Yosemite 2017 – Day 1

Travel Day and Tuolumne Grove

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So it is once again the best time of the year which is summer because that’s when I’m able to spend the most time in the outdoors. This year, my dad and I decided to take a summer trip to Yosemite because we both love the park and had a few big hikes we both wanted to do there. My friend Shayna is along for the ride too, but she’s left a day earlier than us because that loser has Hamilton tickets for the weekend.

Anyways, the way we planned this trip was a bit different than many of our other trips. Instead of doing a big backpacking or camping trip, we decided to actually AirBnB a house about 40 minutes outside of the north entrance to the park because I needed to be able to put in my weekly 12-15 hours of studying for the LSAT and my dad was on-call for work. From this house, we drove to various hikes in the park such as Upper Yosemite Falls and Cloud’s Rest (and many more). When my dad first suggested this idea for the trip I was hesitant because I felt like it wasn’t “real hiking”, but it has actually been a very cool way to get an extremely varied experience of the park and still be comfortable in the evening. (Don’t worry though, we’re planning a “real” backpacking trip to Sequoia National Park next summer already).

We got up the first morning bright and early and managed to make it out the door at around 7 am. The drive itself was very uneventful, and we made it to the entrance of the park around 1 pm. My dad had been told by a ranger that there was a half hour to an hour wait time just to get into the park but there was only one car in front of us so we didn’t have any problem. Since we got there much earlier than expected we decided to do a short hike in Tuolumne Grove to get ourselves acclimated to the higher elevation and kill some time before we could go to our Airbnb and because Sequoia trees are gorgeous and very large.

Unlike many parts of Yosemite, there is a decent amount of close parking for this trailhead. We didn’t find a spot in the actual parking lot (of course), but we found a spot about a quarter mile down the road. I’m actually way happier we parked there than in the lot because the road ran through a meadow full of wildflowers and it was so pretty. (I also literally love meadows so much).

The hike itself is real short and easy. The signs by the hike kept giving different lengths for the trail, but if I had to guess I’d say it was around 2.5 miles (so about 3 miles total for us from our car). You start walking downhill on an old fire road surrounded by trees (that are not sequoias at this point unfortunately). It gets pretty steep at parts, but the trail is wide and flat and parts of it are paved, so it’s easy to walk on.

The actual Sequoia grove is at the bottom of the fireroad where the trail flattens out. Down here is about a half mile loop that takes you through the grove and past (and through) some awesomely tall and gorgeous trees. It’s much narrower and a little more rocky, but the trees are gorgeous. The orange-brown color of Sequoias is so unique, and it’s crazy to me that some of these trees have literally been around for 2000 years (that’s the time of the Roman Empire!)

Here’s some other fun facts of Sequoias:

  1. They can live up to 3,000 years old.
  2. While sequoias can grow up to 300 feet tall (that’s about the height of a 26 story building) they are mostly known for being massive in diameter and width.
  3. The largest tree by mass is a sequoia tree know as General Sherman (although the tallest is a coastal redwood but shhhhh sequoias are still cooler).
  4. The General Sherman tree is 2100 years old!
  5. Sequoias reproduce by seeds in cones, which require fire to release them from their pods. Sometimes seeds spend 20 years inside a pod before they are released.
  6. Their seeds are also tiny, there are about 91,000 of them in one pound.
  7. They are pretty much only found in 77 groves in Northern California, but there are some in Europe that were planted in the 19th century.
  8. They are incredibly resistant to fire and disease and could (probably) survive an apocalypse because they are so hardy.

Anyways, back to the hike. One of the first sequoias you see is just massive. Here’s me and Shayna for scale.

Another cool part of this hike is the tunnel tree. It was carved out as a tourist attraction in 1870. Here we are again for scale. (Don’t worry, they didn’t carve it out until after the tree was already dead). It has that double pronged top because it was hit by lightning at some point. The inside of the tree is very carved with people’s names and had almost a polished appearance because so many people have run their hands over it.

Another cool attraction of this hike is a fallen over sequoia tree. You are able to see the underside of its massive root system and really get a sense of how tall these trees could grow because you get to walk next to it.

