The Pterodactyl that Ate Yosemite: A Preschool Pterosaur Adventure

Yosemite National Park shows best in the spring. Winter storms yield to warm sunshine. Streams and waterfalls run full. Flowers begin to bloom. Pterodactyls prowl the trails and overlooks.

We made the trip this year with our own personal Pterodactyl, formerly known as our oldest grandson. The 4-year-old spent the weekend self-identifying as an extinct flying reptile, so who were we to argue.


If you bring a Pterodactyl to Yosemite, be sure he has a comfortable place to fold his wings and tuck his beak for a good night’s sleep. We chose a roomy Air BNB in North Wawona. Good thing, since Pterodactyl also brought along his parents and brother, Baby T-Rex. Great Grandma came, too. We all slept well after a long day on the road.

Pterodactyl awoke more interested in Grandpa’s traveling collection of antique Matchbox cars than magnificent vistas and waterfalls. (Pterodactyls LOVE old Matchbox cars.) But once the breakfast cinnamon roll kicked in, we managed to nudge the preschool pterosaur out the door and down the trail to Wawona Swinging Bridge.


Pterodactyl hopped confidently up boulders and, with an assist from grandpa, back down again. Pterodactyl enthusiastically explored the banks of the cascading Chilnualna Creek while Daddy hovered an arm’s length away. Pterodactyl bounced across the swinging bridge above the swirling, churning South Fork Merced River with such confidence and enthusiasm that he left the adults breathless.


Back at the cabin, after lunch and Baby T-Rex’s late-morning nap, we clamored into our cars for an afternoon caravan to the Yosemite Valley. Pterodactyl would have flown but the cinnamon roll had worn off and his peanut butter and jelly sandwich left him sleepy. (Pterodactyls LOVE PBJ sandwiches but not crusts.)


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Tunnel View, Yosemite National Park. Dawn Page/Coastside Slacking

We arrived at Tunnel View with Baby T-Rex refreshed and Pterodactyl deep asleep, pointy beak tucked gently beneath leathery wing, talons retracted. The adults marveled anew at one of our favorite views while Pterodactyl slept. Baby T-Rex was more interested in the giant tour buses populating the parking area, thrilling with each new arrival. (Baby T-Rexes LOVE big buses.)


Pterodactyl never did rouse enough for a soar from the rock wall at Tunnel View into the Valley, but the heavy mist pouring onto hikers at the base of Bridalveil Fall a few miles down the road got his attention. Pterodactyl quickly backtracked down the trail to escape the damp veil. (Pterodactyls do NOT like to get wet.) Tethered to Daddy’s back, Baby T-Rex was not so lucky. He emerged from the mist with water dripping from his hair and face, much to the amusement of everyone – except Baby T-Rex.


One great thing about a day of adventure is that Pterodactyls fall asleep much faster at bed time. (Pterodactyls do NOT like bed time.) So, the next morning we once again all awoke refreshed, this time for a day at Yosemite Falls.


Fueled by scrambled eggs and strawberry yogurt, both Pterodactyl and Baby T-Rex arrived at the falls trail ready for action. The adults came, too. Grandma and Great Grandma stopped for a “classic” mother-daughter shot with the upper and lower falls visible through a break in the trees. But Pterodactyl was intent on finding adventure. (Pterodactyl’s LOVE adventure.)


A dark cave made of boulders from a long-ago rock slide caught Pterodactyl’s eye. Clasping a stick in his talon for protection, he bounded across smaller rocks and into dark corners. He found a secret passage to daylight in the back of the dark cave. He waved at Baby T-Rex, who thoughtfully munched a cookie in the confines of his stroller, perhaps contemplating the odds of getting wet were he to join the caving adventure. Daddy shadowed Pterodactyl in the darkness, guarding against a sprained wing or skinned beak. Both emerged unscathed. (Mommy LOVES when Pterodactyl and Daddy emerge from an adventure unscathed.)


Further up the trail at the base of Yosemite Falls, the prevailing mist-soaked downdraft was kinder than the damp shroud encountered the day prior at Bridalveil. Pterodactyl avoided the mist completely with a well-timed dash across the bridge at the base of the fall, talons clicking loudly across the decking. Baby T-Rex chewed on a cookie anxiously as Daddy whisked him past. Mommy and Grandpa weren’t so lucky, thanks to a damp father-daughter photo op in front of the raging fall.


Pterodactyl and family meandered with the flow of Yosemite Creek toward the Merced River and Yosemite Village for a late lunch. Baby T-Rex was content to enjoy the flowing water while munching on yet another cookie. Pterodactyl stopped to liberally muddy the water with his stick. At lunch, Pterodactyl discovered that cheese pizza with no sauce makes a passable substitute for grilled cheese. (Pterodactyls do NOT like pizza sauce.) What did Baby T-Rex have for lunch? Not much. He was full of cookies!


Swinging bridges. Soaring mountains. Dark caves. Raging waterfalls. You might think it would be hard to top Pterodactyl’s big weekend at Yosemite. But you’d be wrong. A stop at the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, CA, on the way home was the topper. Turns out Pterodactyls LOVE jelly beans!


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Pterodactyl and family enjoying a tour of the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield, CA. Coastside Slacking





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