Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Photographing Yosemite on a budget with $300 and 48 hours, Plus the MUST Photograph spots of the park!

Our Goal. Travel to Yosemite national park, stay within a reasonable driving distance and photograph the sights of the park under a $300 budget that includes Gas, lodging, food, and park entrance fee for 2 people. Will and can this be done? that is what my wife and i set out to do this last weekend. To travel and see one of the last untouched places of the North America without taking out a small loan to do so. So lets break it down for you and show how we did it and where are the must see places!
we used this book to help us out!
List of places
  1. Tioga pass
  2. Tenaya lake
  3. Tuolumne grove of Giant Sequoias
  4. Bridal veil falls
  5. Yosemite Falls
  6. El Capitan
  7. Cathedral rock
  8. Mirror Lake
  9. Tunnel Point
  10. Glacier Point
  11. Half dome

How we spent the money
  • Gas $90
  • Yosemite entry fee $20
  • Hotel $166
  • Walmart $24

DAY1: Getting to the park!
Getting to Yosemite can be a challenge depending on where you are coming from. Lucky for my wife and I that we are coming from Reno NV area. It is a simple 4 hour drive down to the Valley floor. we went through the Tioga pass (Hwy 120) that is right outside of Lee Vining that is on Hwy 395. If you are wanting to see every thing, this is one of the must see! And this is the first spot where you need to spend money. It's $20 for a 7-Day pass to Yosemite. (take a note this pass is closed in the winter, Click here to see the open and close dates) This is home to some of the must amazing sights of the park besides the valley floor. We got to see Tuolumne meadows, Tioga lake, and Tenaya lake. All of which are in a 30 min drive of each other. We stopped at each one but enjoyed the Tenaya lake the most. One of the down sides at this lake is that bug spray is a MUST! Well... another thing is that the Hwy is a 35 MPH zone.
Tenaya lake, looking north while standing on the south shore.
 After a short stay, we got back on the road and headed down the Hwy to come along our next stop, Tuolumne grove of Giant Sequoias. If you have seen one tree, you have seen them all, right? Well, no you have not. A Giant Sequoia tree can be thousand of years old and hundreds of feet tall. When you get to the parking lot, make sure you use the restroom and grab some water. it's a mile long hike down hill on a paved road to the path of the Giants. Key word there.... DOWN HILL! so you will be hiking your butt back up the hill when it's all done. When you get there you will see some small trees here and there (+100 feet) and then you will find a Giant tree. If you don't have a wide angle lens like a 11-16 tokina, good luck then, cause you will not get it all in the photo.

Am standing as far away as i can and i still can't get it all in view.
This tree was over 20 feet tall at the base and over 300 feet long.
 After a nice long walk back up the hill, it was time to get in the car and head to our hotel room down in the city of Merced.  So the prices for staying inside the park can range from camping spots that will run you $20 a night, all the way up to $300 plus for the Yosemite lodge. If you want to stay in the park, well get ready to bust out the check book and you better have that place booked a year in advance. Am not joking either. Any place out side of the park like  El potal, Midpines, Mariposa you are still looking at $160 a night or more. So we took the extra 30 min drive down to Merced CA. Granted its a 1 1/2 hour drive from the park but we save $200 a night and you probably will not find a room with a week notice. We got a room at the Holiday inn express for under $73 +tax a night with a coupon. So right now am down a tank of gas $52, park pass fee $20, and now 2 nights at the Holiday Inn for $166.  

52+20+166= $234  $66 left for food and gas.

one of the reason we stayed at the Holiday inn was the free breakfast in the morning. Not just a bagel and milk but eggs, sausage, pancakes, breads, and much more. After all of this hiking and traveling we relaxed in the hot tub and the swimming pool that night before heading to bed.

DAY 2: The Adventure!
We woke up at 7:00am to  get some breakfast and be on the road before 8am to we can get to the park before 10am.  We arrived at 10:15am to start off the day. First spot was...

-Its a easy hike to get to. Only 1,000 feet of paved road to walk on that leads up to a spot that is only a few hundred feet from the base of the falls. This is must do for every one.

off to the next spot

Yosemite falls
-Yosemite falls are made up of 3 different falls. The lower one that everyone can get to is a very short hike on a paved road to the viewing point. Beware that you will be there with about 3 billion other people. If you want to get to a different spot to see the falls, try the upper falls. The upper falls Trail head is located at Camp 4. Park in the parking lot there and head up the hill. It should take you about 1 hour to get to a spot to see the falls. If you want to get to the top its a 3 hour long hike to the top. we did not do that but we felt like we got what we wanted.
Left side is Lower Yosemite falls, Right side is Upper Yosemite Falls.
This was shot along to Trail to the upper Yosemite falls. You can see the Upper falls and Half dome in the distance.
El Capitan and Cathedral rock
-This is a spot that will make you feel small, VERY SMALL in fact. You can park along the side of the road and get out and wonder in the field. It's just simple amazing how large everything is and how small you are. On one side you have El Capitan rock face that soars up thousands of feet and on the other side you have Cathedral Rock that does the same. If you can manage to get to this point near sun set, you can have the sun touching the tops and sides of the rocks to give it a golden look. this might be one of my favorite spots in the whole park!
In the grass field between both the rocks.
Cathedral rock.

LUNCH TIME
This time we took a break to get some late lunch. Since we are on a budget we packed a lunch that we got at the local store before heading up to the park. However, if you don't want to do this, you can get some food at the park but it will run you from $10-$15 a plate. Now after the money we spent for water and food at Walmart, we are down to $40 left.

Mirror Lake
-Drive down to Curry campground and park down on the side of the road. From there you will follow the road north as the signs keep you on the right path. It's 1 mile to mirror lake and it's all paved. As you get closer, you will see the water start to back up and make some sort of a lake. Since the park has stop dredging the sand out of the lake, the lake now looks like a little pond. it is also a seasonal lake so it might be almost nothing if you go in the late part of the summer.


-This spot is heading out of the valley right before you enter wawona tunnel. You can't miss this spot cause like the Lower Yosemite falls EVERY ONE is here. This is the spot that everyone wants to see and take a photo at. You can see El Capitan and Cathedral rock and Bridal veil falls on the left hand side with Half dome in the distance with the valley floor leading up to it. Sunset is the best time but you can't go wrong with any time. Don't miss out cause this is a "get out of the car and snap away" spot. Less than a 50 foot walk to a killer view!


-If there is a spot that you can not miss, then this is the one. It's a 16 miles drive out side of the valley floor but since the driving speed it 35 MPH, it takes almost 40 mins to get to it. so plan ahead! If you don't do this at sunset, you are missing out on something. Yes, you can do this any time but sunset is just amazing! There is sometimes a park ranger up there giving some sort of talk about the park and some of the other things that happened in the past. Prepare your self! This is a spot that everyone and there uncle is trying to see it at sunset also. From this spot you can see Yosemite falls on the far left, then the valley floor, Half dome on the right side, then Nevada Falls on the far right side. It's a view that just amazing!
End of Day 2.
-So in the 48 hours in since we left our house, we have seen 11 spots in total. All with-in walking distance and only two of them are more than a 10 min walk. (upper Yosemite falls/mirror lake) We have only spent all of our money except for $40 which will fill the rest of our tank that will put us right at or near $300. we have a free breakfast in the morning and a 5 hour drive home. We did this on a Friday thru Sunday, spending a full day on Saturday at the park. So get out and explore!