The best ideas come at two am. At least that's what it seems like lately. Two am on night shift is often a sort of magical time, there is a lull as you get incredibly tired and the chaos of the beginning of the shift recedes. With a bit of caffeine and a lot of conversation the shift moves on, but it's definitely one of the stranger parts of night shift. A few weeks ago during one of these moments I was chatting with a coworker and found out that even though she has visited a ton of national parks and lived within a few hours of the park her whole life she had never been to Yosemite; and a plan was hatched.
Now this lovely lady is no newbie to the outdoors, loads of camping, hiking and horseback riding experience but she has never been backpacking. So with that in mind we decided to try to get a few days off together and hit Yosemite, with a little bit of backpacking and car camping to keep it mellow. No over the top crazy hard backpacking plans for a first trip. Now I'm not quite sure how it happened but summer is a busy time and suddenly we were just a few days out and had done basically zero planning. With opposite schedules we were having a tough time meeting up in person, so on our own we picked up a few things and decided to show up and hope it worked.
Sleep deprived and slap happy after three nights of work I shoved some stuff into my backpack and tried to look awake when Meghan got to my house at 8 am. We stopped at Winco (bulk aisle I do love you so) and cobbled together 4 days worth of food and hit the road. Pretty drive passing Topaz lake, canyons, cows and finally Mono Lake and Tioga Pass. One more food and gas stop at the infamous Mobil (I keep hearing this place is epic and yes it was good but honestly overpriced and overcrowded, I'd vote for burgers and shakes at Walker Burger hands down).
The drive felt super quick and as we wound into Yosemite we did the touristy thing and stopped at pullouts to gawk at all the views. We pulled into the permit center at Tuolumne Meadows and hoped for good luck. The two rangers at the desk looked like they were having a long day and were plenty busy. We quickly found out that there were no permits for anything going out of the valley that night or the next so that option was out the window. We asked for suggestions and I was beyond overwhelmed, going on 27 hours without sleep decision making wasn't my strong point. Meghan was deferring to me and I just wanted to sleep. After a whole lot of staring at maps and questions we decided on a short trip starting at the Yosemite Creek Trailhead, with us camping near the trail intersection for North Dome on day 1. Only about 6-7 miles, we could then day hike to North Dome if we got there early enough or it would just give us a nice really easy day. Day two would drop us into the valley past Yosemite falls and with less than 5 miles to hike total we could explore the valley in the afternoon. The Ranger told us there was a free hiker shuttle in the valley at 5 pm that would drop us back at the trail head so we were set. She also recommended camping at Yosemite Creek Campground that night, she said it was undeveloped and a bit of a drive but there were deep pools along the creek to sit in, I was sold. Plus she guaranteed there were spots. So back into the car we went heading for the car campground.
Within 15 minutes we were at our turnoff and shortly learned that it was one rough long ride to the campground. Nothing like 45 minutes at less than 10 mph to build anticipation. We pulled into the campground to see a few listing tents, some screaming children and a few algae covered puddles in a basically dry creek bed, uh oh. Undeveloped means no running water, meaning we had been relying on that creek to actually be flowing. We got back in the car to explore the campground a bit farther crossing our fingers, the Ranger said there were swimming holes after all...