We got shooed out of the 4th of July airbnb by cleaners and started driving without knowing where we were going. We considered stopping to make a plan, but decided to just keep driving to Yosemite, because that was the one thing we *had* to check off before we could leave California.
Without having done any planning, our expectations were pretty much entirely based on the dirtbag-big-wall-climbers mythos that had been fed to us by Valley Uprising, Let My People Go Surfing, climbing instagrams, and my Dad's friends. Entering the valley at the golden hour, we were suitably awed by the sheer granite faces reaching for the sky. Like something from the land before time, or Lord of The Rings, looking up can induce vertigo.
Looking around though, not exactly what we expected. Yosemite is one of the nations most iconic parks, and it belongs to families with four-year-olds as much as it belongs to climbers who think they're hardcore. On summer afternoons, the banks of the Merced river are crowded with vacationers toting pool rings and drink koozies. By 11am the loop road becomes a caterpillar, puffing smoke as it crawls along, bare feet and pricey cameras hanging out of windows. Half Dome village sells cafeteria pizza and the dozens of parking lots and campgrounds recall music festival grounds. It's a bajillion degrees on July afternoons, most of the valley is accessible by beach cruiser, and we'd recommend not driving between 8am and 8pm.
Hopefully one day we'll return in a shoulder season and join the climbers at Camp 4, scale the granite faces, and feel badass. This time, we embraced the sluggish heat, biked the loop road, and walked to Mirror Lake and Vernal Falls. Then we rose early on our last day to hike to Glacier Point and back before noon (beating the worst of the heat and crowds).
We talked a lot of circles about what to do next but didn't decide anything except to not return to San Jose. So we drove to Mammoth Lakes on the recommendation of a friendly guy who struck up a conversation as we walked back to the van after a largely unsuccessful bouldering excursion.
We'll figure out our next move sometime.