In the beginning of August I made my way to Yosemite and enjoyed 4 beautiful and slightly adventurous days.
On day one I went on a 4 hour journey through rolling hills, flat orchard land and meager mountain forests. Just before noon I arrived on my chosen camp ground “White Wolf”, located in the northern part of the park. I found a nice spot and talked to a campground ranger. She informed me to not leave anything with a smell (think foods, cosmetics, toothpaste) in the car or tent (instead bear boxes) as the local bears are very curious and will rip your car apart. If you put it in the trunk, they rip out the backseats. While she was telling me this she finds a little glass cube on the floor and shows it to me “see this was someone who left something in the car, a bear broke the window.”
After that informative instruction I checked out the near surroundings. I found a cozy, little creek quitely winding through a wide, open forest which was speckled with numerous granite blocks – perfect a beautiful playground in the backyard.
Coming back from my little discovery tour I had a look around the campground and talked to some of my neighbours. I found an elderly German couple that had just started on an 88 day mobile home journey. They showed me their route on a map and talked about their plans – they were making a loop visitting national parks and Las Vegas. I also met two Scotts (maybe father and son) who were on an 18 day backpacking trip through Yosemite. They had portable bear boxes for all their smelly stuff and told me how they had heard bears having a go at the boxes at night.
The day was still young and so I decided to pay a visit to Yosemite Valley, which was apperently THE place to be regarding spectacular views.
Just like I like to do it, I was little prepared before I came and was learning while there. So little did I know that when one talks about Yosemite – the valley is usually what they mean. So the valley is a whole other place from the rest of the park. It holds the spectacular views and the spectacular climbs – El Capitan, or “the nose” is a world reknowned climbing spot and Half Dome is the aspiring goal of many hikers – so frequented that you have to get a permit in a lottery. The Valley also holds the cowds, around 4 million each year! So what I found in the evening hours in The Valley were spectacular views, an impressive infrastructure of parking lots, visitor centre, hotel and such. I had a good chat with a ranger and figured out a good hiking route I wanted two days later.
When I got back to the campground it was dark and I joined a group of irish guys on their camp fire where we had a good chat.
The night was quiet – no bears heard (or mountain lions).
The second day was supposed to be a lazy one. So I slept in and had a relaxed breakfast out in the sun which then turned into a photo session. Afterward I visited the Irish guys I had spent the evening before with and helped them pack up their tents. Just after noon I went on a short hike to a nearby lake. Numerous sidetracks (boulders and rivers with boulders) made the short hike a longer one and led me to Lukens lake about two hours later. The hike was quite frequented but I sill managed to find a quiet, slightly hidden spot right on the water to read and nap. I stayed there for almost 2 hours during which I came up with a little adventure plan to go offtrail and climb a ridge. According to my calculations I could do nothing else but hit the trail again would I walk down the other side.
The climb was really enjoyable, with changing underground and plants and varying challenges. The views on top where beautiful.
I did hit a trail and as I was sure for its identity I marched off into the “right” direction. Continuously I was thinking that my surroundings didn’t look familiar or that certain things would have to be on the opposite side. Still, the knowledge that I could only possibly be on the right trail kept me going until after having climbed quite a ridge where everything really did look different and I decided to check the map. Now, looking closer there was actually another path I could be on and if so I had been going into the wrong direction for something like 45 minutes. Meanwhile sun was getting pretty close to the horizon. Had I felt a bit uncomfortable before was now the moment I was actually scared. Certainly didn’t want to meet a bear or mountainlion in the dark. Not so soon after I had turned around – it was already pretty dark – I heard something big in the vegetation, not so far away. I nearly shat my pants but if I go down, I don’t go down without a fight. So I grab a big branch and start hitting a tree furiously while screaming as loud as I can. The being doesn’t seem very impressed but I can hear it moving away. I shoulder the branches and continue. The rest of the path I sang and talked loudly.
I ended up walking in pitch dark with only the flashlight app of my phone guiding me. I got back to the camp by 9 and had some cold canned chilly, happy about the little adventure and about making it back without being eaten.
The third day was supposed to be an active one. A hike was planned and of course if I would do one it should be challenging. I wanted to start with the 4.8 mile (7,7 km) long Four Mile Trail which also had a 3,200 feet (975 m) elevation gain. It led to Glacier Point at a height of 7,200 feet (2,2 km). From there I wanted to follow the Panoramic Trail (8.5 miles, 13,5 km), passing by the water falls and finish once again in Yosemite Valley.
After starting later than anticipated (what a surprise) everything went according to plan, except for the trail beating me quite a bit. Still, I made it to Glacier Pont more than 30 minutes before my cut off time and had enough time to enjoy the amazing views and a nice lunch while being astounded by the bus loads of people around me.
After some pondering due to my physical condition I decided to continue as planned and started on the Panoramic Trail. My expectations weren’t disappointed as it turned out that this trail was way less frequented and a little more natural than the Four Mile Trail.
A giant, open blister on my heel gave me the chance to even enjoy the trail in its purity – walking barefoot for something like 3 km. During that period I also met Jim, an experienced and very helpful hiker. We continued together and later caught up with Thomas, Jim’s son. His dad had been too slow and he was waiting for him to catch up (apparently more than an hour). The three of us enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere around the pools above Nevada falls and marvelled at the destructive power of Nevada and Vernell Falls.
The stone steps and steep paths of the misty trail got the rest of me and after something like 7 hours of hiking, I sat in the bus on the way back to my car, completely done and with everything hurting.
It had been an exciting day and it was a great feeling to have reached my limits once again.
Last day in Yosemite – the plan was to pack up, drive east to see the high country and visit Tenaya lake for a swim with some room for spontaneous action.
The landscape presented itself similar to what it had been throughout the park – harsh, barren, aspiring in its roughness.
A little oasis in this harshness and still fitting – Tenaya lake was stunning, very frequented, very serine, very beautiful and very cold. After short swim I set out to enjoy the lake and sit on its granite shore, where a man named Stu joined me for a good chat and shared joy of the beauty around us. Soon another one, named Steve came floating towards us on his stand up paddle board. The three of us spent a great time talking, eating and gazing at our surroundings. Stu and Steve were wonderful people, inspiring in what they have done and seen. It was a pleasure to meet you guys.
In the end I took a short trip out to the high country where I had a little walk and photo session before I started my journey back to San Jose.