Yosemite June 2014
Dates: June 15 - June 21, 2014
People: Mark, Matt H., Ken K.
- 6-15 (Travel Day)
- 6-16 (Mt. Dana)
- 6-17 (Sunrise Lakes Trail, Clouds Rest)
- 6-18 (Half Dome, Diving Board Attempt)
- 6-19 (Glacier Point, Panorama Trail, 4-Mile Trail)
- 6-20 (May Lake, Mt. Hoffmann)
- 6-21 (Travel Day)
SUNDAY JUNE 15
My trip today began with a drive to the airport at about 1:45pm. My family and I had worshipped and participated in Sunday School + Bible class all morning. We did lunch together at Subway and then headed for the airport. They dropped me off about 2:15pm which gave me ample time to get through security and then sit and wait. Normally I'd be walking around the airport and looking for food but today the MO was to charge devices. A week of no electricity lay ahead in Yosemite and I needed everything at full power when I got out there.
My first flight of the day was to Phoenix. I left Detroit mostly on time at 3:50pm and arrival in Phoenix was at 4:55 Mountain Standard. A long 4-hour flight. I spent it watching a movie on my tablet and doing a bunch of reading. Along the way I managed to find the proper side of the plane to take in great views of the Sangre de Cristo range in Colorado. Seeing the Great Sand Dunes helped me pick this out. We were flying just over the south end of the Blanca group whose peaks I could pick out.
Our Phoenix arrival was on time and it was 98 degrees there. Glad to be inside! I noted my flight leaving Phoenix was going to be a half hour late, which was a bummer. For some reason my plane, which was coming from Albuquerque was already late. I spent time in Phoenix grabbing supper at Paradise Bakery, which is another name for Panera, and then charging devices again. We did indeed leave 30 minutes late and the arrival in San Francisco didn't make up any of that time.
It was 8:25pm local time when I arrived at SFO. I texted with Matt to coordinate the pickup. I also took about 5 minutes to fill up my hydration bladder and water bottles at a drinking fountain to get a head start on tomorrow. My bags arrived in good time and Matt was there to pick me up. He and I drove out to a Taco Bell just east of the Bay area where we picked up Ken. Ken had thankfully already grabbed some beer and IsoPro fuel for us so we could be on our way.
Since it was now past midnight, by Eastern time, I was tired and grabbed some nap on the drive out to Yosemite. Matt did all the driving for us out there. It was slowly going in the dark of the night and with the progressively more mountainous and windy roads. We got to Hodgdon Meadows in Yosemite at 12:30am. We had to drive all the way around the campground loop and finally found the parking spot for our site, #80. It was almost at the end of the loop back near the entrance. We then spent time finding our actual site which was in the trees a bit away from the road and past two other camp sites. We were able to get our basic camp setup and with minimal noise so as not to awaken our neighbors. It in the lower 50s outside there and felt great once we were in the tent. We were probably all ready for bed by 1pm already, but I was so filled with excitement to be out there the late hour didn't get me to sleep all that quickly.
MONDAY JUNE 16
Despite our very late night, we had alarm's set for 6am this morning to get a start on the day. I was actually up about 5:30am due to nature's call. This would become a morning ritual for our entire week. We got our camp packed up and worked with our daypacks a bit to be hike-ready and then set out for the drive. We left the campground around 6:40am. It was great being back out on the Tioga Road which was closed for our 2011 trip. It was a beautiful, clear, sunny morning ahead of us and we were ready for the sights. Our trailhead was literally on the eastern border of Yosemite so we had the pleasure of driving all the way through Tuolumne Meadows and beyond to get there. We passed the parking lot for Gaylor Lakes and then hit the east gate entrance of Yosemite. We stopped and bought our entrance pass as we passed out of the park. We parked along the road about 50 feet down where they had a wide shoulder. The rangers at the entrance actually recommended this to us. We also asked them about leaving food in our car there and they said it was fine as long as we wouldn't be overnight. We stepped out of the car there and wow, was it windy. Today's hike is all contained in the Trip Report on my blog:
After the Dana hike we found ourselves to be pretty hungry and ready for a belated lunch. We drove back into the Tuolumne Meadows area and hit the TM Grill. They had decent burgers and fries as well as a tasty Mt. Dew which we partook of. After filling up for lunch we made the drive down to Yosemite Valley. Mark graciously passed the car keys over to me to handle the drive down.
