Yosemite '04: The Assault on Half Dome

May 29-June 5, 2004

(Anyone else hear Flight of the Valkyries with that trip report title? :-) )

We had two goals for our trip to Yosemite this year: 1) to climb Half Dome, and 2) to have more time to relax. Which sounds a bit contradictory. :-)

As to whether we achieved our goals...well, you'll just have to keep reading, won't you? :-)

We travelled with our good friends Walt and Barb again, and stayed in two cabins (with bath) at Curry Village this year - I had made those reservations the requisite year and a day in advance.

Saturday, May 29

This was Memorial Day weekend, but since we weren't arriving in Yosemite until Sunday afternoon, we hoped the crowds/traffic wouldn't be too bad.

We picked Walt and Barb up and loaded their stuff in the Xterra, and were on the road about 9:30. Narrowly avoided an accident in Camp Pendleton - a car had gone off the road and everyone was suddenly screeching to a halt. There were already a number of people who had stopped to help, so we kept going. We didn't have any real traffic problems getting through L.A., and made it to Visalia, where we were staying with Lee's mom and stepdad, about 3:00.

That evening we went out to dinner at Mimi's Cafe in Visalia, where we were joined by Lee's dad and grandmother, and 3.5 members of his brother Ross' family - Ross couldn't make it, but our nephew and niece, Chaney and Chloe, were there, and sister-in-law Dee Dee, who was pregnant with our newest nephew. :-) (Chase Alan was born August 9.)

After dinner we all went back to Donn and Carol's and enjoyed some Marie Callender's pies, and the four of us took a couple walks around the block before we went to bed.

Sunday, May 30

Carol made us a wonderful breakfast of waffles, sausage, and fresh strawberries. Thus fortified, we hit the road and headed off to Yosemite.

We made good time until we got about a mile outside the park...remember how I mentioned that it was Memorial Day weekend???? There was a huge backup of cars trying to get into the park...we waited in line for about 40 minutes until we arrived at the entrance station and purchased our new National Park Pass. (We visited 10 different national parks/monuments on last year's pass - I don't think we'll get quite that much use out of this one. :-) )

We had planned to have lunch at the Wawona Hotel, but it was Sunday, so they were serving Sunday brunch and that was more than we wanted...so Walt and Barb got a sandwich from the golf course snack bar, and Lee and I had some of the hiking-type food we'd brought with us and we ate outside on the lawn.

On our way down to the valley we made the usual stop at "Discovery Point", or Tunnel View, or Inspiration Point, or whatever you want to call it. Lee and I had hiked the trail from here up to Old Inspiration Point last year, and the four of us did it this year. "Old Inspiration Point" is still less than inspiring. :-) The view from about halfway up the trail (pictured here) is better than the view at the tunnel. Not as many wildflowers this year as last year, but we're here a little earlier in the season.

The Valley had been packed that day, and there were still a lot of crazy drivers around, and cars parked along the road *anywhere* they could find parking! We couldn't find any parking near the cabins initially (it was close to 5:00 by then), but eventually some day visitors left and a lot of spaces freed up.

Since we were arriving in the middle of a long weekend, I thought we'd just get whatever rooms were available, and that on Monday perhaps we could move closer to each other. So I was very pleasantly surprised when the clerk at the Front Desk told us that our cabins were right next to each other - we had a building all to ourselves! (There are two units per building). We were on the back row up against the hill, and almost all the way at the end, but that was fine with us!

For dinner we went to the Curry Pavilion, which is a buffet. The food is good, not great, though I must say that the mashed potatoes and fresh fruit were excellent. (There's a pizza place at Curry Village, but it had a HUGE line!) After dinner we took a walk out along Stoneman Meadow - it was dusk and the mosquitoes were out, but interestingly enough they were going after *Lee* and not the rest of us! :-) We had fun watching him do the "Mosquito Slap Dance". :-)

And there was some nice light on Half Dome!

Monday, May 31

Lee and I were awakened around 12:30 in the morning by a gnawing sound coming from our dresser. We'd brought food for breakfasts and lunches, and I'd stored some of it in the bottom drawer since we'd already piled high the shelf in the closet. I got up and opened the drawer and didn't see anything, and the food looked ok.

