Laura and Lee's June Journey

June 12-17, 2002

It's June - time for our annual trip to Yosemite! I know some people probably wonder why we go to the same place year after year...but there's something very special about Yosemite and I just love it there - I'm never ready to go home.

We travelled with our good friends Walt and Barb again, and stayed in two rooms at Yosemite Lodge this year - I had made those reservations the requisite year and a day in advance! (And before leaving for this trip I made our 2003 reservations, too!)

Wednesday, June 12

No emergency visits to the vet this year. :-) We picked Walt and Barb up and loaded their stuff in the Xterra, and were on the road about 10:30. Didn't really have any traffic problems getting through mid-day L.A., and made it to Visalia, where Lee's dad and grandmother live, about 4:30.

We all drove into beautiful downtown Visalia that night to meet Lee's youngest brother and his family for dinner at Marie Callendar's. We had a nice dinner, with pie for dessert, of course! (We actually got a razzleberry pie to go, and finished it up after we arrived in Yosemite. That may be a new tradition for us!)

It was a fun evening and it was good to see Ross and DeeDee, and our nephew and niece (Chaney and Chloe).

Thursday, June 13

Gram made us our traditional pancake breakfast (yum!) and we got on the road about 9:30. They were doing re-surfacing on the road outside the park and we got stopped a couple of times, which bunched the traffic together, so when we hit the Entrance Station there were 10-12 cars ahead of us ALSO waiting to get in. But a ranger was directing traffic, and since we had a National Park Pass and didn't have to pay, he handed us the informational materials and waved us right through a side entrance. Woo hoo! (A National Park Pass gets you into any of the national parks or monuments for $50.00/year. Considering that Yosemite and some of the other parks have $20.00 entry fees it's a pretty good deal if you go to more than three...and even if you don't, we still think it's going to a worthwhile cause.)

Right inside the park entrance is the road up to the Mariposa Grove of sequoias - oftentimes the parking lot up the road is full and you have to park at the entrance and take a shuttle bus to the grove, but this time we were able to drive up and park, though we did have to wait a bit for a parking space.

We walked up to the Grizzly Giant and then went back another 1.5 miles to the Upper Grove - the trail is actually a lot steeper than you expect, though we didn't have any problems. For those who don't want to (or can't) walk, there is an open tram that takes you through the grove and stops at several points of interest, though there is an additional charge for that. Most people only go as far as the Grizzly Giant, so we didn't see too many people along the trail.

It was pretty early in the season as far as wildflowers are concerned, so we saw some of the early spring flowers - Barb and I were both taking a lot of pictures.

Barb and Walt were about to celebrate their 20th wedding anniversary, so we thought it appropriate to photograph them with a pair of sequoias called the Faithful Couple.

After our tour of the Grove we drove back down to the Wawona Hotel, intending to have lunch there like we did last year. Except that it was after 2:00 when we arrived, and they stop serving in the dining room about 1:00. They told us that the snack bar in the golf shop had sandwiches, so we went there. They were a little overwhelmed and not terribly fast, but the sandwiches were decent. Next year we'll have to remember to get there earlier!

On our way down to the valley we made the usual stop at "Discovery Point" - we always called this "Inspiration Point", but evidently it has a different name. By looking at Bridalveil Fall we could already see that the water was higher than last year, though certainly no where near the peak. That part of the Sierra Nevada range had a fairly normal snow year, though the southern part of the range (and southern California) were way below normal. (San Diego had the driest year on record.)

We arrived in the valley around 4:00 and checked into Yosemite Lodge. We had two adjoining rooms on the second floor of "Manzanita Lodge" - through the trees we could actually see a little bit of upper Yosemite Fall. The view would be a lot better if they'd cut the trees down! ;-)

Anyway...our rooms were very nice and seemed very roomy. We had two queen size beds, a large dresser, and a table and two chairs (with two chairs out on the deck). But it wasn't cramped, and there was still room to move around. We'd brought the bikes again, and had room for them in the rooms as well as all our other stuff. The rooms had quite a bit of storage space!

After unpacking (and napping) we walked over to Yosemite Village (about 3/4 mile) and had dinner at Degnan's Loft. We were interested to see what it might have, since it seems to change menus/identities every year! :-) But it was still a pizza place. We wandered back to the Lodge, polished off the rest of the razzleberry pie, figured out our plan for the next morning and called it a night.

Friday, June 14

We met Walt and Barb in the cafeteria for breakfast - the food is actually pretty good, and not outrageously priced. And they had a nice variety, too - you could get eggs/bacon/sausage/hashed browns, pancakes, french toast, hot and cold cereals, fruit, as well as pastries (toast, bagels, muffins, doughnuts, etc.)