The weather was still perfect and we enjoyed the drive into the valley and the epic drive through El Capitan meadow with its views. We made our way over to the Pines campgrounds and on to the entrance of North Pines Campground. There was no one at the entrance booth so we drive in and around the loop to the parking area for the Backpacker's Campground. Ken had done this before so he knew where to direct us. At the parking area we pretty much unloaded the entire car and worked on repacking things. We knew we had a logistical issue to deal with in that the car would be parked at the Trailhead Parking near Curry Village while we and all our gear would be at Camp. We also knew in the morning we would be hitting an early shuttle and needed to be ready to go. And we knew we would have things we would want for this evening, but not necessarily for our 3 day backpacking hike. Crazy logistics for a details-guy like myself. It probably took us an hour, but we managed to get things mostly sorted out. We would end up making a run to the car in the morning on the way to the shuttle just to finalize things. We grabbed a nice site in the Backpacker's camp at the very edge of the camp near some large boulders and made the night's home there.
After camp was readied we went back over to Curry Village, being hungry again, to look for pizza. Unfortunately, their Pizza Place had a really long line. So we went into the small grocery store and grabbed some pre-maid lunch meat sandwiches and some snacks. We walked that stuff back to camp and had supper there. During our late evening meal the ranger came by and warned us of an active bear in the area. He suggested we even put our packs in the bear locker as the animal was starting to teach itself to look for food in backpacks.
This night we would have an uneventful evening and were probably in bed headed for sleep by 10pm.
TUESDAY JUNE 17
We started today early as we had a shuttle bus to catch. We knew we had to pack up camp. We knew we had to walk to the parking lot to drop things off in the car. We were supposed to do all of this and arrive at the Curry Village shuttle stop (#13B) by 7:30am. Luckily, we woke early and were working on breakfast and striking camp at a good hour. We left the Backpacker's camp ahead of schedule and made our way to the car for 5 minutes of exchanges. We hit the Shuttle pickup right on time and found another couple there waiting as well.
When I had made our reservations over the phone a few weeks ago they gave me a confirmation number and told me to check-in when arrived, that was it. I went in to the Curry Village check-in area and they directed me to a booth with an older gentleman manning it just outside. He took my reservation number and looked us up. Upon confirming us he printed out 3 tickets for us to hand to the bus driver and we were all set.
The shuttle arrived a few minutes early and by then there were a dozen or so hikers ready to board. He got our backpacks sorted out below the bus based on our drop-off locations and then we were off. He also made stops at Yosemite Village and Yosemite Lodge. We also made an 8 minute stop at Crane Flat for people to head inside and make quick purchases. I was thirsty enough at this point to do this but my wallet was in my backpack. It was nice being able to enjoy the drive up the Tioga Road without having to focus on the driving. We talked to some interesting people on the bus and swapped our hiking plans for the week. The driver also gave us a stop at Olmstead Point for about 5 minutes where it still had some chill in the air. We made it to our stop at Sunrise Lakes TH where a handful of other hikers were also getting off. We were about 10 minutes later than the scheduled 10:10am stop.
At camp in the evening we were starved. But we had to get water first. We made our way down to the trail once more and soon noticed a use trail that went off in the general direction of where we expected to find Sunrise Creek. We followed it and sure enough we found enough running water to use with our steripens. We filled up what we had brought and then went back to camp.
We had set aside a large freeze-dried of Lasagna and then a smaller one of rice and chicken and these were excellent for our hungry tummies. After supper it began to cool quickly but we enjoyed the sunset over Half Dome and a beautiful evening about us.
WEDNESDAY JUNE 18
We woke up to a very chilly morning here by Sunrise Creek. If it weren't for the anticipation of a Half Dome hike it would have been pretty difficult to pull ourselves out of the warm sleeping bags. We spent breakfast mostly shivering waiting for the stove to boil our water to make oatmeal and hot drinks. This was the first and only morning of our trip we wouldn't be tearing down camp as our first thing. That would come later.
We arrived back from the Half Dome hike at 11:20am. We were pretty quick in getting camp torn down and packs readied up. It was an odd packing job, however, as we knew that we'd be unpacking again in about an hour at Little Yosemite Valley. Matt and Ken even carried daypacks on their front sides rather than unloading them and packing them in the big pack. We were on the trail heading for Little Yosemite Valley at 11:56am.
