Yosemite June 2011
Dates: June 7 - June 11, 2011
People: Mark, Matt H., Ken K.
- 6-7 (Travel Day / Mist Trail)
- 6-8 (Clouds Rest)
- 6-9 (Epic North Rim Hike)
- 6-10 (Glacier Point)
- 6-11 (Travel Day)
TUESDAY JUNE 7
We were up at 4am this morning. An incredibly early start to an awesome week. We were blessed to have our friend Donita from church offer herself to come to the house and watch the boys while Sarah took me to the airport. We left the house just a few minutes after 4:30 and were at the airport just after 5pm. My hope was getting to the airport an hour and 15 before a 6:15am flight at Detroit was good. Well, the lines were pretty long already this early in the morning. I was nervous waiting to check my bags and when I finished that around 5:20 the gal said I should definitely make my way to the gate. Security was also long but it moved well and only took about 15 minutes. I was to my gate by about 5:40 with time to spare.
My first flight of the day left mostly ontime and time went well on this leg to Denver. I was hoping for great views of the mountains as we flew in but things were hazy and I couldn’t see much. In Denver I had an hour or so which was enough time to get a drink and a snack at one of the airport stores. We were a few minutes late leaving Denver but as we sat on the tarmac I at least got to see the mountains out the window. The leg to Oakland had some great views out to the north, though I missed the initial views of the Front Range in Colorado.
We arrived a few minutes late in Oakland which set my time scale for reaching Yosemite back several minutes. I was also nervous about them not getting my luggage there so I was quite pleased when I saw it arrive in the luggage area. I grabbed it and quickly headed out to the shuttle bus area to head to the car rental area which is off-airport. When I arrived at the rental area I ran inside and had just 2 people ahead of me at the Thrifty counter. I was hoping to move quickly through here to stay on time but each person took 15+ minutes. When it was my turn the gal was trying to tell me about upgrade offers and was terribly unclear which wasted more of my time, so I finally told her to keep me on what I reserved so I could go. When I headed outside they were all out of the economy cars (Chevy Aveo) so I ended up with a royal blue Ford Focus which turned out to be a great car for the week.
I hit the highways and zoomed east towards Yosemite. I made my only stop, one I had planned in advance, at Manteca. Here I had a Walmart, gas and food and got it all. I hit the safeway for groceries (powerade, string cheese), and the Walmart with a McDonald’s inside for lunch. I also topped off the gas tank hoping I wouldn’t need to fill up in Yosemite at the higher prices.
The drive past Manteca was a beautiful one. It was lined with orchards and farms on the way to Oakdale and beyond. The road gets progressively more rural and the hills also start to pick up. The exciting part comes just a few miles after the small town called Chinese Camp and this was the New Priest Grade road. This was one thing I remembered about this drive from 3 years ago. It’s a nice windy mountain road that climbs from elevation 960 feet to 2800 feet in just a few miles. Its an exciting start into the higher elevations. After this section it was nice driving through Groveland-Oak Flat and then on to the thick forests and occasionally great views that lead into Yosemite. I had texted Matt and told him around 2:30pm for my arrival and Hodgdon and sure enough I made the entry gate and quickly thereafter Hodgdon at almost exactly the time promised.
Upon arrival at camp I took a good half hour re-situating gear for the night and discussed with Ken the sad news that he wouldn’t be able to join on the hiking to come because of his bum knee. So it would be Matt and I heading out for a few nights in the backcountry hoping to get in some great hiking. Matt had a bear canister ready for us as well as other food and the fuel. Based on recent conditions we opted against the snowshoes and would deal with the snow without.
The rest of today can be found in the Mist Trail and Little Yosemite Valley Trip Report
WEDNESDAY JUNE 8
Today's hike can be found in the Clouds Rest Trip Report
When we had made the decision to halt hiking for the day at the Trailhead Parking lot we instead decided to make the most of the remainder of the afternoon by enjoying Yosemite Valley. We drove on by the Village and decided to hit Bridalveil Falls first. We drove on out most of the valley and did the u-turn just before leaving the valley to catch the Wawona Road. Shortly thereafter we hit the parking lot which was near full. The short hike to Bridalveil Falls (emphasis on short) is all paved and interestingly the last hundred or so feet of it was a river. The water level from the falls was so high it was over-running the banks at the top of the trail and water was streaming down. We walked to within about 30 feet of the main overlook and from there it was drenching to go any further. I decided to give it a go and tried to hop along 2-3 rocks on the edge of the trail to stay out of the 2-3 inches of water, but slipped and cut up my hand. I hopped up quickly and did get a nice look at the Falls. Too wet for pictures though! We hopped on back down the trail hoping for quick drying of our feet.
