Epic Roadtrip Stop #1: Yosemite

Yosemite Summer Sunset

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Oh my goodness. Yosemite. This place! This place is heavenly.

It’s our first visit here and we’re already thinking about future trips and imagining what it will be like to visit in the winter (ice skating!), or spring (legendary waterfalls!), or fall (fall color? I have no idea what happens here in the fall. Hah.).

We drove here this morning in a giant rented van. Eleven people. Me and Ben. Our six kids. Our two exchange students (one from France, one from England). And my niece Roxcy, who happily joined us at the last minute. That’s a lot of people! And a lot of teenagers. : )

The weather is hot, but we have a cooler full of icy water, we jump into the river whenever we get the chance, and we have lots of audiobooks.

Actually, I need to mention the audiobook tip before I forget. Janssen told me about an app called Overdrive and it’s genius. You use it to look up your local library — for example, we looked up the Oakland Public Library system — then you log in with your library card, and you can instantly read any e-books or listen to any audiobooks that your library has in their collection. Best part: totally free! Amazing right?

Anyway. The trip started this morning and it feels good to get going. This is the first stop of many. We’ll be here two nights, then it’s on to the next destination. Have you ever been to Yosemite? What are your favorite spots?

P.S. — In case you’re curious, we’ve been listening to Speaker For the Dead today — it’s the second book in the Ender’s Game series. Are you an Ender’s Game fan?

34 thoughts on “Epic Roadtrip Stop #1: Yosemite”

  1. American library system is phenomenal – missed it being overseas for many years. We use Overdrive App monthly.

    Great vacation! Fun to follow. We have a family member recovering from surgery, so it is fun to follow another’s vacation, during this period of time when we are not able to travel. Love the upbeat and realness of your posts.

  2. My husband I took a week long trip to Yosemite a few summers ago. We are rock climbers and it was always a dream to be able to climb in Yosemite. We climbed Half Dome and a few other climbing areas… it was unreal! What an amazing place! I’ve never been in awe of such perfect beauty. Be sure to go out to the Meadows at night to see the headlamps of climbers all over El Capitan. Have fun!

  3. Wow, sounds like so much fun so far! I’ve never been to the National Parks out West- and kudos to you for taking along three extra kids on your family vacation. I’m so curious about dynamics between the kids since I remember lots of arguing from my childhood road trips…

  4. Lisl Sukachevin

    We visited Yosemite in 2010 with our three boys (then ages 14, 12, 10). Our 14 year old and my husband climbed Half Dome and loved it! 16 miles round trip! I think hiking permits are hard to get now though.

    Another favorite activity was renting an inflatable raft and floating down the river. We did that twice! The water is super cold and amazing! Renting bikes and riding around was also fun.

    My favorite thing was a ranger-led program at night to view the stars. We lay on our backs in a meadow while the ranger pointed out various constellations with a laser pointer. The night sky was amazing!

    National Parks are our favorites!! Have fun!

  5. FUN!! Road trips with kids are truly one of my favorite parenting moments. We too listen to audiobooks, on the road so thanks for the app tip. Have you listened to “The Tale of Despereaux”? Surprisingly, it is totally engaging for older people (me) but fun for the younger kids as well. Send us all tips for successfully road trips with 9 kids!

  6. Yosemite is one of my favorite places — I have many fond memories of summer vacations in the park as a child. I was a park ranger intern in 1998 at Glacier Point, so I have to recommend a ranger-led hike to Sentinel Dome or Taft Point, or a sunset talk at Glacier Point. (And say “hi” to Ranger Dick Ewart, if you see him up there — he’s a Yosemite legend.)

    A trip up to the High Country (Tuolumne Meadows) is also a must — it’s gorgeous up there and much easier to get away from the crowds. (And a soft-serve cone from the Tuolumne Meadows Grill is a great treat!) Have fun!

  7. I love the Ender series! I think it’s interesting how different the books get as you go through. The second book is much more philosophical than the first, and they continue to get more and more “thoughty” as you go on. Enjoy your trip!

