I’ve lived in California for almost 5 years. But I didn’t visit Yosemite until my second year. Then once my third year and once my fourth year. Now that’s more then a lot of people visit (I mean I know people who grew up in Northern California and have never been!! CRAZY) but it wasn’t enough for me considering it’s my favorite place in the world. Hence, the year 2018 dubbed as the “Year of Yosemite.”
Reservations are hard to come by – more in a later post on how to plan camping trips. So by being planful & dilligent, I scored 5 reservations – March, May, July, Sept, Oct. But I only went 4 times as July was during the Yosemite fires. This was also the first year I ventured out of Summer, going in Spring and Fall. Yippee!
March – A friend from Southern California joined me and she’s never been to Yosemite. I love showing first timers around the park!! We drove in on a Saturday am (after staying outside the park) and arrived in late morning.
First we stopped at Tuolumne Grove (not to be confused with Tuolumne Meadows, no where close) and did an unexpected snow hike. There’s still snow at higher elevations! And due to this = no crowds! HOORAY!
After we played in the Valley being tourists and did all of the sites – Tunnel View (which really is beautiful!), Bridalveil Falls & Lower Yosemite Falls and then went to our campsite and made dinner (future post on campfire cooking!)
Second day we hiked a little past the Vernal Falls bridge, started getting wet and turned back. The Mist Trail is no joke when the fall is running hard! We then hiked Mirror Lake, that was more like Mirror pond. Easy trail, I guess that’s why it’s so recommended?? Then headed home!
May – Went with a friend who also has been to the park quite a few times. We spent Friday through Sunday glamping & camping & hiking (because I don’t understand the concept of sitting still). We arrived late on Friday, ate dinner in Half Dome Housekeeping camp (why did they change the name from Curry Village, such great history!) and went to sleep. Because the next day we had the hike of all hikes!
Surprisingly being Memorial Day weekend, it wasn’t that crowded in the valley! Except when we needed to find a parking spot near Four Mile Trailhead. Nada. So we hopped on the shuttle and went all the way around finally to be dropped off! With the fog rolling in.
And then we start the over 4 miles up to Glacier Point. Switchback after switchback – but gorgeous! I actually didn’t think I could love an over 3000 ft climb so much! You see Yosemite Falls almost the whole way plus the entire Valley floor. Foliage was beginning to change color and it was just amazing. Then you’re at Glacier Point for more views (and tourists), have a hot cocoa and make the return trip. Which is not nearly as fun. My quads were shredded after.
On Sunday we decide to drive up to High Country (it opened early!!) to hike Cathedral Lakes. First we tried to get water from the convenience store, but it was still closed for the season. Then once we thawed my frozen water bottles (for cooler storage), we went to the trailhead…and it wasn’t crowded!
We start the hike and remember quite quickly that we’re at a much higher elevation than we were in the valley. Breathing is hard. Then we see some snow, yay, so pretty! Then we see all of the snow. So much snow that there is no longer a trail or a path, but some random footprints everywhere. It seems other hikers around were also quite dismayed by this turn of events, and then looked to us to lead. I guess I look like I know what I’m doing? This is also where I earn the trail name “Ice Gazelle” and got lost…so, so lost. This hike should only be about 8 miles or so, we did it in 11.5. And after Four Mile the day before, we were exhausted!
But the hike up was pretty (once I noticed it on the way down), Cathedral Peak is always an amazing site, the Lake was pretty, the reflections were pretty, and the drive on Tioga Pass is always breathtakingly beautiful! I’ll have to try this hike another year later in the summer season! Lesson learned on early Tioga Pass opening!
September – We left early on Friday to join Volunteer Day in the Valley. I encourage everyone to do this! You learn things about the park, about whatever you’re doing (in our case, we picked the seeds of wildflowers so the rangers can distribute to other areas in the park), put in some good deeds and get to talk with the rangers. We learned that after the wildfires in July, the park was not nearly as crowded as usual. Hooray! (again)
So we volunteered, had a beer in Cooks Meadow, watched a teenage bear gallop (!!) around the meadow, then headed to High Country as we were spending the weekend glamping in Tuolumne Lodge. We attempted to cook dinner and got to bed early as the next day was a tough one.