So we turned out the light again, and within a few minutes heard "gnaw, gnaw, gnaw" again. Lee got up this time and looked in the drawer. He pulled out an (unopened) bag of chocolate cream Oreos...which had a hole chewed in one corner. Bob the Midnight Marauding Mouse (as we dubbed him) had struck. Interesting that he went for the unopened Oreos rather than the open bag of Chips Ahoy that was also in the drawer! So at 12:30 we piled ALL the food onto the shelf in the closet and went back to bed. We heard Bob rustling in the sacks in the bottom of the closet but there was no food in them, and eventually he gave up and we went back to sleep.

In the morning we got up and made breakfast - this year we'd brought a hot pot so that we could make our own coffee and tea, rather than having to stand in line for 15+ minutes for it! We had some breakfast pastries and cereal too.

After breakfast we packed lunches and drove off to Hetch Hetchy. It's a smaller scale twin to Yosemite Valley (formed by the same glacial forces), but it was dammed in the early 1900s to turn it into a water supply for the city of San Francisco. It's quite undeveloped - there's a backpacker's campground and restrooms but no other facilities - but there are some beautiful waterfalls and some of the finest and most diverse wildflower displays I've seen in Yosemite.

Hetch Hetchy is about an hour and twenty minute drive from the Valley. We were on the road by about 8:15, hoping to beat the Memorial Day traffic and for the most part we were successful - until we got on the 1-1/2 lane road that leads from highway 120 to Hetch Hetchy. And there we were met with this almost continuous stream of motorhomes and campers and cars that were all *leaving*. I've never seen so many people back there! When we got to Camp Mather we saw why - there were cars and tents and motorhomes *everywhere*. But once we passed through that area we only saw a couple of cars.

We were on the trail at Hetch Hetchy about 10:00, and crossed over the dam. The water level was higher than it was the last time I was here and was going over the spillway in addition to going through the hydroelectric plant. Once we got on the trails we saw quite a few backpackers who were coming out after a weekend backpack trip, and some other dayhikers as well. The wildflowers were beautiful, and I saw some varieties that were new to me.

This was a historic trip to Hetch Hetchy, because for the first time ever I was able to cross the bridge below Wapama Falls! My first trip to Hetch Hetchy was 22 years ago, over Memorial Day in 1982, and we did this same hike...but there had been a lot of snow that winter, and when we got to the bridge below Wapama Falls it was closed because of high water. This is probably my 7th or 8th trip to Hetch Hetchy, and only the second time that the bridge hasn't been closed. The other time the water was calf deep over the bridge and I had sprained my foot a couple days before and didn't want to chance it.

But this was a low snow year with an early melt, so there was no water running across the bridge (though you got a nice cold mist shower!) and I was finally able to get across the bridge and see what's on the other side! Though actually the scenery is a lot more interesting on the side I'd already been on. :-) There were quite a few people at the waterfall so we walked down the trail about another mile looking for a good lunch spot. Barb was like the Energizer Bunny, and just kept going, and going, and going, wanting to see what was around the next bend. :-) We finally found a good spot and had a quick lunch before heading back. It was a warm day but there was a nice breeze, and we got some afternoon clouds, too.

On the drive back Camp Mather was *deserted* - all of those cars and tents that we had seen in the morning were *gone*, like they'd never been there. I guess they were having a special event for Memorial Day weekend. On the way in I'd spotted a section along the road that was full of wild irises and we stopped there for a while. They were just beautiful - I'd never seen any wild irises in any colors other than a bluish-purple, but we saw pink and white and dark purple and even a beautiful gold one. Just gorgeous.

We'd timed our departure from Hetch Hetchy to get back to Camp Curry before 5:00 so that we could have dinner at the Taqueria, which closes at 5:00. There were not nearly so many cars in the Valley that day, since it was the end of the holiday weekend. Whew - that's what we were hoping for!

The food at the Taqueria is decent and it really hit the spot - but we were hungry. :-) It was nice to have a choice other than pizza or the buffet for dinner.

After we'd all showered and relaxed for a while we met later in the evening for ice cream - amazingly enough there was no line! We walked back over to the meadow to see the evening light on Half Dome - it was even nicer than the night before. We saw several deer - and they even crossed the road at the crosswalk! :-) These were beautiful young bucks with velvety antlers.

