California 2012 – Yosemite part 2

Woke to alarm (again? We’re on vacation!) and drove back into the park – the kiosk was unmanned at this hour. We actually had to pay for the stream side site with composting toilet -$21- as we weren’t up before the camp host. We went straight to Curry Village Camp Reservations and took turns packing or being in line waiting for them to open & get us on the waiting list for an inpark site. While this was going on, Scott chatted with a lady who was thinking of moving her rv & husband out of the park, as he was having issues with the altitude. They made a deal & we got on the list and headed up trail to Happy Isles for the day’s hike – Vernal and Nevada falls.

We weren’t the first people on the trail, but we were damn early and the hikers were sparce. We were expecting this to be an all day trail, calculating a turnaround time, but then fairly flew up the first 2 miles of it. It was steep, but paved and pretty and in the morning we had lots of energy. At the bridge, there was a restroom and water, and our hike turned a good deal more rustic as we headed up beside the stream. Very shortly, we hit stone stairs. Some 300 + stairs carved into the granite and being often misted in the spray of the waterfall are known to be slippery and dangerous, but someone must have turned down the valve, as it was simply cool. Vernal fall is 370 feet of gorgeousness, and Scott’s progress suddenly slowed to a creep. He stopped a lot to photograph the falls, the mist, the rocks, the rainbows – even me on the steps going to the top. He’ll have a lot of great pics of that fall! The last chunk of the trail to the precipice had a handrail that was required. The slick rock was about a foot or so wide, stuck on the edge of the cliff face, for twenty yards or so. There was no passing of slow hikers here. Then we were at the top, having a snack in the shade of a lone tree and watching people watching the water go over the edge.

We continued up beside Emerald Pool, which was a healthy green, though more dark than emerald in my opinion. The upper end was basically an angled granite slab, and the citified looked at it and proclaimed “waterside!” – I can only imagine what that sandpaper slope would do to someone’s swimsuit, and then skin, if they tried to slide down it. We took photos as we poked along, crossed the bridge and continued up, spending more and more time adjusting poles and shoes and whatnot until we got to the bottom viewpoint for Nevada Fall, which is 320 feet. We lunched here, and the white-shouldered ground squirrel that claimed this plateau as his own was determined to see what was in our packs, and not shy about it. While Scott was taking pictures, I was defending the gear with my life. Then I lost sight of my Scott. A German couple had been interacting with him when last I saw him, and after a while I asked them if they’d seen him – jokingly asked if they’d tossed him in the river. They laughed and pointed downstream – “oh,” I said, “you did toss him in the river!” More laughter, and Scott waved when he saw us looking at him. Eventually he came back, and we packed up & headed back down to the pool.


From here, we took the John Muir trail, which is supposed to be the milder way down. It started with a climb. Up we went, leapfrogging a pack of 11 girl scouts and 3 chaperones from San Diego (one of whom has in laws in McMinnville, so we talked sci pub, and another who was Not Active Enough for this Hike). At Clark Point, Scott took some infrareds, which took a bit longer than expected, and then we decided – since we had a 3:00 appointment – that we’d basically sprint down, and picked up the speed. Oddly enough, we had the best cell signal that we’d gotten in days, and we kept fielding texts from friends back home. However, we were basically off the trail before 3, but not back at camp reservations in time. Still, Scott’s deal making earlier landed us a site, and we were able to meet our benefactor & pay for the site they were leaving.

The new camp was to be on Tioga Road, so we did the last of the valley stuff – making dinner in the crock pot, mailing postcards, eating ice cream, showers at housekeeping camp ($5!), and driving up to Tunnel View for evening light. Scott set up his camera, but wasn’t impressed with the light that evening. I set up the table, and we dined with the best view, much to the amusement of the other photographers and tourists at the overlook.

A long drive down the valley, then up the other side, in order to find our new camp had us leaving long before the sun actually set. The new site, we discovered, was in Crane Flats, which is forested (ie, no cranes would land here) and at a 20% side slope (ie, not flat). Leveling the van was interesting.

There’s no water hookup up here, so in the morning we loaded every water bottle from the tap near the restroom. Had a lazy-ish start and cooked breakfast on the bear box while a couple of neighbor teens stood nearby, fascinated by the four yearling doe wandering through our site. I warned the deer away from my pancakes by telling them they would be pretty when sizzling – this amused Scott for some reason. After packing up and shifting the van, we filled in the holes dug to level us & drove off to get high priced gas from the Crane Flats station, and give a couple a van tour since they say they only haul their big RV around for the fridge. Then across the high roads.

We stopped and puttered at the Yosemite Creek picnic area, playing on the logs & rocks, but otherwise spent a long time driving across the pretty woods. As we moved east, the occasional granite crag appeared, and at Olmstead point there is a lovely view down to the same features I’d been looking up at for the past several days. We’re a long way from Half Dome, but the park volunteer had a spotting scope trained on its back slope, and we could see the line of hikers, like ants, using the cable to pull themselves up that last 1/4 mile. We identified all the peaks using an iPhone tool that works somewhat, and avoid the throngs of kidlets playing on the granite slab to take some infrared photos, commenting on how it would be nicer if there weren’t a throng. A little further down the parking lot, or at least the next pull out, gave us a view of Tenaya Lake, and Scott clambered up onto the roof of the van to shoot it – just like the old Ansel Adams print he bought. I took pics of it from a near by slab.

We passed the lake, where people were swimming, and continued down to the Touelame meadows townsite, such as it is. All the capital expenditure for the park was really focused on the central valley, and this area has a tiny visitor center (we got stamped), a post office/grill (ate burgers), and a “lodge” which appeared to mostly be cabin tents – we were not impressed. There are more domes in this area, and plenty of high Sierra hikes…but it’s now late afternoon, and we’re on a rest day, so we headed back to the lake, set up an encampment of the hammock and sat & read, wrote postcards, and generally hung out. I stayed in the shade, and the wind was rather chill – I ended up attaching the legs to my zip offs, and putting on a long sleeved shirt. Our neighbors on the beach were actually in the sun, and wearing bikinis. We’re wimps.

 Click here for more photos from Yosemite Valley

and here for more photos from the Yosemite high country

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