The last part of the hike is just walking that mile back up the fire road. It can get pretty steep but, compared to most of my hikes, this one was really short. I would rate it on the easy to moderate scale. It’s certainly not flat, but it’s short and more than half of it is downhill or on mostly flat ground so it’s really not that bad. It didn’t offer those grand sweeping views of rock formations that Yosemite is so famous for, but Sequoias are just as beautiful in their own and I really did enjoy this short hike.

After the hike, we made our way out of the park and went to a grocery store to pick up some food for lunch and dinner for the remainder of our trip. We got to the Airbnb, made dinner, and hung out, planned our day for tomorrow, and watched a movie (or, in my case, did LSAT problems) until  bed time. Tomorrow we were planning on doing Bridal Veil Falls, Lower Yosemite Falls, and Upper Yosemite Falls.

Thanks for reading! Here’s some more tree pics 🙂

 

Day 5 – Backpacking the High Sierra Loop Trail in Summer 2016

Glen Aulin back to Tuolumne Meadows

We woke up this morning bright and early to pack up our stuff for the last time during the trip. While I was looking forward to using some soap, I didn’t want to go back to the real world with internships and responsibilities (although I did miss my dog, I have included a photo for reference because I am obsessed with him and he is the best). It’s always nice to get away on vacation, and this one was even nicer because we were so isolated without cell service.

After a last cup of that disgusting instant coffee, we made some final adjustments to our pack and we were off. My dad I snapped this cute picture as we were walking across the bridge out of the campsite for the last time. I think it might be the only picture from the trip we have together while wearing our packs. As I did for the whole trip, I had my trusty camera hanging around my neck.

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Tuolumne Meadows (aka where our car was parked) is about 6 miles from Glen Aulin. Not counting an uphill patch at the beginning, the hike is fairly flat. The trail goes up the river for the first part, then across some flatlands where you have to cross these huge patches of granite rock, then through some forest-y type scenery, then you get to soda spring, and then finally you walk through the meadow until you hit Tioga Road and you’re back to the start.

Walking next to the river is definitely the most striking part of the hike. The water is pretty and often cascades down in larger and smaller waterfalls. It’s not quite as grand as waterfalls one sees in the valley, but still super pretty. The sound of the water is peaceful and it makes the air smell good in a way that only large amounts of fresh water can. This part is, unfortunately, mostly uphill, but walking next to the river makes it a million times better. We did stop quite a bit during this part though because we had to keep shedding layers as the day got warmer.

Next we walked through across some giant patches of rock and through a forest. I didn’t get a ton of pictures of this part because I was trying very hard to navigate the rock because it’s not even and I was wearing a backpack that’s roughly the size of me. During the walk in the forest, I was chatting with my dad and then forgot to take pictures. I noticed during the trip that I tended to take the most photos in the beginning of the trail and at the end. My theory is basically that I only thought about taking photos when I wasn’t talking to someone (or when something extra pretty popped up but those are exceptional circumstances). In the morning we didn’t talk to each other because it was the morning and we weren’t fully functioning humans yet and at the end of hike we were tired and also not fully functioning humans. That’s something I need to work on next time I hike so I don’t miss out on photos during large chunks of the trails.

About 1.5 miles from where our car was parked, we hit Soda Springs and Lembert and Parson’s cabin. I didn’t good photos of either of these cabins, so I should probably explain them. Lembert’s cabin is essentially the ruins of the tiny cabin he lived in for 10 years or so as a hermit in High Valley (my kind of man to be honest). The cabin may also have been used as a spring house rather than a dwelling as it is built over some of the natural springs there, and his actual cabin was probably somewhere else (it’s not like the guy documented his life as he was a hermit). There’s not much left of it but a few walls of stone. Parson’s cabin was built by the Sierra Club in his memory. Parsons was on the Board of Directors for the Sierra Club, and the cabin was used as a meeting place when it was first built and is now used for educational demonstrations by park rangers.

The area around the cabin is called Soda Springs, so named because the water in the springs is naturally carbonated. Geologists aren’t really sure why this phenomena  occurs. It can be kind of interesting to stand over a spring and watch the bubbles come and pop to the surface (although I may have been so tired from sleeping in a tent all week that I reverted back to the mindset of a toddler and that’s why I found this entertaining). It wasn’t the most exciting part of the trip, but it did make me curious why no one can figure out why this happens. I also wanted to drink it, but my dad told me not to.

