Within a few days of school getting out we were driving north to Yosemite for our annual summer vacation. It was the first time visiting this fantastic wilderness preserve. We stayed in-style at the Evergreen Lodge about an hour northwest of the main Yosemite Valley center. The resort had a large pool, food & drink service, a great restaurant, pub, ping pong, bocce ball, bingo, and S'mores every night. We stayed in our own cabin with two bedrooms, a center living room, & a bathroom. Everyone had a blast.

GETTING THERE: (above) Yosemite is a nine-hour drive from San Diego so we split up the drive into two days to keep us from killing the kids. Central California was 95F for most of the way and after six hours we finally stopped in Tulare at our hotel. We grabbed a great homestyle dinner at Black Bear Diner. The kids took turns diving on the beds and enjoying their own room. The next morning we had a buffet breakfast then drove another four hours to the resort.

EVERGREEN RESORT: (above) After reading bad reviews about staying in Yosemite Valley Kathe decided to book the Evergreen Lodge resort, and what a great decision it was. The kids loved the activities, pool, hot tub, and food/drink service at the pool. The playground area had a giant spider web & even a zipline! We spent most evenings after dinner in competitive bocce ball games. We saw many wild animals during our vacation including deer, chipmunks, squirrels, caterpillars, & even a huge 3" wood beetle with fake eyes!

MIST TRAIL & VERNAL FALLS: (above) Our first day in Yosemite was the most difficult hike called the Mist Trail up to Vernal Falls. This 2-mile hike to the falls is pretty easy for the first half then when you get to the bridge it begins to get steep, going vertical over slippery granite steps. Tessa did extremely well on the first half then climbed the second half like a billy goat within view of Vernal Falls. Allison & Jeffrey hiked with Lee the short way to the misty waterfall viewing area. It was simply awesome, a great hike! After the hike we had lunch at the historic Ahwahnee Hotel (great amber beer, decent food, poor service, & expensive!). We had dinner at the lodge and S'mores at night.

RAINBOW POOLS: (above) After breakfast we drove southwest a half-hour to the Rainbow Pools, a hidden natural waterfall pool area. We swam in the very cold icemelt water out to the 20 foot waterfall and Allison even jumped off the 25 foot rock into the pool! We ate picnic lunches on the water's edge. Then we returned to the resort to play in the pool before dinner & S'mores.

MERCED REDWOOD GROVE & INDIAN VILLAGE: (above) We wanted to see the giant redwood sequoia trees, the oldest living things on earth, but the largest grove was too far away so we settled for the nearby Merced Grove. The hike was pretty easy & wide without many hikers and it ended at a group of five redwood trees in a row and several more nearby. We taught the kids how to identify a redwood tree from the other pine trees. Allison had to find a natural place to pee in the redwoods. The hike back up the slope was more difficult than the way down but everyone made it fine. Then we drove into Yosemite Village and explored the Visitor's Center & Indian Village. There was a lot to see. Tessa adopted a coyote pair "Kai" & "Oti" and the kids were rewarded with a cold vanilla ice cream cone. We took the Yosemite bus on an unplanned 30-minute tour around the valley sites on our way back to the car.

YOSEMITE FALLS & MERCED RIVER BEACH: (above) We knew the Lower Yosemite Falls would be an easy hiking day but we had no idea it was so short! Less than a quarter-mile from the road to the falls. The kids loved walking along the path & fallen trees. And Tessa brought her critter footprints book to identify the wolf/coyote tracks on the path. We decided to drive to a scenic beach along the Merced River that we'd seen and it was a blast. First thing we saw was a 4 foot Garter Snake swimming in the cold river water. Lee & Allison floated down the icy water. And we ate our picnic lunch on the beach relaxing in the sun with a great view of the Yosemite granite walls in the background.

HETCH HETCHY RESERVOIR & WAPAMA FALLS: (above) Friday we had planned to visit the reservoir north of our resort. We knew it would be hot so we left early and arrived 30 minutes later. The reservoir has a fantastic dam that holds-back the water that supplies San Francisco with its municipal drinking water. We walked across the dam and through a cool tunnel bored into the rock. Then the walking path began with fun steps across a thin walkway, up hills, down hills, and always with the thought that we'd see the Momma Black Bear & her two cubs. We did see several fresh bear scat along the path though. Jeffrey caught a young 3 foot Garter Snake that was fishing for fish fry in a mountain stream pond. And we saw an adult Garter Snake that was closer to 5 feet long as well as a large 18" Alligator Lizard. The five-mile hike ended at the beautiful Wapama Falls. We stopped there and ate our picnic lunch under the shade of the huge rocks. Then we made the long hot hike back.

BIKE RIDE & RESORT: (above) Lee decided to rent bicycles for a fun family ride around the resort area in the morning. Unfortunately the resort staff didn't advise him properly and we went down a long downhill fire road that dead-ended at the bottom. So we had to push the bikes up hill in the heat which was awful. Then, to compound the bad start, we missed the restaurant breakfast. So we hung out at the pool and relaxed for the remainder of the day. After dinner we had our Championship Bocce Ball game with Lee & Kathe winning on the last toss against Allison & Jeffrey with Tessa as the Bellini ball tosser.