We had brought stuff for trail lunches - bread, cheese, fruit, cookies, and things like that - so we packed lunches and headed off for a day hike to North Dome. This was something new that we'd never done before. We see North Dome all the time (as in this photo) - it's across the valley from Half Dome. When I was surfing the web looking for hiking information I ran across a web page that described a North Dome day hike that sounded really interesting - especially the part about there being an arch called "Indian Rock" - I had no idea there was anything like that in Yosemite! Anyway...last year Lee had bought a book on Yosemite day hikes, and this one was in there. 11 miles round trip, with a total of 3200' elevation change - more on that later. :-) It sounded quite doable.

The trailhead was Porcupine Creek, which is up on the Tioga Pass Road. It took us about an hour to drive there - we had a little bit of confusion about where the trailhead *was*, because we'd forgotten to actually bring the book with us! But we found it, and got on the trail around 9:30.

The trail starts off by going down a road, in what we believe used to be a campground - it's paved for the first 3/4 of a mile or so before heading off into meadows/pine forest. There were a lot of wildflowers, and Barb and I stopped a LOT to take pictures. :-)

After hiking a couple of hours we made it up a fairly long steep stretch of trail, and hit the junction to Indian Rock. That was quite a steep "trail", but it was short, and WELL worth it. Walt discovered that you could go around the back and actually climb up fairly easily to where you could sit in the arch. So we did. :-) Really nice view from up there - we could see Half Dome through the arch.

Then it was down, down, down to where North Dome kind of starts, then up a couple hundred feet to the top of the dome. It was a terrific view, and we had the dome entirely to ourselves! Which is a lot different than Half Dome, which is probably climbed by several hundred people per day. We could see back into the high country towards Cloud's Rest and Mt. Conness, and had a wonderful view of Illiouette Fall - this is one you catch a glimpse of from the Vernal Falls trail, but we could see the entire fall and the canyon. We could also look back down the valley towards Yosemite Falls.

We had lunch (it was about 12:30 by then), and were joined by an opportunistic golden mantled ground squirrel. Who was obviously *quite* used to people. We didn't feed him, though he was very cute. We took some pictures from the top - that Half Dome backdrop is pretty impressive! - and then headed back.

Which is when we discovered something interesting...that this particular trail was uphill *both* ways. :-) Remember that "3200 foot elevation change" I mentioned earlier? The profile of the trail in the book had shown that it went downhill most of the way (the top of North Dome was actually about 800' lower than where we'd started), with some uphill at the end. We'd *started* with a downhill stretch, but then we had a couple of uphill stretches - one of them pretty long and steep - before we went *way* down to where we could access North Dome. Of course, that meant on the way back we had to go *way up* - and it felt even steeper going up! After that it was mostly downhill (reversing those uphill stretches we'd had on the way in) until we got to the end, where we had about 3/4 of a mile of relatively steep uphill. But we made it, and had had a wonderful hike.

We drove back to the Lodge. Our rooms were right next to the pool - which conveniently had an ice cream stand located right next to it. :-) That tasted very good after a long, somewhat warm day. It was about 6:00 by then, and even though we'd just had dessert, we decided we were ready for dinner. We went back over to the cafeteria for dinner - nothing fancy, but it was tasty, and we were hungry! The cafeteria wasn't too busy when we arrived, but it was quite busy by the time we left - we had timed it pretty well.

We thought about going to the evening program there at the Lodge, but we were tired, so made it an early evening.

Saturday, June 15

I got up around 6:30 and went for a walk - I love Yosemite in the mornings. There are surprisingly few people around - I guess most people staying in the valley are getting up and getting moving, and the day visitors haven't arrived yet. I walked over to Lower Yosemite Falls and there was only *one* other person there! I walked over the bridge near the fall and ended up on a side trail that eventually went back to the main road - but along the way I found a plaque commemorating the location of the cabin John Muir built in Yosemite. There was also a bench with a great view of Lower Yosemite Fall. And I had it all to myself! :-)

I went over through the meadow to Sentinel Bridge, then walked up to where I could walk over the "Swinging Bridge" back to the Lodge. (The Swinging Bridge doesn't actually swing, though). I ran into Walt and Barb on the bridge - they were coming *from* the Lodge. :-)

It was a lovely walk - I saw lots of flowers in the meadows, and very few people. Not even very many cars on the road! It took me about an hour.

Lee was out on a walk of his own when I got back, but after he returned we all met up and headed over to the Ahwahnee Hotel on our bikes for breakfast. My parents and another couple (Jim and Sherry) were driving over from their homes near Mammoth and meeting us for breakfast - we've done this on our last 3 trips to Yosemite, and it's a lot fun. The food is very good, too! Though this year we were disappointed that the "breakfast pastry baskets" they brought to the table did NOT have the coffeecake in them - Mom and I practically fought over that last year. :-) They had a new item this year - the Ahwahnee breakfast wrap - and almost all of us ordered that. It had scrambled eggs, cheese, hashed browns, and vegetable hash in it. It was excellent! (Barb and Dad were different and ordered the Eggs Benedict.)

