3. National Park Road Trip…April/May/June 2016

day 7…4.26
The temps dropped through the night & what was rain down in the canyon was snow up on the high rocks.including Angels Landing.  Id been set to  leave on the 7am shuttle, but not in this weather.  The second half of the hike is using chains bolted into the rocknot something I want to be grasping when my hands are chilled & the chain is wet & coldnor do I want to be climbing on wet rock.  Id be more disappointed if Id never done this hike before, but it is what it is.  Ive always hoped Danny could come back & hike this with me somedayhe would love this hike!  I drove around the areas of the park that were open to cars, just to take one last look.


I stopped & ate breakfast before I left for my long drive towards California.


The views are alot like the above…beautiful colorful sandstone rock. The highway leaves Utah & goes through northern Arizona then to Nevada just hopping from one state to the other.  Im not a Vegas fan so I drove through missing any major traffic but took the detour to see Lake Mead & Hoover Dam.  I stopped at the Visitors Center Lake Mead is actually a National Recreation areaso the same people who run the National Parks.& they told me the best FREE place to view the dam & without the traffic hassles (yeah!)  (there are $$$ tours galoreon foot, by boat, & on a helicopter, but even if you do NONE of these things, they charge you $10 to park).  I drove towards the view point...


.its lots of concrete, lots of wires & electrical looking stuff surrounded by giant dirt piles (some might call these mountains, but I think they look like huge piles of dirt & rock).  There were people there who looked fascinated by it allbut I was there about as long as its taken you to read this.  As stated before, I like to see the lakes, but not a dam fan.  Interesting note:  Everyone (tour or no tour) has to drive through a security checkpointno guns allowedso for all you gun toting travelers, dont plan on visiting here.  They were waving everyone through without a glance at the person or the inside the carso maybe you can take your gun inside?  I drove on to the lake, where there was practically no one.  The lake was pretty, but still surrounded by all this brown dirt.  



There are no more photos from today, because I spent the rest of the day in the car driving making it all the way to Bakersfield CA. Second interesting inspection’ note of the day:  When I entered California  there was a sign stating ALL CARS WERE TO BE INSPECTED FOR AGRICULTURE PRODUCTS. Like the good citizen I am (okmostly good), I starting thinking what I had in my carfruits, veggies, etc. (Danny & I once crossed the border from Canada into the US & they were confiscating CUT (not whole) green peppers).  But as I approached the Inspectors booth, she handed me something & waved me on.  I glanced around & this is what they were doing with everyone.  At my next stop I looked over the two identical postcards she gave me.  They were to enter a contest if you answered a questionairre about how it was to drive from Vegas to California.  Really?  So interesting how government spend money.  

day 8…4.27
I hit the road early in the morning & made it Yosemite National Park by 10am.  From the gorgeous oranges & reds of the Southwests soft sandstone, to gray, hard, granite monoliths of Yosemite.  I originally was going to Kings Canyon & Sequoia National Parkswhich were on my way, but in the end I decided it would be worth the backtracking to get into Yosemite mid week rather than on the weekend.  I buzzed through the park headed to the Camp 4 campgroundfamous for its climber history.  Ive read several books about the early climber campers at Camp 4must have been a wild place back in the 50’s, 60s & 70s.  Its unique for National Park camping because its first come/first serve six people to a site..that may be two tents or six.  All sites are walk-in, so you haul all your stuff to your site.  You have shared fire rings & picnic tables, but each person gets their own bear box.   I’ve never camped this way before, but felt fortunate to get a site & it’s only $6 a night…I signed up for three.  It took four trips to haul my gear to my sitepartially because you cant leave any food, or anything smellable in your car.which means the only thing you can leave in the car is water.  Lip balm, car cleaner, bug dope, etc. everything has to go into the bear box.  Yosemite is known for the bears breaking into cars to get food.  Its still early in the year for the bears, but you have to sign your life away stating youll abide by the rules.

The campground seemed pretty quiet & I set up fast.  On my last trip back from the car with my food box, the ranger was standing by my tent, wagging her finger at meshed written me a ‘warning’ for being ‘out of bounds’ (oops, I didn’t see the one little boundry sign) so, I un-staked the tent & drug it to another spot.  Then I took off to explore the park.  This is my 3rd time here…once in February 2001 with Danny & again a few years later with a girlfriends group.  Not much hiking was done either time…one due to snow & ice —we had a great time snow shoeing though! & the other because the girlfriends group, while so much fun, weren’t hikers.  I checked out the Village, with it’s all new names (just Google Yosemite corporate name controversy if you’re interested) & dropped something in the mail for Claire.  My cell service continues to be horrid & I miss our sweet little grand daughters face!  I picked up a few things for lunch/dinner & headed back to camp to eat.  There was a young couple who’d set up their tent in my first location.   As we introduced ourselves I told them about the finger-wagging ranger, but suggested they just leave it there until they were made to move it…maybe they’d get away with it….& they did, for two nights!  Yeah for them!