We headed back into the valley and stopped at the drive by El Capitan for more views and got some great shots of El Cap. From there I’d remembered Sarah and I had a nice stop at the Swinging Bridge so we hit that. As we walked the path to the Swinging Bridge I noticed a great meadow and an opening through some trees there near us. Turns out, this little discovery got us some of our best views and shots of Yosemite Falls. The foreground of the beautiful green meadow (Sentinel Meadow?) with Yosemite Falls as a backdrop was a great panorama. We also did some walking in Leidig Meadow and enjoyed the views and the feel of the meadow while we were there.
The next stop was Yosemite Village. We parked in the day-use lot and walk into the village. We wanted to drop the bear canister off at the Wilderness Permit office but found it to be closed (we also did not realize there was an after-hours drop for the canisters). So we headed over to the Visitor Center and checked things out there. I finally picked up a stuffed marmot that Sarah had so kindly requested last time we were in Yosemite. We also realized we were in need of food. Pizza really sounded liked a great idea. Matt noted there was a good pizza place in Curry Village but as we were walking we found Degnan’s Deli and the pizza place in Degnan’s Loft. We gave them a try for supper. They had good beer, the personal pizzas were fine, and great cheesy bread sticks. I was just happy to have unlimited refills on the Mountain Dew and got a nice sugar/caffeine/calorie load there. After supper we finally headed back to Hodgdon to surprise Ken at camp.
THURSDAY JUNE 9
Were up early again today. Ken left at something like 4am to head up to Glacier Point for sunrise photography. Matt and I were up not too longer after to get breakfast a-going. We had some tasty oatmeal and chocolate/coffee again today. The legs were quite a bit stiffer this morning and the thighs were sore from all of yesterday’s downhill.
Today's hike can be found in the North Rim Hike Trip Report
We took the Shuttle over to the village and hopped off there to get some groceries. While on the bus I didn’t sit, but even the standing was enough to tighten the legs up a bit. When I tried to hop off the shuttle I nearly fell over as my thighs weren’t ready for more descending. It was a tough walk in the Village Store but we were at least able to treat ourselves to some beer and other goodies. I grabbed a Dew for a much needed energy boost.
We hopped the shuttle again and headed over to the Lower Yosemite Falls stop where we hopped off and walked the short distance to the parking. It was an exhausting but oh so wonderful day of hiking and it felt good to be back in the car driving out to Hodgdon. We spent the evening eating our freeze-dried meals at camp with Ken.
FRIDAY JUNE 10
When I woke up for our last morning in Yosemite I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it anywhere that day. The legs were so sore and tight from the previous 3 days hiking that I couldn’t hardly even step down from the camper. The walk up to the bathrooms was slow and painful at 5am and I was sure I’d need a walker to get back down the slope. As the morning progressed I tried to do some stretches and walked up and down the road a bit and things began to loosen, a bit.
The morning project was to get Ken’s camper all readied for transport. His reservation at Hodgdon Meadows was up and he was headed to Lower Pines in the Valley. We emptied the camper of the massive amounts of gear and the bear locker of the pantry-full of food and got that all into the vehicles. Actually, getting the camper itself transport-ready was quite easy and brought back memories of decades ago using Grandpa Witte’s old camper.
The real challenge came when we tried to attach the camper to the hitch on Ken’s 4runner. This was more than a handful for us as the camper and vehicle were both on a slope which created unnecessary pressures and forces that really upset things. We had good luck lining the vehicle and hitch up with the camper nose but when it came to dropping the camper hitch onto the ball of the vehicle it just wouldn’t go. We tried moving the vehicle back and forth and jumping on the camper hitch but it just wouldn’t drop. We even tried pulling the vehicle out onto the road and moving it to flatter ground but it still wouldn’t drop. We didn’t have any grease on the ball (and this probably didn’t help) but we tried WD-40 on it and that didn’t help it budge either. Finally, I suggested to Ken we inspect the locking mechanism in the hitch to see why it was letting it drop on the ball and he found a way to manually hold it open just slightly farther than normal and we were able to get it to drop finally. Phew! We were worried we’d never get that one to go.
