Today, we hiked both Pothole Dome in Tuolumne Meadow and Cloud’s Rest, but in this post I’m going to focus specifically on Pothole Dome (mostly because Cloud’s Rest really does deserve it’s own separate post).
Pothole Dome was about a 2-3 mile hike with only 300 feet of elevation gain (which a breeze compared to yesterday). Unlike some of the other hikes we did this week, I never felt like one misstep would mean near-immediate death, and it can be comforting to have that kind of security on a hike (especially when you are doing an abundance of near-immediate death hikes). When we went, the crowds were light. We did not see any other hikers on the dome; the few hikers who we passed were on the Tuolumne Meadow Loop.
Fun fact about me: I am OBSESSED with meadows. There’s something about a field of grass and wildflowers in the middle of a forest that really makes me content. I could wander in meadows all day without seeing gaining any elevation and be perfectly happy. I also love taking photos of wildflowers, and meadows often provide many different kinds of flowers as well as many different kinds of lighting to experiment.
Pothole Dome is on the west end of Tuolumne Meadow. It doesn’t have much of a trailhead, but there are a few spots you can pull into right off of Tioga Road. It’s easy to miss though, so make sure that you’re looking out for it.
the view of the dome from the parking lot
The beginning of the hike is just through the meadow and then it skirts around the edge of the dome. When we were there, there were lots of white and yellow wildflowers and the grasses were very tall and green.
i love meadowssss
Finding the place where you actually start walking up the dome is a bit tricky. Basically, its when the trail curves left for the first time and when the trail curves left for the second time. You have to walk through a small patch of trees and then you just walk right up the rock.
It is a bit strange to be walking up what feels like concrete in the middle of a wilderness, but that’s how you make it to the top. There’s not really a trail (although there were some markers when I went), but it flattens out at the top so you should know that you made it. It’s not particularly steep, but we were all breathing a bit harder by the time we reached the top.
The view from the top is, like everything else in Yosemite, beautiful and varied and the type of view you could only find in Yosemite. You can see clear across the meadow all the way to Lembert Dome. The river snakes lazily through the meadow in wide curves that look fake from the height you’re at. Off in the other direction is Unicorn Peak which was till covered in snow. Facing the road is a massive face of granite that I don’t even think you can hike. For such a short hike, you get incredibly varied views in all directions.
I would definitely do this hike again. It was short, easy, and had a big pay off at the top. Plus, you get to walk through a meadow, and meadows are the best.
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).
Flowers from the meadow!
Even the road in Yosemite is aesthetically pleasing
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.
beginning of the hike
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:
They can live up to 3,000 years old.
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.
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).
The General Sherman tree is 2100 years old!
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.
Their seeds are also tiny, there are about 91,000 of them in one pound.
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.
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.
We started off this morning with some much needed but disgusting instant Starbucks coffee (that stuff is seriously gross). Just a side note: for breakfast we tended to eat granola bars and drink coffee and didn’t really have a true breakfast. They do make freeze-dried backpacking breakfasts, but they didn’t seem that appetizing to me, so I just stuck with my granola bars and Belvita crackers. We also never ate lunch per say, but pretty much just snacked all day while we were hiking until closer to dinner time when we cooked up the rehydrated food. I thought I would be super hungry all day, but I really never felt like I was starving and really wanted to eat until we stopped moving, and at that point you’re no more than half an hour away from starting to cook, so feeling like I had enough to eat was never an issue.
After we had eaten breakfast this morning, we headed out on the trail. It was a bit chilly, especially right near the water, but it warmed up as the day went on. The trail for today is essentially uphill for the first mile or so, and then you reach a peak and climb steadily downwards for the last 6-7 miles. Going from Glen Aulin to May Lake would have been brutal, but going from May Lake to Glen Aulin is a piece of cake.
As we first started walking, my dad was convinced we were lost, and made us stop and look at the map compared with his GPS reading for a solid 10 minutes even though Karson and I were 90% sure we were on the right path. Near the beginning of this trail is also my favorite lake of the trip: Raisin Lake. I was extremely amused that 1. they bothered to name this tiny lake, and 2. they named it after a raisin because that is roughly its shape. I was in love with it.
