Five hours outside of San Francisco in Friday afternoon traffic, Brett and I ended up in Groveland, CA for the night. We were out by 8 a.m. Saturday for the 30-minute drive to the west entrance of Yosemite National Park. Before we left, the cook at the inn told us, “God had His way with that place, Yosemite. He had something to say.” As we neared the park, I realized what she meant. He had something to say indeed.
We drove east from the west entrance along Route 120 to the Tuolumne Meadows Campsite. The road squiggles through the woods and mountains cutting the park down the middle. Brett had a rough time keeping his eyes on the road because the sights were so incredible to see. We had to pull over on several occasions to gawk at various vista points.
At around 10 a.m., we were parked in the Lembert Dome Parking & Picnic Area lot and geared up to hike. The trail I mapped was ambitious, and in the end, we weren’t able to complete it. It would have been a nearly 16 mile loop from Tuolumne Meadows to Vogelsang High Sierra Camp and then over to the Pacific Crest Trail/John Muir Trail all the way back to Tuolmne Meadows Campground. I thought ending with the PCT would make the trek especially worth it and even before we decided to turn back, the thought of reaching those special trails motivated me to keep hiking through the 1,400 ft incline, the snow, mud and over river crossings like I’ve never seen them before. Here, the National Park Service recommends a similar 13.8 mile day hike from Tuolumne to Vogelsang and back without crossing over to catch the PCT back. Had I seen this particular write-up, we might have known this trail is labeled strenuous. We ended up turning back just shy of Vogelsang.
Brett and I had this unnamed, but marked trail to ourselves. The trail to Vogelsang was marked by diamond shaped cuttings in nearby trees. We only saw one other hiker during the 12 miles we hiked. Yep, I just said TWELVE MILES! A NEW RECORD! The hike started at 8,600 FT with a steep rise which we later read was about 1,400 ft. At that point in the hike, I could feel the altitude change affecting my breathing. Eventually, we got used to it, but I was wary to climb too quickly and over-exert since I don’t have much experience at high altitudes. Even in Tibet, I don’t think I experienced such fast and extreme changes in altitude.
The threat of Black Bears in Yosemite was real and present as we saw their poop along the trail many times. Luckily every time we saw a large load, Brett hollered out “Woooooooo!” and terrified all wildlife within 3 miles. In fact, we did not see any wildlife along the nameless trail.
Throughout the hike, we were surrounded by snow capped mountains and blue sky. You can tell by the pictures, that the snow on this trail is still melting. This meant that there were more water crossings and several sections where we had to judge the strength of the snow piles. Here’s a typical crossing. You can see the trail continue on the other side.
You may have noticed something else in the photos…
Trekking Poles! Like I said in an earlier post, I bought all this backpacking equipment for my first trip in 2011 meaning I had a large credit with REI for future purchases. Last weekend, they had their big annual sale and so the time was right to snatch up a pair of poles. They ended up costing $10 with my credit. I later learned the investment was more than worth it for the sake of my legs.
That’s all for the first leg of our Yosemite adventure. Even though we didn’t complete what we set out to do, the Garden State Hiker has now hiked higher and farther than ever before! Stay tuned for camping and a hike in Yosemite Valley.