As we departed the Pacific Coast we headed through some of Southern California’s wine country and while Ben and I aren’t really wine drinker, but making it even less appealing was that we were driving through a desert with tiny patches of struggling vineyard. I went back to see if I took any pictures, but I think I was just so disgusted that I didn’t even want to document it. I’ve discussed it on here before, but California is dry, super, super dry. The drive to Fresno was only confirming that we are in pretty big trouble. After staying over in Fresno for the night, we eagerly hopped on the road to Yosemite. The trip was a little over an hour. We stopped at the lower visitors center but quickly realized that this was high season, we had no camping reservations and we were not interested in taking a switchback road out of the park each night. So we drove to Yosemite Valley where most of the action is at the park, we were in a hurry to get to the camping reservation office but I convinced Ben to take a pit stop at Tunnel View where we captured this iconic picture of the park. It’s one of our favorites from the whole trip and one day, hopefully soon, we will get it enlarged.
|Tunnel View: El Capitan on the left, Half Dome is in the center right.|
We arrived at the campground office to see what we could do for a site for that night. We were told that we could add our name to a waiting list for a campsite in which people either didn’t show for or decided to leave early but we had to come back around 3:00 PM and we had to be there to receive a site. We decided that a little inconvenience was fine by us to get a campsite in the valley. We stopped by the major visitor’s center where I found my favorite card ever! And chatted with the staff to have them recommend the best hikes. The hikes that we decided on were Vernal Fall and Nevada Falls, also known as some of the only falls that had water running through them. Most of the falls at Yosemite are from snow melt so in August in a drought falls with water were few and far between. There was a lottery system in place to hike Half Dome which we would have to put in three days before if we wanted to go so we decided to skip that. Also climbing up a rock face with metal rungs sounds all kinds of scary. This picture is borrowed from fellow adventure seekers/van dwellers MrandMrsAdventure also Florida Gators which makes them pretty awesome all around as well.
We went back to snag a campsite at Upper Pines the process, though not ideal, wasn’t that bad either. We went for a stroll through the valley to take in the sights; Ben and I want to come back in the spring when Yosemite Falls are going. At this park, they told us for bear safety to take absolutely everything out of the car that had a smell so we filled our entire bear box full of everything. It was pretty crazy.
|Our campsite at Upper Pines.|
|Our very full bear box.|
The next morning we had breakfast, packed up camp (since the campsite was reserved for the following night) and headed up to Vernal and Nevada Falls. The hike was great – if you are heading to Half Dome it is part of the same hike. There is a part where the staff tells you that people die every year because they go swimming in the river that becomes the falls, these people are silly. The hike was strenuous but delightful. That afternoon we looked into riding bikes but decided that we had mostly walked the places we’d wanna ride. We did try and track down the Ahwahnee Hotel which came highly recommended to us our first attempt was not successful, I thought it was called the Yosemite Lodge, which is another hotel on property but not the grandeur of the Ahwahnee. We also went to take a look at Mirror Lake which was deceiving because again, there is no water in the lake and it’s just a field of stones that are sometimes at the bottom of a lake. And I’m not totally complaining about the drought because… dang did you see how beautiful and blue the skies are in these photos?! We also ran into a Bear Trap which I thought was kinda cool!
|The start of our hike up to Vernal and Nevada Falls.|
|More of the trail.|
|Me at Vernal Falls|
|Where we had our picnic lunch. Ben is looking pretty mountainous!|
|This was the river where people routinely fall down and die.|
|The park added barriers to discourage people from swimming.|
|Because THIS is the bottom.|
|And this would be the last things you see before you hit the drop.|
|Because it's a HECK of a fall down there.|
|I loved these trees growing out of the rock! Can't stop mother nature.|
|Love is everywhere!|
|Ben tracking our hike on AllTrails.|
|Yosemite Falls, if there was water it would be on the right side.|
|Half Dome with North Dome on the left.|
|Mirror (sometimes) Lake|
|This made us wonder how many drunk people have tried to crawl in there.|
After all of our hiking and walking, we decided that pizza and beer was in order so we let my mom treat us to some creature comforts. Was the pizza good? Under other circumstances… probably not, but after the day of hiking that we had it was magical!! There was some local beer on tap as well which we had, was it good? Meh. Was it great? Again, probably not great enough to remember what the brewery was without looking it up. As Ben and I were traveling around the country drinking local beers from the states we were visiting, it dawned on us that beer doesn’t have to be good or great it just has to be there and be local. That’s one of the great things about beer – if it’s there we will drink it.