After we got back to the cabins I went though my three flower books trying to identify some of the flowers I'd seen that day, with varying degrees of success. :-)

At some point that night we heard Bob rustling around in the bags in the closet again.

Tuesday, June 1

Since we were planning our hike of Half Dome for Wednesday, this was our "rest" day. No, really! :-)

After doing our coffee/tea/pastries/cereal breakfast we went biking - we rode out to El Capitan and looked up at some of the climbers. We could see a number of sleep sacks hanging up there, but didn't see anyone actually climbing, even though it was 10:00 by then, which seemed pretty late to us! We headed back towards Yosemite Village, though we made our traditional stop on the so-called "Swinging Bridge" (which doesn't swing) which has a nice view of upper Yosemite Fall. And on this day there was still a nice reflection in the Merced River, too.

We completed the rest of the Valley loop by going out to the Happy Isles trailhead and then up to Mirror Lake, though it was too late for any kind of reflection, and then back to Curry Village, where we were there just in time for the opening of the Taqueria at 11:00. :-) It was a lovely day, and after lunch we set up hammocks and chairs outside and read or napped and relaxed for several hours. See? I *told* you it was a rest day! :-)

About 3:30 we walked over to Yosemite Village and checked out the Visitor Center - I got (yet another) wildflower book and also a book on hikes in Yosemite called Hiking in Yosemite National Park, by Suzanne Swedo. It turned out to be very informative - I learned about trails I never knew existed!

We walked over to lower Yosemite Fall - they are completely redoing the visitor services in that area and there's a lot of construction going on. My favorite little side trail that goes along Yosemite Creek past the site of John Muir's cabin is closed off right now, but I hope it will reopen when the construction is complete.

It was about 5:00 by then and we decided to get dinner in the Village before things closed down at 6:00. We got deli sandwiches at Degnan's Deli - they were large and pretty good - actually none of us finished them.

After we walked back to the cabins we made all the preparations for the next day that we could - got our food together, filled water bottles, and prepared our packs. And set the alarm for 5:30 the next morning. We tried to get to sleep early. I heard Bob rustling in the bags in the closet (again) several times.

So on our "rest" day we biked about 12 miles and walked about 4. Some "rest" day, huh? :-)

Wednesday, June 2

The alarm went off at 5:30, but I was already awake - too keyed up to sleep very well. We had our usual breakfast and were on the bikes heading towards Happy Isles at 6:15. It's a little over a mile from Curry Village to Happy Isles, which doesn't seem very far...but since our day was going to be close to 15 miles already, one less mile to walk seemed like a good thing! (The shuttle bus doesn't run that early in the morning.)

By 6:35 we were on the trail - only 7 miles and 4800 feet to go! There were a number of other parties on the trail who were going to Half Dome, also.

We went up the Mist Trail to the top of Vernal Fall - that route cuts 1.2 miles off the distance to Half Dome, though it's steeper. Because of the low water year it wasn't very misty...I put on my jacket and rain pants anyway, but I could have done without them.

Above Vernal Fall the Upper Mist Trail crosses the Merced River and goes up the left side of Nevada Fall. It's steep, and every other time I've done this trail it's been in full sun, but it was still early enough the sun hadn't hit the trail yet and it was a lot more pleasant! Still steep, though. :-) Walt made it to the junction of the Mist Trail and the John Muir Trail about 10 minutes before I did...I was there by 8:15. Still 4.2 miles to go and almost 3000' to climb!

We continued on through Little Yosemite Valley and up, up, up. Very little "down" on this trail. What little down we did have we welcomed, and thought about how nice those short uphill sections would feel on the way back when we were tired of going down. We were WRONG about that, but more on that later. :-)

By 9:30 Lee and I were at the "two miles to Half Dome" sign. Still 1800 feet to climb, though! But we were feeling really good. Unfortunately Barb was not feeling so good - they think the altitude was getting to her, despite our spending several days in the Valley beforehand to acclimate. Walt told us to go ahead, and they would meet us on top.

At about 10:30 we started up Quarter Dome - the shoulder of Half Dome. This is the WORST part of the hike as far as I'm concerned - you climb about 600 feet mostly on these granite steps that range from a few inches to 18 inches high. It takes a lot of energy to hoist your body up an 18" step, especially when you've already climbed over 3000 feet! We passed a lot of people (but no one passed us!), but even we were stopping every 50 feet or so to catch our breath.