  8. I love Overdrive! Don’t know what I would do without it. I started using it when I was on maternity leave during all those feedings. One hand on baby and one hand with my smartphone on Overdrive reading. Saved my sanity! =)

    1. Me too! I still can’t figure out how to read a real paper bound book while nursing! It’s all about Overdrive and one hand only needed to “hold the book and flip pages” when it is on my smart phone.

  9. 1) Ender’s Game was such an interesting book–very prescient.
    2) Speaker For the Dead, too is intriguing in a different way…really examining how our idea of knowing and understanding others/other cultures can be completely mistaken.

    Yosemite in winter is supposed to be awesome. Also going out to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon area for XC skiing in winter (Flagstaff), for people who live nearer that area, who want to make the big Grand Canyon visit without so many people.

    The book that has really intrigued/scared me (because I feel like our culture has almost arrived at this point, sadly) is Feed by M.T. Anderson. It also explores (like Ender’s Game) how technology and media can influence and dull people’s ability to think/think for themselves without them realizing it.

  10. I loved Yosemite…I spent the three days in the valley with my mouth hanging open in awe at the scenery…..

  11. I adore Overdrive! Totally saves my sanity on all my work trips. It is just like a library though – sometimes the book I want is “checked out” and I have to wait for someone to “return” it.

    And YES! The Endor series is the bomb diggity. I can’t wait for the new one to come out. (And how much fun to have O.S. Card as a professor? I can only imagine…)

  12. I was born and raised in California. I have been to Yosemite many times, but sadly, not in the last 17 years!!

    My absolutely favorite thing is when you 1st drive thru the tunnel that goes into the Yosemite valley.There is a lookout point you can park in. The View!!!! You can see the entire valley unfold before you. Words cannot describe it. I’m getting chills just thinking about it. Enjoy your trip! I’m there with your clan in spirit. (I’m one of 7 kids, the youngest, and I have many wonderful memories of road trips with my crazy family)

  13. Yosemite is a special place for my family.

    My husband’s maternal grandparents met at Yosemite when they both worked there after WWII. They married in the tiny chapel on the valley floor. They continued to work in the Park after they married and (FUN FACT) their upstairs neighbor was the legendary photographer Ansel Adams. In fact, my MIL has an original Ansel Adams photo of one of the falls that was gifted to her parents by him.

    Last summer, my SIL got married in that same tiny chapel 40+ years after her grandparents did. My SIL and her husband are avid outdoors enthusiasts who spent a summer hiking the PCT together, so it was the perfect and sentimental place for their wedding.

    You’re there for a short visit, but do try and make it to Glacier Point for sunset. The view of the valley is amazing.

  14. I think your family would love listening to “When You Reach Me” by Rebecca Stead. It’s a Newberry Winner and MY teenager recommended it to me.

  15. Wow….11 people! How do you manage all the luggage? Do you have strict guidelines about how much everyone can pack? I just picked 5 boys up from sleep away camp and barely had room for all the gear. But then again, I have a small-ish SUV. I love your sense of adventure and can’t wait to hear about ( and see pics of) the trip!

  16. Yosemite in the fall is so indescribably gorgeous that it literally made me cry. The light is spectacular! I watched a wedding at the Awahnee Hotel and it was so achingly beautiful I wanted to do my wedding all over in that light and that place.

    I’ve been there in all seasons except winter. Spring-amazing waterfalls. Summer-hit & crowded but still awesome. But fall is my favorite.

  17. We live in Los Angeles, and our favorite place in the world is Yosemite. We go almost every other summer and have been once in the winter. Our favorite place to stay is the Wawona at the south end of the park because of its rustic charm and surrounding area of hikes and hidden bits of the Merced where you can lie on rocks and float on inner tubes with no one around. We always go down into the valley and do the tourist thing for one day, but really it’s the out of the way spots that we love. Also, the wagon/audio tour at the Mariposa Grove is a MUST. Take the wagons up and walk down. Glorious.

    1. We camped at Wawona last summer and loved it! It was one of our best family vacations — my son keeps asking when we are going back.

