Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ridiculous Road Trip #1, Part 12 - Yosemite

Back to Part 11.

May 19
Before we started our trip, we put together a general route and timeline, but we didn't make reservations anywhere. Then we left a few days early, and figured out how feasible all of our driving plans were. Two weeks before we got to Yosemite, we discovered there was no chance at all in getting a campsite in the national park, so we made some reservations an RV resort about 20 miles from the park entrance in Groveland, CA.

We arrived at our campground around lunchtime, and gloried in some rare hot showers. Then Doug went off to find some fishing and I napped. It had been a few weeks since there was much laziness, so it was lovely.

May 20
On Saturday, we had a visit from Doug's good friend, Anup. Anup used to work with Doug in Indianapolis, but he moved out to California in 2014 and we've missed him ever since. Doug and Anup have been friends since they bonded over a project at work, and Doug came to realize and respect Anup's unfailing dedication to their customers.

We had a lovely few hours of catching up, laughing, hiking with him before Anup had to head back home. And we truly enjoyed the tasty treats that Anup's lovely wife, Pooja made and sent to us!

Later that afternoon, Doug and I took a drive through the Stanislaus National Forest and just into the national park, to see the Hetch Hetchy reservoir. Since it was getting towards dark (and they locked the gates at 9 pm at the reservoir) we just had time for a quick hike.

May 21
We woke up early, and drove the hour into Yosemite National Park, down into Yosemite Valley.

As we approached the Visitor Center area, we realized that all of the roads were under construction, detours were everywhere, people were everywhere (even at 7:45 am) and parking was impossible. We managed to snag a spot and finally found the Visitor Center, which was sadly, still closed for another hour (despite being listed on the website as open at 8 am). Luckily, Doug found a sign that listed all the hikes in the valley, and we found the tram that could take us to the trailhead. But omygosh, SO MANY PEOPLE.

We managed to peel ourselves out of the sardine can crush of people in the tram, and started up the trail to Vernal Falls. Doug had scanned the trail options, and had picked a moderately hard trail. It turned out, of course, to be mostly uphill, 400 ft in just under a mile. We got to the bridge over the base of Vernal Falls and thankfully, the trail leveled out for awhile.

And then we hiked on. What we didn't know, at this point, was that we had reached the end of the moderate trail at the bridge over the base of the falls.

The next quarter mile was actually a nice break, only with a slight incline. But for the next 0.5 miles to the top of the falls, things get strenuous. That half mile has 1000 feet of elevation, and this portion of the trail is called the "Mist Trail" because you get soaked as you are clambering up the 600+ granite "steps". But I didn't know any of this as we blithely hiked up the trail.

I didn't actually get any photos of this part of the trail (because we buried the cameras as we started getting soaked. The photo below is from the internet--but even this one doesn't quite capture how very wet and steep the trail was, or how many people where there.

This was us, totally soaked, nearly at the top.

Then we had to go up some more steps. 

And finally, we were at the top of Vernal Falls. And I took a look at Doug's photo of the trail maps, and discovered how our moderate trail had included 600+ steps of wet slippery craziness. Whoops. But it was gorgeous.

And we sat on the big granite slabs at the top, and dried out in the sun, and ate our lunch. Then we giggled at some cheeky, bold animals.

We dried out, and hiked along the Vernal Falls for a bit.

At this point, we had some options. We could turn around and head back the way we came up. Yikes! Going down those steps seemed even more awful then going up. We could continue uphill for 1000 feet of elevation to the top of Nevada Fall for another 1.5 miles of steep, rocky switchbacks. We thought about it for a minute, staring up at the gorgeous falls above us. In the end, we decided on the third option, we took the longer route back down on the John Muir Trail, up another few hundred feet and then down 4 miles of endless switchbacks to the footbridge and finally back to the trailhead.

We waited in a really long line to get back on the tram (the first one filled up, then we had to wait for another) and then we escaped the traffic and the crowds. We had a lovely lunch on the way out of the valley, next to the rushing river, then we headed back to camp.

May 22
We drove back to Yosemite Valley for a second day. There were some shorter hikes we were interested in doing, so we tried to get there super early, hoping to beat a little bit more of the crowd. On our way into the Valley, we stopped for the really quick hike to Bridal Wreath Falls. This time, we were prepared in our rain jackets.

Sadly, we forgot to bring extra socks. 

This "creek" is actually the paved trail. It got about ankle deep.
Then we headed out to hike around Mirror Lake. It was supposed to be a level hike. My flatlander version of flat disagreed with that description. They also didn't mention that we had to wade up to our knees in REALLY COLD WATER on several sections of the trail. It was quite refreshing--refreshing in that OHMYGOSH I CAN'T FEEL MY FEET sort of way.

Then we escaped the crowds again and headed out of the park to our campground. As we drove out of the park, I snapped this photo to show the lingering reminders of the 2013 wildfire.

After lunch, Doug headed back out to the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir to fish. He would like everyone to know, that it is not for the faint of heart. A ranger had told him about a place called fisherman's cove and that the trail down "might be a little steep." In fact, that meant that Doug was terrified for the hike. And decided that he should have had climbing gear. He didn't actually manage to get all the way to the water. 

But he did see bear on the way back to camp. Doug was driving, and saw them in the woods. So he stopped to take photos from the safety of the car. As he was about to pull away, another car came barreling down the road, about to come the place where the bear were about to cross. Doug honked madly, waving his arms out the window, and generally looking like a crazy person. The other driver just looked at him weirdly, then slammed on their brakes as they too, saw the bears. Crisis averted!

Up Next, Part 13.

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