We arrived on top of Quarter Dome about 11:00. From the top of Quarter Dome you actually go down 50 feet or so to where the cables that go to the top of Half Dome start. Those cables look *really* scary from the top of Quarter Dome, and I looked across and thought: "I don't know about this!" But I reminded myself that I had climbed Half Dome twice before, and remembered Quarter Dome and not the cables as being the worst part. We rested and drank some water and had some gorp, and after about 10 minutes were ready to tackle the cables.

There were a lot of people on the cables, but there had been a bit of a lull, and the party above us was about 1/3 of the way up when we started up. And sure enough, the cables didn't look so bad once we got to the bottom. My sister-in-law had recommended that we bring gloves for the cables to keep our hands from getting beat up and we were glad we'd done that.

The cables climb about 400 feet to the top, most of it at a 45 degree angle. The rock is a little slick in places, but most of the poles that anchor the cable have a wooden crosspiece between them that you can stand on. I went up hand-over-hand on the righthand cable, rather than using both of them - that was just easier for me. Even so, I could go up only about one section at a time (sometimes two) before having to stop and catch my breath. There were a few people coming down as I was going up, but not too many, and the cables are wide enough that it's not too much of a squeeze to get past each other.

It only took about 15 minutes to get to the top of the cables, and we were at the top of Half Dome by 11:25 - 4 hours and 50 minutes after leaving Happy Isles. Whew. :-)

We wandered around the top and explored - I wanted to get a picture of Lee out on "The Visor", but these two Japanese guys got there just before he did, and proceeded to camp out there for the rest of the time we were on top. Oh well. We waited near the top of the cables for a while hoping to catch sight of Walt and Barb, and Lee even went partway down the cables again but didn't see them. We had lunch but there was still no sign of them, but as we were getting our packs together to go down they arrived. It took awhile, but Barb made it just fine. :-) We got a group photo of all of us and then Lee and I started down - we'd been given our marching orders, though: We were supposed to get back to Curry Village and shower and have hot pizza waiting for Walt and Barb at about 6:30. :-)

It was 1:00 by then, and there were still many, many people coming up the cables. It's sure a lot easier going down than up! :-) But we didn't get down much faster because we spent a lot of time waiting while the people going *up* went by us. Lee actually went down on the *outside* of the cables, though he was still hanging on, of course!

At the top of Quarter Dome Lee offered me one of his hiking poles to give me some extra balance on the way down. Now, I've long scoffed at the use of hiking poles, but it sure made a difference going DOWN, and made me feel a lot more secure. I know I was able to hike faster and it also saved a lot of wear and tear on my knees. Lee didn't get his pole back until we got all the way back down to Happy Isles. :-)

We were really moving down the trail - though I was amazed at how many people were coming *up* the trail - they still had a good hour and a half or two hours to get the top, AND then they still had to go all the way back down! That's the thing about Half Dome...you feel great when you get to the top, but you're only halfway there - you still have to get back down!

Let's see, I've already sung the praises of hiking poles...how about Camelbaks now? :-) It was a beautiful sunny day, but very warm. I had a 100 oz (3 liter) water bladder in my pack, and I'd emptied that about 1.5 miles after we started down. I had a 24 ounce bottle of water that I emptied into the bladder, and that got me to within two miles of the end of the trail. That's almost a gallon of water I went through. I can't even tell you how many people I saw who were carrying only a couple quarts of water, if that. I don't know how they did it.

And remember how I mentioned those short downhill stretches of trail, and how they would feel good on the way back when they were uphill? Oh no. Our legs were SO tired and we were so fatigued that even the slightest uphill got the legs just burning and got us huffing and puffing. It was pretty weird, actually.