The next part of the hike was one of my favorite parts of the trip. We got to walk on flat ground while looking at gorgeous views, which is a rare thing in Yosemite. We simultaneously got views of the Meadow (sometimes with water/mini lakes), the forest, and the mountains peeking up behind the trees. There were quite a few more hikes on this part of the trail because it is closer to the campground, but I’d gladly trade some isolation for some pretty views. It also never really gets that busy up in High Valley because it’s so deep into the park, so that’s not something I would worry about if I visit again. Karson went ahead of my dad and I during this part of the hike, but my feet were hurting so we just cruised and enjoyed the scenery for the last time before we had to head home.

Eventually we made it to the road, and I think we were all bummed to be leaving but also ready to go home (we all smelled pretty rank at this point to be honest). On our way out, we (and by we I mean by father) started talking to a group of middle-aged women who live all over the country but meet once a year to get their friend group back together from college and go backpacking. I thought that this was an awesome way to stay in touch and stored it in my memory for later when my friends and I don’t all live in the same place.

As we were walking along Tioga Road to get to where our car was parked, a lady surprised us by whipping open her van door and offering us a bag of vegetables. I know what you’re thinking, which is that we probably shouldn’t have taken a bag of food from a stranger in a van, but you’ve got to keep in mind that we hadn’t eaten anything fresh in 5 days. I have never been so freaking excited to eat raw broccoli in my entire life, and doubt I will ever be that excited to eat raw broccoli ever again.

 

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Raw vegetables and Lembert Dome what more could I want in life?

After profusely thanking the vegetable lady and devouring the bag in about a minute, we finally made it to our car and headed home. On our way home we stopped at this super good pizza parlor and I got some ravioli and we ordered a pizza. It was a satisfying close to a wonderful trip. Despite the fact that we had hiked around 35 miles in 5 days, I went home feeling more relaxed and content than I had felt in a long while.

A quote from John Muir’s book The Mountains of California succinctly sums up how I felt when we left the park that day:

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”

I always find the John Muir can describe how I feel about nature much better than I ever could.

Thank you so much for reading this series (if I haven’t bored you yet). Hopefully there will be more to come soon 🙂 Also, my dad and I are traveling to Yosemite again in August so stay tuned for stories about those adventures as well if you’re a Yosemite fan. If you’re sick of Yosemite, I should be talking about some hikes in and around SLO for the next few posts so you can look forward to those as well.

Peace out.

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Until next time 🙂

 

Day 4 – Backpacking the High Sierra Loop Trail in Summer 2016

Waterwheel hike

We allowed ourselves to sleep in this morning a little bit because we didn’t have to pack up our campsite. We hung out a bit in the morning and drank our (nasty) instant coffee and enjoyed each other’s company. Eventually, we got ourselves ready to go, and packed a day pack with some snacks and my camera for the day. Waterwheel is a little over a 7 mile hike, so it was going to take us a majority of our day.

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Showing us the trail for the day

Side note on clothing: I brought three pairs of running tights for 5 days. I like wearing running tights while backpacking or hiking because it prevents chafing, sunburn, and bugs getting on my legs. They got a little dirty, but I also had the opportunity to wash them in the river, so it wasn’t too bad. I also brought three sports bras, three pairs of socks, and three shirts and also rinsed those in the river on the third day so then when I wore them the fourth and fifth days they weren’t too disgusting. My dad and Karson both wore those hiking pants that you can zip off at the knee. I considered getting a pair of these, but I didn’t really want to invest in a pair and am very comfortable in my running tights. Anything works really, but I would consider wearing long pants because it may be more comfortable in the long run and I don’t think it made me that much hotter.

Anyways, Waterwheel is a bit of a rough hike in that the uphill part is coming back. You basically walk on flat ground for about a mile, then walk downhill for around 3 miles, and then turn around and walk back uphill, and then flat again. This trail follows the river very closely, and at times you even get a little misty from the water. There are also places where you can walk out on the granite near where the water is running, which is pretty cool to be able to do. We stopped and ate our lunch at one of these granite patches near the water. The hike is also unique in that there are these huge cliffs of granite that extend upwards next to the river. They hem you in a bit and force you to stay right next to the river, but they make for some amazing views.

