Yosemite was the first national park my parents ever brought me to, in living memory. We used to visit California at least once a year when I was growing up in order to see my cousins and aunts and uncles. Sometimes those trips included a side visit to Yosemite. We stayed in what was then Curry Village and I remember walking out of our rustic cabin to find a fox hanging out nearby. It was awesome.
Suffice it to say, when I moved to California I needed to take advantage of visiting Yosemite as well. The first year I was here I visited the park about 3 times, in different seasons. Most tourists only get to enjoy it in summer but each season brings different views of the landscape and changes the way you experience the hiking.
My most prominent experience in the park was when I hiked to Half Dome, which is the "North Face symbol" looking mountain. It's about 12 hours, 16 miles and is almost completely up one way and then down the other. The scariest part is the last 500 feet or so have to be climbed with ropes that are nailed into the mountain face. It is terrifying especially if you have a fear of heights, which apparently I do. I'm glad I did it but I don't plan on repeating the attempt anytime soon!
This trip to Yosemite was a real breath of fresh air. I was really feeling the pull of nature after having a hard week. There is nothing better than getting into the mountains and losing cell phone service and just focusing on the moment.
On this trip, we stayed in the Wawona campground which is on the southwest side of the park. Usually I drive up on routes 120 or 140 (which are both kind of harrowing) but routes 99 and 41 to Wawona were much easier to navigate. We stopped in the town of Madera, which was a sleepy place filled with what seemed to be only taquerias. Not a terrible problem to have though!
Unfortunately it was a rainy and cloudy weekend forecast, so by the time we got to the park to set up camp it was dark and raining. However, it wasn't super cold and we managed to configure a tarp over the picnic area and assemble 3 tents in lightening speed. Not without some whiskey, though.
The next morning the rest of the gang joined us and we had to move campsites - because Yosemite gets so crowded in the summer months it is hard to get weekend campsites. This was a work around. Fortunately the park staff were nice and let us move only a few sites over. It was quite a sight to see us carrying multiple tents and packing and unpacking all our stuff! The crazy thing about camping is that no matter how many nights you go for, you end up bringing everything but the kitchen sink. It can be a little exhausting but with our large group and a ridiculous amount of teamwork, we seemed to break down and build up camp again quite quickly.
I would say, "Finally! We get to the good stuff!" but the truth is, that was the good stuff. People don't camp because it is easy. You do it because you want to go back to basics and work a little, a-la our hunter gather-er ancestors. Or at least that's how I look at it. Even though it was a little uncomfortable there is nothing quite like waking up outside with the sound of rain beating against your tent.
Our group opted to go on a hike near the Tunnel View/Inspiration Point. Inspiration Point is great because as you come out of this dark tunnel, you emerge onto the grandeur of the Yosemite valley vista.
Most people hike in the valley itself, but we opted to do a hike to Inspiration Point and then past that to a point above. The clouds kept moving and every once in awhile would open up to a great view. The trail was mostly uphill on the way there but there were some fun parts that involved walking through large snow patches that hadn't quite melted from the winter. Additionally, the rainy weather kept a dense fog hanging on some parts of the mountain which made for a magical air.
All and all we spent about 5 hours hiking around 7-8 miles. My fitbit was very pleased.
The best part about camping I think is setting up for dinner. You crack out some beers, build up the fire, play some music, and start grilling. We had couscous, hot dogs, sausages, chili, grilled corn, potatoes, and onions, and of course, s'more fixings.
The next day we packed up and headed out to the valley to explore the gushing waterfalls. I had never seen them so full of water - between it being spring and also an El Nino year, I think the water levels were at their best.
All in all, another beautiful weekend trip from the Bay Area.