We were still kicking butt on the way down, though, and passed a lot of people who were ALSO going down. Many of whom were a lot younger than we were. :-) That reminds me...at one point on the way up I'd heard a younger guy that I passed remark to his companions (all 20-somethings) that I was kicking their butts. :-)

We took a different route down - I wanted to see the view of Nevada Fall from the John Muir Trail (JMT) - I think it's nicer than the view from the Mist Trail. After we'd gone partway down the JMT (and I'd gotten my view) there was another trail that cut back over to the Mist Trail - we took it because it was only 1.9 miles back to Happy Isles that way, as opposed to 2.3 on the JMT, and at that point in the day, .4 miles that we *didn't* have to walk sounded really good. Though actually my feet were fine other than being tired - Lee was getting a little bit of a hot spot, but one of my Dr. Scholl's gel pads fixed him up pretty well.

Anyway...I'd never been on that cutover trail before, and we got treated to a wonderful surprise - a beautiful view of Vernal Fall! We were high above the fall (though downstream of it) - the trail goes back *up*stream and meets up with the Mist Trail about .3 miles above Vernal Fall. So you do a bit of backtracking, but it's still shorter than the JMT.

We were pretty warm (especially since I was out of water by then), and the Mist Trail felt really good as we were going down. But it wasn't terribly misty, and I was dry by the time we got back down to the Vernal Falls bridge. There's a water fountain there, but there were too many people waiting to use it, and at that point we weren't far from the end of the trail, so Lee gave me some of his water and we continued pounding down the trail.

We arrived back at Happy Isles at 4:37, almost exactly 10 hours after we'd left. It took us 3 hours and 40 minutes to come down - we had a few short stops in there, but probably not much more than 15 minutes.

There's a refreshment stand at Happy Isles and Lee went up and ordered two cokes with lots of ice, only to be told "I'm out of ice". What's the point??? So Lee said to forget it, and we hopped on our bikes and headed back to Curry Village. About halfway there Lee came up beside me and said: "If we hurry we can make it to the Taqueria before it closes at 5:00!" :-) We made it with almost 10 minutes to spare. Two cokes with ice tasted REALLY good, and we got a quesadilla, too. Though if they'd given us cheese melted between two paper plates we probably would've eaten that! :-)

We got cleaned up and rested for a while - I wrote most of my "I Made it to the Top" postcards, and Lee took a nap. About 6:30 we went over to the pizza place and ordered a large pizza. Just a couple of minutes after we got the pizza (and it only took about 15 minutes for them to make it) Walt showed up - Barb was showering, but he took a piece of pizza with him, and used the last bite of it (what he didn't wolf down on the walk to the cabin!) to lure her back to our table. We showed some restraint, but the pizza disappeared pretty quickly. :-)

For some reason we were *tired*. :-) We were back in the cabins by 7:40 (too tired even to go for ice cream!), our lights were out by 8:38, and we were asleep soon after. At 11:38 I awoke to the sound of Robert the Rustling Rodent in our closet again. Tomorrow I'm getting all those plastic bags off the floor!!!

Thursday, June 3

After our "early to bed" we still weren't *that* "early to rise" - it was about 6:30. I can't remember the last time I slept for almost 10 hours! The calf muscles were protesting a bit but I didn't feel too bad, and everyone else was doing well, too.

We went over to the Curry Pavilion for their breakfast buffet - it was $9.25/person for all you could eat, and we figured we deserved a big breakfast! They had a nice variety of food and it was pretty good - the usual eggs, bacon, and sausage, plus pancakes and french toast, hashed browns, fruit, and hot and cold cereal. And some breakfast pastries, too. It all tasted good.

After breakfast Barb rode her bike over to the Yosemite Art Institute, where she was taking a watercolor class from 10:00-2:00. This is actually a good deal - the classes are free, and if you don't have your own art materials (and Barb didn't) then they'll sell them to you - and Barb didn't feel the prices were that unreasonable. Barb said there were a number of people in the class who are obviously "regulars", but she still got plenty of time with the instructor. They went over into the meadow near Sentinel Bridge and painted Half Dome - at the end of the day Barb had two different paintings that she'd done, and they were quite impressive!