Saturday we planned to hike Cloud’s Rest, and this hike is HARD. Now I’m pretty good with distance, getting better with elevation gain, but when you combine the two plus add high altitude, this one was rough. Plus I also didn’t love it. There’s not a whole lot of scenery for the majority of the hike until you’re about 1.5 miles to actual Cloud’s Rest. Then you have this somewhat narrow rock walk to actually get to the viewpoint. It’s not as scary as you read/hear. No need to scramble, walking across it is just fine (however, some people were crawling across). Then you get to the amazingness of the hike. I would not do this one again (and my body thanks me for that).
The next day we were both quite tired, so we decided to drive to the end of Tioga Pass. We played in the tufta’s of Mono Lake, drove around the lakes in Inyo National Forest (further determining I’m absolutely going back next summer!) and made our way home…after a quick little hike around Tenaya Lake. It was a great perspective seeing the lake from the backside.
October – This trip was the longest I’ve ever spent in Yosemite – 4 days. And of course, I planned out in detail all of the hikes we were going to do. And I was very over-ambitious about it.
We began the Saturday with a quick hike around Mariposa Grove since it just reopened. It was a nice, easy hike (would make for a great trail run!) and got to see the giant Sequoia’s the park spent 4+ years saving.
Sunday was an early morning rise to see sunrise at Glacier Point – and it was worth it! First it was really neat to drive around the Valley in the total dark with barely any other cars out, then parking isn’t an issue and we got a nice spot on the rock edge to watch the sun come up. After we hiked the Sentinel Dome & Taft Point loop (via Pohono Trail). Surprisingly, this was a difficult hike. It may have been the altitude or I didn’t fuel enough (stupid oatmeal), but it was tough! Sentinel Dome was nice, but I was very glad to visit Taft Point again. It’s such an amazing site and definitely tests my fear of heights…which has calmed slightly! Yay!
After we walked around the Valley and viewed the Yosemite history in the Visitor Center & went to the Ansel Adams Gallery. The history of Yosemite is fascinating, yet sad. Like every other part of this country (& many other countries) white people took the land from the original owners (Indian tribes). But the park has & is doing things to fix that, which I was glad to read about.
Monday was the difficult hike day. Initially we were going to hike to Upper Yosemite Falls (which I’ve heard very mixed reviews), but there were no falls! So instead we hiked Nevada Falls. Vernal Falls & Mist Trail really is one of my favorite trails in the Valley. Seeing it in the Autumn was amazing. So many colors of yellow & orange mixing in with the green & rock was picture perfect. The hike up was difficult but doable and you get to pass two falls. Since this was so late in the season, and Yosemite received virtually no rain over the summer, the Mist Trail was bone dry. Which also made me feel better about the safety factor.
Once we were at the top of Nevada Falls (having lunch, leftover veggie burritos for the win!) we realized we had to hike down all of those stairs. I had intended on doing the full loop and going down the John Muir Trail, but a portion of it was already closed for the winter season. Stairs are not fun to go down for miles and miles. Again, quads shredded.
Tuesday we drove to High Country! Everything was closed, but since no snow has fallen, the road was still open. We hiked to Lembert Dome & Dog Lake – nice short hike (5-ish miles), short elevation gain and amazing views. The top of the Dome felt like we were in Canada with 360 Alpine views. Then the short walk to the lake opened up to this beautiful & peaceful blue alpine lake. I’ll definitely go back and have a lunch there in the future!
And there you have it, my year of Yosemite! I thought perhaps going to Yosemite so often in one year would make me tired of it. It’s doing the complete opposite! I can’t wait to go back!!