I struggled with the hike this day for a few reasons. One of them is that my shoes are slightly too big and so going downhill murders my toes and my toenails (a few fell off ew). Another is that my pack was slightly too large for me (starting to see a theme here) and walking downhill made it shake even more than usual, so I ended up with some blisters on my hips by the end of day. My dad and Karson had a great time though, and, even through my pain, I had to admit that the views were beautiful. I tried to distract myself by taking lots of photos and having my dad tell me stories about his life and such. These stories pretty much confirmed that I do not have any desire to become a doctor.
The hike took about 5 1/2 hours with snack and water breaks. We had to put the packs down a few times because they would occasionally just get too heavy and we would need a break. We took it slow and tried to enjoy ourselves. Because you are walking downhill on what is essentially a trail carved into the side of a cliff, the views are phenomenal. You get dark green trees in the foreground and hazy, snow covered mountains in the background. Views like this are why I freaking love Yosemite. It feels like you’re not in California anymore because the topography is just so different.
Karson checking out the view
Peep at Karson’s pokemon hat
Showing us the trail for the day
Bye Mount Hoffman
Me forcing Karson and Dad to take a photo
We probably stopped here because it was shady
When we arrived at the campsite, my dad wanted a site that was off the main path, but that meant that we had to walk up a hill every time we wanted to get back to our tent (including if we had to use the restroom or go to the Bear box). We were in an area to the left of the path next to a ditch surrounded by a bunch of trees, which made it fairly dark. This place probably had the most bugs of any of the campsites, but it wasn’t too overwhelming. We just had to be a little careful about leaving our food open when we set it down.
While Glen Aulin was my least favorite place to physically camp, it did have some of my favorite scenery of the trip surrounding the campsite. The first thing you see when you hike down into the site is a big waterfall. If you walk out of the campsite and down some rocks, you find a small, sandy beach with a pool of water off the main river. The water was cold, but it felt so good to hop in after not having showered for three days. Karson and I also swam out and went under the waterfall, which made my dad a little nervous because there were a lot of rocks underneath it, but we made it back completely fine with much cleaner hair than before. I really wish my apartment shower had that high of water pressure; I doubt there was a speck of dirt left in my hair, on my body, or clothing after standing underneath it for only about 30 seconds. After the mini-shower, we then proceeded to find a nice flat rock next to the river and fall fast asleep for about an hour. That was probably the best sleep of my life and I woke up feeling great.
About to almost drown under the waterfall
Our lil sandy beach
View from the Bridge going into camp
After waking up from that fabulous nap, we went and made dinner. I can’t remember what entree I had this night, but I did try creme brulee and a freeze-dried ice cream sandwich for dessert. The ice cream was delicious, but I wouldn’t recommend the creme brulee. It kinda just tasted like vanilla pudding and wasn’t super easy to make. It was hard to mix in all the powder and it attracted bees because there was so much sugar in it. If you do want something sweet while you’re on the trail, bringing some instant pudding could be a good idea because it’s light, easy to make, and delicious.
Finally we were ready to hit the hay. Side note on pajamas: it gets COLD. I usually wore a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, gloves, a pair of fuzzy running tights I brought just to sleep in, sweatpants, my socks for the next day, and a beanie. That might have been a bit overkill, but I get cold very easily and then I stay cold.
My dad and I also read every night before we went to bed, but Karson usually played on his Gameboy. If you’re not a big reader, bringing something to game with could potentially be a good source of entertainment. It’s nice to have something to do at night because you usually go into your tent fairly early because it gets cold and there’s lots of bugs, but most of us can’t actually fall asleep at 8, so having something to do is key.
This campsite creeped me out a bit because we were a little isolated from the main camp and surrounded by trees, but I was so exhausted that I passed out fairly quickly regardless. The next day we were planning on staying at Glen Aulin and doing the Waterwheel hike, which is named after the way the river supposedly looks like a waterwheel when the water hits the rocks at a high speed. I was excited to have another hike (like Mount Hoffman) where I wouldn’t have to lug my pack around, and so was looking forward to tomorrow. My dad was also excited because he had never gotten to do this hike before. There were only two more days left in our trip at this point, and I was so bummed at how fast it was going, but super content to be in Yosemite, devoid of cell service, with my dad and one of my best friends.