We said our farewells to Ken after this as Matt and I were headed to Curry Village in the valley to check-in for flights and Ken was headed to the campgrounds to await the check-in time. Ken would have another week out there after us to enjoy time with his family.
Matt and I made it into Curry Village sometime just after 10. We headed to the lounge where they had free wi-fi and hopped onto the internet to check-in for tomorrow’s flights. We were only 2 hours past flight time, but this landed me with my worst check-in number ever on Southwest, a B-56. We were worried about not being able to grab seats next to one another at that rate (though it would turn out fine).
We checked out a few other places in Curry Village looking for some food and decided to head to Yose Village for the wider selections. On the way we stumbled onto Stoneman Meadow which had some beautiful views that early in the morning, so we took some photos. From there we headed into Degnan’s Deli and were pleased with their great sandwich selections. We got there just in time for breakfast still and ordered up some croissant sandwiches with ham, cheese, and egg on them. Yum. Also couldn’t pass up on those delicious looking chocolate chip cookies on the counter.
It was finally time to head to Glacier Point so we headed for the Wawona Tunnel. Past the tunnel it is standard mountain driving for about 13 miles with some pretty good views to the clear intersection for the Glacier Point Road. It was about 2 miles in on the GP Road that we first started seeing snow. At this point the road had been open only about 12 days. At first the snow was just small patches on the side of the road. As we continued it became progressively deeper. There were a few parts where we had several foot tall snowdrifts on each side of the road. The parking area for the Taft Point-Sentinel Dome trails was pretty obvious as we drove by. We stopped in at Washburn Point for some amazing photos. The views of Vernal and Nevada Falls were actually better from here than at Glacier Point.
Today's hike can be found in the Glacier Point Hikes Trip Report
It was sad to sad good bye to the Valley. But we hit the road and did the 25 miles out to the main gate and Hodgdon. We had one last unexpected treat before leaving the park. We were just about to pass the intersection by the Crane Flat gas station when we saw a handful of cars parking along the road. When you’re in Yosemite you know exactly what this means. We looked off to the side of the road in the meadow and sure enough, there was a beautiful brown bear grazing in the grass. Ironically, this was the exact same location and situation where Sarah and I saw our lone bear in 2008. In each instance we were on our way out of the parking for the day and we saw our bear.
The drive out became dark quickly and we had many miles to go. We were also interested in supper but there weren’t too many options to stop at. When we hit Big Oak Flat we stopped at a grocery that was just about to close and grabbed some drinks and a bag of chips to snack on. We opted to wait til Oakdale or Manteca to grab some real food and it ended up being Oakdale where we found us a Taco Bell, which was also about to close their lobby that let us in. We were hoping to make good enough time to get to our hotel by midnight but they had the interstate down to 1 lane on I-205 near Livermore. We calculated by the GPS that we lost about 30 minutes time sitting and waiting out there for traffic to move through. It was at least 12:30am when we reached Oakland. We went up the road just a ways from our hotel to a Shell station to fill up the rental car. We stayed at the Econo Lodge near the airport and it wasn’t anything special, but enough for our stay of about 5 ½ hours. We resituated gear for awhile and I finally got a shower in and it was to bed for about 4 hours.
SATURDAY JUNE 11
This last day of our trip was purely a travel day. Matt and I were up just after 5a to get packed and ready for the day. The goal was to leave the hotel by 6a, which we did, to drop off the rental car. Conveniently, our hotel was quite close to the Rental Car Returns at Oakland Airport and so it was a quick drive. Thrifty didn’t cause us any troubles on the return and we were quickly on the shuttle to the airport. Check-ins at the airport went great as well and then we were shocked to see the massive line for security. We were early, so time wasn’t a concern yet, but you would have thought the line was a half-mile long as it stretched well beyond the normal security line barriers. It moved well for us though and we were into the terminal before long. We had a solid hour plus to wait til the flight so we each grabbed some breakfast.
The first flight of the day was a 4-hour direct shot from Oakland to Chicago. This was one of the longer domestic flights I’ve been on. I spent a lot of the flight trying to look at pictures from Yosemite and desperately trying to hear movies at a good enough volume through my headphones.. We each enjoyed some celebratory Coronas on this flight for a week of hiking well accomplished. In Chicago I bid Matt farewell and grabbed some lunch before my final flight to Detroit. The flight to Detroit was short as always. It seemed to have left a few minutes late but we arrived in Detroit right on time. Pastor Lucas and his wife were gracious enough to be there to pick me up for a ride home.