Friday, August 23, 2013

Yosemite Day 2

Up and out of the campground without much fuss. We packed up, stashed our food in a bear locker and headed down the Yosemite Creek Trail. Nice easy graded trail, forested and even a little water. Nothing much but enough that we were hopeful for our planned campsite.

First peek at some of  the giant rocks of Yosemite up close
We reached the intersection for the valley and north dome sometime between 10 and 11. This had been our intended camping spot, and like we had guessed it was plenty early for a side trip. Plus there was no water and Yosemite falls was supposed to be a quarter of a mile away so we could at least eat lunch and get some water there. We decided to stash the bear can and some heavier clothing/sleeping bags and head towards North Dome.

Within a few minutes we took a scenic overlook detour. If its signed it must be pretty awesome right?

I peered over the edge and had a sinking feeling, I am standing near a sign for Yosemite Falls, only there is no flowing water. For some reason it had not occurred to me that the falls themselves would be dry. Apparently it's common knowledge that this particular waterfall is seasonal, but not being in the know I was rather disappointed. More shallow pools for us.

We grabbed some water and started climbing.

It was much less hazy looking back towards the way we had come. But I was starting to think we might have an issue. The hiking up until then had been super mild. Mostly flat, a bit of downhill, basic easy trail. Now that we were climbing I was reminded that hiking with someone who is almost a foot taller than you makes for very different strides. And hiking with someone who has never lugged a backpack around can create a bit of a stutter step hiking pattern (you know walk, walk, gasp for air for a bit, walk a little farther). This was not a smooth climb at all. But it was pretty short, and the excitement over seeing Half Dome up close for the first time overshadowed the gasping for air bit. I was having some concerns about us succesfully getting all the way to North Dome and suggested a lunch break. We found a boulder with a beautiful view and collapsed in the heat. I was hungry and even though we had only hiked a total of maybe 7 miles it was already afternoon and 9 more miles seemed a little far fetched (from the intersection it had been 5 miles to North Dome). So a lunch slash regroup break seemed perfect.

My first tip off that our day might not go quite as planned actually happened the night before. As we unloaded the car I had picked up Meghan's sleeping bag and realized how hefty it truly was. We had talked about gear briefly over the past few weeks but since we had never sat down together I hadn't physically looked at her gear. Yup that's right, the silly person who used to lead backpacking trips for loads of inexperienced kids forgot to look at what the newbie packed. I have plenty of extra gear (seriously back in college I managed to basically outfit 3 friends for a quick overnight). I'm not a big clothes shopper but I happily own 3 sleeping bags and have spent the last two months rationalizing the purchase of another (Zpacks quilt you look so amazing). So I easily could have lightened her load at least a little. I cringed as I saw a cotton sweatshirt and later that evening a whole extra set of clothes. Obviously it all comes down to personal choices, and learning that those extra couple of pounds really do add up.  There's is nothing like experience to teach you what you actually value enough to haul over mountains. The slow climbing, the general pack discomfort and the growing number of blisters on Meghan's feet coupled with my sleep deprivation were not a recipe for a hike 17 mile kind of day. At least not if I wanted Meghan to remember her first backpacking trip fondly.

After a pretty long break and lots of debating North Dome was vetoed and we decided to head back to the falls grab a little water and backtrack to camp at our lunch rock. As we were heading back to the trail stumbling through bushes we found a perfect campsite with amazing views and a nice big flat spot. It seemed like perfect confirmation for our choice. Back to the creek was a quick adventure where we lazed around for a few hours watching all the tourists. We had really only seen a handful of people so far and were feeling pretty spoiled by our solitude in Yosemite experience.

Later in the afternoon we headed back up to our campsite. We had met a few folks who sounded like they were all camping up on the ridge and we were a bit worried that our lovely spot would be gone. Heading back up we somehow lost the trail, so many people have cut the trail that there are a zillion offshoots, but we made it back to the top with no issues and plenty of time for sunset which was our true goal.

I'll admit it I ran around like a crazy person during sunset. I actually was just going to use the bathroom but kept getting distracted by all the great views. A great way to explore your surrounds is to run around like an excited 5 year old shouting, ooh ooh look at that and then realize you are talking to yourself.

Probably the best part of the whole day was the sky. A car camper the night before had mentioned a meteor shower and boy was he right. Bright huge shooting stars over half dome, not to shabby. Thanks Perseid you rock.

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