and shops. Other noted park lodgings (advance reservations recommended) are the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly The Ahwahnee), Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) and Yosemite Valley Lodge (formerly Yosemite Lodge). Camping is also a popular option.
For information and directions, stop by one of the park’s four visitor centers (Wawona, Mona Basin, Tuolumne Meadows and Yosemite Valley) or the information station at the Big Oak Flat Entrance. Be sure to check out Yosemite National Park’s website before and during your journey (nps.gov/yose/). It offers the latest information on road closings, weather conditions, fire alerts and more.
Some independent travelers enjoy seeing the park on foot, while others prefer touring in their own vehicles, traveling via the Yosemite Area Regional Transportation System (YARTS) or hiring a private guide. We signed up for a private tour led by Tony Rojas of PLAYosemite (lunch included). You can also see the park on horseback, by Model T rental or by scenic train aboard the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad. Major airlines serve the Yosemite area, as do AMTRAK and Greyhound Bus. AMTRAK provides train and bus service to the Yosemite Valley and Merced, while Greyhound service to Merced connects to YARTS. Public transportation to the park is available from San Francisco, Fresno, San Jose, Oakland and Mammoth Lakes.
We stayed at The Westin in Mammoth Lakes, a 45-minute drive to Yosemite. The year-round recreation area offers a plethora of lodgings, restaurants, shops and activities — from snow skiing to bicycling, hiking to zip-lining, fishing to boating. Mammoth Mountain (elevation 11,059) shelters the Devil’s Postpile National Monument, a unique rock formation of columnar basalt within the Ansel Adams Wilderness that is criss-crossed by the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. During our short stay, we enjoyed a driving tour of the beautiful, scenic area; visited a work-play co-op called “The Fort;” and took a yoga class at a local studio. We enjoyed dining at Petra’s and Whitebark in Mammoth Lakes and met local historians at a lovely dinner at Pokonobe Lodge and Marina on Lake Mary (visitmammoth.com).
In the Mid-Atlantic
Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia has scheduled a July 4 celebration, with free activities on the Duke of Gloucester Street throughout the day. President Thomas Jefferson will take the spotlight at the Shields Tavern breakfast, 7-9 a.m. (order tickets at 844-811-8229), followed by his reading of the Declaration of Independence at the Capitol at 9 a.m. Citizens of Williamsburg will also read the document on the steps of the Colonial Courthouse, 9:30-9:45 am, followed by the traditional Noon Gun and a fife and drums performance. Flags of the 13 original states will be displayed at the Market Square North, 10-10:30 a.m., accompanied by fife and drums, muskets, and cannons.The holiday will conclude with “Celebrate the Lights of Freedom” fireworks at the Palace Green, including a reading of the Declaration of Independence by President Jefferson, a torch-lit procession of fife and drums and a patriotic sing-along, 7-9:40 p.m. Tickets are required for seats at the Palace, but free viewing areas will be available throughout the historic area (colonialwilliamsburg.com). The Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment takes place in Gettysburg, Pa., on July 5-7 to commemorate the bloody conflict between Union and Confederate forces on July 1-3, 1863. The Union’s Army of the Potomac, led by Major General George Meade, repelled the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of General Robert E. Lee. Between 46,000 and 51,000 soldiers died in the conflict and President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address on Nov. 16 at the dedication of the Gettysburg National Cemetery. This year’s event will include lectures, military demonstrations and battle reenactments, photos with Lincoln, worship services, fife and drum exercises, musical concerts, dances and deliveries of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (gettysburgreenactment.com).
An update on the Outer Bank
Visitors to the Outer Banks will discover a few changes in the popular vacation spot this summer. The Wright Brothers National Memorial, closed for renovations for two years, has new hands-on, digital exhibits, and more stories about Wilbur and Orville Wright who figured out how to fly in 1903. The brand new Marc Basnight Bridge, named for a long-time state senator, has replaced the Herbert C. Bonner Bridge over Oregon Inlet. North Carolina’s first bridge with stainless reinforcing steel, the structure cost $252 million, is 2.8 miles long and rises 90 feet above the inlet. A section of the Bonner Bridge is now a pedestrian walkway. The Bodie Island and Cape Hatteras Lighthouses are open for climbing through Oct. 14. To mark the 20th anniversary of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse move, daily interpretative programs will be offered through Oct. 14 and special anniversary events will be held between June 17 and July 9, the same dates of the move two decades ago. Full moon tours of the lighthouse will be held June 17, July 16, Aug. 15 and Sept. 14 (purchase tickets at recreation.gov).
Carol Timblin welcomes travel news at email@example.com.