Tuolumne Meadows

Since our trip to Yosemite last September, Lela and I have both been determined to make it to Tuolumne Meadows in a timely manner. We knew going into it that in order to properly do Tuolumne Meadows and surrounding area hikes, we would need more time than we had. Nonetheless, we both wanted to get up there to see what it was about. It took us nearly a year, but on Saturday, August 5th, we finally made it.

As with most Yosemite trips, we left around 6 a.m. to head up the hill. Weather was forecasted to be a reasonable temperature, but there was a good chance of thunderstorms, especially in the afternoon – we planned outfits accordingly. The drive was a relatively easy 3 hours up, and the direction we came from required we go through part of the valley before getting onto 120 for Tioga Road.

Along the way, there were many places to pull off. One was Olmsted Point, which gave us a gorgeous view of Half Dome from the opposite side of the usual Valley view.

Broke out the big lens on my Olympus Camera for this one. It was taken from the same spot the selfie above was.

After that, we approached Tenaya Lake, which was breathtaking. The reflection of the mountains off the lake left us both speechless.

Excitedly running to the end of the log

We reached Tuolumne Meadows midmorning, and as expected, we were met with slightly overcast weather.

e2P8050218.jpg
Little Blue handled the drive like a dream

Due to our time constraints, we decided that wandering around the meadows would be the best course of action for this trip. On a map of Tuolumne Meadows, we found a point of interest that we wanted to have as a true “destination” on our walk, so we headed to the east end of the meadows. We parked the car on the dirt road by Lembert Dome that leads to Tuolumne Stables and walked up the road to where the true path to the meadows starts.

Our “set” destination for that day was going to be Soda Springs and the adjacent Parsons Lodge. The path toward the heart of the meadows offered stunning views of the surrounding mountain ranges, including Cathedral Peak (which Lela was rather taken with).

Lela with Cathedral Peak in the background

The paths through Tuolumne Meadows (that we experienced) were roughly car width, and were very well maintained. Altitude was the only thing not on our side, but overall, the weather was lovely, so we didn’t notice it much on our hike/walk.

*Disclaimer: this sign is actually on the part of the path between the springs and Parsons Lodge*

A short while later, we made it to Soda Springs. The springs were small but fascinating:

From there we continued up the trail to Parsons Lodge, a gorgeous stone structure built in 1915 that is still used for events by the Yosemite Conservancy.

Meadows from the Lodge

When we left the lodge, we headed towards the Tuolumne Meadows Footbridge, which allowed us to cross the Tuolumne River.

View of the bridge and river from Parsons Lodge
Lela and I sitting on the Tuolumne Footbridge (note the Davis Farmers Market hat making a reappearance in our Yosemite trips)

From the bridge, we continued along the path that lead toward the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center, though the visitor center was busy, so we opted to not go that far. Walking through this part of the trail made me feel like I was wandering through the set of Lord of the Rings, which made me even happier than I already was.

Looking back at Lembert Dome

Perhaps my favorite part of the walk led us to a weird rock/embankment on the edge of the river. Water is probably my favorite element, and there were so few people that you could hear everything happening in Tuolumne Meadows. Lela and I sat on the water’s edge for a little while listening to the birds in the nearby trees and the water running down the river.

Some time later we headed back to the car. We decided we would go back by Tenaya Lake to eat lunch; Lela had gone to Subway the night before and picked up sandwiches for our lunch that day. We took our food and made our way down to the edge of the lake. There weren’t many people in this area, so lunch was very peaceful.

e2IMG_8175

When we were done there, we started to head back toward the valley (Yosemite Valley because we have to pass through it to get back to the 41, and more broadly the Central Valley). By the time we made it back to Yosemite Valley, traffic was getting a little ridiculous, and until that moment we both had forgotten that it was the last real weekend before school was back in session.

We were both very impressed with Tuolumne Meadows, and our only regret is that we didn’t have time for any of the other hikes with true destinations at points of interest like lakes or peaks. I cannot wait to make it back up there, though that will likely have to wait until next year.

Yosemite Falls Had Us Mist-ified!

