Travel Tips for 24 hours in Yosemite National Park in September for a wedding
Having lived in California most of my life, I've had the privilege of spending a few day trips and several camping trips in the Yosemite National Park, but it's never long enough to take in the scenery, the enormity, and the grandeur of its monuments. I always found myself standing there on the Valley floor dumbfounded, awestruck, and profoundly moved to the point of weeping from how spiritual these sheer granite walls were to me. They embodied mother earth and everything enduring the way they stood stoically, jetting up to the clear and bright blue sky! I love and revere Yosemite, and yes, it made me cry every time I stood in front of Half-Dome or El Capitan.
But what on earth can you do in a period of 24 hours in Yosemite when you're invited to your very good friend's wedding? You'd relish the opportunity and book your reservation as soon as you can, that's what you'd do. I booked mine 10 months in advance at the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls for a dear $250 a night instead of tent camping or outside the park for a cheaper price tag. One of the upside is that you have permitted parking where you could hop on the shuttle to the Ahwanhee Hotel for the wedding ceremony and reception.
Here's our itinerary in a nutshell and didn't feel cheated to having to say good-bye so soon to the park.
September is right smack in the middle of "crush", or grapes harvest season so we didn't have any hope for my husband to join me on my trek to Yosemite, that was until the very last minute he decided to do his phone work in the car while I drove up the hills. So I called my trusted friend Jonathan last minute to stay at the house with our Australian Shepard named Bobbie. Judging from his Instagram posts, I believed that they both enjoyed each other's company while we attended the wedding.
The wedding was scheduled to commence at four o'clock and we were sweating bullets, trying to make it on time. Once entered the park, it still took us over forty minutes to check in at our lodging, got dressed, and jumped on a shuttle whose driver changed shift at four o'clock, and his relief took her time signing into hers. Riders boarded the bus asking questions whether or not they were on the right bus to such and such destinations, and my patience was further tested while my anxiety level rose as steep as the top of Nevada Fall. I took several slow deep breaths and told myself that everything would be OK.
A very long and nail-biting story made short, we arrived about ten minutes late to scoot into our seats outdoors facing the granite walls called Royal Arches. We saw people still milling around and the pastor chatting with some folks nearby, and we quickly learned that the wedding party was also stuck in traffic on the Valley floor on their way back from their photo session. Whew! We didn't miss anything and I can now relax.
As soon as I saw my friend walked in with her father, tears just poured down my cheeks and drenched my seldomly made-up face. She was so beautiful and I was deeply moved to witness my good friends wedded under the most incredible backdrop of the granite walls.
The Ahwahnee Hotel didn't disappoint. It was an exquisite venue and the buffet dinner was better than any four-star and gourmet restaurants I've had the pleasure of dining in. We ate, danced, laughed, and visited with friends we haven't seen for a long time, so we agreed that everyone lead busy lives but we must be vigilant and scheme of better ways to stay in touch.
At the end of the most wonderful celebration we hopped on the shuttle with about thirty wedding guests going back to our lodge. We sang and joked some more, and it was apparent that some of us drank a bit more than others so I doubt we'll see them early for breakfast the next day.
We slept like a rock. The room was furnished in the most forest-service chic and very clean with a balcony with a couple of chairs and table overlooking the park, not building structures and I found that most pleasant. The two queen-size beds were very comfortable and I was glad not to have spent more on the over-the-top rooms at the Ahwahnee's.
We went to brunch around 10 o'clock and made the mistake of driving there. Don't do it because it's impossible to find a parking space there for Sunday brunch. We ended up parking on the street and walked about a quarter mile to the Ahwahnee hotel. Do arrive early or you'll wait for-e-ver! Our friends saved us some seats and we were able to join them, but we shamelessly relented and shelled out too much money for brunch, otherwise it would be an hour before the kitchen would take our orders. That said, it was over-the-top delish and was almost justifiable to do once in a blue moon. The takeaway here was to hop on the shuttle from your lodging to avoid parking issues, so you can arrive early and order breakfast from the menu.
After brunch we took the shuttle from Half Dome Village heading for Mirror Lake for a short one mile flat hike. The ride was only 2.1 miles and I was surprised at the amount of people here after Labor Day weekend when the high season was supposed to be over. The hike was mostly shady but it was a hot day, and what stood out on the hike during a warm 90+ degrees Fahrenheit day was the cool caves at certain stretches of the trail that felt so refreshingly like someone had left the fridge door opened. These were called Indian Caves and they're supposed to go back a fair distance.
No spoiler alert here at the destination but what I can say is that the scenery will not disappoint. Go see for yo'self! One thing I will reveal is that if you're a Pokemon GO trainer, there were two pokestops at the end of Mirror Lake's trail. We didn't check the rest of our time there in Yosemite but I'm sure it must be crawling with pokestops and pokemons. We weren't interested in finding them in Yosemite, are you kidding me?
So there you have it, a quick 24-hour stint to Yosemite. Do go visit the Park in the Fall if you can even though there will be no rushing rivers or falls to be seen but it'll be a lot less crowded and peaceful, especially if you leave the Valley and head to Tuoluome Meadow but that's another story.
Weekend Roundup: Travel tips to a 24 hours trip to an outdoors Yosemite Wedding at the Ahwahnee (Majestic) Hotel:
-Men, unless requested by Bride & Groom, dress nicely but suits are not necessary
-Ladies, don't wear your stilettos, it's an outdoors event in the woods and on the lawn
-It wasn't that cold and even I did't need a down coat this time of year. A light wrap will keep you comfortable
-Take the free shuttles from Yosemite Lodge at the Falls to the Ahwahnee hotel and not worry about parking...it's baaad!
-Do reserve your room at least 10 months in advance
-Do save your pennies for brunch buffet at the Ahwahnee Hotel at $48/adult $25/child. A great spread but you're really paying for a seat at the most historic and scenic hotel in the National Park system. An experience eating breakfast here for sure with the large windows to take in the views. Arrive earlier than 8:00 am because the wait to order could be too long and the buffet brunch is quite steep
-Definitely bring your hiking shoes, hiking clothes, bandanas, hats, water and snack, and hop on the bus for 2.1 miles from the hotel to Mirror Lake for a mile hike each way-mostly flat.
1. bring a small vile of essential oil for a pick-me-up and for the unfortunate times when you must use the smelly outdoors facility
2. liquid soap or hand sanitizer (as a last resort because you don't want to kill the good bacteria too)