It was a warm stroll along the JMT back to the junction with the Half Dome Trail and then it was all downhill, literally, from there. The first mile from the junction is a pretty easy, gradual descent. It drops about 650 feet over a mile and was quick moving for us, even with the big packs. The last 4 tenths of a mile of the hike drops 300 feet and is a series of switchbacks that gradually draw you closer and closer to the flatness that is Little Yosemite Valley. We arrived in the familiar confines of LYV at 12:50pm and headed for the backpacker's camp area to find a site. The total hike down was about 1.9 miles while dropping 1,115 feet.
To find our site we headed straight into the camp area from the bathrooms and after the first major site on the left we turned left and about 100 feet in we took a site. We spent awhile setting up camp and unloading food into the beer lockers. We also did some work on resituating our gear and fixing up shoes and feet for another hike. Before heading out again we also made a stroll on down to the Merced River. From the bathrooms there was a large trail heading straight to the river. This also intersected with the LYV bypass which heads for the Merced Lake Trail. At the lake we steripen-ed water while watching a group of young people play around in the very cold water of the river.
Just past quarter after 2pm we hit the trail again hoping to make it to the Diving Board on the side of Half Dome. It was a bit later of a start than we would have liked, but it was the way things went. I had found a GPX track on the internet which I used to help us navigate. We headed out along the John Muir Trail towards the Valley and we must have missed the regular turnoff for the supposed trail. I noticed on the map we had just passed it and so thinking we were close, and having not seen anything else obvious, we scurried up a hill to look. About 50 feet in we didn't see anything obvious but the terrain was passable so we decided to search further. About 100-150 feet in I seemed to stumble upon what looked like a decent use trail. We grouped up and started following and sure enough as it continued we figured we had found it.
There is no official trail to the Diving Board but in our research we had found reports that a basic use trail doese exist. We found it and followed it. It was fairly level and easy to follow and soon enough we had hit Lost Lake. The Lake was completely filled with vegetation but it offered great views above it of the side of Half Dome. As we moved past the lake the trail began to ascend up to a slab area. Here the trail began to become more difficult to follow and we began to notice cairns which seemed to help guide the route. It took some careful route-finding to follow trail from this point on. The trail negotiated past and over the slabs and then started to contour up the side of the base Half Dome. As it began to grow steeper and looser we began to question the day's activity.
We were nearing 4pm and by looking atthe map knew we had perhaps another 1000 feet of ascent on difficult terrain. We also knew the route-finding would cost us time and began to consider when we would need to turn around to make it back to camp by dark. We ultimately came to the decision it was in our best interests to turn around and try it another time. So we backtracked and began to follow our same route out. We lost it once along the way but used the GPS to regain the route. I had given some consideration, and had even mentioned to Matt ahead of time, of giving a go at Liberty Cap. I had even done some research on this ahead of time. But in the moment and given the time of day it seemed the wiser choice not to leave the group and to make sure we found our route out. As we neared the location where earlier we had found the trail we continued on the true trail to try and follow it all the way out. When it did indeed spit us back out on the John Muir Trail we did notice a small cairn sitting upon a downed log up on a hill that seemed to mark the turn off. A good note for next time. All in all our hiking totalled 3.52 miles and 1031 feet in elevation on our attempt at the Diving Board.
We headed back to camp and started to work on supper. Tonight's meal consisted of Chili Mac and Chicken Teriyaki w/ Rice. I'm not one who usually likes kidney beans in my chili but I have to say the freeze-dried variety wasn't half bad and it was actually my favored meal of the evening. The Chicken teriyaki dinner was a bit sweet and had a few occasional mushrooms in it which I was on guard for. We did another water run in the evening before dark and this time there were no swimmers. We contemplated joining the community campfire as it got dark but it was mostly dominated by a teenage group and so we bowed out. Spent some good time reading in the tent before heading to sleep. For this trip I had stumbled upon a great book on Amazon Kindle deals entitled "Frozen In Time." It chornicled several U.S. planes that went down on Greenland during World War II and the rescue attempts that were made on them. It was a most enjoyable read.
THURSDAY JUNE 19
Upon returning we decided to head to Curry Village to grab some beers. Ken had been kind enough to already return our bear canister and so most of our business in the valley was near conclusion. At Curry Village it was only 3pm or so and our decision to just do beer turned into Curry Village Pizza as well. We got a big one with Canadian bacon and pineapple on it and it wasn't half bad. Great ingredients on the pizza and a decent crust. For the beer we decided several of the Mammoth Ales and they were delicious.