Hiking is a hobby I picked up while I lived in Colorado. Towards the beginning, I was still experiencing joint pain that was most likely caused by my time playing volleyball, and that limited the types of hikes I could take on. Due to that, I tended to limit my hikes to those rated moderate or below. Three years ago, on June 18, 2014, Charlotte and I attempted Yosemite Falls, rated at moderate to strenuous, and only made it to Columbia Rock before opting to turn back and get into the pools below Lower Yosemite Falls. Reminder: All collages can be clicked on to see the individual images in a larger format.

Charlotte and I met in 7th grade and she has held a special place in my life since. She is one of the most strong willed, ambitious, and charismatic people I know. Our relationship has always been one based in a more “adult” perspective – we can go months without talking but there is no hesitation with picking up right where with left off. For undergrad, Charlotte went to Cal Berkeley, and is continuing her education with Law School at Ole Miss. This trip fell during a break in her school schedule when she happened to not only be in town, but have a full day free.

Our second attempt at the Yosemite Falls Trail (which we were determined to complete) was scheduled for Monday, June 19th, coincidentally just one day after the 3 year anniversary of our first attempt. We left town around 6 o’clock that morning, and by 8 a.m. we were in the valley.

eIMG_0003

On our way through the valley just as we crossed the river to get to the north side of the park, we stopped to capture this gorgeous view of our only plan for the day:

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls from the parking lot by Shuttle Stop #11

Spring into May and June is typically when waterfalls in Yosemite experience peak runoff, but due to last week’s snowfall, there is a tree-mendous volume (my dad gets credit for that one!) of water coming over Yosemite Falls right now.

We didn’t take any pictures of the trail while we were on it, but the National Park Service webpage for Yosemite National Park allows you to navigate to the information below about the Yosemite Falls Trail (also linked above):

Yosemite Falls trail stats - captured from nps.gov

Needless to say, we had quite a day ahead of us. We parked the car in the lot just across the road from the Lower Yosemite Falls Trail, and had to walk from there to Campground 4 where the trailhead is located. At 8:53 a.m. we left the valley floor on our journey to summit Yosemite Falls. Note: The only two times we know for sure are when we left the valley and when we got back down, every other time listed is based on picture timestamps.

Around 9:30 a.m., we made it to Columbia Rock. This portion of the journey was much easier to accomplish than I remembered, though my memory served me correctly in just how steep and winding it was.

eIMG_7601
View of Half Dome from Columbia Rock (yes, I’m wearing the same Maserati hat as I did the first trip)

From that point, we started the strenuous portion of the hike – 2700 ft elevation gain over about 2.6 miles. About a mile into that, we got gorgeous views of the falls and benefited from all the mist coming off the fall.

After the mist comes what seems like a desert. The trail coverage that is relatively abundant for the first half disappears, and all that is left is the sun and the sandy path. Around 11:40 a.m. we summited the falls and were pretty exhausted. The overlook was an open, rocky area that had signs pointing toward stairs which provided a closer look at the falls.

Excited to *finally* reach the top

Good news – thanks to my beloved Camelbak (this is the one I have), I didn’t run out of water, nor did I feel or exhibit signs of dehydration. Bad news – the muscle fatigue was very real. Getting to the top was a push, but let me be clear, the last few stairs to and from the actual edge of the falls were painful.

As we approached Yosemite Creek, we were expecting just that – a creek. We did not anticipate just how much water would be coming down the mountain. The staircase pictured above was very narrow and led down to a lower lookout point.

From the higher point, we could see a bridge up the Yosemite Creek which was surrounded by a bunch of rocks on the bank that would be great for laying out on. Based on trail markers we saw just before reaching the outlook, we figured the bridge was a short way up the Yosemite Point Trail which branches off of the Yosemite Falls Trail. After crossing the bridge, we opted to go opposite the direction of the trail to get to the rocks on the edge of the creek (this part is definitely not recommended by the NPS as the creek is fast moving and directly above the falls, you should stay on the trails, kids).

While down by the creek, we had the lunch we had packed – crackers, salami, and cheese, various bars, and PB&J sandwiches. We also took this time to soak up some sun, and give our bodies some reprieve from the hike up. The water was quite possibly close to freezing, but it felt great! We spent quite awhile up there, and around 1:30 p.m. or so we started our descent.

