Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Day 0: Exploring Yosemite National Park!

Amanda and I woke at 4:45 AM, packed up the car and hit the road. We wanted to get to Yosemite Valley early in the hopes of getting a campsite at Camp 4. Being a weekday and already pretty close to the park boundaries, we hoped it would be early enough to score a coveted campsite.

The drive was uneventful, until we reached a viewpoint near Inspiration Point where Amanda nearly ran us off the road, overwhelmed with the incredible view. Half Dome and El Capitan stood in the distance, the morning sun casing rays of light through the air. It was amazing, and we stopped for a brief moment to take photos, but we couldn't linger. There were already people probably getting in line for Camp 4 and taking the precious spots we wanted.

The view from near Inspiration Point caused Amanda to nearly drive us off the road!

We arrived at Camp 4 by 6:30, but 60 people were already in line. Where the heck did they come from?! Unfortunately, a sign at the front of the line warned that there were only 52 openings available, so it didn't look good for us. We waited around a bit--just in case--and eventually a ranger arrived passing out numbers to the first people in line and sure enough, we were left without any numbers.

Which was just as well. Amanda took a quick stroll through the campsite while looking for a bathroom and was less than excited about the poor, crowded conditions. Had we gotten a spot, she probably would have complained about how awful it was the whole night and the next day.

So failing to get a spot, we went to Plan B, which was to try to score a drive-in campsite near Tuolumne Meadows. For those not familiar with Yosemite, the famous photos you typically see are around Yosemite Valley, but Tuolumne Meadows is a lesser-known section of Yosemite that may be crowded, but nothing compared to the army of tourists that hit Yosemite Valley. The relative lack of people makes it much more enjoyable for me, though.

The campgrounds near Tuolumne Meadows were also on a first-come, first-serve basis. Frankly, we weren't particularly optimistic, but we wanted to spend the day there anyhow so there was no reason not to check it out. It was already later in the morning than when we reached Camp 4 and the sites were probably already taken. Plan C, which is what we expected to fall back to, was to drive outside of the park again and find somewhere to camp. Perhaps somewhere over Tioga Pass, but we hadn't really worked out the details for Plan C yet.

We decided to spend the day in Tuolumne Meadows as a matter of logistics. Getting a permit for the John Muir Trail is hard, and Karolina and I failed to get one from the start of the trail in Yosemite Valley. We were able to get one from Tuolumne Meadows, however--about 20 miles up the trail--and when I emailed Karolina the news, she was distraught. She wanted to see the world-famous Yosemite Valley. So now I had both Amanda and Karolina wanting to visit the tourist hell known as Yosemite Valley. *rolling eyes*

By the time we arrived at Camp 4, sixty people were already in line ahead of us. It was only 6:30 in the morning! Where did all these people come from?!

So we worked out a plan that we'd take one day after Karolina's arrival to day-hike around Yosemite Valley, then start the thru-hike from Tuolumne Meadows. Since Karolina hadn't joined us yet, we set Yosemite Valley aside for another day and explore Tuolomne Meadows without Karolina instead.

So up to Tuolumne Meadows we went, and may as well check out the first-come, first-serve campsites along the way.

The first campsite we drove through was already full, but--much to our surprise!--we scored a spot at the Porcupine Flat campground. We got a campsite! We set up our tent and threw out the gear from our car. As we were leaving to continue with our day's exploration, we noticed a park ranger putting up the "Full" sign at the front of the campground. We nabbed one of the last spots of the day.

By the time we arrived at Tuolumne Meadows, it was already lunchtime. We stopped for lunch at the grill--the same one I stopped at while thru-hiking the PCT years before. We purchased postcards, and postage and hit up the visitor center for hiking options.

At this point, Amanda and I decided to split up since I wanted to do a considerably longer hike than she was interested in. She dropped me off at the Elizabeth Lake trailhead, and I hiked up to Elizabeth Lake 2.2 miles away, then returned almost to where I started and followed another trail 7.6 miles to Tenaya Lake. When I had asked the ranger at the visitor center about that trail, she looked at me like I was crazy. It wasn't well-maintained, nobody ever hikes it, and I could just drive to Tenaya Lake.

Yes, I could, but I wanted to walk there, thank you very much! *shaking head*

Elizabeth Lake was amazing!

The views around Elizabeth Lake were spectacular. The trail to Tenaya Lake was mostly in the trees and rather dull by comparison, but it gave my legs a good, solid stretch. I could fully understand why so few people hiked it compared to other area trails, but I'm still glad I did it. At least I had an uncrowded trail to enjoy.

Amanda picked me up from Tenaya Lake at about 6:00 in the evening and we drove back to the campsite where we'd make dinner and called it a night. We were tired from our early morning wake-up time, and we needed to wake up again at an ungodly early hour, but I'll save that story for the next post.

Lembert Dome in Tuolumne Meadows. There's a trail to the top I've hiked in the past and it was a tempting target for the afternoon, but I decided to try some new trails I'd never hiked before instead.

Tenaya Lake


Anonymous said...

the most beautiful place in the world, especially Tuolumne!

- Yosemite MJD

Karolina said...

I can see why Inspiration Point got its name - it definitely deserves it!
I'm glad you guys did not drive off the road and off one of those steep mountain slopes. That would have ruined my holidays!! ;-p

MSmith said...

Thanks for sharing your adventures with pictures! So wondrous!