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After my early dinner, I went for the short hike up to the Lower Yosemite Falls.  The crowds were gone & it was a lovely evening!

After my walk, I went over to see the former Ahwahnee hotel, which is just beautiful.  I thought I might have a beer or hot chocolate.  But, it was afternoon tea time (for guests only) & the place was packed.  I checked out the dinner menu (there is a dress codewhich Im not sure what it is when its a place to BE OUTDOORS HIKING & WALKING ALL DAY) but the entrees started about $25 eachnot the way I want to spend my money, so I walked on.  Still, its a beautiful lodge.

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The clouds came in & covered the tops of Half Dome, Bridalveil Falls & El Capitan.  It was time to go back to camp.  My camp mates & I visitedthe stories of others' lives are always fascinating to me & I enjoyed the easy conversation.  As darkness & rain began to fall, we said good night & I tucked into my tent for the night.

day 9…4.28
I made coffee early, ate a couple of spoonfuls of peanut butter, grabbed my pack & took off to hike the Mist Trail.  This trail goes to the top Vernal Falls & then to the top of Nevada Falls & then loops around to the John Muir Trail & back down to the trailhead.  Its a 7 mile hike with 1,900 elevation gain.  I would love to hike the JMT, so just to have my boots on it was nice!  To hike up to the top of Vernal Falls has you climbing 600 stone stepswet steps, from the mist of the falls.  I was glad it wasnt crowded & that Id brought my rain jacket.  But it was beautiful!  The second rainbow pic shows some of the stone steps climbing upward.


There are handrails fixed into the rock in places, but eventually you get to the top with a nice view over the falls.

After the top of Vernal Falls, you begin to climb the stone up to Nevada Falls…the only difference is these steps are dry (easier to climb up).


You get a great view of the top of the falls & of those magnificent Sierra Nevada mountains in the distance!  So amazing!

I was done climbing & now would start the loop that would take me down.  There was a section you had to walk under a wall of water (my poor camera….sand storm in Page, AZ-- now water), but I took it as an opportunity to consider my hair washed.  Here’s a view of Nevada Falls & Liberty Cap (the huge rock to the left of the fall) from the bend in the trail; still at high elevation.


Now that it was later in the day, there were a lot of people coming up the trail, but only one couple was going down like me.  We had visited earlier on the trail, but they were way faster than me & soon were out of sight.  I tend to pay way more attention when I’m hiking a wilderness or backcountry trail than when I’m in a NP.  Who’s going to get lost when there are hundreds of others close by?  So, I wasn’t thinking (or obviously paying attention) as I hit a set of switchbacks that took me about 1/2 mile down…until I got at the bottom & it looked familiar.  THEN it popped into my head, that I wasn’t supposed to hit any switchbacks going down until the end of the trail.  I wasn’t lost, I knew exactly where I was, I just didn’t know how I missed the sign up above.  My choices were to either hike back up the probably 400’ I’d just hiked down, or hike back down the 600 wet stone steps filled with people by Vernal Falls.  I started back up the trail, my knees & quads cursing me.  Once at the top, I realized my mistake. The ‘wrong’ trail I’d taken intersects BEFORE the signage to stay straight & I just missed the straight trail.  Oh well, time in the woods right?  Below is another photo of the top of Vernal Falls from the Mist trail.


I headed back to camp, grabbed a beer & went to look for a rock…not the rock below, it’s a bouldering rock.  You can see climbers out here in the evening with pads helping & teaching each other to scramble or practice climbing.

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I was looking for a rock with a gentle slant & I found one.  I laid back on it…my primitive version of a recliner & watched the sky with it’s sunshine, rainbow & jet stream…lots going on above my head.  Camp was quiet & I was enjoying a little quiet time.  Back in camp, we had a new set of camp mates join us…a family of 4…a single mom & her three boys in a huge tent.  We were all there & sat & chatted for awhile.  You can see what the bear boxes look like below & the randomness of the tents.

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As evening fell & they were all preparing dinner, I took off to check out more sights.  I drove by El Capitan to see if I could see any climbers (no & not even the top of the 7,500’ rock…clouds blanketed the top) & then made the short walk up to Bridalveil Falls (very, very wet!), then down to one of the bridges over the crystal clear Merced River with the outstanding view of Half Dome in the background & one last shot of Upper & Lower Yosemite Falls.  What a peaceful wonderful evening.

The evening ended around the campfire with all of us getting to know one another.  Another wonderful day!

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