After this mid-afternoon lunch we drove on over to Yosemite Village to do some walking and shopping. We hit the Wilderness Permit office to ask a few questions and then the Visitor's Center to look around. I found another decent marmot stuffed animal and grabbed it for Sarah. We then headed into the Village Store and did some grocery shopping for the last day of the trip as well as some items for supper. Having eaten such a big and late lunch for supper we went light and grabbed a bag of chips, a little more beer, an apple and a can of pineapple for breakfast. We had one crazy diet out there. We also grabbed some firewood thinking we could enjoy it this evening.
We drove back over to the trailhead parking and once again stowed the car for the evening and made our way to North Pines and on to the backcountry camp. Early in the afternoon Ken had already grabbed a site for us so all that was left for us was to setup camp. We enjoyed our supper over the picnic table and also got our fire going. Matt was our expert tonight on this. We were told the Backpacker's Camp had a 5pm to 10pm fire rule so we made plans to start putting it out by 10pm. Around that time we also decided to call it a night and head into the tent. Ironically, about 10:30 Ken thought he saw a light outside the tent and it turned out that the fire we had tried to put out had started to come to life again. He was gracious enough to hop out and put a little more water on to finish the job.
Tonight we had our only near bear encounter of the trip. We never did see one in any of the rest of our travels, but overnight at 2am and 3am we were woken up. Each time we heard some rustling from other campers and then the voices of a ranger shouting "Get out bear!""Go away bear!" and they were chasing a bear out of camp. We heard it run pretty close to our tent as it left the campground. The ranger had told us this bear may be close to being put down as it is becoming too comfortable in the camp, which is a sad tragedy for the bear.
FRIDAY JUNE 20
Today was our first "easier" morning, that is, we weren't waking up and heading out for a hike first thing. We were, however, still tearing down camp again. We packed things up at our Backpacker's Camp in Yose Valley and made the mile walk to the car over in the Trailhead parking lot one last time. We did have plans for showers this morning as an act of humanity for the poor soul that would sit next to one of us on the planes on Saturday. So after reaching the car we drove on closer to the Housekeeping Camp and parked in the lot at the Bike Rentals. It turned out Housekeeping was almost a mile walk from there but we were used to it. At Housekeeping we hopped in the line for the showers and paid our $5 (a little steep) to shower. I guess it was worth it though to feel all refreshed.
Back at the car we began our final drive out of the Valley and as always its a bit of a somber moment to say good bye to such a beautiful place. We headed for Crane Flat and put some more gas in the car and then headed up the Tioga Road. We headed to White Wolf camp and aimed for their campground. It was before 10am so a number of people were still packing up their own camps to head out but we were fortunate to find a pretty decent unoccupied spot on our first drive through the loop. It was early in the loop so I hopped out with a radio to keep it while the other two drove around once more to see if there was anything better. We ended up holding that first spot. It had a good tent pad, good proximity to water and the bathrooms, and all in all a decent site. At camp there we got the tent setup and working on repacking some of our gear since we were done with the big backpacks. We also got our daypacks and some food and drink readied for our hike at May Lake.
I had in mind to get onto the May Lake-Hoffmann hike as early as possible here this Friday but we just had too many other things and not enough need to rush to hurry through it all today. But we headed out of White Wolf and back on the Tioga Road to the turn off for the May Lake Road and on to the Trailhead.
After departing May Lake and returning to the Tioga Road we found ourselves hungry as usual. We decided another trip up to Tuolumne Meadows wouldn't be a bad idea. But before we headed directly there we decided on a quick stop at Olmstead Point. Our Shuttle driver had given us 5 minutes for stoppage here on Tuesday morning but I wanted a chance to actually hike out to the point. We hit the short trail there and in probably less than a quarter mile we were up on the point. We passed the Snow Creek Trail which at this point either takes you to Tuolumne Meadows or back down towards the valley. We saw out on the granite slabs and enjoyed the views for awhile before returning to the car.
Now we made our way up to Tuolumne Meadows to hit the grill that we had eaten at on Monday and grabbed some large burgers and drinks and enjoyed them once more. We then made it into the shop and grabbed more firewood for the evening as well as some more Mammoth Brewery beer. We definitely enjoyed their local brews!