Side note: granite gets incredibly slippery when it’s wet, so be EXTREMELY careful around the water. There have been a lot of injuries and deaths in the park from people wading into rivers that seemed slow moving and harmless, and the next thing they know they lost their grip and couldn’t regain their traction, and ended up getting injured or even going over a waterfall because the granite is so deceptively slippery. When I got close to the river to take some of the photos I wanted to take, my dad was very concerned and was super careful to make sure I didn’t get distracted and accidentally step into the water at all because I would have slipped and, at best, gotten seriously injured. Don’t go into any water at the park near a falls, in shallow granite, or basically anywhere that’s not a safe pool where you know you won’t slip or could possibly end up on the wrong side of a waterfall. Yosemite is one of the most beautiful places in the world, but it is the wilderness and you need to err on the side of caution.

Anyways, the hike starts on flat ground in a sort of forest that runs next to the river. It’s very green and lush, with plants and trees everywhere. As is the case in most of the hikes in the park, there are random granite rocks on the side of the trail occasionally.  There were also a lot of mountain jays on this part of the trail, but I couldn’t manage to get a picture because those little buggers are quick. We also saw one of the only redwood trees we saw while backpacking on this part of the trail. I looked up why there were so few of them where we were when I got home (because I love redwoods), and apparently the trees aren’t fans of the high elevation. I can’t say I blame them; I was not a fan of the elevation either.

Sorry I know there’s a million pictures, but this part was soooooo gorgeous. I often wish I was as pretty as Yosemite, so I post pictures of the park as frequently as if I am a pre-teen taking selfies on her first camera phone.

For me, again, the hardest part of this hike was the walking downhill part. Some of it is uneven, hand-carved granite steps, and some of it is just downhill on a trail, but it is steep and not easy to navigate either way. It also gets super hot because, once you get out of the forest, there is almost no shade along the trail. We reapplied sunscreen pretty much every time we stopped, which was fairly frequently when we were walking uphill on the way back because it gets super tiring going uphill for so long, even without packs.

As I mentioned on my last post, the reason this hike is called Waterwheel is because there are sections where the water hits the granite at such a high speed that it pops up into the air and looks like one of those old-time waterwheels that were used to power factories along rivers. I personally didn’t see that much of a resemblance, but I also don’t think we went at a time when the water pressure was particularly high, so we probably didn’t get the full effect of what it looks like when the river is at full capacity. Nevertheless, the hike offered some gorgeous views, and I’m glad we camped the extra day at Glen Aulin in order to be able to do it.

When we returned back to the campsite, we grabbed our kindles (or GameBoys) and headed back down the little sandy beach I described in my last post. We sat in our chairs and enjoyed the last rays of the afternoon sun while eating some snacks and reading, which is basically my idea of heaven. As the sun started to get lower, we gathered our stuff and went and made ourselves some more dinner. I believe I had the freeze dried fried rice and chicken tonight and I had no complaints about it. As soon as it started to get dark, we went ahead and got into our tents because the bugs started to come out and the temperature started to drop. It consistently surprised me throughout the trip how different the temperature is at night and during the day, but the change really makes you feel like you’re someplace that’s wild and unpredictable; almost like Yosemite doesn’t really want you to be there and you feel rebellious, as though camping is a defiant act against mother nature. Romanticizing aside, the temperature change really did remind me that I was definitely in the wilderness, which is comforting but unnerving at the same time, and I’m not really sure how that can be, but I absolutely love the feeling.

Tomorrow would be our last day in High Valley, and then we had to go back to our real lives of jobs and responsibilities and responding to text messages (ugh). We were going to hike back to Tuolumne and then drive home, passing Soda Springs and John Muir’s restored cabin along the trail home. I was bummed to be leaving the next day, but still excited to hike tomorrow and see more of the park and the High Sierra trail. I could have spent weeks up here and been perfectly content.

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Thanks for reading 🙂 until next time! P.S. I had to wrap my camera strap in a towel because it made my neck chafe! P.P.S. Yes, that is a Star Wars shirt