Monday, January 16, 2012

Surprise Anniversary Trip

"Hello? Magical Mystery Tours?  Yes, I need a four day anniversary getaway within driving distance of San Francisco."

I filled out a short preference form and let the travel agent take it from there.  Done.  Wham-bam-Thank-you-Ma'am.    The day before we left, we opened the reveal documentation and packed.  It was a fun, little luxury to kick back and wait for the awesome vacation to plan itself.  If you're intrigued by the idea of a mystery vacation, I say give it a whirl.  It's helps that I know the gals over at Magical Mystery Tours personally.  They're smart, savvy small business owners who do this because travel is their passion.  And they're not paying me to say it.

Soooooooo ... Where'd we go?  Yosemite!

I'm a National Park Passport stamp maniac after being introduced by the lovely Marissa from Marissa Makes when we were in New Orleans.  Since then, if we're within an hour of a stamp, I have standard marching orders to collect said stamp.  Our very first stop in Yosemite was the visitor's center for my stamp.  The rest of the vacation could have been a bust, but I would have been happy with my burgeoning passport.

Of course, the rest of the trip wasn't a bust.  It was an unseasonably warm (read, a good thing) reminder that nature is so much bigger than us mere beings.  I think I may have said this when we were in Rocky Mountain National Park too - but seriously, the feeling of smallness is overwhelming.  The beauty and power of the creation takes me completely outside of myself.  I'm still not a camper convert, but the views (all of the hard fought after views!) were well worth the week of limping I suffered from overextended muscles and an overconfidence in my hiking skills.  Hahaha, I thought I had hiking skills to begin with. Silly, naive nature girl.

Since La Nina has stolen the snow season, all of the roads and hiking trails were still open in the park.  Several of the water falls were still running as well. I brought my 18-200mm zoom lens and UV filter to play around with and did some quick research on photography tips.  As the muse of Ansel Adams, Yosemite is the subject of a lot of photography instruction.  Instead of trying to focus on it all, I decided to specifically shoot with a series in mind.  Specifically, I wanted trios of pictures reflecting a big picture shot, mid range shot and a close up.  These are some of the more interesting series:
We took our first full day easy since we had an anniversary celebration meal at the Awhanee Hotel our first evening.  We were recovering from rich food (delicious - get the chocolate pecan pie!) and were looking for a little bit of a warm-up to the nature.  We hiked around Mirror Lake which was mostly empty until we reached the closure point of the trail where there had been a rock slide in 2009.
 As we finished that hike, the moon rose over Half Dome, one of the more famous peaks in Yosemite.  I'm happy with the wide angle shot of the whole formation, but I didn't adjust the UV filter for the others and they seem a bit hazy.  Overall, I'm happy with the composition though.

On our drive back to the Tenaya Lodge, we spotted the setting sun.  I attempted shots in two different locations on the side of the windy road, but I really could have used a tripod.  In fact, I wished I had a tripod on several occasions.  That's a lesson learned that I'm going to remind myself of for the next trip I expect to be photography heavy.
The sunset in person was AH-mazing, but it wasn't until zooming in that the colors really started to translate.

The funny thing about the park is that it's soooooo big it starts to warp your perspective.  The first day, I was all, "Whoa! The mountains are huge! The water falls are ridiculous!" By the third day, when we were hiking up one of the mountains and seeing the falls close up, you start to think, "Well it can't be that big because I just hiked up it."  So it was with Mr. Palindrome.  We saw the Giant Sequoias in Mariaposa Grove on our last day and he wasn't impressed with the "wimpy" giants.  Until he saw a fallen one and the perspective was regained.
Outside of the trios, we got some great shots.  Mr. Palindrome also loves the camera and took over for quite a few shots the day we did our big hike of misery.  The view was incredible, but my fear of heights really kicked in by the time we were descending. I previously mentioned that I was limping for nearly a week afterwards too.  Mr. Palindrome joked that we got more exercise on the first day of 2012 than we had in all of 2011 combined.  Sad, but true!

 Yosemite boasts 2 of the top 10 highest water falls in the world.  We had no idea until we were reading the brochure information.  This isn't one of them, but I climbed over 600 granite stairs to get this shot and I was pretty proud of myself.  We did the Vernal/Nevada falls full day hike and they weren't kidding when they labelled it "strenuous."
 Mr. P nailed the UV filter on this one.  Hello sky.

Would you consider a mystery trip? Have you been to Yosemite?


  1. I LOVE that you went on a mystery vacation! That sounds like so much fun - definitely checking their website out!

  2. Yosemite is my most favorite place in the world. I'm so glad you had a terrific - and beautiful - trip.

  3. Sounds so fun! My aunt and uncle were married at the Awahnee, beautiful place! I don't know if I could do a mystery vacation, I am such a control freak. But it is intriguing!

  4. The whole mystery trip sounds like such a great time! Beautiful pictures!

  5. Ahhhh, so many beautiful pictures. I LOVE Yosemite, even more than the Grand Canyon!

    Next on your list you need to check out Big Sur (if you haven't already). The Ripplewood Cabins are the perfect blend of rustic and convenience, and a much cheaper price than a lot of the lodging down there. And if you go in the summer, be sure to visit the hidden Pfeiffer Beach that most tourists don't know about!

  6. What a really cool idea! I've never heard of a mystery tour, but it sounds so exciting. And, Yosemite is just gorgeous!

  7. Awesome pictures!! And were those your new hiking boots I spotted?! Way to go!

  8. looks like a beautiful trip! i went there long ago and almost died hiking half dome.

  9. I love Yosemite! What a great surprise trip. I'm a national parks stamp collector too.