Walt, Lee, and I went for a bike ride up to Mirror Lake (we took the longer route via Happy Isles). That hill up to Mirror Lake seemed a LOT steeper than it did on Tuesday! :-) The legs just didn't have as much energy in them that day for some reason. Can't imagine why... :-)

It was about 10:00 by then, but there were still some nice reflections in what's left of the lake. We took Walt on the "Mirror Lake Loop" trail we'd discovered last year - it goes up the canyon past the lake/meadow, then crosses Tenaya creek and comes back down the other side. On one section of the trail we found lots of butterflies sitting on it! It was in the sun, and they seemed to basking in it - slowly folding and unfolding their wings. (Barb later identified the butterflies as California Sisters.) We spent quite a while there taking photos - trying to time our photos to get a picture of a butterfly with its wings *open*. Thank goodness for digital cameras - not only do you get instant feedback, but you can delete anything that didn't turn out! Lee bought a new Canon S500 Digital Elph just a couple days before we left, and he was able to get some amazing close-up photos - not only of butterflies, but of flowers too. If I saw a flower I really wanted a photo of, I'd call on "Camera Boy" to take it for me. :-) "Camera Boy...take me that picture." "As you wish..." :-) (All of you Princess Bride fans should recognize that!)

There were quite a few flowers along the trail, though not quite as many as last year. But, as last year, we had the trail almost to ourselves - I think we only saw two other parties once we got past the lake. And no mule trains blocking it this time!!!

The trail has a lot more up than we remembered - we remembered it being pretty flat! And uphill was still a lot more work today with our tired legs. Once the trail crosses Tenaya Creek it goes back down the canyon to Mirror Lake, but there's no place to recross the creek (safely) until you're about 1/2 mile below the lake - which would have required walking back up the hill to where our bikes were parked. That sounded like waaay too much effort on our "rest" day, so we decided to wade across the lake (which is really more like a wide and shallow stream) instead. That water was *cold*, though!!! Came up thigh high on me, and I thought I was going to freeze my feet off before I got across! After I got OUT it felt quite refreshing. Lee said he now understands how people die of hypothermia so quickly in 40 degree water - even at thigh high it was hard to function.

We biked over to Yosemite Village and had lunch at the Village Grill - where else can you have a hamburger and fries with a view of Yosemite Falls? :-) We saw Barb's bike parked outside the Art Institute, but no sign of her.

We wanted to make a reservation to eat at the Mountain Room (the nice restaurant at Yosemite Lodge) that evening so we biked over there. The sign at the restaurant said to go to the Front Desk. I did, but there were a couple people in front of me. Walt picked up a house phone and called the Front Desk, and I watched the woman answer it and talk to him - I was laughing because I could see him talking and hear her answers. Anyway...we ended up with a reservation for 5:45 that evening.

It was about 1:30 by the time we got back to cabins...we'd thought our bike/walk excursion would only be about an hour, not closer to 4 hours! :-) We went to the ice cream shop for a little dessert - we were very surprised that we were the only patrons! The two girls working were bored and took VERY good care of us - we got extra special milkshakes. :-) Lee's and my chocolate shakes were made with chocolate ice cream, hot fudge AND chocolate milk, and Walt's strawberry shake had extra strawberry sauce added in addition to the strawberry ice cream. They were really good.

Our original plan had been to go rafting once Barb got back from her class, but we were all feeling mellow and lazy, so we ended up just relaxing and taking it easy for the rest of the afternoon.

We got dressed in our "nice" clothes (slacks and polo shirts) for our dinner at the Mountain Room, and took the shuttle bus there. That took longer than we had anticipated and we were a little late, but they hadn't given our table away...yet. :-)

The food was good, but, like last year, we again had *horrible* service. Everyone ordered salads as an appetizer, but we waited, and waited, and waited, and no salads. And then what they brought to the table was our *dinners*. Asked the waiter about our salads and he said "Oh, I don't know what happened...do you still want them?" Lee did get his (and my salad actually *was* my entree, so I'd gotten mine), but Barb and Walt passed. It took a long time to get the waiter's attention to order dessert...and we ordered several coffees. Got dessert ok, but when we (finally) got the bill, we'd been charged for three pie a la modes rather than three coffees! Walt pointed that out to the waiter (when we could track him down)...and he did NOT apologize at all, just went and corrected the bill. At this point I don't know if we'll go back there again...I don't expect impeccable service, but I expect something better than we've gotten the last few years.

It was still daylight when we finished dinner and it was a lovely evening, so we walked back to our cabins from the Lodge.

So let's see...5 mile bike ride and 3 mile walk before lunch, and 1.5 mile walk after dinner...sounds like a "rest" day to me! ;-) (Whatarewenutz?)

