Today we were going to explore the sights and hikes along Glacier Point Road. I had an ambitious list of things I wanted us to do, but deep down I knew it was probably not going to happen.
After another excellent breakfast provided by our host Julie, we prepared our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and filled our backpacks with water. Once we were all packed in the car along with all our gear and food, we headed toward Yosemite’s already familiar South Entrance. We got into the park, and continued up Wawona Road until we reached the Chinquapin intersection. There, we made a right turn onto Glacier Point Road.
McGurk’s Meadow Trail
Our first stop was McGurk’s Meadow Trail Head. I had read that this was an easy hike through the forest which leads to a beautiful meadow. From the sound of it, I concluded it would be a nice warmup trail. So, we got our backpacks, and started walking. We began the hike just as expected into a beautiful, cool forest.
There were no other hikers around, which was quite a change from all the crowds and traffic we encountered in Yosemite Valley.
The path was fairly easy; we descended for a bit, and then ascended some.
After some time, we came to a low, wooden cabin. We later learned this was McGurk’s cabin. Apparently McGurk was a pig farmer, and he liked staying here, close to his pigs. The kids certainly enjoyed ducking down to get through the small door opening. For them, it was a playhouse in the middle of the forest. It even came with a built in wooden bed in case they wanted to take a nap.
We continued our walk through the forest until we finally reached the meadow where McGurk’s pigs used to roll around.
It was covered in long, light green grass and small patches of wild flowers. It was truly a beautiful, serene place.
As we continued our hike, the path became more and more narrow until it was pretty much covered by tall grass.
Since our legs weren’t covered, we were a little concerned about possible tick bites or perhaps even snakes. In the end, it was just fine! We didn’t encounter any such critters. We got to the end of the trail, and turned around.
Horses Also Like McGurk’s Meadow
As we were walking back, we met a group of visitors riding horses.
This explained all the horse poop on the path that we had been carefully trying to avoid. Apparently, this was a popular hike among horse riders. We walked once again by McGurk’s little wooden cabin, and not too long after that we were back to the car.
After a quick lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, we decided to take a short break from hiking and check out some roadside vistas. We drove further up Glacier Point Road, and stopped at Washburn Point. There, we found a stunning panorama of The Valley and Yosemite’s famous granite giants. Unfortunately, it was a bit hazy because of the wildfire in the park, but we could still see the incredibly steep profile of Half Dome. It was quite mind-blowing actually!
This was the first time we had seen Half Dome from this perspective. We were looking at its side, not its face, and it appeared a lot taller and steeper than we ever imagined. The haze actually made it look like an impossible mirage.
Our next stop was at the end of Glacier Point Road. It was the actual Glacier Point. This was probably one of the most unbelievable and inspiring views yet. We faced Half Dome again but at a slightly different angle. We could see it’s steep side but also part of its face.
There was an interesting rock at the visitor area at Glacier Point that provided people with the opportunity to take some truly breathtaking photos with Half Dome as a backdrop. Naturally, there was a line waiting to seize that chance. We also lined up, and when our turn finally came, the kids and I hopped on the rock, and posed for an iconic photo. Luckily, the haze had cleared quite a bit!
View of the Entire Valley
Afterwards, we followed a short, paved path which took us to the actual Glacier Point view. It ended with metal rails near a drop off. The view there was absolutely beyond imagination. We could see the entire Yosemite Valley far below us, El Capitan, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls…You name it! We could see it!
The sheer size of this vista was beyond words and beyond photos! People were piling at the rails on Glacier Point, trying to get a glimpse and a picture. We also joined the crowd, and quickly realized in frustration that there was no camera angle or lens type that could even begin to capture what we were seeing! You truly have to experience and see it with your own two eyes to believe it!
On the Way to Meet Ranger Dave
After a few more death-defying photos, it was time to make our way back to the car and drive down Glacier Point Road to meet with a park ranger who was going to take us on a hike. Hubby had spoken to the ranger at some point earlier while the kids and I were in the restroom, and really liked him. So, he thought it might be a good idea to do the hike with him. This way we would learn something more about the park, and the kids would complete their Junior Ranger requirement to participate in a ranger-led program. We all agreed, and off we went!
