So this is my long overdue trip report-turns out I get post trip blues and it takes me a while to get to things like this. I recently uploaded all the pictures and that gave me a boost of motivation to post on here. So here goes...
My friend and I arrived around noon on Saturday June 7th, we both flew into SFO on United, so that made meeting up a lot easier. We had rented a car with Thrifty (become a Blue Chip member so you can skip the crazy long lines and just go right to the garage-we forgot we had it and stood in the line-don't be like us). We got the rental and headed to Sports Basement on Bryant Street in San Francisco to pick up our camping gear for our six night camping excursion in Yosemite Valley. So Sports Basement may be my new favorite store. They looked over our reservation for the gear and said "We upgraded you to a nicer tent" and that something had been overcharged-although we rented for six nights, they don't count the pick up or drop off days as rental days so we got the 2-5 rental rate-awesome! They also forgot to give us our camping stove-not so awesome, but they did apologize and refund the amount for that-and honestly, we should have doubled checked that we had everything before leaving the store.
After getting our gear and sampling some nearby food trucks, we hit the road. We took our time driving out to Yosemite and stopped in Coulterville to see a friend that runs a bakery there (I highly recommend the baked goods at Cakewalk if y'all ever round those parts). Our friend had done a grocery run and had a packed cooler, water jug, and lots of yummy food ready for us-including a pie that I had commissioned called a "First Night in Yosemite Pie", it was made of blueberries, raspberries and elderberries. We continued on to Yosemite but of course the sun was setting by this time and we actually entered the park under the cover of darkness and set up our tent in the Upper Pines Campground.
Our first official day in Yosemite, and because it had been dark when we arrived and set up camp, I hadn't seen the sheer wall of rock directly behind our tent until that next morning-when I did see it and promptly began to tear up. We wanted to check out the Visitors Center and get tickets to the show that night-it was the Buffalo Soldier show featuring Shelton Johnson, one of the National Park Rangers that had been featured in the Ken Burns documentary. So we headed down there only to see Ranger Johnson himself at the information desk-while I was still taking deep breaths and telling myself to play it cool, my friend Dan marched up to him and introduced himself. I was able to tell Ranger Johnson that not only was he a big part of the reason that I was there but that I had developed a bit of a National Park Ranger crush on him-platonic, of course. He was very good-natured about all of that and while we were chatting a woman came up to us and said that she was filming him for a television station and would we mind walking while we continued our conversation-so we did, we walked and talked for the next 20 minutes or so, about John Muir, Niagara Falls and "nothing dollarable being safe", Transcendental Poetry, about grief and loss, and being in the present moment. My friend and I (both emotional) expressed our heartfelt thanks that he shared so much of his time with us and he gave it right back and said nothing happens by coincidence-that he wasn't supposed to be working but the television crew had contacted him to film, so that why he was there. We ended our lovely exchange by taking a picture with Ranger Johnson and a bronze likeness of John Muir. All I could think was-if this is our first morning-this is an amazing place!
We rented bikes nearby (2 for 1 rentals b/c of my Yosemite Conservancy member card-become a member-the discounts make it a great deal) and biked back to our campsite-just in time to move our campsite-oh, did I not mention that we had five sites for six nights? We figured out that if we put the tent on the roof of the car and closed the fabric in the doors while holding on to it, we would only actually have to sent up the tent once-and so we did. When people stared, I just called out to them that it was our mobile home.
Riding bikes around Yosemite Valley was so breathtaking and slowed us down a bit to actually take in the views we were seeing. Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan-all of these places that I'd been reading about for months were right there in front of me-its a wonder I was able to stay on the bike, the way I was craning my neck around to see it all! We stopped in for a cool drink and to soak in the atmosphere at the Ahwahnee Hotel. The show that night was a special treat-and I felt like we were already BFF's with Ranger Johnson. Twas an amazing first day/second night.
We awoke early that morning to clapping and yelling. I was confused as I sat up in my tent and looked in the direction of the noise. A man yelled "There's a bear right next to your tent!" and sure enough, there was a bear right next to our tent. I would say it was around eight feet away, he was batting at a empty ice bag that we had left out-we did not make a mistake like that again. I was able to get a pretty good picture of the bear after as he made his way through the campground. We actually were able to go back to sleep even after all the excitement. Later that morning, my friend Dan and I participated in a watercolor painting workshop at the Yosemite Art Center, near the Village Store. It was awesome-although we didn't realize we had to buy all of our supplies, so that added a bit more to the price. It was still well worth it and we came home with beautiful watercolor paintings that we painted of Half Dome while sitting on the banks of the Merced. We also checked out Lower Yosemite Falls and got our tickets for the bus to Glacier Point on Thursday.