After we waddled out of there, we left the bikes and all went walking back to the Lodge along a trail that skirts the side of the valley - and ends up at Lower Yosemite Fall. And I showed everyone the John Muir plaque spot I'd found that morning.

We went back to our rooms at the Lodge to try to figure out what else we were going to do - Mom and Jim both had leg ailments and couldn't do any hiking. But we talked Dad and Sherry into going river rafting with us, so we left Mom and Jim relaxing in the room, and the six of us drove over to Curry Village.

It was another warm, beautiful day - we had terrific weather the whole trip. The highs were in the mid to upper 80s, and it was in the 60s or maybe high 50s at night. Ho hum, just another perfect Yosemite day. :-)

Anyway...that was perfect weather for floating down the river. A lot of other people had the same idea, though, and we had to wait for a while before we got two rafts. Sherry went with Walt and Barb, and Dad was with Lee and me. The water was higher than it was last year - a couple of the sandbars where we usually pull up to and stop were under water this year! And we had a couple of fun little rapids due to the higher and swifter water. We pulled the rafts out on one gravel beach and Walt, Barb, and Lee went for their annual cold water dip. :-) No picture of takes a VERY fast shutter speed to actually catch them in the water! :-)

It was a very relaxing float down the river, and took us a couple of hours. The shuttle bus brought us back to Curry Village (where we had rented the rafts), and we went back to the hotel, where Mom was reading and Jim was napping. We had some ice cream from the stand (the location of our room had some DEFINITE benefits!), and then Mom and Dad and Jim and Sherry got on the road.

We'd planned to have dinner at the Mountain Room (the nice sit-down restaurant at the Lodge), but a lot of other people had the same idea and it was going to be a long wait, so we went back the cafeteria again. A squirrel had gotten into the dining area and was wandering around looking for whatever had fallen on the floor - Lee and I herded him outside.

After dinner we went to Walt and Barb's room for a rousing game of Star Trek Uno (Beam Me Up, Scotty!). I think Barb ended up winning. We're an exciting group, aren't we? :-)

Sunday, June 16

We started off our day with breakfast at the cafeteria, then we got our hiking stuff together and biked over to the Happy Isles trailhead.

We got on the trail early enough that we were ahead of a lot of people...and we overtook quite a few on the trail to the Vernal Falls bridge (speed demons that we are! :-) ). We took the Mist Trail up to the top of Vernal Falls. It wasn't too misty at this time of year (earlier in the season you can get absolutely soaked!), but the climb involves a lot of steps, and I swear those steps get higher every year! Looking back down the canyon we could see a beautiful rainbow.

From the top of Vernal Falls we continued up the trail to the top of Nevada Falls - you can do a really nice loop by taking the Mist Trail all the way to the top of Nevada Falls, then coming back down the John Muir Trail - the two join back up not far beyond the Vernal Falls bridge. get a very nice view of the side of Nevada Falls from the Mist Trail side.

The hike is fairly strenuous - it gains about 2,200 feet of elevation in only about 3 miles. We had a nice relaxing lunch at the top of Nevada Falls - and another opportunistic squirrel attempted to join us. :-) Eventually we got on the Muir Trail and headed back down. Not far from the top there's a great view of the other side of Nevada Falls.

It was still a looong way down, and we were happy to get to the bottom and back to the bikes! Riding felt a lot better than walking by then.

This night we got to the Mountain Room restaurant a little bit before it opened, and were the second group to be seated. Many of the tables (including the one we had) have a view of upper Yosemite Falls - hard to beat THAT scenery! :-) We had a nice dinner - the food there has always been pretty good.

We had a Star Trek Uno rematch...I think Lee won that night.

Monday, June 17

Lee and I went for a morning bike ride to Mirror Lake - it was a beautiful morning, and we caught a nice reflection in a pool. Mirror Lake isn't much of a "lake" these days, but it's still a very nice and peaceful spot, especially early in the day.

After we got back it was time to leave...sigh. So we finished packing, loaded the car, checked out, and got on the road. Along the road out of the park there were LOTS of wildflowers blooming - much of the road has no shoulder for pullouts, but Lee pulled over when he could to indulge the two fanatic flower photographers. :-) We *finally* hit the Mariposa Lily motherlode near the Wawona Hotel - including seeing some *pink* Mariposa Lilies, which I had never seen before. (Pictured below right, along with farewell-to-spring and penstemon.) The rest of the trip home was uneventful - just long. It would be a lot nicer if L.A. weren't between us and Yosemite!

Other Photos

Here's some additional photographs that I didn't put in the trip report.

Other Links

Yosemite According to Tigger

Text and photographs copyright © 2002, by Laura Gilbreath and Lee Zimmerman. Feel free to link to this document, but you may not redistribute it in any form without the express written consent of the copyright holder.

Laura Gilbreath,
Last updated 10/1/2002

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