Taft Point with Ranger Dave
We drove back down on Glacier Point Road to the Taft Point / Sentinel Dome Trailhead, which is where we were supposed to meet with the park ranger. Sure enough, he was there talking to people. He was an elderly man who seemed in great physical shape, and his name was Ranger Dave. We could see right away that he was very passionate about his job and Yosemite National Park. He gave us a choice between two possible hikes we could take with him: Taft Point or Sentinel Dome. Frankly, I had planned and wanted to do both of them, but they were in opposite directions, and he had a limited amount of time. We agreed to walk to Taft Point with him. I figured I would come back and hike to Sentinel Dome sometime later.
All Bears Love Food
When the time came, Ranger Dave gathered the people that wanted to follow him to Taft Point, and we all started walking.
The group consisted of our family (hubby, our kids, and me), and another couple. It was a wonderful hike, and because there were not many people hiking along, we could ask Ranger Dave all the questions we wanted. Our kids were very interested in the black bears residing in the park, and of course wanted to know if he had ever seen any of them. Not only had he seen bears countless times, but he said four times bears had charged at him. Ranger Dave told the kids that the best thing to do in such a situation is to make as much noise as possible, and act more scary than the bear ever could. He also told them about the importance of keeping food well packed in special bear containers. Bears only get aggressive when they think they can get food from humans. If there is no food to go after, they generally stay away and don’t bother anyone.
As we continued walking through a beautiful forest on the way to Taft Point, Ranger Dave taught us all how to recognize the different types of pine trees. We learned that white pines have needles that are in a bundle of five, the same number as the letters as in the word “white.” Yellow pines have longer needles that are bundled in a sets of three. He showed us how when you pull one of those three needles down, you can form the letter “Y,” as in “yellow.” Ranger Dave also pointed out a Lodgepole Pine, with needles in bundles of two. He demonstrated how with these two needles you could make the letter “L,” as in “Lodgepole.”
As we were enjoying this educational hike, we transitioned from the forest to a more open area, and passed by several fissures in the rocks beneath us. They were basically enormous cracks that looked a little intimidating as you could almost see The Valley floor through one of them.
Taft Point, Not for the Faint-Of-Heart
Shorty thereafter, we arrived at Taft Point. This was one of the most spine-chilling overlooks we had experienced yet. It was literally at the edge of an enormous rock which was overhanging the valley, located several thousand feet below us.
There was a small section with protective metal rails, and the rest was open for all the adrenaline junkies.
Speaking of adrenaline junkies…yes, there were several young people there setting up a cable above the abyss, with the mighty (read “insane”) intentions to walk across. This was their idea of afternoon fun! We waited around a little bit but didn’t actually see them walk on the cable. Getting it all set up was going to take a while.
Parting with Ranger Dave
Ranger Dave had other things to get to, and so did we. My older daughter was complaining of some knee pain, and we had to give her a rest. We walked back part of the way with Ranger Dave, and before parting with him, took some photos together. He also signed the kids’ Junior Ranger booklets, and they were now ready to receive their Yosemite badges. For that to happen, we would have to stop by one of the visitor centers. Ranger Dave was such a great guide, so knowledgeable, and enthusiastic about the park. We truly loved hiking with him!
Washburn Point Before Heading Out
When we returned to the car, I asked hubby to drive me up to Washburn Point once again. I wanted to take another look, now without the haze. So, he did! It was absolutely stunning, and Half Dome looked just as steep and impossible as before.
After I was done taking all the photos, we were on our way back to Oakhurst. We had dinner once again at the South Gate Brewing Company, and then got back to Julie’s House. We quickly went to sleep tired, but very excited to dive into more Yosemite adventures the next day!
Join us again as we discover the beauty of Tioga Road and Sentinel Dome on our third day in Yosemite National Park!
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