And at long last I was successful in foiling Bob the Midnight Marauding Mouse - not a peep (or a rustle) out of him that night!)

Friday, June 4

I was up early and went for a walk back to Happy Isles...and along the way I saw a brown bear cross the path in front of me - he'd evidently been foraging over in the campground, and was now headed for the hills. I followed him (but not *too* close) to try to get a picture...it's been quite a while since I saw a bear in Yosemite!

The trail goes through a fen with a boardwalk - I'd never been on that before. There was a little stream that went through the fen, and lots of greenery, though I didn't see any wildflowers. No other people, either!

At the end of the trail I actually *visited* Happy Isles - usually I'm only concerned with taking the trail, which is on the *other* side of the Merced River. "The Happy Isles" really are a couple of small islands that are in the middle of the Merced River - there's bridges that connect them to the riverbank. The area is a nature trail, and there's a nature center, but of course it wasn't open that early in the morning.

After I got back we all sat outside and enjoyed our morning coffee/tea, before driving over to the Ahwahnee where we met our friends Jim and Sherry for breakfast. They had driven over from the east side of the Sierra to spend the day with us. Usually my parents come, too - but they were in San Diego, having just returned from Hawaii! I couldn't feel TOO sorry for them. :-)

I'm happy to say we had much better service than we'd had for dinner the night before. :-) Unfortunately they've cut down on their breakfast menu, and some of the things we'd enjoyed in the past like the "Eggs Foresta" and the "Trailhands Breakfast" were gone. But we still managed to find good things to eat - I had the apple crepe which was REALLY good!

We'd all brought our hiking stuff with us, and after breakfast we drove to an area near the base of El Capitan to do the "West Valley Loop". This was another trail that I found in my new book. The loop was about 6-1/2 miles, and basically was on trails that were along the sides of the valley, but mostly away from the road. Most of it was through forest, but some parts were along the river or alongside meadows. There were quite a few wildflowers, and we got a great view of El Capitan and Bridalveil Fall.

We didn't set any speed records, and it took us a little over three hours. "It's a Small World" moment: we'd seen almost NO ONE else on the trail, but towards the end met a ranger coming towards us, who was someone Barb knew! The woman had been a ranger at Cabrillo National Monument (in San Diego) when Barb was a volunteer at the tidepools.

After our hike we all drove back to Curry Village and had a late lunch at the Taqueria, and then had ice cream. Lee and Barb both showed off some of their photos from the trip on their laptops - aren't digital cameras fun? :-)

Jim and Sherry headed back home around 5:30 and the rest of us went to the Curry Pavilion for dinner. After dinner we started cleaning up and got started on our packing since we were headed home the next day...sigh.

Saturday, June 5

We were planning on doing a hike in the Wawona area on our way out of the park so we didn't linger in the valley...had a quick breakfast, packed the car, and were on the road by 8:20.

At 9:20 we were on the trail that goes around the Wawona Meadow. The trail itself is mostly in the woods, but they call it a "transition zone" because of the fairly sudden change from shady forest to open meadow. We went through shady pine forest, some open meadow areas, and some dryer, more open forest areas. The book said that there would be lots of wildflowers, and it was right. It's not like the place was carpeted in wildflowers, but there was a larger variety of wildflowers than I think I have ever seen in such a small area, and I saw wildflowers that I have never seen before. My favorite was this Lady's Slipper Orchid - I'd only seen it in photographs. We only found the one plant, so I think we were VERY fortunate.

We all stopped for many, many photographs. (You can see mine on my wildflowers page - many of these were taken on the Wawona hike.) So the 3.5 mile hike took us over 2 hours even though it was pretty flat. It was wonderful, though. Time well spent! We saw only 4 other hikers, plus two different groups of people on horseback.

We were back on the road about 11:30, and had lunch in Oakhurst. The trip home was pretty uneventful, and we dropped Walt and Barb off 7:00 and we were home about 7:30.

Random Thoughts

Other Links

Yosemite Wildflowers
More Photos from Sunday and Monday
More Photos from Tuesday and Wednesday
More Photos from Thursday - Saturday
Tigger's 2004 Yosemite Odyssey - Coming Soon

Text and photographs copyright © 2004, 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, email: lgil at lgil dot net
Last updated 12/28/2004

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