Six years of training. Three thousand vertical feet climbed. Nineteen days living on sheer rock face. This had been Santa Rosa native Kevin Jorgeson’s reality up until January 14, when he and fellow climber Tommy Caldwell became the first to free climb what many believe is the most difficult route in the world—El Capitan’s Dawn Wall in Yosemite National Park.
The summer season may be winding down, but we're still yearning for more sun-kissed mountain time. Fortunately one of the best times to visit Yosemite National Park, specifically the higher elevations of the Tuolumne Meadows area, is post-Labor Day, when daytime weather remains warm and pleasant yet the summertime crowds have thinned.
Right now, two brave climbers are in the middle of attempting to free-climb the world's steepest stretch of granite, half a mile up, in the peaks of Yosemite National Park. Professional climbers Kevin Jorgeson and Tommy Caldwell began their journey on December 27 and are the first to try to reach the summit of El Capitan's Dawn Wall in Yosemite using nothing but their hands and feet. If the two succeed to the top, they will make history by being the first to do so without any other tools but their bodies.
As a former New Yorker, I wasn't quite prepared for the level of outdoor intensity inherent to Californians. I was used to plowing through city streets oblivious to my surroundings and pampering myself with weekend mani/pedis. The allure of spending free time hiking, biking, and backpacking drew me to the West Coast, but bets are that when you catch me on the trails, I'll be panting on the uphills and feeling like jello by the time I make it to camp. If, like me, you're more the Carrie Bradshaw type than a full-on John Muir, consider getting away to Ascent Spa at Tenaya Lodge on your next trip to Yosemite.
Fancy the idea of a Yosemite weekend but don't necessarily feel like roughing it? We get you. Luckily, the Yosemite’s Chefs' Holidays at The Ahwahnee (held in January and February every year) are the perfect solution - it's all the glory of Yosemite in the wintertime with a five star cuisine twist. The weekends feature cooking classes, demonstrations, "Meet the Chef" receptions, a gala dinner and behind-the-scenes kitchen tours.
Usually from the months of June through September, if you're heading to Yosemite and on a budget, camping is the only option. Simply put, park lodging is not cheap.
However, beginning Aug. 23 and running through Sept. 30, the rustic and charming Evergreen Lodge is now offering 25 percent off its cabins on weeknights.
Awe-inspiring beauty like Yosemite’s doesn’t come cheap: You pay for it with cash and with crowds. But there are ways to ameliorate that. To start, avoid the hordes of summer tourists by going in the shoulder months. April and May are the perfect time to see the national park’s gushing waterfalls (nps.gov/yose).