We did the same no-reserved campsite deal the following night and it worked out fine again. We were next to some kids who looked like they might be up late partying, but they didn’t really keep us up. The neighbors on the other side of us had a popup trailer who left food and trash and crap everywhere when they left to run an errand, a camp ranger came by and gave him a warning and cleaned up his mess. He was not very happy. Also that night we… ok, ok, I, left the back hatch of the Forester up, on accident, of course. In my defense I did ask Ben to lock the car before we went to bed and he said that he had, which was factually incorrect because if that had taken place, we would have heard that they hatch was open. But that’s neither here nor there as all of our valuables were still there. They kids next to us thought about closing it for us but didn’t know if we were trying to air out a smell. Whoops!
After packing up that site we decided that we weren’t interested in playing campsite roulette for a third night so we headed up to The North side of the park to check out North Dome. Before leaving, we drove over to find the elusive Ahwahnee Hotel and it was beautiful. We just poked around, I’m quite sure the staff knew we were n't guested as our gear was not as expensive as the other guests but wow, it’s a magnificent property. So we headed up to Northern part of the park to do the North Dome hike, a hike that had been recommended to us by a park ranger. She said that it’s a beautiful and unique view of Half Dome and there is a rock arch where you can sit and watch the sunset through the hole behind Half Dome. The hike is about 8+ miles. This guy actually documented the trail much better than we did, including showing off that slim bit of trail that you encounter about 3/4 of the way out.
When we started off on this hike we were casually talking about the animals that we hadn’t yet seen but wanted to, including moose, wolves and coyotes. Just then, almost on cue Ben says, “Hey look there is a coyote, no wait there are two.” The pair stroll across the trail and we joked that there would be a continuous flow of animals we had just wished to see – the universe is funny like that. Unfortunately, those were the only animals on our wish list that came out that day. The hike started out well enough, as they usually do. The trail map is approximate at best, and the blazes on the trail are not really marked. There comes a point in the hike where it’s all granite with not much to differentiate the trail from not the trail. People also are adding rock stacks which can be mistaken for cairns. Needless to say we took a very long way, we finally saw some other hikers heading back to the trailhead and asked them which way the trail actually went. They pointed us in the right direction that direction looked terrifying to me, there wasn’t much shade, we didn’t have much food and the end of the trail looked another mile or so in the distance. But Ben convinced me to keep going, one of the many things I love about him. So we went down a ledge and continued to the end of the trail, and Ben was right. It was amazing! The view was of the whole valley, both sides, and almost the same height as Half Dome. You could actually see the spec sized people making their ascent to the top of Half Dome. You could see a forest fire starting off in the distance.
|The view that made me want to stop.|
|The view from North Dome.|
|Ben taking in the sites.|
|Looking down into the Valley.|
|Ben and Half Dome!|
|Katie and Half Dome!|
On the return to the trailhead we made a quick detour to Indian Rock, I’m sure the sunset or star gazing would have been nice, but we were a little underwhelmed with the trek up to the rock. There were a lot more hikers heading down on the way back so we likely didn’t pick the ideal time to do the hike, but it was still wonderful. When we got back to the car we made drove to Porcupine Flats campground and drove around for quite a while looking for an open spot. Finally realizing that many people don’t know how to leave a site and take their self-registration ticket with them. We eventually found a nice little spot tucked away from other people. The following morning we headed South to his Sequoia National Park.
|Indian Rock on the way back.|
|Our campsite at Porcupine Flats.|