Yosemite road diary: May 4-8, 2015

    Monday, May 4

Leave Oakland ~11 AM
Traffic on 13, 580, 205 as usual.
Reach Oakdale ~12:30, stop at Sno-White drive-in for lunch; a nice old-style place where they make the burgers etc. to order.
Sign says Tioga Pass is open - in early May, must be the lack of snow.
Don Pedro Reservoir very low.
Take Old Priest Grade up the hill; steep but less winding than new PG.
Many flowers in bloom: lupine under pine trees, poppies, Indian paintbrush, dogwoods, iris.
Traffic in Yosemite Valley is busy; wonder what it's like on weekends and in summer.
Check into Ahwahnee, which is fully booked; glad we reserved in January.
Room pleasant, but drought has caught them unawares; shower and toilet are not low-flow, and "water only on request" at restaurant is not going to make it up.
Drop stuff off in room and go out to explore the grounds.
Spectacular vistas; I see why the place is so popular.
Waterfalls are full; fears they would have dried up are unfounded.
Have dinner in dining room, a magnificent place.
menu page says it is 130 feet long, 51 feet wide, and sloping roof is ~34 feet high.

    Tuesday, May 5

Get up at first light (well, maybe second light), fortify self with coffee, and wander the hotel grounds. Cliffs are bathed in nearly horizontal sunlight.
Grab a bite and more coffee, and head up to Mirror Lake.
Many folks carrying cameras with big lenses and tripods; either birders or Ansel Adams impersonators.
After Mirror Lake, make a circuit south to Vernal Falls, then back to nearest bus stop and thence hotelwards.
Nap for an hour.
Get up refreshed, take free shuttle bus to Yosemite Falls stop, hike a large circuit:
    up to viewpoints, back to road, across Cooks Meadow to Sentinel Bridge.
Spectacular views everywhere.
At bridge, see 53 minutes till dinner reservation.
Hotfoot it back to hotel (bus too slow and circuitous), shower, make it downstairs with minute to spare.
Have taken 353 photos in day and a half; will take a week to sort out at home.

    Wednesday, May 6

Catch free shuttle bus to westernmost stop; walk across meadow to (former) Swinging Bridge and scenic views up and down valley in morning light.
Then back, past old Yosemite Village and valley chapel to Sentinel Bridge.
Chapel offers "marriage renewal" Sundays at 9:15 and 11 AM. Consummation presumably takes place off-premises.
Again on Yosemite Falls loop trail, for morning light - I am going to take home a *lot* of falls photos, much triage next week - and into new Y Village for lunch at Degnan's Cafe.
Then up winding little road to US courthouse, a "temporary" structure since 1988 of four modular units. Et in Arcadia justitia.
Back to Ahwahnee Hotel and nap. An hour passes.
I get up and walk to Mirror Lake again, for afternoon light, return to hotel, shower, dinner.

    Thursday, May 7

Raining; not heavily, but we're glad we did our hiking already.
May try to drive up to Glacier Point if the snow(!) is not too bad.
Nope; snow at higher elevations plus twisty road plus socked-in view equals stay in valley and be a tourist.
Go to dining room for breakfast today instead of grab a roll & coffee at the coffee shop.
Good choice; we get a window table looking out on the rainy meadow.
Valley is shrouded in mist, very romantic. (Glad not to be outside in a tent, though.)
Scene outside window is a wooded meadow of pine, oak, and flowering dogwood.
After breakfast, go out for a walk; rain has stopped but it is about 40 degrees.
Shards of cloud brush the cliffs; get as far as Ahwahnee Bridge before rain returns.
Take bus into Yosemite Village; store is doing brisk trade in bright yellow plastic ponchos.
Buildings (art center, museum, visitor center) are crowded & noisy. Glad to escape to replica of Indian village despite cold rain.
Take bus back to hotel and warmth; have lunch in dining room while watching deer forage outside.
Shortly after, it begins to snow, though it does not stick on the ground.
Outdoor swimming pool is not crowded, but even so we pass on it.
Nap time.

    Friday, May 8

Snow coming down heavily but still not sticking to the ground. Forecast says it should stop mid-morning.
At 10, snow visible on the cliffs but has stopped coming down into the valley; sun peeps out shyly between clouds.
42 degrees as we set out mid-morning.
Gets colder as we head out of park. 33 degrees at Crane Flat, reached through heavy fog with ~20 yards visibility. 6-8 inches of heavy wet snow at CF store (6200 feet altitude); get gas for return trip. Fortunately the road is wet but clear. The Tioga Pass Highway is closed again till the weather clears.
Snow, fog, weather improve rapidly west of Big Oak Flat park entrance as we descend to 4000 feet elevation.
Stop in Groveland for lunch at PJ's Cafe; OK, but don't plan to go there again.
3:30: into Oakdale, stop at Moss Rose Bakery for loaf of bread; the place could be straight out of the 1950's.
West of Escalon, see flooded orchards with standing water. Not as many as in earlier years though, and no excess water running across the highway this time. Some improvement, I guess.
Reach Oakland ~5 PM; 62 degrees, no sign of snow in the Bay Area.

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