Truth be told, we didn’t take many pictures during our ascent because of how strenuous it was and our focus being on reaching the top. The descent was when the bulk of our scenery pictures were taken, and I’ve provided a compilation below.

The trip down the mountain was much faster than the trip up, and we made it back to the valley floor at 3:20 p.m. According to Charlotte’s Fitbit, with all of our adventures included, we took just over 31,000 steps, traveled about 13 miles, and climbed the equivalent of 380 staircases. I am so proud of what we accomplished and the view was worth every muscle-screaming step. On our way down the hill, we stopped at Robert’s Frosty in Coarsegold for soft serve as a reward for making it all the way to the top of the falls.

This trip also marked Lil’ Blue’s first to Yosemite! I greatly appreciate Charlotte letting me be *that* person who stops to take artsy pictures of my car.

eIMG_7662.jpg
My Outback below the Three Brothers rock formation on the North Side of Yosemite Valley

Yosemite During the NPS Centennial

While I lived in Colorado, I came to realize that I grew up an hour away from the park gates of Yosemite National Park and I took it for granted. In preparing to come back to California, I took it upon myself to make a conscious effort to be more of a tourist in my own backyard.

This past Wednesday, my dear friend Lela and I took a day and headed north on 41 toward Yosemite. If you’re planning on going that way soon and are not yet aware: traffic patterns are different in the park right now, namely traffic is two-way on the vast majority of the south side and the north side drive is either changed access or inaccessible.

As we drove into the park, we listened to Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. After making our way past the tunnel and into the valley, we drove through to Half Dome Village (Curry Village). We ate sandwiches out of the back of the car and then hopped on the shuttle that loops through the valley.

Our first activity for the day was a hike to see Vernal Falls. Both of us failed to realize that the mile and a half-ish each way hike is labelled “strenuous” because of the approximately 1000ft gain in elevation. By the time we reached the bridge, Lela was very pleased to see water because she was beginning to wonder if it was all part of an elaborate lie.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The good news is that you can’t see the silent screams in our eyes as we reached the bridge

The last ~0.3 mi from the bridge to the fall was a push and involved a lot of rock touching, but we made it. It was comforting to know that some of those who summit Half Dome have to follow the same path.

After we made it back down from Vernal Falls (which was much faster, but equally painful), we stopped at a body of water that was downstream next to the road.

P9140042.JPG
Lela being adorable by the water

After stopping at the water, we got back on the shuttle to go to the next stop: the trail to Mirror Lake. Something we learned upon arriving is that Mirror Lake is a seasonal lake (and not actually a lake, so this trail was also suspect).

After the shuttle looped us back around to the car, we started our way back through the park the way we came, stopping at a few more locations as we went. Through the valley, our soundtrack was Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.

Shortly after 4 p.m., we left the valley and headed up Glacier Point Road. This road (I discovered) is narrower than the rest of the roads in the park once you get above the pull off for the ski area, and not very accommodating of the tank. Gorillaz got us through this part of the trek.

We climbed the rails at Glacier Point, like the rebels we are, and spent the next hour and some leading up to sunset sitting on the overlook.

Also during that time, Lela assumed her rightful place as queen of the ravens.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

At sunset, we made our way back to an overlook (for those of you who haven’t been to the lot at Glacier Point, it is not good for sitting at) slightly down the road towards the main drive through the park.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our time being tourists in the park concluded somewhere after 9 p.m. following some stargazing, which was slightly obstructed because the moon was nearly full and the air was smoky from the controlled burns that the park service had been conducting. In my opinion, one of the most surprising and beautiful things about being that high up in that part of the park that late at night was seeing the campfires on the trail up Half Dome and on paths to other domes deep in the valley.

Glacier Point Road at 9:30 p.m. (on the other hand) looks like the set of a horror film, which we contributed to by listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. Our trip back into town concluded with The Best of Bob Marley and the Wailers.

This was a very long day, but it was 100% worth it. I am now a proud Yosemite National Park Annual Pass holder, and I am determined to go at least once each season through September 2017.