After the madness of the weekend, post rush hour San Francisco was pretty tame. It took a few minutes to figure out how to get down to the airport, but that trip went smoothly. Soon, my rented Hyundai Accent was zipping down the 101 towards Palo Alto, and eventually towards Groveland.
The GPS continually guided me east, across the bay and through the hills on the east side. The urban jungle gave way to rolling hills covered in tall, tan grass and spread out trees. The countryside looked a lot like western North Dakota, only with more tress. After crossing the Don Pedro Reservoir (which appeared a good deal lower than normal), it was back into the hills.
The trip to Groveland was much shorter than expected, so it was off into Yosemite right away. The forest was thick in this area, except for a large area that had obviously been hit with a fire in the past couple years. I’d later find out that the Rim Fire in 2013 had burned a large portion of this area, but hadn’t directly affected some of the more famous areas of Yosemite.
Fortunately, there are a number of turn-offs on the highways that go through the park, and most happen to have great views of scenery. It didn’t take too long before I had my first view of Half Dome.
Then it was off into the Yosemite Valley with views of Bridalveil Falls, El Capitan, and the other summits that surround the valley.
Traffic ends up being thick in the valley, even in the evening. Reluctantly, I started back towards Groveland to check into the inn. Yosemite Riverside Inn is nestled into a bend on the South Fork of the Toulumne River. Interestingly, it appears that the city of San Jose owns a youth camp right next to the inn grounds. Check in and unpacking done, it was off to the nearby towns to scour for supplies for tomorrow’s hike, and to find some dinner.
On the way back to the hotel, I stopped to enjoy the view of Stanislaus National Forest. The area north of Highway 120 was regrowing after the Rim Fire has burned most of the trees. It was a little odd to see so much relatively bare hillsides after driving through such a heavily forested area.