Get Out of Town!
The Best of Both Worlds for Valentine's Day
February, 2016 - Issue #136
So how does this sound for a Valentine's Day get-away: rugged beauty, elegant comfort, a range of activities to suit any mood, all within weekend driving distance?
Sounds too good to be true, right? Guess again. Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite pulls it all together, making it the perfect V-Day weekend destination.
Hidden among the pines just outside the park's south entrance, Tenaya boasts a AAA Four Diamond ranking. Our visits to Yosemite tend toward the rustic, and we love it. But April and I jumped at the chance to indulge in a new Yosemite experience. A full day of outdoor activities matched with indoor amenities.
Leaving Santa Clarita early Saturday morning, we were pedaling rented beach cruisers around Yosemite Valley before lunch. It was my first time biking the valley floor, and I have to say, it is the ideal way to explore this iconic landscape.
Use the dedicated bike paths (Call them paseos, if you prefer.) that wind around the valley to explore at your own pace. The time you save hunting for parking at the most scenic stops lets you cover more ground. But you're still moving slow enough to notice the surrounding beauty.
April sees with a photographer's eye. So I wasn't surprised when she turned us around and backtracked along the path. We crossed the road to stand on the bank of the Merced River. I finally saw what she noticed: Half Dome, dusted with snow, framed by pines and reflected in the molasses flow of the river.
We completed the loop around the valley in late afternoon. The sun was falling fast, and so were the temperatures. But there was no reason to worry. Having enjoyed the great outdoors, it was now time to experience the great indoors.
At the end of a full day, our tired legs carried us into the welcoming lobby of Tenaya Lodge. Unlike past visits to Yosemite, tonight there was no tent to pitch, no fire to build, nor dinner to cook. The fire was already roaring in the lobby fire place. And the toughest part of dinner was deciding what to order at Jackalope's Bar & Grill.
We started with the perfectly-crisp grilled asparagus appetizer. April went with the stir fry noodles and shrimp for her entree, while I opted for French Onion soup and a chicken Caesar salad.
Tired, and now full, we retired to our third floor room. As much as I love camping, this too was a welcome change of pace. King size bed. Spacious bathroom. Heater. Warm shower. Plus views of the nearby pines to inspire tomorrow's adventures.
In fact, there was more pedaling in store the next day. And more indulgence.
Before heading into the forest on the resort's mountain bikes to a nearby waterfall, we fueled up at Tenaya's expansive breakfast buffet. Eggs - two ways. Fruit. Oatmeal. Cold cuts. Bacon. French toast. Blintzes. Sausage. Yogurt. Danishes. More options than you could sample, unless you went back for thirds, fourths or fifths.
But we traded corned beef hash for handlebars. Following an old logging road behind the resort, we climbed gently in the shade of tall pines, past a century-old apple orchard. That was our cue to drop the bikes and follow a footpath toward the falls along Big Creek.
We found them after a short walk. And, as we ended our weekend, I think we found the perfect way to celebrate Valentine's Day - rugged beauty enhanced by luxury.
Eric Harnish lives and rides in Castaic.
Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite