Friday, January 17, 2014

New Year's Trip to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe

Last summer, before Val knew she was going to have knee replacement surgery, we decided to make reservations at the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite.  When Val found out she was going to have surgery we decided to keep the reservation and use it as a goal for her recovery as our reservations occurred exactly two months after her surgery.  We planned to combine this with our annual New Years trip to Lake Tahoe which would make it even more questionable for Val. As the time drew near to go she thought she could do it so we were off.

We left home mid-morning and after a stop in Oakhurst for lunch we were in Yosemite by mid-afternoon.  One striking thing about driving into Yosemite was the lack of snow. There were patches here and there, but it was obvious it hadn't snowed in quite a while.  Coming through the tunnel and entering Yosemite Valley was breathtaking as always, but one thing was very noticeable - no water and no snow. The waterfalls were trickles or non-existent.  That is somewhat normal for this time of year, but no snow definitely is not normal.

Yosemite Valley
We drove through the valley and were soon at the Ahwahnee where we decided to valet park and save Val from having to walk so far.

The entryway into the hotel.
The lobby entrance.

The Ahwahnee Hotel is one of the Great Lodges of the National Parks and is described at the PBS website as "The magnificent Ahwahnee hotel, opened in the summer of 1927, offers a stylish marriage of architecture and setting. A jewel that equals the natural beauty of Yosemite, the Ahwahnee is also the most luxurious hostelry in the national Parks."  It was indeed a magnificent hotel in a wonderful setting and lived up to and exceeded our expectations.  The service was exceptional from the valet to the bell staff to the front desk staff, they couldn't have been more friendly or helpful.  We were soon in our room which as usual in National Park Lodges, was not fancy, but very comfortable with decor that fit right in with the surroundings.  We had a while before dinner so we explored the hotel that still had it's Christmas decorations up which made it more rustic and homey looking.  There were large fireplaces, grand halls, rooms and alcoves where guests could sit, relax, read and just soak in the surroundings.  There were also many large windows which brought the beautiful scenery of Yosemite Valley into the hotel wherever you looked.  Here is some pictures we took as we explored the hotel.  They were shot in low light and some with cell phones so the quality may not be great.

The empty dining room between meals.

Here are some pictures of the outside, as you can see there are just patches of snow and everything is very dry.

We had 6:30 dinner reservations so it was soon time to go upstairs and clean up and get ready.  Dinner was wonderful, Val and I both had prime rib which was great and the side dishes were too.  As everywhere in the hotel, the service in the dining room was friendly and efficient.

This is an attempt at a panorama shot with my cell phone.
After dinner we found a comfortable couch in front of a fireplace in one of the great halls and we relaxed and read until it was time to go up to bed, a perfect way to end our day.

Yosemite to Lake Tahoe
We made 9:00 A.M. reservations for breakfast so we slept in a little before going down to the dining room.  Breakfast was included in the room price for the package we bought so we weren't sure what to expect, but it turned out to be very good.  They have a breakfast buffet with an omelet station and an array of various other things.  Everything we had was very good.  Service was excellent and as we chatted a bit with our waiter we found out he had been working at the Ahwanee for 17 years.  There were quite a few long term employees so it must be a good place to work, especially if you like working surrounded by the beauty of Yosemite Valley.

After breakfast we hit the road for Lake Tahoe.  We exited the park through the northern entrance (highway 140) and soon turn onto highway 49, the route through California's gold country.  It was a pleasant drive with little traffic and beautiful scenery, it is always an interesting drive through all the old gold towns along highway 49.  As we left the park on 140 we drove through the area affected by the Rim Fire of last summer.  It was amazing how large that fire was, and we would drive through totally burnt out areas and then think we were out of it only to come upon more burned areas.  We had heard of how large that fire was, but to see a part of it firsthand really made us realize what a huge area had burned.

Just as we saw driving to Yosemite, there was very little snow on the ground as we made our drive north. What snow there was looked like it had been there a long time.  We reached Lake Tahoe by mid-afternoon and headed for Harrah's in Stateline, NV.  If you've read this blog before you know this is where we always stay on our visits to the area.  Our room was ready so we unpacked and relaxed for a while.  We had a very nice room with a great view of the Lake and mountains looking west so it was nice just soaking in the view.  We then spent the rest of the day in the casino and eating dinner. 

Lake Tahoe
On our New Year's trip last year there was a lot of snow in the mountain and on the ground around the lake, but this year there was very little snow anywhere.  The skiers weren't very happy, but there was man made snow so there at least was some skiing.  Here are a couple of pictures taken from our room window.

There's not much reason to describe the rest of our stay as it was much the same as our usual New Year's visits only we did a little less walking because of Val's knee.  We gambled with mixed results; I had thought after what Val had gone through she deserved to win, but it turned out I was the winner.  Well, I wasn't actually a winner, but I broke even and I consider it a win if I come home with any of the money I allocate for gambling.  We had some good food, plenty of relaxing and thoroughly enjoyed our trip.  

Wrap Up
The drive home was easy and uneventful which made for a good end to a great trip.  With Val only two months out of knee replacement surgery we didn't know what to expect on this trip, but it turned out great.  Val did really well and I think she surprised even herself.  Thanks to her diligence in doing her exercises and physical therapy she is recovering much faster than we expected and according to her doctor, "she is way ahead of the curve where most people would be at this point in their recovery".  She is by no means back to normal, but she did take a big step.  We will slowly start traveling again as Val gets further into recovery.  Our next planned trip isn't until early June so she should be ready by then to resume near normal activity.  Hopefully between then and now we'll do a little more traveling, but nothing planned so far, but stay tuned.