We took the free Ansel Adams camera walk Gallery porch at 9 AM this morning-it was awesome and I learned so much about how Ansel Adam's story was intricately woven into the story of Yosemite National Park. That afternoon we went over the Yosemite Valley stables for a mule/horse ride to Mirror Lake, which as everyone knows, is not a lake (the rides were also 2 for 1). I would never want to hike this trail, but it wasn't awful on a mule-mine was named Ralph and was "gas powered" and I felt bad for my friend that was riding behind me. We were hot and sweaty after the ride and our camping neighbors told us about Cathedral beach-a quiet little beach with the Merced winding in front of you and El Capitan towering above. It was perfect and yes, we even dunked ourselves under-but only for a minute as it was freezing!
We decided to heard to the high country mid-week. This was the first time that we drove past Tunnel View during the day, so we stopped and took it all in. The drive was beautiful and we stopped a few times to admire the views. Of course, we had to stop at Olmsted Point (I have a Landscape Architect crush on Frederick Law Olmsted), where I got my first view of Tenaya Lake. We continued all the way to Tuolumne Meadows where we walked up to (and sampled) Soda Springs. Then we stopped at Tenaya Lake and the way back. My friend was brave enough to go for another swim, while I used our left over watercolors and painted on the shore.
We were unable to get tickets for the 8:30 am bus to Glacier Point so we booked tickets on the 10:00 am bus. Our plan was to get up there, look around and take some pictures of Glacier Point and then begin our hike. We anticipated getting started by noon, but it was closer to 1:00 when we actually started our hike. Glacier Point is so amazing, you don't want to rush away from the view. We could see Nevada and Vernal Falls, the valley, Half Dome-all right before us. So we started out on the Panorama Trail (8.5 miles) and then were going to take either the John Muir Trail or the Mist Trail. We were told was an elevation change from 7,200 feet (2,200 meters) at Glacier Point to 4,000 feet (1,220 meters) on the valley floor. It felt soooooooo much longer than that!
We did not bring anywhere near enough water-or a water filter. This was a rookie mistake. Luckily, we met a nice mother and son on the trail and they let us borrow their water filter at Nevada Falls so that we could drink the waterfall and not die on the trail, as I was beginning to wonder if we might. The sheer force of Nevada Falls when you are standing on the footbridge is amazing-and also terrifying. I can't imagine getting too close to that much force-it was beautiful, but from even better behind a safety railing. So the the day and the hike wore on, for the last 3 miles or so, my hiking mantra was "Pizza and beer!" We had plans for a celebratory dinner at Curry Village and it might have been what kept me going long after my legs went numb. We finally made it down around 8:00 pm-and I should say that we took our time and stopped plenty when we needed to. The walk from Happy Isles Nature Center where the JMT deposits you into the valley to Curry Village was a nice cool down for our tired legs. I actually didn't stop "hiking" until we got in line at the pizza pavilion at Curry. As luck would have it, our friendly camp neighbors from Upper Pines just happened to be also having dinner so we joined them and got our much deserved pizza and beer. I could have devoured an entire pizza myself but barely could finish my beer. Also, my hands were swollen from dehydration, so I didn't think beer was as smart a choice as LOTS of water-which I also had.
We woke up early, and were surprised that we weren't in more pain (silly us, the pain eventually arrived with a vengeance as the day wore on). We packed up the tent and gear and headed out to Marisposa Grove. Based on all the great advice on this forum, I knew that we should arrive by 9:00 if we wanted to get parking there. We took one last view of the morning mist over the valley at Tunnel View before saying our goodbyes to this beautiful place. I was crying but they were tears of gratitude, and not sadness, for the amazing experience and for how blessed I was to be there.
We arrived at Mariposa Grove by 9:00 on the dot and had no problem getting parking, although the lot was getting full. We were able to spend about an hour (although we could have spent much more time here) wandering amongst this gentle giants-conversing and cavorting with consenting conifers.
We headed out of there around 10:00 and went by Coulterville to bring the cooler back and say goodbye-of course, our friend loaded us up with more baked treats to go!
We spent the next two nights in San Francisco, but I'll save those stories for another forum...