Yosemite

By abbieredmon

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Well, I finally made it to Yosemite.

Lucky for us, we chose a great time to go: Amidst headlines about people contracting the plague -- yes, THE PLAGUE, like what killed half of England back in the day -- from infected squirrels and chipmunks in the park.

Cool!

Spoiler alert: We all made it out alive, but we yelled perhaps unnecessarily loudly at any squirrel brave enough to scope out our campsite or try to climb into the bear locker where we kept our food. GTFO! Srsly though.

Another fun fact: Reserving a campsite in Yosemite is like registering for college classes when no one wants the stupid 9 a.m. ones. You log on to the website 30 minutes before the time window opens and load a bunch of tabs, ready to click buttons like a mad person, and watch the clock on your computer screen obsessively.

The time window opened, and the rest is a blur. I was reserving sites left and right. I started with sites I'd read about as particularly good ones for privacy or peace and quiet. Then I changed tactics: just any old site would do! Please, let me come to Yosemite! Mind you, this was happening in April in hopes of an August visit -- that's how far ahead you have to plan.

By the end, I had reserved four separate campsites for different overlapping periods of time. I carefully looked at what I had done, made a few cancellations, and ended up with two different campsites for our 5-night stay. Yup. That meant that halfway through our trip, we'd have to break camp and reassemble it at a different campsite across the street.

Could I call this success? I'm not sure.

At any rate, we found ourselves in Yosemite during the last week of August, ready to soak it all in.

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There's a great loop hike you can do without having to drive from any of the main campsites in Yosemite Valley (Upper Pines, Lower Pines, North Pines). It goes up to Vernal Falls, where you can turn around if you want, or you can go another 3 or 4 miles to add the loop to and from Nevada Falls, too.

We did the full thing, and while it was a lot of UP, much of it was shaded, and the views were absolutely worth it!

Incidentally, these were basically the only two falls in all of Yosemite that actually had water in them! So, we chose well. (Peep the rainbow at the bottom of the waterfall in the first photo!) We did a bit of scrambling to get closer to Vernal Falls; some people were swimming in the pool forming at its base. While tempted to join them, we decided to continue the ascent.

Once atop Nevada Falls, we stopped for lunch. Relishing the break, we stripped off our shoes and socks and soaked our swollen, dusty feet in the cold, cold water above the falls.

The view back as we started the descent was immense: Nevada in its entirety, and Liberty Cap looming above.

I highly recommend this hike! It's a great way to spend a day in Yosemite, especially if you're staying in the valley and you don't want to have to drive to your trailhead.

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We accidentally had a big day today.

We drove up Glacier Point Road and hiked out to Taft Point, which is a pretty easy ~1.5 mile walk.

The view was IMMENSE. I won't say any more about it. Look at the photos; go see for yourself.

We then continued on a loop over to Glacier Point, which we could have driven to, and later perhaps wished we had. Oddly, the trail to Glacier Point from Taft Point descends quite a bit. We were all thinking, wait a minute, isn't Glacier Point a scenic overlook? It is. Taft Point is just higher. Taft Point is really, really high.

The two offer different perspectives on the park, as well. El Capitan is the pièce de résistance at Taft Point; Half Dome is the star at Glacier Point.

We'd lost a bit of morale by the time we started the return hike, but showers, a good dinner, and smores at our campsite cheered us up.

Our campsite (speaking of) was great -- right by the stream with lots of space between us and our neighbors. After dark, we had the pleasure of watching two raccoons hunt in the water as we sat around our campfire. They lurched through the stream, back legs longer than the front, swishing their "hands" through the water to grab crayfish and frogs. They were so unbothered by us and the bright headlamps we turned on them that it was, in fact, pretty unsettling.

But really, I didn't mind the raccoons -- seeing a bear right before bed would have been much more unnerving!

Wildlife count:

Squirrels: one million
Chipmunks: also one million
Deer: 1
Raccoons: 2
Bears: 0

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Half of us went home today, but the other half carried on.

In need of a rest today, today we attempted a scramble up a gully, lost the route directions, gave up, and instead spent the afternoon hiking over to El Capitan to see it up close.

We saw two guys coming down, and waited to chat with them. They were from England and had just finished setting ropes up the first 200 meters of the Nose. The next day, they'd haul some gear bags up, and the day after, they'd make their attempt.

Marcus "talked shop" with the pair for a while, and I wandered around, gazing upward, thinking about what it would be like to sleep on a portaledge halfway up this monster.

We got back to the campsite mid-afternoon and read for a while. Later, as I was starting to the dishes after dinner, I sliced my finger open on a knife. Although he claimed I did it on purpose to get out of doing the dishes, Marcus patched me up, and I survived.

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On our last day, we drove north of the valley, up Tioga Road, to do a hike near Tuolumne Meadows called Cathedral Lakes. I was excited about this one -- it was really the only hike I definitely wanted to do.

The trailhead was just before Tuolumne itself; we pulled off the road and parked beside the other cars and the group of port-o-johns.

There are two lakes, Upper and Lower, and we only went to Lower. I wish we'd done both, but Lower was not lacking in scenery. To me, it was the epitome of a high-altitude mountain lake, with peaks in the background and a nice view out the other side.

Look at this place!

We found the spot where the lake spills over when California's NOT in a drought...

There were a couple of tents set up here; I'd definitely attempt a night near this lake next time I'm in Yosemite! It's so beautiful and peaceful, and way less crowded than anything in the valley, for sure.

As we were leaving the lake, Marcus spotted "something" a ways off the trail. I looked and saw a beaver. Marcus HAD to take about a billion photos -- beavers (and raccoons) are apparently novel to the Brits.

On the way back down, we stepped aside to let a parade of horses (mules?) by. They were led by a woman who said she takes the animals up to High Sierra Camp every couple of days to drop off groceries and bring back garbage. What a job!

So yeah, this was probably my favorite hike of the entire week -- very highly recommended!

Wildlife count:

Squirrels: one million
Chipmunks: also one million
Deer: 1
Raccoons: 2
Beavers: 1
Bears: 0

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