We awoke sliding off of our cots and descending closer and closer to the hard dirt and rock packed ground in the early morning. The camping spot that we had acquired in Yosemite National Park's Crane Flats Campground was far from flat and the area that we had decided to pitch our tent expressed that fact rather dramatically. We certainly would have been pickier about our campsite if we had the opportunity, but getting a campsite even near Yosemite National Park during the Summer is a difficult task, and while ours was not one of the beautiful sites within Yosemite Valley such as Upper and Lower Pines Campgrounds or the glamping style camping that's in Curry Village, Crane Flats is still close enough to the park that the drive is only an hour with little or no traffic. In order to get a campsite you have to log on to the recreation.gov website four months before the month of your arrival on the 15th at seven of that morning and hope that the campsite you want isn't snatched up by someone else with faster internet the moment the reservations open. If you haven't acquired a site within the Valley in the first two minutes it's hopeless.
Well, after that somewhat rude awakening we made the determination that it was as good an idea as any to slide ourselves back up to the top of our cots and sleep longer as it was to start our first day in the most popular park in the United States of America. We changed the position of our tents and cot on our campsite, ate a hasty breakfast of Instant Oatmeal and began the drive from Crane Flats Campground to Yosemite Valley.
I went to the Happy Isles Art and Nature Center to take a watercolor painting class that was being offered by the Yosemite Conservancy for $20 plus the cost of any materials you may not have, which can be borrowed for a smaller cost if you don't know that you'll want the materials permanently. I truly enjoyed the opportunity to get to know other people who were equally those who, like me, had never been to the park, or park veterans that lived around the area and knew the park's attractions like the back of their hand. One woman had gotten engaged to, had her wedding in, and gone on her honeymoon to the park. I also loved the opportunity to get outside and engage my creative side in a calm environment of simply observing and contemplating the gorgeous scenic landscapes laid out before me. On the other side of things, I didn't feel like I really learned anything while taking the class. It lacked the basic structure and functionality of a class being offered by a school with paid teachers and so I left with very little knowledge of watercolors and techniques for using them besides 'Hey! You probably need water?"
Besides that basic lacking of teaching it was still a great way to spend the morning and early afternoon because we found a secluded area with a beautiful view of half dome that wasn't able to be seen from any other vantage point. It lacked the crowds that other areas of the park had and seemed to be an insider secret that I had managed to stumble on simply b engaging with the activities that the park had to offer.
Following the watercolor class my dad and I returned to the campground for lunch, a nap (our early morning and days of driving had finally caught up with us), dinner, and to avoid the crazy afternoon crowds that flock to the valley on a daily basis. Lunch consisted of Backpacker's Pantry freeze-dried chicken risotto which may sound gross, but all the Backpacker's Pantry meals once rehydrated are fabulous and better than a vast majority of microwavable meals and all other dehydrated foods that I have ever had the pleasure, if that, of trying. Dinner was far more elegant, consisting of fire-roasted teriyaki salmon fillets, a round of sourdough bread from the Boudin Bakery, and pasta salad.
We drove towards Glacier Point at around seven for 8:02 sunset photos over the Sierra Nevada Mountains and night photos of half-dome from the viewing point at eleven when the sky was as pitch black as we suspected it would get. The skies were clear and a crescent moon shone brilliantly opposite half-dome and the stars were clear and bright.
Around the point that we were returning to camp I began to have a raging migraine, and so as soon as we returned I descended on my bed as the dead to a grave.