I took the reigns for our drive back to White Wolf and we bid good bye this time to Tuolumne Meadows. Back at White Wolf we filled our picnic table up again worked on packing for the flights home tomorrow. We each had to get our big backpacks + gear into our large travel duffels. Complicating this further we had to leave sleeping bag, tent, and mattress out for our beds for the night. This would end up leaving me repacking in the morning. I had filled my XL duffel all the way up with the hopes of just fitting the rest in my medium duffel. However, the tent was going to be too big.
For supper again we were pretty casual having had the large mid-afternoon meal. I worked on a bag of cheetos I had purchased the other day and we filled up on eating what other foods we had left, as well as the beer. When we were at the Tuolumne Meadows shop we found a discrepancy in pricing value there. We could spend $4.50 for a 7lb bag of ice to cool down our 6 beers, or we could spend about $4.80 and just buy 3 more beers. We ended up going for the more beer at the same price option. Back at camp however, this left us with beers from the other day that were about room temp. Matt came up with the brilliant idea of filling a zip-loc bag with water from the spigot which was pretty cold. We used that as a temporary cooler and it was enough to get those beers to a nice acceptable cool drinking temprature.
I spent time finding firewood while the others finished packing. I found some medium tree branches in the site next to us and worked foolishly to try to break them all apart. Another camper on the edge of the campground saw my fruitless efforts and invited me to cut through his site to a trail that headed into the woods. He insisted they had found good firewood in there. I did so and this little trail joined up with a big trail. I would check my map and come to learn this was the Lukens Lake trail. I found a great stash of dried wood and made a trip back with all that I could carry. I brought Ken along for another haul and we brought back more. With this great stash of wood, plus what we had bought, we had plenty to go on for the night. I think it was around 8pm when we got the fire going and the beer as well.
We had a blast getting into great conversation and enjoying the evening. A ranger stopped in during our talks and he was the ranger that correctly identified the grouse for us. He mentioned that at White Wolf the campers over the last few years had been more responsible and they have had no bear incidents for several years. He also described, somewhat comically, getting to chase bears while he was on horseback and how much the bears dislike that. Ken turned in around 10p while Matt and I stayed up reminiscing on memories from our college days and other fun stuff about hiking until about midnight when we finally put out what remained of the fire and called it a night.
SATURDAY JUNE 21
This morning we had some slight concerning about making sure in every way we made it out to the Bay Area in plenty of time for our flights. I felt especially needing to make this happen as I would have major troubles for myself if I missed flights and didn't get home tonight. We were up around 5:15am and immediately began tearing down camp. We really didn't have any breakfast aside from snacking on whatever grab snacks we had left when we drove away. We left camp at 6:05am and began the quiet drive down the Tioga Road and then out of the park. As we neared civilization each of us began the ritual checking of the Smartphones to see when data would pickup and we would get the overwhelming sync of new e-mails that had built up over the week. For me it took til we were well past the Old Priest Grade Road and starting to near Oakdale. It was also in Oakdale that we finally stopped for a quick breakfast stop at a McDonald's.
For me, the drive back went pretty quickly as I contemplated thoughts from the week and took in the wealth of e-mails and social media updates on my quickly dwindling phone battery. In the Oakland suburbs we took another stop to drop off a few things at one of Ken's relatives. Our third stop was the Oakland airport where we bid farewell to Ken who was plenty early for his flight. Matt and I then crossed the San Mateo Bridge and saw the San Francisco area really fogged up. We hit a gas station near the San Francisco airport and then headed to the rental car return. Our car return, check-in, and security passage at SFO went pretty smoothly and we found ourselves some seats out at our gates and were fortunate to find some with plug-ins to charge devices. We also grabbed some lunch while we awaited our flights.
My first flight headed on to Las Vegas. I grabbed a window seat on this leg and enjoyed the views of the Bay Area as we flew out. I was also hoping for views of the Sierras but the cloud deck prevented this. In Vegas I grabbed some more food and found a place to sit and pass the time. The last flight of the trip finally on to Detroit left on time thankfully and once more I grabbed a window seat. I was really hoping for views of Colorado and I got nothing more than a tease. As we flew over the Sawatch an opening in the clouds gave me a brief glance as we flew near Mt. Princeton but then the cloud deck closed up and I saw nothing more. Thankfully the flight landed a little early in Detroit and it was nice to be home.