We could only afford the $200/night yurt for one night, so we checked out in the morning and drove out to the “end” of the valley near the Upper Pines campground. The goal was to hike one or both of Vernal and Nevada falls, an area of the park we had not explored at all on the last visit.
The day almost got derailed when I dragged the car across a rather large but inconspicuous rock in the parking lot. I didn’t see any oil leaks, but it is possible that the life of the oil pan was reduced slightly by the mishap.
Vernal falls is the first falls heading up the Merced river out of Yosemite Valley. It’s steep, but paved up to a bridge where you can view the falls, so it gets a lot of foot traffic. The trail to the falls itself was a bit more rugged, but there were still a lot of people, particularly as things slowed down right around the falls. The slower moving also meant it was going to be nearly impossible to get through without getting pretty wet from the falls. We both had raincoat options with us, and it was a relatively warm day so it wasn’t really an issue.
We took a short break at the top of Vernal falls before continuing up toward Nevada falls. Way fewer people on this portion of the trail, except one notable guy who had apparently gotten that far with only a 20oz bottle of water and was begging water off people. Janet was nice and gave him some, but I was a little more worried since I typically like to adhere to the recommended amounts and we didn’t quite have that when we left the trail head. Also, because giving him more water was not so he could make it back, it was so he could continue up just to run out again further along. We ended up having plenty, no one died (that I know of), and I should probably just be a more giving person.
The rest of the climb to Nevada falls was a bit steeper and more rugged, but also mostly drier. There’s a sizeable area at the top (and probably some more hiking trails if we looked) to loiter around and have a snack. The return trip on the John Muir Trail was a more wooded and less strenuous, in part because a portion of it was also a horse path. We did have one brief crossing under a section of rock where it was dripping on us pretty heavily, but otherwise it was easy going. They’re virtually the same volume of water, but I think that Vernal falls was the more impressive given the vantage point of hiking almost under the falls, but Nevada falls gave a more spectacular view from the top, being higher.
Back in the valley we hopped on the bus and rode a loop around to the Visitor Center and a few other quick stops before going out to Mirror Lake for sunset. There was supposedly a nice view getting Half Dome reflected in the lake, but we apparently chose the wrong trail and ended up on the Half Dome side of the lake, so no reflection pictures were to be had.
It was pretty late by the time we got back to the car and were passing through the main portion of the park again. We caught a few sunset pictures looking back down the valley as we were leaving the park toward our next destination: Death Valley.