  18. Emily Chandler

    I LOVE Ender’s Game. It’s like a secret society. Very psychological and rich, especially in the beginning of the series. The author’s story about writing them is really amazing too.

    I love Yosemite. How did you do your reservations? I was shocked this year when I got on at 7am six months in advance of my camping trip and their site was wonky and not letting me get on. I’m waiting til next year but not happy about it. It’s magical!

  19. Yosemite is our favorite family vacation destination. We just returned in June from a week with our three kids (ages 18 mo, 5, and 6) and family friends with kids of similar ages. Our city kids loved “bouldering,” running free, exploring, finding rocks, and looking for animals (we saw a bear, a rattlesnake, and countless squirrels and birds)! Hike to Mirror Lake and cool off in the water. The kids were fascinated by the fact the water was a different temperature depending on where you were standing. And be sure to ride the bus out to El Capitan and look for those amazing climbers. So many adventures to be had. Definitely worth future trips back for your family.

  20. My family spent many, many Christmases in Yosemite! It’s become one of our favorite times to visit, and we now do combined family Christmas with inlaws, cousins, etc. Ice skating, snow hiking, cozy cabins, lodge rooms with giant fireplaces and much, much more. Yosemite is gorgeous year round, but it’s a cathedral in the winter! We rent cabins in Curry Village, and always book Christmas morning brunch at the Awahnee Hotel. It’s a real treat. Christmas Eve service in the tiny chapel. Glorious!

  21. Have a wonderful trip! I’m amazed you are taking this trip with such a large group – must be fun!!
    Thanks for sharing the Overdrive App – downloaded it and listening to Sherlock Holmes now. :-)

  22. Yosemite is one of my all-time favorite places on earth. I grew up in CA and went there often with my family as a kid. I vividly remember camping in our family tent and going to the evening ranger talk. A bear wandered up as the ranger was talking! It was amazing.
    On a later visit we skated at Curry Village and it was as amazing as you think it is. :)

    I’ve visited twice in recent years with my husband and son, both times in the winter. We hiked to Yosemite falls on an icy path and saw the icy falling off the face of the falls. The second time, we went ice skating while it snowed. We are all skaters in our own way and to share it was one of the most magnificent moments of my life.

    I hope you are having a fabulous time! Safe travels Blairs!

  23. This is the second post on Yosemite today and I am wondering if someone is trying to tell me something. I spent many a holiday there as a child, but since we live in Georgia we have never made it out there with our children. Would love to share this magical place with them.

  24. Love overdrive!

    Also, if you don’t already have one, I suggest getting an Alameda County library card. They have an awesome program called Discover and Go where you can reserve discounted or free tickets to museums and other places. It’s great!

  25. Oooo! That is just gorgeous.
    I gobbled-up Ender’s Game. It’s difficult for me to get past of the personal politics of the author (and the sexism in some of his writings). I enjoy the world he has created, but get the same feeling from buying that series the way I do when I know a product was made using exploitative labor practices, like sweatshops. A twang of guilty and thinking twice before purchasing it. LOVE the app recommendation for this.

  26. Your epic road trip has turned into my epic frustration with this bloody overdrive…..
    i was so excited to read and discover overdrive and then the issues with technology present themselves…..argh it’s soooooooo frustrating!
    maybe american library systems are set up to be much more user friendly than canadian ones… just not as easy as everyone makes it seem on here

    anyhow, your 1st stop is awesome; enviable. I wish you all much joy+great memories!


  27. Another Canuck here…and after giving up on Overdrive a while ago, I figured it out a couple weeks ago. I listened to Goose Girl (also by recommendation of Jannsen), and now I’m listening to Enna Burning. It’s my treat while washing dishes! On a recent 4000 or so km road trip with our seven children, we enjoyed a few of the Chronicles of Narnia books.

  28. So glad you asked for fun things to do in Yosemite. I’ve been wanting to take my family but I’m clueless as to what to do. We’re not really outdoorsy! These tips are terrific!
    And yes, overdrive rocks. It’s how I keep my kindle stocked with the latest bestsellers. So much fun!

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