Through a good deal of luck and serendipity, Laura and I were passing close to Yosemite just as our friend Chris and his friends were planning to ride into Yosemite. We connected on the phone a few days before, looked at some maps and found that we would be able to rendezvous together and ride into Yosemite valley. We met at the Yosemite Bug Hostel, a great rustic hostel/lodge/B&B about 30 miles from the park and enjoyed a great meal with some craft beer (they have good beer on tap there, as if the scenery were not enough reason to go!)

The next morning, we hopped on our bikes, descended from Midpines to meet the Merced river and rode that to the park. We rode in with Chris and his longtime touring partners and friends Rick and Elmer. They have toured together several times over the last 30 years and it was a treat to ride with them and form an intergenerational touring cadre.

Laura had never been to Yosemite. I remember going as a child, but this trip was really unique and particularly spectacular. Everything seemed grander and larger than life without the frame of a car window. Even more beautiful, were the changing fall colors. I had always gone during the summer when everything was green, but to see the brightly colored leaves set against the grey immortal walls of the valley was sublime.

We entered the park by riding on the 140, a two lane meandering road that follows the Merced. The first 15 miles were a gentle grade that you hardly noticed. After the small blip of a town El Portal, the real work began and the road climbs at 8% for the next 12 miles. The road has no shoulder and hugs the cliff walls. There is a small stone retaining wall that keeps you and cars from the edge. The traffic was fairly light and you could hear the cars approach from a fair distance. During the summer months, the road would be a nightmare to ride, but sine it was getting cooler there were fewer people visiting the park, it was beautiful ride.

On a bike, the climb is a slow reveal. Views of the valley would be blocked by the tight turns then suddenly, you’d be bombarded by a vista that would stop you in mid pedal (as if the 8% wasn’t enough).

Once we entered the park proper, the grade mellowed and we rode on Yosemite’s series of one way streets and bike paths. It was beautiful riding and you felt infinitesimally small when you looked up the walls of the valley.

We rode around the park and tried to take in as many of the sites as we could before it got too dark like Bridal Falls, Half Dome and El Capitan.

It was getting late so we rode to Curry Village and rented a tent cabin. There was a long list of things that we weren’t allowed to bring in the tent because of bears (food, cosmetics, lip balm, water bottles, etc.,). We had planned on cooking, but it was such a hassle because we had to prepare the food far away and it was getting dark and cold so we opted for a meal at Yosemite Lodge.

That night we waited for the rain that was suppose to come, with the hopes that it would bring snow in the morning, but it never came. Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience and we plan to return to Yosemite another time to really explore the park.