Which is the best national park? We have this discussion during every visit. It’s fun to compare thoughts on who in the family likes different features about each park. Personally, I have visited 8 of the top 10 most visited parks in America. For the record, here they are:

  1. Great Smoky Mountain (and it isn’t even close)
  2. Grand Canyon
  3. Rocky Mountain
  4. Yosemite
  5. Yellowstone
  6. Zion
  7. Olympic
  8. Grand Teton
  9. Acadia
  10. Glacier

I remember vividly standing in the middle of the Zion Narrows as we marveled at the red rock walls and discussed whether or not this was our favorite national park. I think we concluded that the best national park is the one that you are in. However, I think our family was in agreement that Yosemite is probably our family’s favorite park. (That is so hard to say and it is subject to change.)

Anyway, we used the central entrance town of Mariposa to access the park on the first day. We were stunned at the power of the Merced River. The Sierra mountains saw record snow pack and it was evident–the rivers and waterfalls were raging! During our first day in the park, we spent some time at the Lower Yosemite Falls. It’s hard to describe the power of this experience. Here are a couple pics:

After exploring the visitor center and getting a better sense of the park’s layout, we headed to set up camp just outside the park at Summerdale. Accessed through the south entrance, Summerdale is a nice little camp site with a small creek nearby.

fullsizeoutput_c583After camp was set up, we decided to make the drive to Glacier Point. As we drove to the overlook, we came upon several cars parked on the side of the road. I slowed down and asked what they were watching over the steep slope, just off the road. The bystander sang music to my ears, “a mamma bear and her cubs!” Are you kidding me! This was a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to see a bear in the wild. This surpassed all my expeditions. Just off the road was a mamma bear and her 3 cubs (I only had a 70mm lens, so the pics aren’t the best, but they still capture the memory):

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If you look closely, you’ll notice 2 of the 3 cubs playing in the branches
I think the most shocking thing was how nimble those bear cubs were in the tree. They were like monkeys. After watching their shenanigans for ~15 minutes, we continued on to Glacier Point. Glacier Point was incredible. I could not speak hyperbolic about this place. It figuratively blew my mind.

The next day we embarked on one of the coolest hikes we’ve ever done–the Mist Trail. This hike takes in two incredible waterfalls that run adjacent to Half Dome (you can see the two waterfalls in some of the pictures above). Again, the amount of water pouring over these falls was awe inspiring. It is called the Mist Trail for obvious reasons. At the base of the first falls, you literally take a shower in the mist. Given it was still a little early in the year, it was a little cold. So much so that Melissa and Lara assisted a girl in the early stages of hypothermia until a medic along the trail came along to take over.

The ~14 mile Mist+John Muir Trails consumed most of our day and we were pretty tired. During the drive back to camp we sang along to best of Broadway musicals. It was a great time. That night, after dinner, we played around with ember stick art:

Day 3 in the park included another hard hike and beautiful waterfall–Upper Yosemite Falls. One of the cool things about this hike is that it starts at the legendary Camp 4, which is predominately featured in the movie “Valley Uprising,” a documentary about climbing in Yosemite.  This hike ascends to the top of the falls via countless switchbacks. It was hot, difficult, and beautiful:

Norah’s notes from the trip:

My favorite place that we went on our vacation was Yosemite. Yosemite is an outstanding national park. With Yosemite’s beautiful waterfalls and it’s amazing hikes Yosemite is probably my favorite national park. There were so many cool things I got to see. My favorite hike was the Mist Trail I loved seeing the waterfall and the rainbow that it made. Although these hikes were tough it was worth to see the view up at the top. The best view in my opinion is at Glacier Point, seeing Half Dome and the rest of Yosemite Valley.

One of the things that I disliked about this trip was the distance from our campsite to the park. It was about an hour long drive on winding roads to the park, and I get car sick really easily. The car ride was the worst part of the trip.

Along the way driving to Yosemite we visited two other places, Death Valley and Sequoia National Park. Death Valley is the hottest places I’ve ever been to. When we were there the temperature was about 114 degrees. Sequoia National Park has the tallest trees in the world they are called Sequoia Trees ( Redwoods ). We took a hike in the  Sequoia woods it was really peaceful and beautiful.

Over all this vacation was amazing. Everything that we went to see was really really cool. I had so much fun, and the rest of our family did to. Thank you dad for taking us on this awesome vacation.

Lara’s notes:

I usually am not a big fan of hiking, but Yosemite made me grow closer to it. I got to see lots of cool waterfalls up close and from farther away. My favorite hike was the mist trail. I really enjoyed the places we hiked through at this hike. I got to see more different parts of nature ever, by walking this one path. My favorite part was the first waterfall on the mist trail. It was awesome and impressive to see the water up close, how it was falling down. The stone stairs we walked up were really wet, what made it harder to walk fast, but it was incredible to see the waterfall so close. I also saw a double rainbow!!! I have never seen a rainbow that close, and I loved looking back to see it.

Another cool trail was one to the mirror lake. This small hike had a lot of cool parts where the water was so clear and beautiful. It wasn’t as majestical as the big waterfalls we saw the day before, but it was beautiful in its own way.

One thing that was really hard for me was to catch up with everyone. Kevin and Melissa stayed with me though, which supported me a lot. Because I struggled, it was even a better feeling to reach the top and see the whole landscape laying in front of me. It is cool to look back on trail while walking, to see what I’ve accomplished, and what I can do. Besides my breathing trouble, I loved everything!

I loved Yosemite, and from the view National Parks I’ve been to, this was my favorite. It teached me that I can do anything I want, when I put effort in it.

Melissa, Kevin, Hannah, Max, Norah and Tru thank you for taking me there and giving me a great time! I love you all.