Despite the fact that I have lived in Northern California off-and-on for more than 20 years, Yosemite was a park that had alluded me.
Mr. Misadventures and I accidentally stumbled through Yosemite Valley two years ago when returning home from a trip to Mono Lake. I was thrilled to have finally seen the spot that four million visitors from around the globe visit every year.
Then again I could have been to Yosemite as a baby.
My parents went on an epic roadtrip when I was about 6 months old and apparently I partied it up in New Orleans and took in the Grand Canyon way before ever seeing these spots as an adult. But those are stories for another day.
Last February, Mr. Misadventures and I went to Yosemite for the weekend for a photography workshop. The hubby took amazing photos and I stayed in our hotel room doing our taxes. I saw very little of the actual Yosemite! But great shots were taken:
In July (2014), the mister did another workshop capturing the Milky Way to capture photos like this:
I stayed at home.
So when my husband suggested a weekend in Yosemite, I enthusiastically agreed as I wanted to see a little more of this famous national park. We made reservations at Tenaya Lodge and looked forward to our trip. A few weeks before our trip, we had to postpone due to an international business trip that could not be avoided.
We made new reservations and once again waited with anticipation. Then Jessica happened. No travel. No weekends. No Yosemite. The folks at Tenaya Lodge were very accommodating and moved our reservation again, otherwise, I would have forfeited the pre-payment, which would have sucked.
Finally, no business trips, no lame (physically lame, not you know, the other kind) cats, we were on our way to Yosemite. Our car was packed to the brim with coats, boots, bags, photo equipment, and our typical roadtrip supplies and food. We had everything we needed for the trip.
Except for snow chains.
Because of course, we forgot to check the weather and snow was a comin'.
Something we didn't realize until we were checking at the lodge and viewed the forecast: snow, snow, snow!
Thankfully, in the end, it was just a beautiful dusting both days, but it was pretty funny how prepared we were, yet not prepared at all.
Once we checked in, the hubby took off to scout photo spots and try to catch the sunset:
And while he was off doing that, I met one of Tenaya Lodge's marketing managers for a tour of the resort. A few week's before our trip, the lodge's PR team actually reached out to me and extended an invitation to stay for the weekend, but as I already had reservations, I declined (although I did accept a discount). I was keen to learn more about the property so I happily accepted the property tour.
Given the fact that Tenaya Lodge is a LEED-certified property where sustainability is a huge focus and that it was going through a major renovation, I was really excited to hear about all of the lodge's green initiatives and how the renovated rooms looked. I got to see every room from a simple (and beautiful) room all the way through to a luxury suite (that I didn't want to leave).
While touring the resort, I kept thinking to myself, “this is the winter version of Dirty Dancing” – there are so many activities and things to do, particularly for families. There is also a 10,000-foot spa, an ice skating rink, fire pits, 5 pools, convention space and several restaurants (the number depending on the season).
After my tour, I met back up with the hubby for dinner and went to bed early because we had to get up at 4:30 to be in the right spot to catch the sunrise.
4:30 came very quickly and not without a little grumbling about being married to a crazy photographer. It had lightly snowed so we needed ample time to get to the Tunnel Road to set up for the shot.
We arrived at the Tunnel Road and amazingly we were not alone – my hubby is not solo in his madness. But as it was quite cold, I hung out or a bit and then waited in the car keeping myself entertained with my iPad. I know, I can hear the groans, but it was pre-sunrise, cold and when I am awake, I am awake, no going back to sleep, so I had to keep myself entertained somehow!
Unfortunately, like fishing, some days you catch nothing and the sun was not cooperative and never came out from behind heavy clouds and therefore the lighting was too poor to offer a decent picture. I was feeling a little grumpy at getting up at 4:30 for basically no reason, but once my hubby told me the guy next to him had gotten up at 2 a.m. and driven from Oakland for a shot, I kept my mouth shut!
Here is a shot of the tunnel road that Mr. Misadventures took on his trip in February (2014):
Since the sun was not cooperating and it was beginning to snow a little we headed back to the Lodge for breakfast. We tried out the breakfast buffet, it was fairly small, but all the food was good. The staff in the restaurant is phenomenal and we enjoyed warming up and re-fueling.
We rested throughout the day, took in more of the resort and enjoyed the beauty of fresh snow.
In the early evening, we headed back to the restaurant for dinner. I ordered beef shank and the hubby had roasted chicken. There was nothing terrible about the dishes (although my shank could have used another hour of braising) but there was nothing exceptional either.
I think that the resort has done a great job developing their property, improving the design and adding amenities, but the next thing they need to focus on is food. At least if they want to attract gourmands. I had the opportunity to speak with their sous chef, Bob Gilbertson, when he came to visit our table. He has an excellent resume with stints at Madera (in Palo Alto) and Cliff Hotel (in San Francisco) and I am sure the kitchen is on track to continually elevate their menu.
Sunday morning we got to sleep in.
We got up, loaded the car and headed to the valley where Mr. Misadventures had scoped out a few alternate spots for the sunrise. We first checked out the Tunnel Road again, grabbed a few shots and then headed to the valley floor to a spot that my husband had previously shot from.
He spent an hour shooting in the water. I watched. I wandered. I wondered.
Then as we began heading out of the park we stopped at one more spot for these shots.
We stopped for breakfast in Yosemite Village which I was unimpressed with. Breakfast was decent (just an egg, ham and cheese sandwich), but frankly, there is just not enough there to support the three million folks that visit in the summer and I would never, EVER visit in the summer, it is just too crowded.
We headed gently home, taking in the sites and got home early afternoon.
Tenaya Lodge is a great spot for families, couples looking for a weekend away (particularly with their amazing spa) or a girlfriend's weekend. I also think it is a great spot for a small conference.
The sustainable practices appeal to me, the staff is exceptional, but I would want to see an upgrade in their food offerings before visiting again. For many people, this may not be a deal-breaker, but it is definitely a focus for me.
I didn't camp. I didn't hike. It wasn't perfect. But I can now say that I have visited Yosemite.
How about you? Have you been to Yosemite? What are your experiences? If not, is it on your list to visit?
Check out more great Yosemite spots to visit in these AFAR Highlights.
Disclosure: I received a discount on my standard room. And while Tenaya Lodge did provide the discount, all opinions about the property are strictly my own.
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